If you are a military/firearms/tactical buff you have probably heard all sorts of terminology applied to types of targets and methods of fire; point targets, grazing fire, plunging fire, indirect fire, area targets, etc. etc. etc.
For todays lesson I am going to cover the two most basic types of small arms target engagement; point targets and area targets.
This is typically a military issue. There is a difference between targets that you can hit directly and targets that your weapon is capable of striking even if you cannot.
The difference is very simple. Point Targets are when you are directly engaging an individual target. You see what you want to hit. You take up a sight picture and you engage the threat.
Area Targets are usually defined as those that are beyond a weapons range or capability to engage individual point targets or to be able to hit them effectively. This can also be expanded to include the shooters ability to strike targets at a given range. To engage an area target the firer typically aims for an “Area” that covers a group of targets, an area that is being suppressed for maneuver elements,or an area where incoming fire is coming from. Projectiles are then directed at that area in enough volume to hopefully strike one or more targets or at least suppress their ability to move or shoot back at you. This is a common tactic in the use of crew served weapons such as machine guns and grenade launching devices.
If you look up the data on any specific weapon you will see the ranges it is typically capable of. For example, the M4 carbine has the following defined range capabilities.
- Maximum Range – 3,600 meters
- Max Effective Range for a Point Target – 500 meters
- Max Effective Range for an Area Target – 600 meters
Which means that it’s 5.56 mm projectile can travel as far as 3,600 meters. In theory a soldier with enough skill and the right equipment like optics (and a dose of luck IMO), should be able to select and strike a point target as far away as 500M. Between 500 and 600M a soldier should be able to select an area target and be able to land rounds on it. Beyond 600M the ability to control where the rounds land is a crap shoot.