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Leads on Moving Targets With Pistols

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.

About the Author /

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at

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