April 19, 1999 Littleton Colorado, a school resource officer and a motorcycle cop engage two killers at a distance of 70 yards. The killers have the advantage because they possess a 9mm carbine and are able to keep the officers at bay until another officer shows up with an AR-15 rifle. While unsuccessful in stopping the carnage with a 70 yard shot the two officers and their handguns did allow numerous potential victims a chance to escape.
June 20, 1994 Fairchild AFB Spokane Washington, Air Force Security Policeman Andy Brown confronts a deranged killer armed with a rifle. Using his issue Beretta M9 service pistol Brown ends the rampage with four pistol shots at a distance between 69 and 71 yards.
When people think of a defensive handgun very few envision using it at a distance of more than 20 or thirty yards and most defensive encounters are closer than that. However, just as there is an infinitesimal chance of being in or near a mass shooting there is a chance one may need to employ a handgun at range to save lives. One very realistic example is the recent terrorist attack at the mall in Nairobi Kenya, where armed citizens were among the first to respond and engage the terrorists armed only with handguns.
Some will say that a shooting at long range with a pistol just can’t be done, that a 70+ yard shot is just pure luck. The thing is that to a practiced hand gunner these shots are possible out to 100 yards or more. There is legend that Elmer Keith successfully hit a deer twice at the distance of 600 yards with a 6” .44 Magnum. However, just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. Taking a long defensive shot under any circumstances could open you to criminal and civil liability so before you are placed in a situation where you need to take a long shot, know where you stand legally. Hopefully, your lawyer can help answer these questions.
Making the long shot requires knowing your gun and ammunition quite well. This means taking time to practice at range as well as for close in encounters. One thing I found that helps with this is to figure out the ballistics of your preferred round at a distance and create a drop table for it. This will help you determine hold over at ranges so you can get your rounds on target faster. The sooner your rounds are on target the less ammunition you will need to expend in practice. Personally, I have managed consistent accurate shots out to 150 yards with a 6” .357 Magnum and 100 with a 10mm auto. I’ve just started working things out with my Glock 19 but when I settle on a load I’m confident I will be able to do fairly well at 100 yards with it.
So how much practice time should you devote to long range shooting? That is a tough one, for me personally I will try at least one magazine every time I take one of my precision rifles to the range. I figure since I’m already shooting at distances an extra target down range is no big deal for trying some rounds with my handgun. How much or even if you try shooting at a distance is up to you, but consider that in the unlikely event you find yourself in a rare situation the long shot being able to could be the thing that saves lives.