Concealed Carry Training: What Distance To Shoot At
What shooting distance should you train at?
This starts to get a wee bit complicated. You want to do most of your training at a distance that challenges you to shoot more accurately, but that should be balanced with shooting at longer ranges in case you have to.
That seems to be conflicting, doesn't it?
There's good reason for it, though. On the one hand, you need to challenge yourself that you continue to improve your shooting skills. On the other, you should be prepared to shoot a pistol at distances up to 100 yards, whether that's with your Glock 19 or Glock 17 or whatever carry pistol you pack. Police and armed civilians - and even folks in the military - have had to make long pistol shots to stop threats, so it is something you should be prepared to do.
Let's build on that a little bit.
Shooting Practice Needs To Challenge You
There are several aspects of shooting practice that should change over the years, but for now let's only talk about the big ones.
Distance and Speed. The distance from you and the target, and the amount of time between either assuming the ready position or the pistol holstered and when you break the shot.
The idea is to make it harder so you increase your skills. You have to shoot farther or faster, making it more difficult for you to score consistently accurate hits or to do so in a shorter amount of time.
In weightlifting, it's called "progressive overload." You increase the difficulty of the lift (meaning add weight) to introduce a greater amount of stress on the muscle, though not necessarily to the point of hypertrophy (muscle damage) unless hypertrophy is your goal. (Like for a bodybuilder.) The increase in stress results in consistent growth in the strength of the muscle.
No serious lifter would be happy with maintaining, say, a 275-lb bench press or a 400-lb deadlift. You'd never hear someone say "well, that's pretty strong so I guess I'll just lift that amount of weight for the rest of my life." No shooter should find a place to be happy with and just stay there.
Gauging Your Proper Shooting Distance
So how do you tell what shooting distance you should use? Well, you test it!
Head to whichever shooting location you frequent, be it an outdoor public or indoor private range. Set up a bullseye or other scoring target. You could also use an IDPA or IPSC target, as they have target zones that you can use for score.
Here are some free shooting targets to get you started!
Pick a distance that sounds about right for you. Three yards, five yards, seven yards, whatever that might be.
Shoot for score. If you shoot ten rounds, that gives you a possible 100 points. However, if your pistol doesn't hold ten rounds, shoot a group of five and double the score.
Then do it two more times. One good or string can be an aberration; you need to see what your shooting skills are like on average.
If you consistently score in the 80s or better, you're in the comfort zone. You need to get out of it. If it's hard to do so, you've found a good range for you to practice your pistol shooting at.
It will be different for different people. Some folks will find they're a surgeon inside five yards but struggle at seven. Some people may need to move out to ten or fifteen yards to find themselves challenged.
Then you'll want to test speed. Get a shot timer, and see how long it takes to shoot a good group at a relaxed pace. Start decreasing the amount of time you have to finish the string.
Don't Neglect Long Range Shooting Though
With that all said, practice some long range shooting in addition to your typical target range. Ideally, you should be able to place shots on target at any range, not just at typical combat distances.
The typical civilian-involved defensive shooting takes place close, inside seven yards. If you're getting fast, tight and consistent groups at fifteen yards, so much the better. It means your skills are beyond that which you need to defend yourself.
However, you also want to practice shooting at longer ranges, out to 50 yards and even beyond. A number of mass shooters and other threads have been stopped by armed civilians or peace officers by shooting at those distances, so it's a good tool to have in the box, so to speak.
So ultimately, you should practice your shooting at a distance that challenges you, but you should become competent at shooting at different distances. It's no good only being able to get hits at 7 yards.