Ask the Instructor: A Puzzling Pair

Updated: Aug 16

Question: For a true pair, how should I decide which target to shoot first? For many true pairs, the answer is easy. For others, not so much. Is there a formula I should use to determine which target to shoot first?


Every once in a while, you will run across a true pair that has you scratching your head. Hmm. Which target should I shoot first? It is, at these times, that you need to consider a variety of scenarios as you visualize the pair during pre-shot planning. These are four basic questions I encourage my students to ask themselves when they encounter a puzzling pair.

  1. Which target do I see first?

  2. What target is visible the latest (after the other target disappears from view)?

  3. Which order of engagement would enable me to move my gun up to the breakpoint of the second target?

  4. Which target get’s ugly earliest?

As with planning any pair, look first for the ideal breakpoint for both targets then adjust your breakpoints based on the timing of the pair. With a true pair, your objective is to comfortably break both targets without inadvertently placing the barrel between the eye and the target, otherwise known as occluding the target. In most cases, occlusion can be avoided by breaking the target with the lower breakpoint first. Your eyes can then shift directly from the breakpoint of the first target to the pick-up point of the second target without the need to dismount or move the gun out of the way. If you fear running out of time on one target or the other, consider engaging the target that that is visible first as your first target or the target that remains visible the longest as the second target. Carefully observe the behavior of both targets at their respective breakpoints for each scenario. Engaging one of the targets earlier or later in the window may be a good option unless the target has a particularly ugly trajectory at a given breakpoint. At this juncture, you have armed yourself with best information possible. Make the call and have confidence in your plan.

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