range target practice

5 Paper Shooting Targets for Handgun Training

One of the best kinds of targets for handgun training is silhouette targets. The paper variety are a very good way to approximate hitting the trunk of the body, which is important for practicing defensive shooting.

That's why most pistol qualification shoots use them, along with combat fire courses. Basically, you learn to hit an object shaped like a human body really well. Naturally, that's a benefit for a person who carries for protection.

FBI's Preferred Paper Target: The QIT-99 Bottle

silhouette targets

The QIT-99 is a paper silhouette target, often referred to as a "bottle" target given that it is vaguely shaped like a bottle. Essentially, it's a crude outline of a torso and head. There are two smaller sections inside the "bottle" which simulate the vital areas in the head and the center of the chest.

There aren't any bullseye's or concentric "scored" rings; you hit the vital areas or you don't. The FBI uses this target for their qualification shoots, so clearly there are some professionals who think it's a good training tool. Drilling yourself in good defensive shooting, after all, is a good idea if you're going to strap on a holster, gun belt and pistol.

The best part is that they come dirt cheap. It's easy to find them for 50 cents per or less if you order in bulk. Spending about $30 will get you a lot of them.

The Marine Corps Shooting Target: MPMS-1

paper target

One of the training targets used by the Marine Corps is the MPMS-1 series of targets. These targets, also paper silhouette targets, are offered either in torso only or a full torso and head. The larger of the two includes torso, head, a drawn face and arms.

There are concentric zones in the target, with the innermost circle being a "bottle" encompassing the center of the chest, throat and head, essentially all the vital areas. The chest shows pectoral muscles to reinforce the layout of the chest cavity.

Just like the QIT-99, it's a paper target. Choose white or a kind of ugly brownish tan. They come cheap, so spending a small amount of cash will get you a bunch of them. Many websites offer discounts for bulk orders.

Steel Shooting Targets

steel range targets

Steel flapper targets are metal silhouette target featuring a small "flapper" in the chest cavity and/or the head, simulating vital areas. It's a common form of reactive target and a fantastic way to develop practical accuracy for defensive shooting.

They're pretty basic as far as it goes. You shoot them and the flapping target goes "ping" and bounces about a bit until it returns to center. Shoot again. Typical metallic silhouette targets, like those of animal shapes or a mere torso-ish bottle shape, teach a person to basically hit the broadside of a barn. The reactive variation teaches a person to hit where they need to.

Plus, the sounds they make are just fun.

Unlike the paper targets mentioned above, this kind of target does not come cheap. However, it doesn't produce any waste, so you only have to buy it once.

IDPA and USPSA Cardboard Target

cardboard shooting targets

Since these two silhouette targets are so similar, the IDPA and USPSA cardboard target both deserve lumping together. Both are cardboard, both are the same bottle-ish silhouette shape. Both feature concentric areas inside the silhouette like the above mentioned paper targets.

Not only do these targets confer the same training benefits - you learn to shoot for vital areas with a pistol - but it also gets a person ready for competition, should they decide to compete in the USPSA, IPSC or IDPA should a person get the bug.

IALEFI Target For An Alternate Paper Target

qualification paper range targets

Lastly, another good paper silhouette target to use for pistol shooting practice is the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors or IALEFI target. This one is a lot like the QIT-99 and MPMS-1 targets, in that it accentuates the vital areas from the rest of the body, with target zones on the chest cavity, head.

However, the IALEFI-QP target also features a third zone - the pelvis. The reason is that the pelvis is one of the few non-lethal but disabling targets on the body. If you can shatter your attacker's pelvis with a bullet...they cease being able to walk. See above - they're paper and cheap.

Granted, there are other silhouette targets out there. These 5 just happen to be very good for defensive pistol training. Enjoy your time at the range.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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