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Old December 28, 2004, 01:50 AM   #1
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distances for pistol shooting?


I was just wondering what a good distance is for shooting a handgun at the range. I normally shoot at 7 yards or about 20', because that is about how far I can see the details of the target using my factory XD-9 sights. Anything beyond 10 yards and I'm just looking at a blob, hoping that I'm hitting the target. I have gotten quite good at shooting 10 rounds from 7 yards... shooting 1" groups, freehand with my XD-9 sub compact and my full size Baby Eagle 9mm. However, when I get out to 15 or 25 yards, my groups are 6"..... is this normal, or are some of you others able to shoot tight groups at 25 yards with your pistols?

Also, what is the standard distances for shooting in handgun competitions? I do not know the names of them..(IDPA, ISPC???? is that right?). But if you know, please enlighten me.

I know that from a combat range of 7-10 yards, I can put 10 shots through a very small hole, very quickly... And beyond 10 yards, I can put all shots into a figure the size of a person very quickly, but it bugs me that I am having difficulty puting them into tight groups at that distance. If anyone has any advice for an intermediate shooter, please feel free.... thanks
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Old December 28, 2004, 02:52 AM   #2
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Some of what you experience is normal. The accuracy of your shooting has several components to it besides your personal skill level. One of these is the sight radius of the firearm (distance between the front & rear sights). In general, the longer it is, the more accuracy you have at a greater distance.

Another factor is the focus-factor -- can you rapidly shift your focus from front to rear sight and back? You need to pay closer attention to the sight alignment because at a longer range the most minute offset of the sights will cause a larger difference in the point of aim.

Typical handgun courses seldom teach much shooting beyond 25 yds (75ft).
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Old December 28, 2004, 03:35 AM   #3
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Due to the rules at my local public range I can only shoot paper targets on the provided target holders at 100yards. I can't use any of my own metal targets, or clays. Lemme tell you, hitting a man-sized piece of paper at 100yards is pretty damn hard with any of my handguns. So far my witness has the most success, with my 1911 close behind and my Sig trailing badly. At least it's free and close by.
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Old December 28, 2004, 04:43 AM   #4
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I shoot at 50 yards, the target is usually about man size.
I saw some guy was shooting from 5 yards. It's a little too easy for me.
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Old December 28, 2004, 04:50 AM   #5
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Competition is one thing; if you are shooting for self defense you want to practice from as close as three feet on out to your maximum distance.
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Old December 28, 2004, 07:26 AM   #6
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works (kinda) for me

1) Deliberate dry-fire, the 'perfect-practice' kind (feel that trigger).

2) Practice at extended ranges past 20 yds, using an easily-focused-on sighting point, and shoot only for groups.

3) More dry-fire.
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Old December 28, 2004, 08:07 AM   #7
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Once you get past about 10 yards or so, all most people see of the target is a blur. I can tell you from experience that you can keep ALL of your rounds on a blurry target, even from 600 yards, as long as you focus on the front sight.

This comes down to the difference in what you practicing to do with your pistol. For defensive-type shooting, within 7-yards, I find I focus on the target more than the pistol and go to a kind of point shooting mode, as though I am shotgunning clays. Outside of 10-yards the sights become the most critical element and your focus MUST be on the front sight and sight alignment.

Just remember to focus on sight alignment and trigger squeeze when you start moving beyond 10-yards. Practice dry-firing when you can and things will definitely get better.
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Old December 28, 2004, 08:11 AM   #8
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Here is a target fired offhand from 25-yards with a S&W .44 Magnum. Conditions were cold (teens) and windy. Keeping your focus and concentration helps you out, no matter how tough the situation looks.

Edit: The top-right target was fired by my friend with the same revolver, and he has never really used a handgun past 10-yards or so.
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Old December 28, 2004, 08:19 AM   #9
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Shooting Distance For Handguns

The competition shooters will have to speak for the distance and targets involved in their individual events.

The municipal Police Department I worked for had an indoor range with firing points at twenty-one feet, thirty-five feet and fifty feet. At that time those were considered the most likely maximum distances at which a gun battle might occur. Twenty-one foot firing was done double tap from the holster on flip silhouette targets in two seconds. Thirty-five foot in three seconds and fifty foot in three seconds. With some of the occurences of late they made arrangements with the Sheriffs Department to use their outdoor range to fire a couple of tiimes a year at 50 yards and 100 yards. There was no qualification at the longer ranges but it did give the officers a chance to guage handgun performance at extended ranges.

Those distances were for professionals. Now, as a civilian, I shoot mostly at ten feet for practicality and twenty feet as that is the distance across the longest room in my home. I shoot out to seventy-five feet foor fun. Those are what I consider confrontational ranges because I'd be trying to put real distance and obstructions between me and an in-house intruder.

There are almost no ranges here in northeast Indiana, so whatever shooting I
do is generally in the summer, outside, against a bank of earth. Indoor ranges are expensive particularly since I retired which limits that venue.
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Old December 28, 2004, 09:23 AM   #10
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i can hit a human sized target at 85 yards with my .22 pistol
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Old December 28, 2004, 09:28 AM   #11
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I typically shoot at 15 yards. Sometimes at the 25 and sometimes less.
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Old December 28, 2004, 10:43 AM   #12
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don't forget the time per shot is a factor. Are you training for defense, or target shooting?

I like to set up 3 targets, apx 7-10 yards.. and execute 3 shots per target quickly. Two center of mass, one head.

Bullseye typically is at 25yards, taking the time to get off good, single shots.

Beyond that, I only use my Walther P22, and my Mk II on a steel plink target...
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Old December 28, 2004, 07:47 PM   #13
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Start at 15 feet. Move to 7 yards. Then 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards and 25 yards.

When you can draw from concealment, fire five times in less than 5 seconds and hit a 10 inch paper plate at 25 yards, three out of five tries, you are good enough for everyting short of the Olympics.

In the Olympics, they fire .22 Target pistols at 50 meters.

Who admires those who can do either or especially BOTH!
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Old December 28, 2004, 08:54 PM   #14
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I used to shoot at a police range in Florida. These were turning targets, which I don't have now, but I still start off with the same routine. All are double taps, starting with gun in ready position (Chambered round, 45 degree angle towards ground).
2 yds
5 yds
12 yds
20 yds
25 yds
50 if you feel lucky...we did it at fun shoots.

Safe weapon after each double tap....BEFORE MOVING BACKWARDS!
I.E.: Land on yer ass...shoot in the air-or worse!
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Old December 28, 2004, 09:53 PM   #15
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The standard NRA pistol course involves shooting slow, timed, and rapid at 25 yards, and slow at 50 yards, all offhand. So 50 yards is scarcely unheard of for pistol shooting.

I have done a bit of shooting at 100 yds with a pistol and at one time could keep all shots in a silhouette target at that range with a 3" Chiefs Special, shooting double action. (It takes a holdover equal to the height of the front sight, for those interested.) I had a friend (now dead) who used to shoot 2" and 3" groups regularly with a .357 Magnum 6" at 100 yards off a bench, using plain iron sights.

That does not mean shooting a handgun at 100 yards is easy. At that range, even with a rifle, the major problem is not hitting a stationary and well defined target (as on a range) but hitting a poorly defined target which is trying to hide and may be moving to boot. That makes things a lot tougher. Would I choose to engage an armed opponent at 100 yards with a snubby revolver? Hell, no! But if I had to, and could get a decent shot, I think I could make him very uncomfortable.

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Old December 29, 2004, 08:56 AM   #16
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As Jim Keenan notes, NRA Bullseye has slow fire (10 rds in ten minutes) at 50yds. The 10-ring on those targets is 3.3 inches in diameter. 90+ out of a possible 100 is reasonable there for Experts and up. For Timed/Rapid (5 shots in 20sec/5 shots in 10sec) the same target is moved to 25yds, and perfect Timed scores are had occasionally by Experts (and usually had by Masters/HighMasters), somewhat less so for Rapid.

At 50yds adequate .45ACP pistols will hold a 3" group off a rest, the best achieve about 1.5". Your two 9mm's probably will do 4-6" at best at 50yds. If you want to rule out the loose nut behind the trigger you might set two target frames in line (one at 10yds and one at 25yds), make sure the 10yd one has only a paper target and no cardboard backing, and see if the groups are better at 25yds when you're shooting at a 10yd target.
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Old December 30, 2004, 05:27 AM   #17
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If all you have is a pistol then any range is what you'll shoot at.
Practically, over 25 yards is rifle territory. That's not to say you can't hit anything at 50 yards or more with a pistol but they are running out of steam by then.
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Old January 1, 2005, 11:08 AM   #18
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45 Colt 255g at 500 yds plus passing through log cabin wall..........

Assuming what out of steam really is?

good thing i gotta range or it'd sound like i'm talikn' crap, ay?
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Old January 1, 2005, 01:08 PM   #19
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45 Colt 255g at 500 yds plus passing through log cabin wall..........
Ditto... 45 Colt 335gr. at a measured 325 yards hitting a refrigerator sized rock... Lots of white dust clouds when you hit it, and a nice "WHACK" sound echoing through the canyon... Got good enough that I hit it with the third shot everytime... Mucho FUN.

Other than that, I train for fast off-hand shooting at 7 yards and 15 yards with .45 ACP. Almost as much fun...
Yes, in fact I do have a 454... in more ways than one.

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Old January 1, 2005, 01:09 PM   #20
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For me I like dropping 10 inch steel plates as fast as I can at just 25 yards. I've made a six plate system I can reset with a line attached. Fun, fun, fun. I shoot double taps at 3 to 5 yards for defensive practice and I also like the challenge of long distance, 100 to 300 yards shooting to just see how close I can get to an object, usually a rock or gallon milk bottle by dust kickup. Offhand and judgement sighting using sights. Shoot then adjust mentally. Sometines I hit, but mostly just close, also much fun with any handgun but more accurate with a tuned .45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk Bisley. However I would not like to be a target at that range. All fun shooting and good practice to stay proficient. Same with rifles. Bob
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Old January 2, 2005, 10:48 PM   #21
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I have some Winchester .22 ammunition which carries the message 'Dangerous within 2.5 Kilometers' - that's a long way, over a mile.
I don't doubt that a heavily loaded .45 would cause a bit of bother at long distance either. It's just that I've never considered it practical to use a pistol at long range. Maybe it's because I am set in my ways - or maybe it's just that I don't see too well at long distances anymore and reach for the scoped rifle to get a better picture.
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Old January 3, 2005, 01:34 AM   #22
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maybe I'm a bit of a perfectionist.... I am only happy with very tight groups. Anything less, and I am disapointed with myself. I have just found that to achieve sub-2" groups, I must be under 10 yards, as anything over that distance leaves me with a 6" pattern. Maybe it is my sights.... I have factory combat sights on my XD-9 and my Baby Eagle.... the big white dots make it hard to focus on a small point at 25 yards. Oh well, I have no desire to be perfectly accurate at that great a distance, but I was wondering how you guys fare when shooting from 25. Thanks for the replies
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Old January 3, 2005, 01:58 AM   #23
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While it is more fun and pleasing to shoot close targets, it does less to develop your shooting.

Any combat handgun worth the title is very shootable at 25 yards. This distance demands that you're focusing on the sights properly, and will illustrate bad tendancies more obviously.

The whole idea of "I'll never need to make a shot further than 7 yards" is troubling. Someone equiped to make a longer shot will have no trouble at shorter ranges, but the opposite does not hold true.

I do my freehand shooting at 15, 25 and 50 yards. I shoot from the bench at 25, 50 and 100 yards, with the pistols that are up to the job.
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Old January 3, 2005, 08:55 AM   #24
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No one ever speaks of physical fitness in pistol shooting however as a old
person I can tell you it makes a difference especially at longer distances,
holding the pistol steady becomes a task, I guess what I want to say is
to be a good shot it does help to work out and strengthen the upper body
also a good pair of eyes helps.
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Old January 4, 2005, 06:09 PM   #25
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Over 30 years ago I used to shoot the NRA course with the "three calibers", .45 ACP, .38 Special, and .22 LR. That was at 25 and 50 yards outdoors, and at the one indoor range it was 50 feet. We shot slow, timed, and rapid fire. One-hand stance.

I just recently started shooting IDPA matches, and I am REALLY enjoying it. I use an H&K USP Tactical .45 ACP, and will be using a Kimber .45 ACP soon as well. The COF (courses of fire) vary, with some targets as close as 2 yards, but most at 5 through 10 yards, and some are at 15 and 20 yards. We shoot from a two-hand stance, and also with just our strong hand and our weak hand; standing, kneeling, around barriers, etc. The silhouette target ‘center’ is and 8” diameter circle that is just traced on the cardboard, and the head is 6” square. Some of the COF require two shots to the body (circle) and one to the head, or perhaps two to the head.

A description of the Classifier Course of Fire can be seen at
and the ‘diagram’ link at the bottom shows the distances to the targets.

I have been surprised at how well some of the guys (and gals) shoot, and how I have been able to learn to acquire the target quickly, and hit it. It is not unusual to get two or three shots within an inch of each other even at 15 yards while shooting one shot per second or faster. And yes, everyone with whom I have talked uses their sights and does not just point-and-shoot. But I suspect that someone, somewhere points-and-shoots at some of the targets, but I understand that it is not good practice to mix the styles.

I still practice at 15 and 25 yards most of the time. What I have found that has helped me the most is dry firing at home. I dry fir a lot more than I fire at the range, and it is a lot cheaper. I learned to draw and acquire the target quickly, and the pull the trigger without moving the gun, which had been the most challenging part when trying to do it fast – at least for me.

Hope this is of some help –


BTW, I am 59, and learning something everyday...
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