Long-Range Shooting and Risk Assessment

Bob Mayne over at the Handgun World podcast has been having a running debate in his forum (starting here, and continuing here) about the wisdom of training to make shots at longer distances – 100 yards or more – with a handgun. Bob argues this is a skill worth having because there could, indeed, be situations where you need to make shots at longer range to defend yourself. Some of his listeners argue that you should never take shots at long distances because, if the threat is that far away, there’s no immediate danger to your life.

The topic was resurrected because of a news report from Texas about a citizen whose long-range (about 165 yard) shot with a handgun saved the life of a cop locked in a battle with a man who’d already shot and killed at least two people. Bob asked on his forum about whether this report changes people’s views about the wisdom of being able to make a shot at long ranges.

Here’s my response:

My 2 cents : Even if it’s true that 98% of gunfights happen inside of 10 yards (or whatever), that fact is likely to be of no comfort if you’re in that 2% that defy the rule. And SOMEBODY is in that group. Certainly it’s logical to focus the bulk of our training on the situations most likely to occur in the real world. But if we carry guns to be prepared, why would we say “I only want to be prepared 98% of the time”?

We wouldn’t carry ammo where one bullet out of every 50 failed to fire. A gun that misfired 2% of the time would end up in the safe or the scrap heap. Can you imagine a knife whose blade would fall off one out of 50 times we use it?

Why should we be willing to accept less of ourselves than we expect of our equipment? After all, WE are the beat equipment we possess. Our senses, our reflexes, our muscles, our brains – even the best engineering of today cannot replicate it. So why should we let our skills and training be less than it could be? It’s not like the “take a shot at 150 yards” skill displaces another more useful one from our brains.

One more thing: even the most generous estimates give any of us only about a 1% chance of being involved in a defensive gun use situation in any given year. If we’re going to argue that we should carry guns – and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think we should – isn’t it a bit silly to argue that we shouldn’t train at long distances because “that’ll never happen”? How many of us have heard an anti-gunner say that using our guns for self-defense “will never happen”? I know I have.

What do you think? Is long-range shooting a useful skill? Or is it a waste of time for armed citizens to train at these extended distances? I’d love to hear what you have to say.


  1. amphibspook says:

    At risk of pissing off the mall-ninjas and shooting-academics, the handgun exists for 2 reasons: (1) concealable, convenient (always on you) firepower to (2) fight your way to your long-gun and/or barricade-cover until help arrives. Been there, done that. Granted, hit rates drop off at these ranges, but suppressive fire should ALWAYS be accurate, rapidly-timed fire. What if your maneuver effort closes on an oblique past your enemy? What if you need to exploit his failures and you maneuver on him from that range? A firefight is NEVER black and white: the plan is out the window on the first cap. Under stress, you will resort to your training. GET ALL THE TRAINING YOU CAN AFFORD!!! Of course this means all ranges. What a confidence builder for a shooter to know they own anything they can see, day or night, out to a 100. By the way, at API in the ’80s, Cooper had us engage at 75 and 100 yards.
    God bless.


  1. […] “stacking the deck” discussion (which I wrote about previously) was the one that broke out recently on the Handgun World GRRN forum. The topic of the discussion […]

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