It’s not a miss, it’s an unacceptable hit

You’re at the gun range practicing. After shooting, you look at your target and examine your holes. Inevitably there are some holes in places you didn’t want them. If you are like I was, you call them “misses”, note them, maybe a little disappointed, but you chalk them up and move on. The gravity of those holes isn’t great.

I no longer will call them misses.

I will call them “unacceptable hits“.

Every bullet you fire goes somewhere — it always hits something. The question is, is the something you hit acceptable or unacceptable?

For you see, if you don’t hit exactly what you intended to hit, it does you no good.

If you’re shooting for a tight group and get a flier? You blew your group. Unacceptable.

If you’re shooting for score and hit outside the top-point ring? You’re down points, you lose the competition. Unacceptable.

If you’re hunting, nail the deer in the vitals and the buck drops DRT (Dead Right There)? Acceptable. If you gut-shot him and he runs off, never to be found and suffers a slow painful death? Unacceptable.

If someone is attacking you, you must place every bullet in the vital area (vertically between the tracheal notch and xyphoid process, horizontally between the nipples). This is the only way to (eventually) guarantee the attacker will stop. These are the only acceptable hits. If a shot lands in the stomach or shoulder or thigh? Maybe eventually the attacker will stop, but in the meantime they continue their attack. You failed to stop the attack and the attacker is able to carry on with their destruction; unacceptable.

If in that attack you totally miss the attacker and the bullet lands and damages someone’s property? Unacceptable. If the bullet hits an innocent person? Unacceptable. If the bullet hits your spouse or child? Unacceptable.

Every bullet that flies will hit something. What is acceptable is a very narrow band. What is unacceptable is quite wide. The implication is in practice, you must work (hard) to get acceptable hits and nothing else. If that means you must slow down, slow down. If that means you need to improve your sight picture, improve it. If you need more training, get more training. Don’t let your practice sessions be nothing but ballistic masturbation — have purpose.

Yes, from time to time we’ll still make unacceptable hits, especially if we’re working to improve a weak area. But this is about mindset. I recall a story of some competition shooter (forgot who) who became as good as he was because of how his Dad trained him. They would go out to the range and practice. As soon as the shooter made a non-A-zone hit? They packed up and went home. If he wanted to shoot, he had to get only A-zone hits. That’s motivation to get only acceptable hits.

You will fight like you train. Train to make only acceptable hits, so when you are in the fight for your life, you’ll only make acceptable hits.

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