POLL: New Shooter Target Distance

New shooters often watch other shooters shooting at distances of 25 - 50 feet with handguns at the range and try to shoot that distance as well. Some of those shooting at longer distances may be testing their skills or training for different types of competition.

What distance do you recommend newer shooters set their targets at for self-defense training with a handugun?

  • 5 ft
  • 7 ft
  • 10 ft
  • 12 ft
  • More than 12 feet

0 voters

Please explain your recommendation below.

Besides the 21 foot drill, I think practicing hitting center of mass at 7-10 yards would cover most defensive shooting scenarios and accuracy will just improve with closer threats.


For a brandy new shooter I like 3 yards (10 ish feet) with a Trans-Star II target. I believe they are 24" x 36" which gives me plenty of room to see jerks and flinches but the nice 3" x 4" white oval works nicely as a central aiming point that is not the WHOLE target. When B-24’s were the standard new shooters would get lost because there was nothing to aim at except the whole target.




7 feet is the minimum distance at most of the gun ranges around here.

Early success will convince a new shooter that success at longer distances is possible.


That is a great point! When teaching a new shooter, we don’t want them to give up because they can’t succeed right away. success early on can help them build their skills and challenge themselves in the future.


Makes me nervous when targets are too close to the line, especially with new shooters who may not have safe and disciplined approach. I was next to a class where the instructor put targets at less than half the minimum safe distance that the range has chosen. need to be 3 yards or at least 10 feet.

7’, as long as it is OK at the range, and the target is safe. I think it helps new shooters see what they are hitting.

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10 to 12 feet is where we move closer new shooters if they are having any trouble at our normal 15 feet range.


10 feet. I tell them it’s like shooting across your living room.


10 ft (or if Range has a policy - 12 ft).
New shooter has to feel that he / she is capable of hitting the target. More fun comes from holes, not distance.
Longer distances comes later.

I’m a good example of this method. For last 2 years (being my first 2 years the same time) I’ve never shot longer distances than 30 feet. There was no need for it. Sometimes it happened at class that “threat” was located far away (40 -45 feet), but nobody cared about hitting it. That was more to scary it.
Right now, trying to pass NRA Instructor qualification, I’ve started to shoot 45 feet distance. And still have more fun hitting faster at 20 - 30 feet. :slightly_smiling_face:


7 is my regular practice distance but finish off day at the indoor range shooting at 10 yards.

Anything more than 10 yards is IMHO not a self-defense situation.


I think 7ish feet is a good distance for a new shooter. Then go a little further but end the day back at that distance. The first self defense class I ever took started with the one hole drill at about this distance. It helps to give new shooters confidence and points out obvious grip and trigger issues. I still use this drill occasionally to work on fine tuning my trigger control and sight alignment. You can’t blame poor eyesight or an inaccurate gun for bad shooting at that distance;)


FBI statistics say that most shootings happen at 7 to 10 feet. On top of that, training at 10 feet will address any problems with grip or technique being done wrong, as well as, build confidence with the gun they are using. Once the pattern of shots is refined to a minimum then you can have them move on to different set of drill and distances.


If we are speaking of actual personal defense, our need to be able to counter lethal threats requires that we be able to respond. Putting holes in paper and 25 yards may be fun and competitive, but that is not the same as countering an attack while out and about. I frequently use a private range where I have two or more targets to shoot at with the first one being less than ten feet away. It is the only way I can think of to condition myself to consider multiple threats up close and personal. Not all threats are with a firearm, so some attacks might be very close.


I have been taking my mother out to practice with my Ruger LCR(.357) starting out at 5 feet away from a 8 inch target only using her strong hand, then working back to 10 feet and then 21 feet.
She’s a quick study.
Note to Self: Don’t forget Mother’s Day


I start folks at the 7 yd line (21 ft). You don’t have to train people to hit a target at point blank range (inside 10 ft) if they know how to hit one reliably in excess of 10 yds against a timer. At 7-10 yds, I can very quickly ID and correct poor fundamentals and coach them into putting them all together to get consistent hits (basic marksmanship training). And that is step 2 in teaching someone to fight with a pistol. Step 1…which a lot of folks skip/gloss over…is safe weapons handling (aka manual at arms).


I have been surprised at how a person practicing the draw and shoot at ten feet can miss a target. Yes, they can. If we won’t to learn to defend ourselves, it isn’t hitting the bullseye at 7 yards that is primary. It is draw, point, shoot, and hit. Its a much different mindset.


@Stephen22 If you wish only to train someone for a quick draw duel, that’s sound logic. But those almost never happened in history and do not happen with any regularity in contemporary culture, either…in spite of what YouTube gun culture and Hollywood Westerns try to convince people of. If you are trying to win a gunfight vs someone who already has a weapon in hand and has chosen you as a target and you have a holstered pistol under a cover garment, I’ve got very bad news for you. This is how it ends:

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Some really good points Stephen22. We must recognize that most threats upon average citizenry do not reach the level of a lethal force response. It is important, I believe, that we have options (multiple options) when it comes to personal defense. There are often times when I hear the a person describe to me what they would do if involved in an attack. Unfortunately, most often, their responses are inept and/or misguided at best.


Forgive me for this reply, but I don’t believe this is a good example of what you are trying to convey. There is not mention of any position the suspect or FBI agents were in prior, during, or after. This is a very tragic incident and much will be learned (unfortunately past-tense).