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Zombie Training Targets

Zombie Training Targets

In my article, Zombieland: An Unlikely Training Resource, we discussed how the movie’s “rules,” compiled by the character Columbus, realistically applies to law enforcement.  If you haven’t read the article yet, you may wish to do so before going any further, as it somewhat ties into this article. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. It’s an entertainment masterpiece, even for people that usually hate zombie movies.

Posted right before the ILEETA international training conference in Chicago, Zombieland: An Unlikely Training Resource, was a feature article on during the week of the conference. I received some good feedback about the article from conference attendees, so the topicwas on my mind during the week. While walking through the ILEETA vendor expo, I spotted the perfect training aid to help prepare for that impending zombie apocalypse. What is it, you ask? It would be Law Enforcements Targets Inc.’s new line of zombie targets.

OK, I admit that the possibility of the world turning into zombies is pretty unlikely.  Nevertheless, I’ll also bet that there’s not a single person reading this that hasn’t watched a zombie film like Dawn of the Dead (originally released in 1978 and remade in 2004, it’s the one where the involved survivors end up taking refuge in a shopping mall). That hasn’t tactically analyzed what the survivors did, how you would have improved upon their tactics and even scrutinized their choice of weapons they took from the gun shop. Come on, you know you thought about it!  I’ve already decided that when the big zombie apocalypse occurs, I’m taking over the local Cabela’s. I could live there securely and well fed for ages.

Let’s go back to reality for awhile. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m definitely not the ultimate firearms trainer. But I do have a strong background in training, and I also have some opinions on how firearms targets should be made and utilized. When I state my opinions for this particular article, I’m working from the perspective of departments that have minimal training budgets. Most of us can’t afford the luxury of high-tech training equipment and simulators, and will be using more traditional paper targets. So I’m pushing for the most training bang for your buck in purchasing targets. If money were no object, this article might have had a different slant.


Training Targets Criteria

In my opinion, training targets should meet the following criteria (whether you’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse or not).

#1 Enhance Threat Recognition

Targets must assist with teaching threat recognition and decision-making. Once a rookie officer has mastered the fundamentals of pistol craft, can handle firearms safely and fully understands which end of the gun the bullet comes out, they should never again fire at a target that doesn’t realistically represent a deadly force threat. There’s one thing I’ve never understood, and probably never will: Several states mandate qualification targets that are silhouettes of an unarmed man, standing with his hands at his sides, representing no threat what so ever. So here’s my dilemma: If you don’t want your officers to shoot people that are standing with their hands at their sides while posing no threat, why would you train them to shoot such a target? IMHO, threat recognition (shoot/don’t shoot decision-making) should be built into every firearms practice, every qualification exercise and every set of targets that you use. When it comes to firearms skills, isn’t when to shoot and when not to shoot just as important as accuracy, speed or any other aspect?

#2 Simulate Real-World Threats
To assist with the decision-making mandate, targets should—as closely as possible—replicate what you’re likely to have to shoot. In preparation for the zombie apocalypse, your training targets should look like zombies.  We know that all zombies in close proximity are a deadly force threat. The only decision necessary here will be in positively identifying that your target is a zombie, which may be harder than you think. Have you never seen a crystal meth user? In some cases the resemblance to a zombie can be nearly indistinguishable.

However, if it’s more likely that you may need to shoot a living person that’s posing a deadly force threat, your training targets should look like a person that’s a deadly force threat. In his highly acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize nominated book On Killing, LtCol. Dave Grossman discussed the fact that during WWII, soldiers were trained with bulls-eye targets. This was believed to be a factor in some soldiers’ hesitancy to fire at enemy soldiers, as they’d never really been trained to shoot at a human being. By Vietnam, the targets had evolved into human-shaped silhouettes. Combined with stimulus-response training, using man-shaped targets was believed to be a major factor in increasing the soldiers’ firing rates. Training targets should (as closely as possible) simulate the real-world threats that officers are likely to face. However, and I’m reiterating this for emphasis and clarity in case you missed it the first time. Those deadly threat targets should be mixed with no-shoot targets during all training, all practice sessions and all qualifications. Thereby forcing officers to practice shoot/don’t shoot decision-making for each and every round fired.

#3 Have Invisible Scoring Lines
Scoring zones should be invisible to the shooter while firing. The old B-27 targets that were used when I started police work, violated this to the max. You could stand back and watch shooters pause between shots as they visually “scored” their targets. This is a hesitation that we shouldn’t allow. Scoring lines that are not visible unless you are very close to the target, will prevent this practice from ever beginning.


The One-Stop Answer For All Your Training Target Needs

In addition to their new line of Zombie targets, Law Enforcement Targets Inc.  has a full line of real-world, full-color, photograph-based scenario targets. These give officers a much more realistic target than the abstract drawn versions of years past. Men and women hostiles in traffic stops (cars and motorcycles), hostage situations, domestic violence, inside airplanes, in school hallways, executive protection scenarios and the list goes on. Armed adolescents, pregnant armed hostiles, even a pair of armed individuals on snowmobiles. I believe the realistic, photographic appearance of the scenario line of targets, builds on the same principle Dave Grossman discussed that was previously mentioned, but to a much higher degree.

Traditionally, we’ve only taught officers to shoot targets that directly faced them. Is that realistic? Isn’t it highly possible that an officer may have to shoot an individual who’s threatening others and/or the officer, from a side or other unusual angle? This causes your target zone to change, as you can’t shoot a hostile in the chest if his side is facing you. The DST series offered by the company covers this forgotten aspect of training very well.

Another feature that makes this company’s scenario targets a top choice are their target overlays. These are realistic hands that hold either a wide variety of weapons, or a non-threatening object like a radio, a badge or a beer can. Thus, allowing trainers to instantly turn most any hostile target into a non-hostile, and vice-versa.

Take a few minutes and log onto They carry not only the targets I’ve discussed, but just about everything you could ever need to plan, conduct and clean up after quality firearms training. From simple stationary targets, to automated target robots, to just about anything else you can imagine (and a few things you’ve never thought of) Law Enforcements Targets Inc. has it all.

In Sum

The bottom line: Even when using basic, low-cost paper targets, I believe we need to train to shoot with the most realistic depictions of actual hostile targets that we can get. So if you’re an air marshall, the airplane targets have you covered. If you’re a school resource officer, there are targets in a school scenario. For those of us who have pondered what we’d do during the zombie apocalypse (you know that includes you), and want some fun targets to shoot at, has us covered as well.

About The Author


After 32 years of law enforcement service with a large urban police department, Charles E. Humes, Jr. honorably retired at the rank of Sergeant in 2015. Independently achieved, he is recognized internationally as one of the pioneers of modern, realistic police defensive tactics training. He has taught seminars and instructor certification schools as far West as Alaska and as far East as North Carolina; and has trained police instructors from as far as Hong Kong. He was a 2016 recipient of the Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

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