Leads on Moving Targets With Pistols

I know that I have readers who believe in liberty, tolerance, and free speech, as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus…If that’s you, I ask for a few moments of tolerance, open mindedness and I think you’ll appreciate what I’m about to say.

Today is Good Friday.  The day when a lot of the world celebrates the day that Jesus was crucified as a sacrifice to cover over or atone for sins.

I want to take you back before that…to the garden at Gethsemane…when a large crowd of Temple guards armed with swords and clubs came to arrest Jesus.  As they went to arrest Jesus, one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the Temple guards.

There’s a couple of things that are very interesting about this…

First, earlier, in Luke 22:36, Jesus told his disciples that if they didn’t own a sword, that they should sell their cloak and go buy one.  Not a knife for cutting cheese, bread, or rope…but a sword, which was one of the main law enforcement and battle weapons of the time.  Some might have even called it an “assault weapon.”  He didn’t say that EVERYONE needed to be carrying one…roughly 20% was good.

Second, Jesus’ response to Peter drawing his sword and attacking the Temple guard wasn’t shock, awe, or disbelief.

Jesus wasn’t angry that Peter was armed.

He wasn’t angry that Peter defended him.

He didn’t tell him to give his sword to the Temple guards.

He didn’t tell him to throw it on the ground.

He said, “Put your sword back in its place.  For all who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

And then he healed the guard’s ear and went with them, knowing what was to come.

A lot of warriors feel alienated by the “modern” Church…but in large part, that’s because a lot of “modern” churches don’t understand warriors.  Not modern warriors and not warriors whose stories are told throughout the Bible.

And they definitely don’t understand violence.

The warrior ethos is highlighted throughout the Bible…definitely more in the Old Testament, but Jesus surrounded himself with rough men who were ready and willing to fight the good fight…both physically and spiritually.

Peter was outnumbered and outgunned.

The Bible doesn’t tell us that any of the other disciples had his back.

But he took the fight to the bad guys anyhow.

Modern day “Peters” stopped flight 93 from being another guided missile on 9/11.

More recently, Coach Feis was a “Peter” when he put himself between his students and the shooter at Parkland.

“Peters” regularly stop killers before they get the label “active shooter” and make the headlines.

It was a “Peter” who stopped the mosque attacks in New Zealand.

Thank God for Peters.

One last point that needs to be made on this subject…the 10 Commandments don’t prohibit killing.

They prohibit murder.

One is selfish.

The other is not.

And every country that I know of recognizes that difference with their laws.

But churches still use mis-translations that say “thou shall not kill” which is assaulting to people in the military who have killed evil people for their country, law enforcement who have killed in the line of duty, and anyone who has killed in self defense.

**Quick aside:  A few people tried to correct my word choice, thinking that I meant to say “insulting” instead of “assaulting.”  I did not make a mistake with the word choice.  Think of how the body responds when you breathe in ammonia…it is an assault to the senses and causes a threat response in the central nervous system…sometimes even an HPA (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal) response.  An assault to the senses is not necessarily physical…it can be a bright light, loud sound, chemical smell, or a surprise verbal attack on who you are at your core when your guard is down.  I’ve seen people in audiences physically react to misquotes about killing enough time that I consider it to be an assault.  Not a criminal assault, but an assault none-the-less.**

The mis-translation of this Commandment is one of the factors that has alienated warriors from churches throughout time.

Fortunately, there are churches across the country that recognize that violence is a tool and that sometimes it’s what’s needed to stop evil.

With that in mind, here’s to all warriors finding the internal peace that passes understanding this Easter weekend.

The next thing I want to talk about is shooting moving targets with a pistol…AND practicing shooting on the move with airsoft, pellets, or paintballs.

This one may be going a little too far down the rabbit hole for some people.  But if you shoot a lot with a pistol, one of the questions that you’ll run into eventually is how much to lead when you’re shooting a moving target or when you’re shooting on the move.

And with both IDPA and USPSA adding pistol caliber carbine divisions, knowing the leads for slow moving bullets on moving targets (or reverse leads when you’re moving) is becoming a big deal to a lot of shooters.

It might be in a match, it might be hunting (or a varmint of opportunity), or, God forbid…your first time to think about it is in a life or death situation.

One of our goals is to help you develop skills BEFORE you need them…so that the first time that you think about a situation isn’t when you’re in a fight for your life.

One aspect of shooting that throws a LOT of shooters off is how to shoot moving targets.  It’s difficult with a rifle, but it’s even more difficult with a pistol bullet that’s moving at 1/3 the speed!  (and airsoft/paintball is 1/3 of that) Especially when you don’t have a nice long barrel to help you shoot “instinctively” like you do with a rifle or shotgun.

So, I’m going to show you a chart and then I want you to immediately forget it…it’s too much to remember, but it’s good to see and understand at a surface level:


But if you’re like me, I can’t remember charts—under stress or not—and I need a way to cheat.

So, here’s the cliff’s note version:

Walking target:  Hold even with the edge of the front sight.

Mover in a competitive match:  Aim over the middle of one side of your rear sight.

Running/sprinting target:  Hold even with the edge of the rear sight.

Running/sprinting animal:  Increase hold as necessary.

You can also do this by aiming at the leading edge of your target or between the leading edge and center mass.

When I’m shooting while running…I just aim center-mass and run the gun.  When I’m running laterally while shooting airsoft or paintball, it depends on the size of the target and distance, but for the most part, I don’t have to lead or reverse lead because the unfortunate reality is that my “full speed” doesn’t get over 5mph unless I’ve got a few yards to build up speed.  Most people hit top speed at around 40 yards.  Elite sprinters hit it about 10 yards in.

I’ve verified this with Bianchi movers, other movers of known speed, and coyotes moving at an angle or at a slow trot.  Your specific DOPE (data on past engagements) will be specific to you and your visual processing speed.

Your specific “cheat” will depend on the length of the slide on your gun, the width of your sights, length of your arms, stance, as well as your specific visual cortex.  But you can use my cheat of “outside of the front sight for walking and outside of the rear sight for running” or the charts as a starting point.

You may run into extreme cases…but it’s not too likely.  I was just doing some LE aerial gunnery engaging simulated threats while flying at speeds of 40-85 knots at 50ish yards.  Depending on the angle and speed, the reverse lead was 4-6 FEET!

You see, when you see a target moving, that image gets focused on the back of your eyes and causes a chemical reaction.  That chemical reaction changes the visual signal to an electrical signal that gets split and then re-combined in the visual cortex.  The brain interprets it, and then sends a signal to the muscles in your arm to track the target and eventually to your trigger finger to press the trigger.

All of this takes time.  And the amount of time depends on how quickly you process visual images.  If you haven’t worked on visual, vestibular, and proprioception integration, then the time lag shoots through the roof when you add in movement.  Some people may have to increase their lead by as much as 2-3 times and others may be right on the money, but a little time on the gun will tell you for sure.

And, for most targets and most distances that you’ll be shooting at, holding at the edge of the front sight for a walking target and at the outer edge of the rear sight for a running target will get you on target. (or aiming at the leading edge of the target)

Is this extreme?  Is this unlikely?  I’d say yes, except for the fact that I’m constantly surprised at how often it’s been useful…from moving targets at matches to raccoons, coyotes and other chicken killers we run into on our property on a regular basis.  And I used it on the evil porcupine that did THIS to my baby girl (30+ quills after I got out the easy ones with pliers & a very expensive vet bill)

And, in a defensive or active shooter situation, it’s nice to know that I won’t have to overthink my aim…I know the math, I know how it plays out in the real world, and as long as I do my part I can make effective hits on a moving target.

My hope is that this will inspire you to try this out…either by spending some time shooting moving targets or by moving while shooting still targets.

And, if you happen to be looking for the FASTEST and most cost effective way to improve as a defensive pistol shooter in general and shooting on the move in particular, I want you to check out our Dynamic Gunfight Training presentation >HERE<  You’ll learn how to set up your own training for maximum effectiveness so you can build real-world shooting skills as quickly as possible at home.

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  • Mark G

    Reply Reply April 7, 2023

    Great piece, Ox!! This is just one of the reasons why I closely follow your work!!!

  • Dave

    Reply Reply April 15, 2022

    I understand how this works out with a moving target. I am curious how the math works with both a moving target and a moving shooter. Moving toward, away from, or from one direction to another, i.e. target is moving left and you are moving right or even both moving in the same direction. Speed of movement is going to change and topography may change as well. I’ve been told that in an attack, I should start moving and keep moving to cover or concealment. So you now have multiple thought processes going on related to this event and how is that going to affect speed of reaction and aim? And how can you “practice” something like this (while hoping that it never occurs)? I would think that hand – eye coordination would be a very big factor. So, people who play sports like baseball and racquetball would have a big advantage in correctly gauging distance and speed.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply April 22, 2022

      Great question…the fundamentals remain the same, but the velocity of the shooter/target and velocity of the round play into it.

      As an example, if you’re 20 feet from a stationary target, sprinting 20 feet per second laterally, shooting a round with a muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second.

      The round is going to get to the target in 20feet/1000feet/second=.02 seconds.

      Your lateral movement is going to impart a point of impact shift of .02 seconds * 20 feet/second=.4 feet or 5″. You can split the target into 3rds and aim slightly off center, but it’s not something you need to be precise about.

      When I’m sprinting laterally, shooting at a reduced torso target at 10 yards, I aim at the edge of the target…the “back” edge of the target so that my movement will carry the round to center-mass.

      If your target is moving also, all you consider is the difference between your speed and theirs. If they’re moving straight west at 20fps and you’re moving straight east at 20fps, it would be 40fps. If you’re both moving east at 20fps, the difference would be 0 fps. If you’re running at angles, then you start looking at half and quarter values.

      The same applies to LE engagements from moving platforms like helicopters and boats, only the speeds are faster, distances are longer, and the leads or reverse leads are greater.

      As far as how to practice for it, there are 2 answers. One applies to everyone and the other is specific to law enforcement.

      The Praxis Dynamic Gunfight Training program is the only one of it’s kind that takes a scientifically based, step-by-step approach to helping you build the vision speed, mobility, and coordination to be able to shoot accurately on the move at high speed. This was developed specifically for counter-ambush and counter-assault situations.

      If you are law enforcement, I do law enforcement specific training for accurately engaging threats with carbines from platforms moving at high speed with very limited windows of opportunity to spot the threat, aim, and put multiple accurate rounds on target (as angles and leads are changing from shot to shot) before the window of opportunity closes.

  • Don McKinnon

    Reply Reply April 5, 2021

    Easter Sunday message:
    Thanks we are proud of you!

  • David R

    Reply Reply April 2, 2021

    Jesus told Peter to put down his sword because Jesus knew he had to go to the cross and didn’t want Peter or those who came to take Jesus to lose their lives over what was already destined to occur. Also, he needed Peter alive to be the rock in which to establish His church (Matthew 16:18).

  • cal

    Reply Reply April 11, 2020

    living in Nevada Ive gotten my moving target experience shooting jack rabbits a far cry from targets that shoot back. a couple months back an friend of mine father was murder under strange circumstances, I would like for you to read the report and comment if you like, “practical eschatology.blogspot.com”. this was my friends father and has caused him great grief and turmoil.

  • ron stover

    Reply Reply April 10, 2020

    I find your info very helpful. I am one of those warriors at church. armed safety team. always looking for ways to do a better job if necessary thank you

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply April 10, 2020

    Science tells us that almost every animal, from amoeba to whale to human, that is alive strives mightily to stay alive. And when threatened with death or serious damage, it will do everything it can to escape or overcome such a threat, as if it has a will to stay alive, a sense of mortality or innate fear of death – and no matter how simple and seemingly insignificant its life, it seems to think that life is totally worth living. Furthermore, they often will defend to the death, their offspring. Ironically, one of the exceptions is sheep, which is what many religious people like to call themselves.
    This is evolution in action, survival of the fittest, preservation of the species. We don’t need a book or authority figure to tell us it’s right or moral or ‘okay’ to defend ourselves and our family. Science has already shown why it’s needed.
    Maybe there’s a god and an afterlife, maybe not. But there is most certainly a current life, and it’s reality, not just a belief, and we have every reason to make the most of it and protect ourselves and our family.

  • Les C.

    Reply Reply April 10, 2020

    Thank you Ox for the faith to post the above.
    As a minister i would like to say kudos for the accuracy of the of the actual meaning of the the Commandment “You shall not murder”, and Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles.

    i would like to add the following as a clarification for, and hopefully an encouragement to, all our service men and women, vets, law enforcement officers, and other “warriors”. Through out the Old and New Testaments we are given the right of self protection by God, and we are manadated to protect others.

    Thank you all warriors who have served and are serving, and thank you to all who have listened to the words of Christ and carry your “swords”.

    Have a Blessed Good Friday, and a Blessed Easter!

  • Brad Trulove

    Reply Reply April 10, 2020

    Awesome article on both subjects, thank you.

  • Jackie

    Reply Reply March 30, 2018

    I’ve been working with a church which is in a “questionable” part of town. They’ve developed an “escort” team and a “response” team. One will assist unrecognized visitors to a seat, while the other helps escort those who are scoping the place out, off the premises. It’s usually easy to tell who’s who. We consistently reiterate in training the taking of human life as the last resort, but also the reality of the eventuality. Anyone who feels they cannot, or would hesitate under fire, can still do service on the escort teams. Not surprisingly, when initial training and team formation was over, and teams were presented to the congregation, they were met with a standing ovation.

  • Ron Leifeste

    Reply Reply March 30, 2018

    Back in the mid 80s I was elk hunting in the central Oregon Cascades with a new rifle in .35 Whelen Imp using 250 grain bullets. I had been hunting for YEARS with a 7 mag so I was used to it’s trajectory. An elk jumped up about 150 yards out running up hill. Needless to say my muscle memory was set up for the 7 and I was shooting a 35. Obviously, I missed.
    As to personal defense, the decision has to be made well before time as to whether you are willing to use your “sword” to take a life. God gives us the right to protect ourselves, our loved ones or any other innocent person. It’s something we have to be comfortable with ahead of time when confronted by temple guards or anyone else.
    Happy Easter and may God bless. Ron

  • Scott D. Mattson

    Reply Reply March 30, 2018

    In the interest of “accuracy,” Ox,as I understand it, those who arrested Jesus weren’t Romans. They were most probably Temple soldiers, kind of a Jewish Law enforcement cadre. The scriptures that describe the scene mention the Captains, but don’t really say soldiers, although it can be inferred. Godspeed!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply March 31, 2018

      Hey Scott…it’s hard to tell. Depending on the version, it’s pretty consistent that there were armed representatives from the temple. From there, different translations and books say guards, soldiers, and group of men.

      • Paul D. Guyon

        Reply Reply April 19, 2019

        For additional clarity, Scott and Ox,

        Malchus /ˈmælkəs/ was the servant of the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas who participated in the arrest of Jesus as written in the four gospels. According to the Bible, one of the disciples, Simon Peter, being armed with a sword, cut off the servant’s ear in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus.

        Simon Peter cutting off Malchus’ ear is related in all four canonical gospels, in Matthew 26:51, Mark 14:47, Luke 22:50–51, and John 18:10–11, but Simon Peter and Malchus are named only in the Gospel of John. Also, Luke is the only gospel that says Jesus healed the servant. This was Jesus’ last recorded miracle prior to his resurrection.


  • headhunter

    Reply Reply April 23, 2017

    Outdoor Life’s Jack Conner said to hold under the nose for a running deer at 100 yards. It works if you’re using a .270 /06/ or 243. With a shotgun, the same lead will hit in the rear haunch, so doubling the lead will work pretty much. My .44 needs a tad more. The best practice (and most fun) is find a gun club that has “running deer” targets. It won’t take too long before you’re putting lead consistently into the heart lung area-what fun! .
    The last two elk were running, one at 260 yds and the last at 40 yds. Even up close YOU GOTTA remember to keep your gun moving like bird hunting- don’t stop your swing.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply April 24, 2017

      Good stuff, Headhunter. It’s important to remember that at short-mid range distances, it’s all trig/geometry and the biggest factors are the tangential target speed and muzzle velocity. Just like you pointed out, a hold that may work perfectly for rifles won’t work for shotguns with a 1,000 or more FPS slower muzzle velocity. Thanks again!

  • Ken Callaway

    Reply Reply April 17, 2017

    Interesting! Thank you!! Ken

  • Josh B

    Reply Reply April 16, 2017

    I am very impressed with your article, and moreover with your obvious reverence for our Lord Jesus and His sacrifice! Thank you for not being shy about writing this article!

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