Long-range Pistol Shooting

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Statistically, something like 70% of all self-defense shooting takes place in a 5-meter range. We can further break that down, as about 30% happen within just a few feet; what some people refer to as “belly gun range.” But that doesn’t account for all the shots fired in self-defense. There’s a surprising 5% of shots made with a pistol that are at a range of 50-feet or more.

How many of us actually practice pistol shooting at targets which are 50-foot away? Before learning that statistic, I never did. I was too busy making sure that the shots which were 20 to 25 feet away were all going to hit them in their X-ring. The idea of shooting that far with a pistol still seems a bit crazy to me, but the statistics don’t lie.

I had to think a bit, to come up with some scenarios where such shooting might be necessary, but I was able to find some. I’m not talking about shooting at assailants who are running away either. Once they disengage and start running, shooting them is no longer self-defense. While we might want to keep shooting, especially if they’ve hurt someone we love, we’ve got to have the discipline to holster our gun and take care of any wounded.

But there are real situations where an active shooter can be that far away and firing either at you or at someone else who needs protection. Since they exist, we need to train for them, even if we only spend 5% of our training time on that sort of practice.

One such situation would be a mass-shooter. They don’t care about closing with their target and rarely care about who they hit. Most are trying to get a body count, rather than pick specific targets. So, for them, it’s about how many shots they take. For you and I, it means shooting farther than we’re accustomed to.

But shooting far isn’t easy.

Lets’ face it, while the pistol ammunition we use may have a fairly long effective range, our effective range, as shooters, is much shorter. Looking at a wide range of 9mm ammo, the shortest effective range, for low-velocity rounds, is 51 yards, far more than the 50 feet we’re talking about. At that range, the round has enough kinetic energy to severely wound anyone it hits. Other 9mm rounds can increase that range to as much as 133 yards.

That’s great, if you can shoot that far accurately. So, just how do you do that?

I’m no expert in long-range shooting; but I do practice it. I generally end my sessions at the range with a magazine or two of .22LR rounds at 50-feet, after I’ve shot a box of ammo through my 9mm or .45. While that may seem like I’m setting myself up for failure, it’s actually intentional. I figure that if I’m going to have to shoot that far, it’s not going to be easy anyway, so why try to make it any easier?

Your equipment plays an important factor here, as a longer barrel will allow you greater muzzle velocity from the same ammunition, as well as a more stable bullet flight pattern when it leaves the muzzle. Don’t try shooting 50 feet with a snub-nose; it’s not going to work. I carry a pistol with a 3.3” barrel, which is still rather short for that distance. I’d much rather be shooting my Glock 17, with its 4.48” barrel at that range.

There are two things I’ve noticed from my own practice. First, I can’t hold my sight picture worth anything at that range. The bulls-eye floats in and out of alignment with my sights, regardless of what sort of sights I’m using. But if you pay attention, you’ll see that the “swimming” actually follows a fairly consistent pattern, something like a figure-8. So for some part of each cycle your sights are properly aligned.

But sight picture isn’t the biggest concern, when we’re talking about accuracy; trigger control is. We used to think that sight picture was paramount, but recent studies have shown that trigger control does more to throw a shot off center, than sight picture ever can. Even with the bulls-eye swimming in and out of alignment, the most it will affect your shots is a couple of inches. Trigger control, on the other hand, can pull your shots off by a foot or more.

Learning trigger control, really learning it, takes time and practice. That’s why dry-fire practice is so important. If you have a problem with jerking the trigger or anticipating your shots, don’t work on it at the range, work on it at home. Then, once you think you have it under control, take it to the range.

The best thing to help with trigger control is slowing down your shots. Fast shooting often equals jerking the trigger. Remember, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” That’s what you’re working towards. Better to only fire one or two shots that are slow, smooth and accurate, than to shoot 10 that miss their mark.

Once your trigger control is under control, think about working over your trigger. Look to see if there’s a kit to reduce the trigger spring tension for your pistol. Lower spring weight helps with accuracy. But don’t depend on that mechanical change to overcome your trigger control problems. Learn to control the trigger first, then work on improving your gun’s trigger.

It’s all in how you do it. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Take the time to add long-range shooting to your repertoire, so that you can make it a useful tool, if you ever need it. After all, it’s really just like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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