What distance do you set your target at (handgun)?

I typically start with a “Cold Qual” by running a 48-round police qualification course that starts at 25 yards with stages at 10 yards, 7 yards, 5 yards, and 2 yards. This basically shows you where you’re at today and gets you broken in for your training session. If we are working standard draw/shoot drills, I’ll put a 3x5 index card in the upper chest “A Zone” of an IPSC/IDPA target and proceed to a close range (between 2-5 yards) to practice. Start slow and by-the-numbers to ensure consistent draw form and putting every round inside the 3x5 card. If you miss, slow it down until you consistently hit. When you’re hitting consistently, speed it up a little at a time. Once you’re reliably hitting the card at full speed, increase your distance and repeat the process. But be sure to take mini-breaks and stop the process immediately if your group starts increasing in size. It’s easy to overdo it and actually begin negatively affecting your training session. Re-center yourself and then go back to basics: grip, front sight, trigger press, follow-through, etc.


@Scott1 that sounds like excellent drill advice. Welcome, and glad you’re here!

1 Like

Welcome to the community @Scott1. This group thrives on information and it sounds like you have it. Keep sharing. It sounds like great training.

1 Like

A conversation about facts is not an argument. I would suggest, based on real world case studies, that one of your common victim engagements with a violent criminal is actually “bad breath distance”. In other words, you’re already being physically attacked and the bad guy has hands on you. You may be up against a wall, on the ground, or sitting in your car at this point. I believe some of these “internet statistics” of 21-foot encounters stem primarily from FBI compilations of police shootings blurred with the FBI study from decades back showing that a knife-wielding thug could charge 21 feet in the time it takes to draw and get two rounds on target. In police shootings, you’re generally talking about the officer responding to a known bad guy and having their own gun in the fight much earlier than your typical civilian reactionary self-defense situation. So, I personally train from 0-50 with handgun and 2-100 with long gun (shotgun and AR). No, that doesn’t mean I expect to be doing Hollywood 50-yard hostage shots with my pistol. But it does mean that I know what my pistol and I are capable of from every point within the realistically effective range of a handgun.

In my opinion, if you only train at a few mid-range distances (5, 7, 10) and only on a square range, standing still, against a stationary target, your training may not be complete.


There are no stat’s from any reputable source I can find that would show 6’ or even under 10’ would be the average engagement distance for home invasions.

The average bedroom is 150sq ft. Average den or master bedroom 200 sqft, average hallway 20-30’ long with staircases slightly longer on average.

When you’re talking about carjackings, attempted robbery etc then that would hold true.

As for 50yds with a handgun I doubt you can find even one in a thousand civilians involved in a DGU at that distance.

Over 90% of DGUs will occur within that “magical” 21’ distance.

I encourage all of my students to start out working first at the most common distances and then when they’ve developed a comfortable level of competence move out to the reasonably likely distances.

Shooting further occasionally for fun or to test your abilities isn’t at all unwise but most people have very limited time and a limited budget for practice ammo so I like to stay within the “reasonably and most likely” distances

It certainly does no harm to shoot at greater distances to hone your skills and see just where your limits are for consistent defensive accuracy but if one is going to train first for what is most likely and second for what is reasonably likely there’s no logical reason to train with your handgun beyond 30’ for the average person who’s sole interest is self defense.

Remember you cannot lawfully use a firearm in self defense without being able to show the imminence of a deadly threat and unless someone is actively shooting at you or others you’re going to have a very difficult time convincing any prosecutor, judge, or jury, much less investigators that someone beyond that range presented an imminent deadly threat.


Agree completely. People with limited training time and budget do have to “live within their means” when it comes to training.

AOJ is Ability - Opportunity - Jeopardy

Does the “bad guy” (BG) have the Ability to do you bodily harm? This usually refers to a weapon, which could be any striking object, or it could just be that “bubba” is a large muscular hulk and the victim is of a lighter build. This argument is typically all that is needed in a man vs woman attack, where the man is physically stronger than the victim. He need not have any weapon other than his hands to have the Ability to do bodily harm.

Does the BG have the immediate opportunity to do you bodily harm? Pretty simply, can the BG attack the victim right now? The distance may play into this in some cases, but a BG can shoot at you from 50 yards away (or more) and satisfy all requirements under AOJ. Opportunity analyzes the situation and considers the terrain, distance, cover, escape routes, etc.

Is the BG placing the victim in Jeopardy with clear actions of an attack? If the BG is just calmly standing there, 21 feet away with a stick in his hand and not saying anything or acting in a threatening manner, you may not be in Jeopardy. If a BG is spraying bullets at you from 50 yards away, you are in Jeopardy.

If you satisfy all aspects of AOJ, you may be in a self-defense situation. Of course, laws vary by state (we are a nation of 50 little countries), so it’s also really important to know the local laws and how they apply to use of deadly force.


Be the best! “5, 7 10, 15, 20 yards” ! I have seen many records broken and some
in creditable people do some wild target practice. When it comes to you, family,
and friends lives, be your GRANDEST.


Welcome to the Community @Scott1! I love all of the close quarter training you do.


One of the things that attracted me to the USCCA training programs is that they are all based on hard fact and science. When it comes to distances the program teaches us to look, based on actual recorded self defender situations at the most likely, less likely, and least likely distances these types of shootings occur and address them accordingly.

Most likely distances, most training, that’s between 3-10’.

Less likely from about 10-16’, less training

Least likely beyond that, least training.

Now, once you’ve mastered the first two, the most and less likely there’s certainly no reason to work on longer distances but in terms of preparing you for the types of self defense encounters you’re most likely to find yourself in it’s of little practical gain.

Personally I think once the basics are well ingrained at those more likely distances the average self defender would be better served at starting to work on things like shooting under stress, engaging moving targets, shooting from awkward/unnatural positions and the kind of precision shooting such as the bad guy who is holding your wife, kids in front of them as human shields makes the most sense.

In spite of what most people would like to think it will take years and thousands of rep’s to truly reach a level of mastery with the basics.

When have you reached that level? When you’re prepared to handle all of the more likely situations self defenders face and know you can make the shot with high confidence without even thinking about it.

One of the most likely scenarios self defenders will face is a carjacking yet few programs put any focus on defending against one until you reach a rather high level of training and that’s something I think all organizations would be well served to consider incorporating sooner.

Another is of course the work place shootings where one is very likely to have to defend yourself from a either a seated or crouching position behind a desk.


Distance can be a challenging time and space to judge when someone
is under extreme stress and adrenaline. 3’ to 15 ', 3 to 5 yards, 21 '. Please do
not explain why so many inches and feet are between these measurements. Your
safety and well being is important, we need to be our best, not to prove to someone else.


Handgun: 1-25 yards with paper targets, steel targets set at 10-76 yards. I can stretch that to 100 yards if I move my firing line back but only do that with rifle.


I usually start at 7’ two magazines the progress to 14’ and 21’.

I also run different targets from dot torcher to 5x5 (5 rounds 5 seconds 5” target).

One thing I’ve learned is that lose accuracy with my Shield at 14’, but remain accurate with my M&P 2.0c up to 45’.

I have a Google Drive File of printable targets that I rotate through depending on what I feel I need to work on. Dot Torture always kicks my butt.


And fully calling myself out for not knowing what that target is :grimacing:

@Zee here’s a link to my google docs, should be accessible to you.


@BrophE you ROCK :smiley: thank you!!

I’m gonna try that one, see if it kicks my butt too.

@Zee not sure if the full folder is accessible but here’s all the targets and drills I have saved.


@Zee here’s my last attempt (Tuesday) at dot torture.

1 Like

What distance and which gun?
And gonna go with … it’s all still center mass.

1 Like

@Zee that one is the shield at about 10’ both eyes open. Trying to train myself away from dominant eye shooting (it’s how I was taught many moons ago when Jesus was a child).


@BrophE I have you beat! I am one day older than dirt!:rofl:

1 Like