I carry a Glock 30SF. For me, Gaston’s compact semiautomatic pistol offers the best combination of attributes for everyday carry: concealability, lethality, Massachusetts compliance, reliability and accuracy. I pray to God I never have to cash this check, but I reckon I could bring my weapon to bear in a couple of seconds and score multiple hits on the center mass of a [slow-moving] bad guy at five yards or less. If I keep my wits about me and no other variable conspires against me. At the range, I can drill a piece of computer paper at twice or three times that distance. At the range. How about a hundred yard shot in a defensive gun use (DGU)? Over at Gabe Suarez’s warriortalknews.com, Instructor CR Williams reckons you should be able to make it happen . . .

Assuming no physical limitations to prevent it, most people can learn to make shots of fifty to one-hundred yards and beyond and maintain that ability without having to invest huge amounts of time and effort. It is not a special skill, it is an extension of skills you already have, and worth it to you to get them even if you never, ever have to do it to save your life. Even if you never do manage to get to where you can go to a hundred yards or more, shouldn’t you at least make the effort to find out how far you can go? What price “in the event” would you pay to know for certain that you’re good out to fifty yards or seventy-five yards and no more? Why not take a little time to know how far you can reach with your short-barreled carry weapon? Why not find out what to do to be sure of your shot at over twenty-five or thirty yards?

While I practice shooting my Glock at 25 yards (the maximum length of American Firearms School’s main range), I find it hard to imagine a DGU where I’d HAVE to take that shot. And none where I’d feel 100 percent confident doing so.

CR Williams’ post suggests one such encounter. As you’d expect, gun guru Gabe Suarez takes it to infinity (and beyond) in a previous post about the 100-yard shot that wasn’t at the Carson City, Nevada, IHOP spree killing.

What’s your ballistic comfort zone? While a man’s gotta shoot what a man’s gotta shoot, what’s the maximum range that you’d feel reasonably confident that you could git ‘er done? Realizing, of course, that a real world DGU is a crap shoot no matter how you cut it.

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61 Responses to Question of the Day: What’s the Longest Handgun Shot You’d Take?

  1. I practice at 15-20 yards with an occaisional magazine shot at 25 yards. From a legal standpoint there is no legitimate DGU beyond 25 yards. If the bad guy is more than 25 yards away you can usually bug out.

      • Case in point: Von Maur shooting in Omaha, Nebraska. If I were in that store, you’d bet your ass I’d be shooting at him, even if he was 100 yds away. The waste of life had cornered people in the customer service area where there was no egress. If you would make a dash for the stairs or main escalators/elevators, you’d have a mostly uncovered 150-200 yd run. That’s where he did most of his killing. I was in that mall the day before and it’s my main motivation for carrying.

        • Unless you are Leroy Jethro Gibbs you are as likely to hit a bystander at 100 yards as the bad guy at 100yards and if you miss he might not even know you shot at him. In a situation like that you find cover and wait. If you can’t you hope he isn’t Gibbs and pray.

        • I practice at 11 to 25 yards tops, depending on whether I am working with my pocket pistol or my full size. Anything more then that, and I assume I will be going to jail.

          Personally, I look at my shooting practically.

          Unless its to attempt to save someone in my family…I wouldn’t attempt to shoot at anyone or any animal past 25 yards with a pistol. And even then….

          And target shooting is one thing…shooting at some one, in potentialy a crowd, pumped up on adrenaline…very different thing.

  2. Is the battleship Wisconsin trying to rob me? Because the broad side of that old girl is about the only thing I would be willing to take a shot at at 100 yards with a pistol, and that only with Carmen, my beloved S&W .40 (peace be upon her).

    In Missouri, Our training emphasized that taking shots at a target greater than your personal threat radius (about 7 yards) is on dodgy legal ground.

    Maybe some asshole in a bell tower, but I would only be trying to suppress his fire.

  3. Unless I run into Kiefer Sutherland’s character from Desert Saints, I can’t imagine any shots farther than about 15 yards in a DGU situation.

  4. In a DGU it would be a shorter distance, but this type of training might be useful for police departments to start giving it it’s officers, maybe then the NYPD will be able to hit a bad guy more regularly than the 1-2 out of 50 that we hear about every so often.

  5. 1000 yards with one of Karl Lippard’s space guns. 100 yard shots? Extraordinarily difficult with a typical short-barreled carry piece.

  6. I’ll do 100 Yards with my .44 mag Redhawk, with a scope. I dial it in for 50 yards and calculate a drop of 4-5 inches at 100/

    • I used to be able to hit a steel manhole cover 5 out of 8 times with my old 1911, but I wouldn’t count on that skill when the chips are down. Farago’s scoped Performance Center 686 will deliver the goods out to 100 yards and beyond, every time.

      I can’t imagine finding myself in a defensive situation in which I’d *want* a scoped handgun, though. If the bad guy is 100 yards away, the bad news is that he’ll be really hard to shoot with a handgun. The good news is: so am I.

  7. In the heat of the moment, no more than 10 yards. In the case of the spree killer, where I could find cover and focus on the shot, 20-25 yards

  8. I’d say my comfort zone extends out to maybe 50-75 feet, and then on a stationary target. Could I make a longer shot if necessary? Almost certainly, but I might not on the first try, and rare is the DGU where it would be better to miss trying to make that shot than to not take the shot in the first place.

  9. I think it would be just plain fun to try Cope Reynolds’ Long Range Handgunning course out in New Mexico. Apparently he teaches shooting at 200 – yards and beyond with a stock, iron-sighted handgun.

  10. I tried it with a 1911, impossible to hit a person at that range! I mean you may get lucky and hit something the size of a vehicle, a very large vehicle like a bus, but you would not be using the sights as the angle above horizon would put them well above the vehicle, probably at the sky.

    However, under the right conditions at a 40degrees above horizon angle of attack you could get a .45acp to go just over a mile, so please don’t try this at home unless you KNOW it is safe for a mile and a half down range. When trying to go this far, subtle differences in angle above horizon can meen the difference between hitting your burm at 100 meters or hitting your neighbor mowing his lawn a mile down the road.

    But a 9mm and a .40 can hit your standard car fairly easily at 100 meters. With enough practice you could probably hit a person at that range.

    I never tried but I imagine it would not be difficult to do with a 10mm, .44 or .357.

    Again, let me say, don’t try this at home with any gun unless you know for sure what is way past your range and/or are shooting ino the side of a uninhabited cliff (and then beware ricochet). The 45acp can go over a mile, with the other handgun rounds reaching out to as much as four and a half miles. Rifles are even worse of course.

  11. Occasionally shoot out to 50 yds. Check in with Rangemaster, Tom Givens has a student involved shooting from front porch, across street, to front of house. definitely outside of 25 yards. Also very justifiable shooting.

  12. At the outdoor rifle ranges where they will allow you to use a pistol, I have tried 100yrd and hitting is relative. Hit what? When you consider wind, humidity and all the other things outdoors, that is not going to be percise. With a 6″ Model 386 XL Hunter using a .357 I have 10 ringed it a few times but not enough to be confident to use it at that distance against man or beast. After all, paper does not move, people and animals move and it does not take much to miss at 100yrds. Most times, I have been someplace on the paper, and that is about as good as it gets. If you can consistently hit an 8″ plate at 100yrds outdoors no matter the condition, you should be on the “Impossible Shots” show on the outdoor channel. 25yrds (75ft) is my outer comfort limit.

    Another thing, do you zero your gun at that range? If not, in the heat of the moment your going to remember the drop rate for your load and consider all the other outside elements?

  13. I’ve been able to hit a satellite dish sized target at 100 yards with all my pistols, but not with enough accuracy to even consider trying it in a real life situation. I’m 100% confident with any of my guns from 25 yards on in and would like to think I’d take any shot in that range. In reality, I hope I never have to find out.

  14. Kneeling and braced, I’ve dropped poppers on the first shot at 40 yards in competition, but that was with my “gamer” CZ75 Production gun. With my everyday carry CZ P07, I’d be ok with that shot. With my tiny little P3AT? No way.

    The last stage on the IDPA classifier is 20 yards. Let’s practice and train for the most likely scenarios we’ll face (i.e. a mugger at bad-breath distance) first, and leave the “what if” stuff for later.

  15. Personallly, I’m very comfortable with 25 yd shots using my 1911 and paractice at this distance regularly. I’ve never tried a longer shot than that with a pistol, but you can bet that the next time I’m at the range, I’m going to move to the 50yd bay and give it a go.

  16. A man sized target at 100yds is definitely within range of most handguns.

    I often practice out to 100yds with my G20, Blackhawk .45 Colt, P85 and Ruger MKII just for the challenge. I can usually hit a 8 1/2 x 11in sheet of paper 3 out of 5 times, and I can consistently hit it at least once within 5 shots (OK, so, the P85 with its mush-mitten trigger makes this task a bit harder, but mechanically the gun is capable). Granted, this is from a bench-rest but I have found that its not that much harder to do off-hand.

    I can’t place my shot the way I can at 25yds, but any sheet of paper that is mouthin’ off to me at 100yds is in mortal danger.

    I remember one range trip where I was shooting my Blackhawk at 50yds and I was getting the same size groups that I had been shooting at 25yds (about 4in). I mentioned this to my shooting buddy (who is an ex-Marine and is a Very good shot) and he summed it up this way.
    “You were aiming smaller at 50yds”

    Think of it this way, if you can shoot a 2.5in group at 25yds (and many folks can), then you should be able to hit a 5in target at 50yds and a 10in target at 100yds.

    Of course, doing this in a defensive situation where you are terrified for your life is a different matter.

  17. I guess I’d need to know the circumstances as to why the hell I needed to make a long distance pistol shot. Effin’ around at the range? You bet. Bad guy running away from me? Nope. Being shot at from that distance? If I get hit, he probably had a rifle. If he misses, my big, out-of-shape ass is only concentrating on running.

  18. Shooting standing with my 1911 at metallic poppers I’ve managed to hit some shots at 50 yds, a few shots at 100 yds but no shots yet at 150 yds. Hit meaning I heard a clank; no telling how broad the pattern might have been.

    That is insufficient for metallic silhouette competition (although a 1911 isn’t a good choice for that) and probably is irrelevant for practical self defense.

    Moving in to 25 feet and shooting at a 2×3 ft paper target, the first time I shot my snubbie I managed to completely miss with all five shots (blush)! After some (uncomfortable) practice I’m much better now.

    I’d probably learn a lot from participating in IDPA.

  19. Have taken deer at 100 yards with both a Ruger Bisley Hunter and a S&W 629.

    Have done the same at around 120 with my 30-30 contender.

  20. This brings up another question:
    What is the longest pistol shot depicted in a movie?

    One that I always found improbable was in McQ when John Wayne takes out a running hitman with his snubbie from at least 50 yards (slowly and carefully aimed).

  21. Eight yards. The shooting I’m best at and get consistent combat patterns of 8″ across with quick shots is 24 feet. Any more than that and I can’t imagine positive target aquisition. I practice these shots one handed as well as two and can manage it with all my handguns roughly evenly (though my 226 points much further accurately for me) and get nearly uniform patterns from target to target.

    Outside of 24 feet I look for cover while drawing, firing isn’t my primary concern at that time.. I do these drills when I hear shots. I don’t think I could beat a case outside of 24 feet unless he had a rifle or vendetta anyway.

  22. I’m guessing that your chance of acquittal from a negligent homicide charge is inversely proportional to the distance you used a gun “defensively.”

    Try taking that 100-yard “defensive” shot and then explaining to a jury how you feared for your life at that distance.

    • Really, it boils down to the situation. Say you’re at some kind of rally being held in an empty parking lot, and some bad actor (or several) suddenly appear firing into the crowd with their MSR’s. In such a situation, you’ve got absolutely no cover, and no other choice but to return fire. Were one or more of your bullets to go astray and cause damage to property, or another citizen, I’d say you’d be reasonably safe from prosecution as long as your hit rate was high enough, and you took out the threat….

  23. Speaking on non-defensive shooting at distance.
    So, nobody shoots bullseye (NMC)?

    The guys in my bullseye league shoot very small groups at 50 yards with iron sights on 1911 and with revolvers strong hand only. At 25 the groups are small if not one hole, even during rapid fire (5 shots in 10 seconds). I’m not that good, but shoot in a bullseye league once a week for a year and than answer the question again. I very confident shooting a target at 50 yards and often plink at 100 yards with my .357 at gallon jugs. That pistol you carry is more accurate than you are.

    With your heart pumping a million beats a minute, the tunnel vision, the chaos and a public setting it would be a completely different story in a defensive shooting. One that I hope I never have to be in. I don’t know if I can answer that question, definitively.

    • If I may, I’ve never had a defensive gun situation as a civilian, but I do have some combat tour under my belt. Your accuracy under stress is completely and totally unrelated to your accuracy on the range. It is directly related to your stress training. I’ve seen sniper qualified soldiers miss a goddamn truck with a 240B belt fed machine gun from twenty yards. And I’ve seen thoroughly mediocre marksmen still perform at full potential with holes in them. Which is damn near superhuman. If you want to shoot ragged holes at 25 yards with a pistol, good on you, there’s a competition for that. If you want to survive a gunfight, try hitting an E-Type at 10 after running a dead sprint for 100 yards while someone shoots you with an airsoft gun. Pain and stress management coupled with hundreds of thousands of weapon manipulations. That is what you need to win.

  24. You’d have to be mad to attempt a 100 yard pistol shot under combat circumstances. Even well braced and with plenty of time, if you’re being shot at, you’re adrenaline is up and you’re reacting, not thinking. Stress is the enemy of prescision work. Trying to hit a man with a pistol at 100 yards is like a surgeon trying to opperate with one of those little packs of tools they sell for carving pumpkins. Wrong tools.

    100 yards is rifle territory, not handgun territory. I’ve plinked at that distance with my Glock 17 and the results were not encouraging. Brings to mind the phrase “A pistol is for fighting your way to a long gun.”

  25. 25 yards is about as far as I’m willing to shoot in a DGU situation.

    With my 1911 I can lay down pretty good cover fire out to 125 yards. If I hit what I’m aiming at, at that distance, it’s more luck than skill.

  26. Well, I was watching some boob tube the other week, and L.A.V. and Ken Hackathorn were doing something or another, including having Vickers try and hit a stationary target at 100 yds with a Glock. It took him 27 seconds and more than a few tries. It took him about 1.5 seconds to drill the same target with an MP7. They both concluded it was a waste of time to try and engage targets at that distance with a combat handgun. Frankly, it’s a situation 99.99 % of folks will never encounter, even during combat operations, much less defensive use.

  27. If an armed assailant has a rifle, then the 100 yard mark becomes realistic. In answer to the question, I would have to come right out and say that I would fall woefully short of confidence at that range with a handgun. My choice (1911, .45 ACP) in carry weapons is certainly capable, but the short sight radius couple with my complete disregard for long range practice would render me operationally suspect. Yes, I could put some rounds down range and get my happy feet pedalling, but the idea of scoring stopping hits on an armed aggressor at extreme range? Probably not.

  28. My carry weapon is an XD45 compact. I’ve read that .45 ACP will drop about 12″ at 100 yards. I think I’d have a really hard time compensating for that and still be able to hot a target say 24″ square.

  29. With my small 1911 I practice for close quarters, up to 30′.

    Realistically, anything farther than 20′ is just throwing lead to give time to run, run and run even faster away.

  30. At the range with friends I was able to hit a balloon at 50-60 yards with some regularity, would I be confident enough to take that shot in a DGU? Hell no and if they’re that far away my better option is most likely going to be flight anyway.

  31. Answer – it depends.
    …depends on the handgun
    …depends on the situation
    …depends on the location

    At 25 yards I can bear down with a compact 9mm and group CoM on a person-sized target.

    I’ve taken 100m pot-shots at a small gong with a 1911 and hit consistently within a couple feet – occasionally ringing the bell.

    Give me a J Frame or a Kel-Tec and the longest I WANT to shoot that is well inside 10 yards.

    And that doesnt begin to take long-barreled revolvers into account…

  32. I can make hits on steel targets at 100yards with my m&p 357zig if I take a long time and calm myself. That being said, I would NEVER attemp that shot in a DGU unless I absolutely new what was behind the bad guy. Because it’s way easier to miss him. As to weather such a shot would be necessary? I could imagine a very specific scenario where one could be accosted buy a man with a rifle, say, in an empty parking lot with no cover anywhere near me, then I would probly try the shot, since I have no other choice. But I highly doubt such a situation will occur.

  33. Simple answer – no way under most circumstances. However:

    If there is a bad guy shooting folks and
    if the cops are not near enough to respond in time and
    if I could reasonably get within range
    then and only then might I try to stop him.
    – Don’t want the cops to mistake me for the bad guy…

    If there is a bad guy shooting at my loved ones
    then I’m going to do whatever it takes to try to take him out.

    I remember what a friend of mine said about when he was in a gunfight with a couple of escaped convicts – one of whom was shooting at him with a rifle while he returned fire (at less than 100 yards) with a pistol: “This is not fair” – and he went to the trunk and got his rifle. Took him a clocked 7 seconds to move to the back of the car, open the trunk, get the rifle, load it and return to the front of the car. He said it felt like at least 20 minutes.

  34. With my FNP45 Tac or Glock 20 I can go out to 50m without much issue. These are both huge pistols with a long sight radius and I carry neither of them.

    With my Glock 19, which I carry in the winter, I can do 50m as well. With the 26, however, I don’t feel comfortable shooting it much past 35m.

  35. I practice on the 25 yard range at AFS every week using the army L target because that’s the target used in RI to get you carry permit. I think that if you shoot someone at 25 yards, your going to need a whole team of lawyers to keep your ass out of jail.

  36. I know that I can hit a 15 inch gong with any of my 9mm at 340 yards. Takes three shots to get on target and then it’s every time all day long.

    HOWEVER. On the clock with the buzzer still ringing in my ears I went 50% on six shots at 30meters last month at a USPSA match. Can’t miss fast enough to win.

  37. There are real life stories of Marines in the Pacific, WWII era, who engaged enemy snipers at ranges of 100 yds or more with .45 autos and won.

    I’ve easily hit targets at 100 yds with my .357. I’d have no problem varmint hunting at that distance with one or two of my pistols. I don’t have a DGU scenario, but in a general wartime setting I’d certainly use whatever weapon I had, at whatever distance necessary. Having shot at 100+ yds with a pistol, I at least know what the limitations are.

    I’ve also made pinpoint hunting shots at 50 yds with a .22 rimfire pistol with ease.

    I agree with the general sentiment that a little practice at maximum range is good. I’ve done the same thing in archery and found out two things – one is that I can hit much further out than I thought, and two it helped me get more accurate at close ranges too.

  38. It is said Elmer Keith droped a deer at 600 yds with a short barrelled revolver. Bob Munden HAS busted ballons at that distance (600 yds). In one demonstration that’s been shown on Shooting USA several times he used a stock 6″ iron sighted Smith and Wesson 44 Magnum (629) and factory ammunition to pop a balloon at 600 yards using a truck hood for a rest.

  39. Well, for reasons of build and comfort, I carry a S&W Airweight most of the time. And I’m far better with a rifle than a pistol. I could probably land one out of every two or three shots (a real issue with a 5-shot pistol) on a moving target at 25 yards. I could certainly connect on a stationary target, assuming I had unobstructed view of the torso, but shot placement would be almost nonexistent. I don’t think I’d take a longer shot than that, easier to run up than waste ammo. Unless, of course, suppression fire was called for.

  40. Having been a competitive shooter in a number of professional and non-professional handgun matches in my heyday as a ranked pistolero, I can say without reservation that, depending on the gun the load and the circumstances, many good handgun shooters can comfortably make a “man-size” shot at 100 yards. And to take it a step farther, 200-yard shots are not out of the question, albeit the hit ratio will be understandably less. That said, really good dingers can make amazing handgun shots at even greater distances, but don’t expect each shot to be a hit or palm-size patterns; at some point the elements of luck and skill come into play. The next question we should be addressing on this forum is: why is shooting a handgun so much more difficult than a rifle? Stay tuned.

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