The Colt Silhouette Target

The following information on the Colt silhouette target comes from Section 42 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

The Colt silhouette Police Target now in use for several years is a very popular target with police departments, banks, armored car service and, in fact, with every body of men whose profession is the protection of life and property.

The silhouette figure, life size, is more practical and more realistic than the ordinary bull’s-eye target, which is not only too small for quick-draw rough-and-tumble police shooting, but also is not the object which an officer will see when his life is in danger. This target represents what may be a fugitive or felon forcibly resisting arrest and attempting to shoot, stab, or run away from the officer. The position of the figure is that of a man standing in front of the officer and with right hand in the position of drawing a weapon from the hip pocket.

Two methods of scoring are possible with the target, namely, a killing and a disabling series. If it is desired to kill the fugitive, then the fatal zones (head, heart, lungs and stomach) are given count of highest value (K-5). Shots in other parts of the target, while not strictly killing shots, are given a value in the killing series of their approximate worth, such as the zone outside the K-5 zone, or rest of the body, will count K-4, the right arm will count K-3, and the left arm will count K-2. The possible score for six shots is thirty points minus one-third of one point deducted for each second used from the command FIRE until the six shots are fired. It is possible to draw and fire so fast that even with this life-size target six misses may be registered at ten feet, so not only must speed be used in getting into action but judgment in placing the shots. A perfect score cannot be made on this target because of the deduction of one-third of one point for each second used.

It is not the idea of this instruction to teach officers to kill. Only as a last resort is this course recommended. If an officer is facing two or more men who have their hands on their weapons no other course is open to him and he must then pick the man whom he thinks will get into action first. The usual purpose of an officer is to wound or disable a fugitive so as to bring him in without the necessity of a fatal or killing shot. This requires the highest type of proficiency in the handling of a revolver—hence, if the officer decides to shoot a disabling course the most effective disabling shot or one of highest count is the right shoulder (D-5) or the right arm or wrist; left arm if a left-handed man. If the fugitive is in the act of drawing a knife or revolver a head shot that may not penetrate, but graze the skull, also counts (D-5).

The next value or D-4 is left arm, including wrist, hand, and shoulder, as the fugitive may be shot through the right arm and still be able to shoot left-handed. D-3 is the outside of body and D-2 or low count the center of body and portion of legs. Only a small part of the legs are shown, as it is not practical to shoot at the legs either in a standing or running position. Shooting at the legs of a standing man, even a hit, does not disable him if he is armed, and it is not safe to shoot at the legs of a running man if other people are on the street or if the streets are of cement or any hard surface. A wound from a glancing bullet is sometimes more dangerous than a direct shot and it may glance at an angle of forty-five degrees. It is very dangerous to miss the person that is shot at, not only for yourself but also for every one within range of the bullet, which may be anywhere within five hundred yards, depending upon the angle of departure.

Years ago when my police instruction was confined to the bull’s-eye target and I would spend a week with a department of fifty or seventy-five men I went home discouraged and I know the officers felt the same as I did. That number of men cannot be taught target shooting in a week and neither can one man become a target shot in a week, but with the silhouette target that number of men can be taught to hit the target with right and left hand, double action at fifteen feet, inside of which distance ninety per cent of police shooting is done.

Colt Silhouette Police Target

Colt Silhouette Police Target

When I first began to instruct police in the use of firearms the only available targets were designed for fine target shooting and then we had the shapeless silhouettes. I found that while a group of ten shots may appear to be very poor shooting, counting between fifty and sixty, that they all registered in the figure of a man. I then designed the target now known as the Colt Silhouette target and with the advent of this target my troubles were over as far as police and bank instruction was concerned. The men could all hit this target and they were taught the appearance of a criminal when their life was in danger. Scores could be shot on this target, either killing or disabling, and all members of the department could be taught to be at least fair shots and their shooting on this kind of target inspired confidence. Silhouette targets are now universally used by police departments and a larger per cent of fast, straight shooting police officers are the result.

The Colt Silhouette target is used in the running man match at Camp Perry, and I think that the same match using the Langrish Limbless target would be of great assistance to officers attending the big shoot. One criticism I have heard of the Colt Silhouette target is that the sights are difficult to see against the dark background. I never heard of a crook wearing a white aiming point on his coat to aid the officer and this target is supposed to represent conditions as they are; however, if a white aiming point is desired a white circle may be pasted on the desired spot on the target. This will aid in grouping the shots in the target, but will retard the speed of fire which is more necessary than a fine group in police work.

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The Colt Silhouette Target

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