From John Tate

Previously, I wrote about putting a standard qual target on my little, red “Radio Wagon” and pulling it towards the student; likewise, across (L to R or R to L) in front of him.

Construction of the “charging” target is simple. The puller stands beside and a bit behind the shooter and pulls a rope attached to the wagon. The speed of the charge is determined by the speed of the puller’s yank, walk, or run. The “crossing” target is equally simple; the difference being a pulley is attached at the opposite end of the backstop from the wagon, and the rope run from the wagon, through the pulley, and back to the puller, who as before, can be standing safely beside/behind the shooter. The puller pulls, walks, or runs and the wagon races across in front of the backstop.

As part of a four hour firearms class with handguns, I had the chance to exercise that concept thoroughly, as part of the other exercises where the target(s) is/are stationary, but the shooter moves forward/back/side-to-side. It’s a splendid mix. Various lessons learned and re-learned:

  • Our static targets and static qual settings are training our officers NOT to move to cover. When cover is used, significant body parts are often left exposed.
  • “Groucho” steps definitely aid in smoother-shoot-on-the-move shots.
  • The “21-foot rule” is absolute garbage and the charging wagon drill makes absolutely clear any armed threat within 30 feet justifies a drawn firearm held at low ready. Two ancillary comments to this:
    • First, in the exercise setting, the shooter knows his threat is going to charge … so the normal time to observe-evaluate-react is removed from the overall time to defend.
    • Second, once reaction has started, it is the draw that takes time; all the more time with a level-3 rig.
  • We teach the “Tactical-J” when using pepper on a charging subject; we need to do the same with any charging subject.
  • Backing away from a target over uneven ground is tricky and adds nice dynamics of divided attention and how to manage secure footing.
  • Because so much of our quals and practice are with stationary targets, engaging moving targets is a skill quite lacking in most shooters. BUT it’s easy to remedy with a little experience.
    The experience of trying to hit a closing but zig-zaging target or a crossing target makes VERY clear the advantage of such tactics if YOU are the target of someone else. And, just as in torpedo defense, randomness of speed and duration amplifies the value of zig-zags. The uneven ground causing the wagon to bounce also added a bit of distraction.
  • Another lesson expressed earlier was shown true: If changing attention from one target to another, scan with the eyes, not with the barrel; do NOT move eyes with barrel; move the eyes to the target, then move the barrel to the eyes. (This speeds scan accomplishment & prevents/reduces over-swing.)
  • Safety is always a factor. Since a running wagon-puller must necessarily turn his back to the shooter, a safety observer ought to be included in any formal conduct of these drills.

The proof of concept is 3/4 finished. The last 1/4 is a target mounted on a remote control (RC) vehicle. The implementation is a small RC truck with a whip antenna and a head-sized balloon mounted at the antenna’s top. I did bring out the RC truck and had the shooter try to keep up with it in dry fire. He thought hits would be easy. We’ll see …..


The ‘little red wagon’ idea was proposed to me by Richard Barbaras. The RC truck idea was proposed with a truck to experiment with by Randy Erwin.

[On a non-related note…]