One of the things we as shooters, whether recreational or defensive, always need is a target. Without something to safely fire at for training or practice which gives us relevant feedback there can be no training or practice.

In the course of my journey as a shooter and teacher I have had the opportunity to fire on everything from traditional bullseyes to printed dots to all manner of silhouettes, to steel tombstones, plates, and discs. In my observation, particularly for the casual shooter or someone who is self-teaching, the target they select, while outwardly gratifying, does not always align to the context of what it is they are trying to do.

The NRA B-27 silhouette, and its derivatives, is a classic example of misalignment. The B-27 is a competition target intended for Police Pistol Combat matches. In that role it is an excellent target. I took the Top Gun award in my police academy class on the B-27 and fired on it for practice and employer qualification dozens of times over my career. The B-27 remains in use with a great many law enforcement programs around the country, and it is often used by casual and self-teaching shooters. And therein lies a problem.

While a terrific target for PPC competition, which is a variation of Bullseye shooting at its core, the B-27 is utterly useless to teach defensive pistol shooting. The reason in chief is the placement of the preferred area, AKA the X-ring. On a human the B-27’s X-ring would fall somewhere between the solar plexus and the navel. Teaching people to shoot an attacker there is, frankly, teaching them to fail.

Targets in context

The past few years I have relied heavily on the NRA B-8 target. Many shooters, including some of the best teachers currently working, have built something of a cottage industry of drills using the B-8, and more specifically the repair center of it which is shown here. While it seems odd on face the B-8 has been employed heavily in elite military and special operations circles for many decades.This simple target has become so ubiquitous that is found in self printable form all around the internet, as well as professionally printed by all the principal target makers.

Officially the B-8 is the “25 Yard Timed and Rapid Fire” target. Standardized more than 80 years ago, by most accounts, for the sport of Bullseye competition, the target features a black area containing three scoring rings with the 9-ring at 5.54 inches across. The outermost is a white 8-ring, which brings the full target to 8 inches in diameter.

It turns out that eight inch circular shape mimics the space located between the notch at the top the sternum, xiphoid process at the bottom of the sternum and between the nipples on the torso of a human. That simple bit of geometry is why the B-8 has been, and continues to be, so popular with elite professionals and trainers. That the 8 inch circle is the preferred area on competitive targets from IDPA and USPSA, as well as many modern qualification targets is not an accident.

A wide variety of exercises can be fired on the B-8 from pure marksmanship, such as the aforementioned Bullseye game, to defensive focused drills such as Justin Dyal’s 5 yard Round Up and the Hardwired Super Test, both of which I’ve written on previously in these pages .

Tightening it up

But while the B-8 is a “jack of all trades” as a pistol target, defensive shooters are often striving to find something that will make their shots more tightly focused, and more telling at the other end. To that end the 3×5 index card, oriented vertically and centered on the chest or horizontally over the ocular area of a silhouette target brings the training experience to the next level. Respected trainers such as Tom Givens and Dave Spaulding, to name two, have developed and employed drills using the 3×5 rectangular shape.  The Snub Noir E-Qualifier target, as another example, has a series of progressively larger rectangles with a 3×5 shape nested at the center.

Likewise simple dots and circles are used in diameters from one to four inches to promote accuracy. Specialized drills such as Dot Torture lean heavily into front sight focus and trigger control, both of which are vital to defensive handguns shooters using iron sights.

Many targets which I have come to refer to as “compiled,” such as the LTT-1 from Langdon Tactical, and the Q-PT target inspired by the late Todd Louis Green are two that I have used personally and with students over the years with remarkable success. These targets are of high value simply because we can do so many different things with them.

But like so many things in life, good instruction in shooting is often a “simpler is better” exercise. There is also an issue with some ranges that forbid the use of anything remotely appearing like a human form as a target. So, the quest continues for a single target that can provide a challenging learning experience without being intimidating to the student or, shudder, politically incorrect.

Enter the HIPS

Recently our friend, and fellow Snub Noirista, Michael Burgess sent me some samples of a target he has created that steps into the breach of being a target for all disciplines, from casual skill building to serious defensive training that also will not rustle the jimmies of those sensitive to firing on humanoid shapes.

Dubbed the HIPS target, it is a compilation of a single, full sized B-8 target at the bottom, a 3×5 vertically oriented rectangle in the center, and a two inch diameter circle with a one inch dot inside the circle at the top. Printed in a deep, sharp, black on heavy white stock, this is not a flimsy lightweight target that the wind will tear up as it is stapled to a backer. That wind resistance is a necessary thing where I live on the High Plains as targets can often end up in tatters from the wind before getting them fully affixed.

In talking with Michael, he noted that any drill or qualification that calls for a B-8 can be fired on this target. He also relayed that the top circle and dot, which are useful for a variety of precision exercises, are an exact scale from four yards away of a B-8 at 25 yards, with a similar sight picture and alignment. That feature is particularly useful to instructors pressed for time, since we never have enough time on the range with our students, as we can keep the student in one place and still present them with the appearance of a more distant target. The circled dot is also close to the same distance from the center of the B-8 below as are the -0 zones on the chest and head of an IDPA target. This makes it a solid choice for shooting very precise failure drills and parrot drills.

The 3×5 rectangle in the center of the target is perfect for firing walk back drills and getting students to visualize and hit the “cardiac box” when they move to a silhouette, particularly an anatomically correct target. The rectangle will also do nicely for the “Old West Test,” which is currently extremely popular in some circles. That test involves drawing from concealment and firing five rounds into the rectangle from five yards within five seconds. Oriented horizontally, or with two targets hung side by side, the HIPS can also serve many transition drills.

Range time

I have been using the HIPS target as one component of my range sessions for several weeks now and am happy with all that I can do with it. The sharp blacks printed on crisp white stand out perfectly even on a cloudy day. Under bright sun the target areas really pop visually, which is a plus for my aging eyes.

The crispness of the target is extremely helpful when shooting a walk back drill on the rectangle shape as even with a .22 the hits are very apparent. I like to fire a walk back periodically as a cold skills check so getting solid feedback as the drill progresses is a good thing. I can then leave the same target up and fire a focused drill on the B-8 portion, or failure drills using the B-8 and the circled dot at the top. Fewer targets used means less time spent tramping back and forth to hang targets, lower cost per range trip, and less trash in the landfill. From a teaching perspective, less time spent hanging targets is more time spent delivering student learning.

I give this target four stars out of four, and plan to use it in the days ahead for both myself and students.

The HIPS target is available directly from Michael Burgess. You can reach him to order at

Photo Credits : B-27, LTT-1 and Q-PT sourced at National Target. B-8 sourced at Targets4Free, HIPS and fired on HIPS photos by author