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Training: Don’t Limit Yourself to CCW Qualifier Distances At The Range

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It’s hard to imagine now, but a mere twenty years or so ago, most U.S. states didn’t allow any form of concealed carry. First a few states began issuing permits, then a few more, and then the dam broke.

Now, a wave of constitutional carry has moved across the country. But the interaction between regulation and technology isn’t one-way. Concealed carry was a response to good people wanting to carry guns. And as concealed carry became more popular, the guns changed to fit the needs of people who went out and got the permits.

Today, every manufacturer offers pistols specifically designed for concealed carry. Ruger’s LCP was an early micro pistol of the modern CCW era, and guns of all sizes and capacities have followed. We’re even starting to see specialized calibers introduced like the .30 Super Carry.

Most defensive shootings happen within a few feet and are over in a matter of a few seconds. While there are some who are willing to carry a duty-size gun with a light and red dot, most carriers optimize their EDC gun for comfort and convenience while compromising on capabilities that aren’t needed for the anticipated fight.

Unfortunately, this trend has led to a complete change in how most people see carry pistols. Yes, it has been long said that a pistol exists to let you fight your way to a rifle, and that if you’re expecting trouble, it’s better to have a long gun. But, most state-required concealed carry courses focus on shooting at 3, 5, 7, and at most 15 yards. Even for instructors, the NRA basic pistol qualification course of fire maxes out with an expected 80% hit rate on a 6″ circle at 15 yards, and in my experience, many students struggle to attain that.

In other words, the ease of basic pistol training that states required to get a carry permit has led to a culture of shooting to qualify and not a culture of continuously aiming for more and better. I’d like to raise some reasons we should be practicing at longer ranges, even if shooting at those distances probably won’t be needed in the real world.

Top Reason: You’ll Shoot Better Close Up

An important reason to practice going long with a pistol is that it really helps you dial in your fundamentals. What looks like a decent group at 5 yards can reveal problems with technique at 10 and 15 yards. what looks pretty good at 25 yards can start to look weak at 50+ yards. Dialing in your performance and basic technique at unrealistic defensive distances will improve your shooting further in.

woman shooting range pistol gun training
Dan Z. for TTAG

Defensive accuracy is a thing, but you’re not going to get defensive accuracy with sloppy fundamentals. The only way to really minimize the slop is testing yourself at longer ranges.

Never Say Never

Going beyond 25 yards with a pistol is almost always excessive for defensive purposes. I wouldn’t want to convince a prosecutor that a bad guy I shot who was 75 feet away presented an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily injury. But I’d still like to be able to make that shot.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be carrying a full-sized pistol at all times chambered in something powerful like 10mm Auto that can bridge the gap better than more common rounds like 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. But, at the same time, let’s not kid ourselves and believe that longer-range skill is never, ever useful for defense. It’s rare, but it does happen and it’s worth at least considering.

Here’s an example: in 2012, a man was sitting in his house and heard gunshots. He looked out and saw a man with a rifle in a gunfight with a cop, and the cop wasn’t doing too well.

The assailant was about 50 yards away from the man in the house, and all he had was a .357 Magnum revolver. Instead of looking for a rifle, he went ahead and took the shot with the wheel gun. Time was at a premium. He hit the assailant in the leg, but still managed to get him out of the fight and save the cop’s life.

firearms training range

Another example comes from law enforcement, but is still instructive. In June 1994, a man with severe mental health issues who had been kicked out of the military decided to take revenge on the psychologists involved in his discharge. He took a Norinco MAK 90 (a Chinese AKM clone) with a 75-round drum mag, hidden in a duffel bag, to the hospital, and killed two psychologists. Then, he started shooting random people in the hospital. He then went out onto the base looking for more victims.

That’s when Andy Brown, an airman in the Security Forces (the Air Force equivalent of a MP), arrived on a bicycle and stopped about 70 yards from the shooter. He knew he was outgunned, but still drew his 9mm Beretta service pistol and ordered the shooter to drop his rifle.

When the man refused and instead took aim at Brown, he fired four shots. One struck the deranged killer in the head, killing him instantly. There were still a number of rounds left in the AK, so lives were very likely saved by Brown’s quick action and exceptional skill.

There are more examples out there, but I’ve made my point. The need to make a long pistol shot is rare, but it can and does happen on occasion. Having the skill to take that longer shot won’t ever hurt you as a shooter. As they say, you’re better off having the skill and not needing it than needing it and not having it.

The World Is Changing

Most people alive today grew up in a world where America was the undisputed Number One. We’ve lived in Pax Americana since 1945. Sure, there was the threat of a nuclear exchange during the Cold War, but the Soviets were never really economically competitive with the United States and the risk of mutually assured destruction kept the chances of that kind of conflict to a minimum.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has experienced what researchers call the “unipolar moment” during which the United States was the undisputed global power.

(AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer)

In other words, the safety and peace we’ve enjoyed over the last 75 years is something very few people in history have ever experienced. It’s something we’ve taken for granted. Even if the United States doesn’t decline, other world powers have been growing faster and could either overtake us or get to the point where they’re at least more of a realistic threat than the Soviet Union ever was.

We’re not going to be invaded tomorrow, but for those of us who are likely to live another few decades, it seems unlikely that the peace of the last 75 years will continue.

Most people think about defense from robbers, rapists, and small-time crooks when they think of using a defensive pistol. Some think about the unlikely possibility of encountering a mass shooter. Hardly anyone thinks about the possibility of things going really sideways and facing warfare on U.S. soil like the people of Ukraine are living through now.

Sure, you’d probably rather have a rifle by your side in that event, but if you’ve put in the time sharpening your pistol skills at longer ranges, you’ll be better equipped there, too. You’ll have wasted nothing but some time you probably would have otherwise used on social media or watching TV.

I could be wrong — I hope so — and the whole 21st century could be peaceful, with the continental United States never facing serious peer state violence. But if that’s the case, you’ll still have a lot of fun at the range honing and improving your longer-range pistol skills.

There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by training and sharpening your handgun skills. So give it a try and step further away from the target sometimes.


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