What is a good distance to train for self defense?

I believe the rule of 3s is 3 yards BTW Jerzy.

I don’t see distances there todd?

I also don’t know that cops are the same since their literal job is to close distance and go hands on with suspects.

Tom Givens, Concealed Carry Class, Page 88-89

93.1 % of shootings occured between 3 and7 yards, and more than 80 percent at 3-5 yards.

I haven’t seen data for defensive firearm uses showing that most are as close as 3-5 feet. Those tend to be outliers.

Edit: Here is a USCCA resource giving rule of 3s as yards per the FBI


“FBI stats say the average gunfight includes three rounds fired over three seconds from a distance of 3 yards.”


A good video explaining and discussing why engagement distances for dead LEO is not what we should be looking at.

Great discussion in this video


From the video it is stated it is 9 to 15 feet that is the average distance.


That’s what most say…3-5 yards or 9-15 feet is the vast majority


I’m guessing… it might be 3 yards… I never paid attention to this difference.
3 feet or 3 yards - with deadly weapon attack - the counter attack must be fast in both cases.

Screenshot from 2023-09-29 13-39-31

That’s the best statistics for civilian market.





I also buy stacks of cheap t-shirts and shirts at the Salvation Army store. I drape them over target frames so I don’t have a point of reference to aim at, but I have silhouette targets under them so I know where my shots landed after I take them off the frame.

At shoot them at short distances and at long distances, sometimes in my rifle range. I do just fine, and real people don’t come with dots and or squares on their chest or pelvic girdle.

I am BIG proponent of practice how you intend to fight. Some folks are big on tools, I’m big on reality.

I am however a big fan of my timer. But that is strictly for my personal assessments.

I can also say I’m really happy with my results and performance and I know I’m consistently shooting farther away than most and past the distances I ever expect to have to engage anyone. But thanks for your input. I’m sure it’s helpful to some.


How do you compare your times day to day, RE: distance they were shot at?

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I have baseline times filed in my head that I need to maintain such as first shot from concealment etc. etc but they differ depending on what I’m doing. It’s much different when I’m shooting from a low position at a target 3 feet away, aimed multiple hits from anywhere in my 180° berm area, aimed multiple shots in different scenarios, and taking an aimed shot from concealment at a target maybe 50-60 yards away. I do drills several times and look to shave time every time because my drills are usually different every time I go. But mostly I KNOW when I’m doing well vs. sucking wind and how to fix it. Been doing it for a while…

Laying in the ground, drawing using weak hand, drawing while laying on the ground, drawing and addressing targets through a window from inside a car, exiting the car and engaging multiple targets…. All different goals.

But mostly I’m on a maintenance schedule, while striving to get better and always looking for economies of motion and weeding out any bad habits that might have crept in.


When I started long distance precision shooting, I learned that it’s a lot easier to hit targets that are near than those that are far (duh). But after getting consistent at distance shooting, I found hitting nearby targets to be a breeze. The same translated to handgun as well. If I can hit targets consistently at 25 yards, I can easily hit them at 5 yards.

The Indiana mall murderer was stopped at a distance of 40 yards. That’s not typical for a self defense situation, but it does happen. The way I see it, if you train to stop a bad guy at 40-50 yards, you should have no problem stopping one at 3 yards. But if you only train for distances less than 10 yards, you’ll have a really hard time stopping someone at 25 yards if you ever need to.


That is true. A few years back I was doing a 3 gun comp just for fun. They had a stage for carbines with two targets at 120 yards and my “squad” was complaining because they were not “told” and they were all running red dots.

I hate whinners so I offered to run the stage first… with a handgun. After scoring high center chest hits on both targets well within the allocated time they all shut up. Distance is more challenging but your worst enemy is your own head…

But to your point, If you get used to ringing steel at 40, 60, 100 yards for fun on your first shot all of a sudden “defensive distances” are a no thought affair…


That is assuming I didn’t leave “X.”

When I observe a potential area of concern, I try to mentally train to get out of X, find cover or concealment.


Moving off the X or trying to avoid any situation is good but then all of a sudden there you are, life or death. You cannot pre-determine the distance they ambush you at or just when it happens. Your getting into your car and they they come between you and your door. or, they are in your house and they are at the other side of the house the distance is variable and so should your training be variable distances.


RE: Distances, and “there are you”

Next time any of us are at a store, be it Scheels, Academy, Walmart, Home Depot, the grocery store…walk down an aisle…stop in the middle of the aisle and think “what if someone was shooting from the end of the aisle”. How far would that be?


I think this is largely true from an accuracy perspective though practicing different techniques at shorter distances is still essential. There is a big difference in presentation, sight alignment and movement between a threat that is 50 or even 25 yards away and one that is coming at you from 3 yards away.

In my one serious multi day in person self defense pistol class the instructor had a target pulled by a fellow student who was behind you with a rope. Believe it was set up 7 yards away. You couldn’t draw until the target started moving and the puller would play with the rope while the instructor talked to you to make it harder to get a jump on the target before it started the charge. Drawing from concealment, if I waited to pull the trigger until I was fully extended with eyes on the sights, the wheeled target was hitting the stoppers in front of me just after my first shot was going off and only then if I was drawing smooth and fast. I could sometimes get off two shots before the stoppers but I wasn’t looking at the sights and the first shot was before I was extended.

The moral of that story was that even if you have already drawn, aimed and start firing as soon as the target starts moving from that distance they are still likely to make contact with you even if you hit them several times, unless you are hitting them while moving out of the way. I have practiced 50 yard shots with a pistol after a quick move but not while moving and not from compressed ready or from the hip.

With a threat only 3 yards away they will very likely be on top of you before you can get the gun out of the holster unless you can distract them before they move or use physical force to redirect them or fend them off. I have been playing around with this a in my Krav Maga classes and it almost always works out best to use both my hands to take care of the threat until I can create enough time and distance for a clean draw.

The brief version of what I am saying is that from an accuracy perspective if you can hit a target at 50 yards it will be a breeze to hit one at 3 yards. But dealing with a threat at 50 yards requires a whole different set of skills and actions than dealing with one at 3 yards.


I once read an article which said an FBI study showed that 86% of self-defense shootings happen inside of 5 yards. I generally practice at seven🤷🏼‍♂️.that being said, once a month I will spend most of a session practicing out to 25 yds. I find doing so, make me a better shooter at the closer ranges


Good topic. I do most of my practice at 10 yards. I start off standing still then work in taking a step to the left or right. Lately I’ve been also going out to 15 and 20 yards to take a few shots. For me I found that I aim too high at the longer distances.


Just finished reviewing Craig Douglas’ (Southnarc) presentation on extreme close quarter combat in an armed environment on the Warrior Poet Society Network. The premise is many violent encounters start with an ambush from hands on distance, and you must be able to defend with hands and feet in order to retain a concealed weapon that most likely has no retention feature, fight for room to present it, then use it if justified in a manner safe to yourself. Certainly marksmanship, safe handling and dealing smoothly with malfunctions are a necessary base, but most range training where the shooter cannot move, the targets don’t move and don’t grab, punch, clinch, stab, or shoot back, does not address the reality of violent encounters. So, what is a good distance to start defensive firearms training? Point blank with your forehead in contact with the target. SIRT pistols, UTM, force on force hands on training, all can contribute to a better rounded experience. Remember, it’s not a gunfight until you have a gun in hand. And so it goes…


One of my favorite drills is drawing from concealment on a target (or targets) that is at 90° from me (weak or strong side) at bad breath distance and shooting at it from a low retention position (point shooting) and continue shooting through the motion to get the gun to HCC and then stay on target delivering hits as I fully extend, find the sights and continue shooting as I walk backwards from the target. Shoot through the first mag, reload still adding distance and re engage while I continue to walk backwards. It’s fun!!!

To add excitement I’ll add a few 8” plates at somewhere over 20-30+ yards to simulate friends of the BG(s) showing up after the initial threat is down.


Because for the past four months it’s simply been too hot in Houston, TX to go to the firing range, I’ve bee practicing at 11 yards with the Strikeman system. I’ve found that is the furthest distance the Strikeman can accurately been used in daylight.

At the range I usually shoot at ten yards, my standard being can I do a ten yard dump shooting as rapidly as possible and have all my shots on an 8.5" x10" sheet of paper (preferably inside the 9" target printed on the paper).

I’m 81 years old, so I hope to live out the rest of my life never finding out if that is good enough in a self-defense situation.