Long Distance Shooting

©iSTOCKPHOTO - ericferguson
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©iSTOCKPHOTO - ericferguson

For some shooters, long distance might be only 10 yards, while other shooters might extend that out to 100 yards or farther. Comparatively speaking, most military organizations consider pistol shots in excess of 25 yards long range. More often than not, your local law enforcement agency qualifies with their pistols all the way out to 15 yards. Long distance is 15 yards and beyond for these folks.

In order to better understand what our goals might be regarding long distance shooting, we need to identify what long distance really is for our individual application and why we might need to integrate that skill set into our list of capabilities. Once the needs are identified, we must determine if they are realistic and look at how we are going to meet those needs.

A parallel condition to long distance shooting which has a similar solution, is to shoot partially obscured or reduced size targets. The size of the target has a lot to do with our perception. The smaller the target, the longer the perceived distance, and greater the difficulty of hitting it becomes.

In both cases, it is precision marksmanship that gives us success. The gun’s capabilities have a big part to play in that the gun has to be mechanically able to hit the target one hundred percent of the time at the desired distance with the ammunition that we are using. Ammunition must be tested and matched with the gun to squeeze the last bit of mechanical accuracy and reliability from the equation.

Next comes the skill of the shooter when coupled with good equipment. Can they use all of the accuracy made available to them by the combination of the ammunition and the gun? Can they make a precision shot or series of shots on demand, on irregular targets, at variable distances?

Long distance shooting is all relative to the perception and the skill level of the individual shooter as well as the equipment the shooter is using.

Precision marksmanship is absolutely essential in successfully hitting the target at distance or hitting the small, obscure target when that’s all that there is to shoot at.

Two simple drills will help to determine skill level and progress as skill level increases:

The first is the “Pie Plate Drill” which uses a pie plate, paper plate, or 8-inch steel plate as the target. The concept is that the vital area of an adult human from most angles is in the neighborhood of 8 inches. The distance at which the shooter can no longer place ninety-plus percent of his shots on the target is just past the threshold of reasonable expectation of hitting the target at distance. This drill should be practiced standing, kneeling, sitting, prone, and in a variety of improvised positions to validate the extended range capability of the shooter. Like all other skill development techniques, this drill must be practiced regularly to maintain and increase proficiency.

The second drill is a drill featured in a previous article as one of the absolute essentials in executing precision marksmanship. The drill is the “Bullet Hole” or the “One Hole” drill. The starting point from the target is about ten feet away, but may vary at the shooter’s discretion and skill level. The “Bullet Hole” drill has the shooter fire one shot into a blank target,then fire five or more shots through the same hole without enlarging it. The “One Hole” drill is slightly different in that the goal is to fire six or more shots into a ragged round hole with all shots touching. This drill can be done from any distance but is usually started at ten feet and moved back as skill level increases. As with the “Pie Plate” drill, the “Bullet Hole” and the “One Hole” drill need to be practiced from many different positions (simply because in an actual shooting situation the likelihood that you will be in a perfect shooting stance when you pull the trigger isn’t very good).

The thing to remember here is that the techniques learned in successfully accomplishing
the previously mentioned drills build the skills and confidence necessary to make the critical shot on demand while under stress. Working out of your personal comfort zone usually forces positive change to occur in order to achieve success.

One might ask under what circumstances a long distance shot could be required from the typical concealed carry handgun. For the responsible citizens carrying concealed, any threat engagement is thought to be within physical contact distance or slightly farther. The thinking is that in most instances any greater separation would allow the responsible citizen to escape, and therefore avoid physical conflict.

Each of us has only to consider the environment in which we live and the areas that we frequent to start to realize that there may be circumstances that extend beyond the scope of where we might anticipate an attack to take place. The next time that you go to the mall take a look at the open, straight line distances across stores or down the many corridors. As has happened in the past, innocent people become trapped in stores when a gunman opens fire in a mall. At this point, distance is your friend when it comes to avoiding being shot, but may be your enemy if you can’t effectively engage your target before he gets close enough to do you or your family harm.

Consider the parking lot outside the mall. Are you capable of doing anything more than just taking cover and hoping you can get away before your attacker closes the distance and negates your attempt to escape?

In either case, shooting with precision at long distance is required with the tools that you have with you. A consideration has to be given to the potential of innocent bystanders and their safety as well as stopping the hostile action in the most immediate manner.

Rural areas present a different set of circumstances in that distances of engagement tend to be greater and effective cover may not be as prevalent. This is where precision shooting at long distance will come in handy. Imagine yourself taking incoming rounds with nothing between you but the lay of the land and a barbed wire fence. What would you do with the concealed carry handgun that you normally carry? Do you think that you could make an effective hit on your attacker at 50 or 75 yards? Returning effective fire is certainly a better option than running away under a hail of bullets or wasting all of your ammunition by firing in the general direction of the attacker, hoping to hit something that might stop the attack.

Envision your home and your property surrounding your home. What would be the maximum distance that you might have to engage a target? Could you hit the target at that distance, under stress, with very limited time, from behind cover? Carrying the situation a little further, your adversary could have a hostage (one of your family members), using them as a shield so that only a portion of the bad guy is visible. You have a small target in a constantly evolving environment of varying distance. Can you make the shot?

From the perspective of tactics, creating distance from your adversary is advisable if possible. By creating distance you give yourself more options of safety and increase the likelihood of your attacker not being able to make a connecting shot on you. If you have the ability to place an accurate shot on your attacker at an extended range with your concealed handgun, your chance of surviving the conflict is greatly enhanced.

Cover should be more than an afterthought when being shot at. Anything that will stop or deflect incoming bullets is considered cover and should be used as such whenever possible. This almost always causes us to shoot from an improvised position that takes us away from the ever present standard shooting stance that we usually practice from. Practicing from cover that enables us to stabilize the gun with artificial support will usually extend our range even farther than we had previously accomplished when in our favorite stance. Be aware that resting the gun directly on cover or slightly beyond cover could be a recipe for disaster. Shooting while resting directly on cover can change the point of impact significantly enough to cause a miss of the intended target. If the gun is positioned so that it protrudes past the object of cover, there is the potential that the gun is exposed to an unseen adversary and leads to the possibility of having it taken away.

All of the above are considerations for situations that you might find yourself in whenever you least expect it. Examine your movements and actions in everyday life; consider the likelihoods and possibilities of finding yourself in a self defense encounter. Create a plan of action should you need to employ your concealed carry handgun and practice the plan with a few variables so that you know that you have a good chance of success if ever faced with one of these unfortunate situations.

Being prepared mentally and having practiced a plan successfully that has a high potential for a positive outcome creates confidence through thought and experience. Having a proven plan in which you have confidence is almost as important as having the ability to execute the plan. These skills are perishable and must be practiced regularly to maintain proficiency.

As a wise man once said, “Have a plan that you can execute on demand and success will follow.” Simple Is Good!

[ George Harris has spent over 30 years in the field of adult education with more than 20 years at the SIG SAUER® Academy. He has focused his efforts in the arenas of small arms, small arms training and combat skill development. As a competitive shooter, George has the coveted distinction of being distinguished with both the service pistol and the servicerifle. Through his career, George developed and has evolved one of the most efficient and effective methods of extracting performance from his students called “The SIG Principle.” As Director of the SIG SAUER® Academy, George is committed to the safe and successful use of firearms by armed professionals and responsible citizens alike through the training provided by him and his staff. Simple Is Good! ]


2 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. AS A RETIRED L.E.O,I MISS THE CARRYING OF MY HAND GUN.I SOON HOPE TOO BE CARRYING AGAIN AS I DID FOR 15 YEARS.I LIKE YOUR PROGRAM OF TACTICS AND PROCEDURES AND SAFETY FOR ALL OF US.WITH MY TRAINING AND EXPEIRENCE COUPLED WITH YOUR TRAINING AND TACTICS I AM VERY CONFIDENT AND RESERVED WITH MY APPROACH TOO THIS ISSUE.I HOPE I CAN BE OF SOME HELP IN THE FUTURE,THANK YOU.THOMAS

  2. Back into skill and comfort at armes after many years, Like the Info and some new schools of thought , It’s really hard to practice this stuff in regular firing ranges. do what I can and Dry firing safely at home IE ammo some were else. i will use 8 ” space and multible shots same first shot placment. thanks J D

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