As responsible citizens who have decided to carry a firearm for self-defense, we don’t choose a handgun because of its superior ballistics. If we anticipate needing a firearm, we choose a long gun if one is available. Rifles and shotguns give us more stopping power and a longer effective range. Unfortunately, we can’t always anticipate the need for a firearm, and we can’t always carry a long gun. That is why we carry handguns—they are weapons of convenience. Some say the purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to your rifle. But if you can’t get to a rifle or shotgun, you need to know how to fight with your handgun. One essential skill for well-rounded capabilities is long-range handgun shooting.

Most handgun training focuses on ranges of 25 yards or less, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most armed confrontations occur within 7 yards. However, on July 29th, 2012, a responsible citizen by the name of Vic Stacy reportedly shot an individual who had Early, Texas, Police Sergeant Steven Means pinned down with a rifle. Stacy shot the individual with a .357 Magnum revolver at a distance that he initially reported as 165 yards. Although there is some question as to the actual distance the shot took place, there is no question that the shot was much longer than a typical handgun shot. Should you expect to be in a similar situation? Of course not. You will most likely be confronted with a close-up threat. Anything further away you should avoid and retreat if possible. However, long-range shooting skills can improve your overall skill set.
Bullet-Hole Drill

Long-range handgun shooting isn’t another unique set of skills that one must acquire and practice. Long-range handgun shooting is essentially the same as precision shooting. The skills necessary to hit a target at 50 yards are no different than the skills necessary to hit a partially covered, head-sized target at 7 yards. It is not only the range of the target that is a factor but also the relative size of the target.

When I teach an individual long-range handgun skills, I typically surprise the student by starting very close to the target. My first drill will be a bullet-hole drill. For this drill, the student fires one round at a paper or cardboard target that is only 3 yards away. The hole that the first round created becomes the target for subsequent rounds. Typically I will have the student attempt to put four more rounds through the same hole. The reason I start this close is that I have not yet found a student who can’t at least hit a 2-foot-by-3-foot-sized piece of paper or cardboard at this distance. As long as I can see where all five rounds went in relation to the point of aim, I can analyze the results of the drill.

For example, let’s say that the second round is 6 inches below the first round at a distance of 3 yards. The student will see where the round went. I can then explain my observations of the student’s deficiencies to show why the shot went low. Such an explanation might include telling the student I noticed that he or she anticipated recoil and slapped the trigger. Or I may have observed that the student allowed his or her vision to transition from the front sight to the target before the shot broke. In either case, a low shot can be the end result.

Now the student knows what to work on and will be able to see positive feedback on the target as a result of improvement. If I had started the student at 25 yards, the round that was 6 inches low at 3 yards would have missed the target entirely at 25 yards. That would make it more difficult to diagnose deficiencies in the student’s shooting and prevent the student from seeing where his or her rounds are impacting.

Pushing Boundaries

Once the student can make a circular group around the point of aim, it is time to increase the distance. The reason I am looking for a circular group is that it can be attributed to the student’s natural arc of movement. Groups that are linear can generally be attributed to some deficiency that can be corrected before the distance is really increased.

Next, I increase the distance to 5 yards and repeat the drill. The student will be able to see the results of his or her shooting, both positive and negative, and be able to learn how each feels. Students will know what it feels like when they are able to execute a smooth press of the trigger and associate that with the positive results on the target. Also, students will be able to see negative results on the target and associate that with how that shot delivery felt.

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