“Average” Self-Defense Shooting Distances

A common phrase heard about self-defense shootings is that “they occur, on average, at 3 yards, happen under three seconds, and take three shots.”

Now, this sort of thing has never been backed up by any reputable research data, though there IS definitely data showing that many self-defense shootings occur within one car-length’s worth of distance. But because of this “commonly known” phrase, many people think that practicing for further distances isn’t useful. (Some instructors go so far as to say “if you are shooting over 15 yards, you should be running away, not fighting” and other similar comments.)

Between the concepts of “acceptable combat accuracy” and “average self-defense distance,” many people’s idea of what they should hold as standards for effective gun skills often end up being “hit a silhouette target at 9 feet, and you are GOOD!”

The problem with that, of course, is that it is nonsense.

We DON’T know the “average” distance for defensive gun uses, because there isn’t any overall research data repository that records this data. We DO know, however, that people have engaged criminals from bad-breath distance up to 100 yards, with a pistol, under justified circumstances.

So why the huge range?

Because all self-defense situations are not the same—and a SIGNIFICANT indicator of what distance you may need to be able to manage is based on who exactly is being threatened.

It is certainly true that someone trying to directly kill you (specifically YOU), generally does so from up close. As such, most self-defense situations of this type do tend to strongly match the “within a car’s length” distance, according to what data we have.

However, the situation in which that distance may be much farther is when you are caught up in a mass shooting situation. The criminal isn’t specifically only attacking you. Instead, he is attacking everyone. You are under threat, but it is likely to be from a distance AND you might not even be the target at that specific moment.

For those citizens who are armed and decide to attempt to stop the attacker, the distances involved are likely to be significantly larger in a mass shooter situation than in a direct assault.

The good side to that is that the shooter is likely to not be directly shooting at you at that point in time, so you have a good chance to make your first shot COUNT.

The question is, have you only practiced “combat accuracy” at 3 yards?

Or have you actually worked on your shooting skills?

Sgt. Johnson made a one-handed shot at 104 yards while holding the reins of two horses. Eli Dicken made 8 of 10 shots from cover/concealment (opinions vary) at 40 yards braced against a pillar. Jack Wilson made a headshot at 12-15 yards.

No matter WHAT situation you find yourself in, you need to make that first shot count–no matter the distance.

And no matter what someone tells you, “three shots, three yards, in three seconds” may not be good enough.

A Realistic View of Crime in Nebraska

Several years ago I wrote an article about Crime Definitions You Should Think About, talking about the definition of “Aggravated Assault” (as opposed to “Attempted Murder”) and what it meant—and how often it happened.  If you haven’t read that, please take a moment to do so, because it describes the definition of aggravated assault, and why that definition is important.  It’ll make the next part a lot more clear.

Each year, states (and divisions within that state such as county and city departments) are required to report crime statistics in various ways.  One of the most important “indexes” of crime are “Part I” crimes, which include (among other things) the various categories of “Violent Crimes” which are:  Criminal Homicide, Rape, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault.

Most often, people  (when talking about armed self-defense) discuss the criminal homicide rates in their various areas, touting those areas as “safe” or “dangerous” in various descriptions based on those rates, most of which are misleading at best, and downright wrong fairly often.

Continue reading

How do you gain knowledge?

In a past post, I talked fairly bluntly about how if you don’t have any education, training, or experience in a technical area, you don’t really have a right to an opinion in that technical area.

Unsurprisingly in this time of “everyone is equal and their thoughts are all equally valid, even if they are clueless,” lots of people grew angry about the idea.  It probably would have gone better had if I said it differently, but what I was REALLY thinking was “…your opinion is worthless.”

And I wasn’t wrong.

So how do you get to a point where your opinion is valid in a technical area such as self-defense?  Answer:  Education, training, or experience. (And preferably, all three.)

Let’s start with education (this will be the first in a set of three posts). Continue reading

Rule Three of Concealed Carry

You are a consistent follower of Rule One, so you always carry a gun.  And since you are not merely a gun owner, but instead are actually prepared to defend yourself, you also follow Rule Two, and have trained sufficiently (and have kept in training sufficiently) to have at minimum a solid grounding in the fundamentals of shooting and gun-handling while also acquiring the requisite knowledge of the law with respect to use of force, and use of lethal force.

So what’s the third Rule?

It’s quite simple, really, even though this is the situation where the largest number of people will create the most ridiculous rationalizations to defend their emotional investment in a piece of equipment.

Rule Three of Concealed Carry:  Carry the most effective tool that you can.

Continue reading

Rule Two of Concealed Carry

So, you are following Rule One.  You have a gun, concealed, on your person.  So, what’s the next rule?  What’s the next most important thing?

Have the basic knowledge and skill to use it properly.  That’s Rule Two.

Some people are probably scratching their heads and saying “why was ‘Have A Gun’ Rule one when you aren’t requiring anyone to know how to use it?”  Simple—if you don’t have one, what skills you have with it won’t matter.  And more importantly, plenty of people who have no formal training or practice with firearms have nonetheless competently defended themselves using firearms.

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Rule One of Concealed Carry…

I know that if you read articles or forums posts written by me, you will see phrases like “any caliber from 9mm through .45acp will work equally well” and “at least shoot a 9mm” crop up often.  There is a large, robust set of of research data showing those calibers, through handguns, will be functionally effective in the same manner to the same degree and can, in general, be relied upon to cause self-defense “stops” given adequate accuracy on the part of the shooter.

Does this mean I believe anyone who carries a smaller caliber than that isn’t going to be able to defend themselves? Continue reading

Ralph Mroz liked my article!

Ralph Mroz liked my article about expertise, where I discussed some of the things Tom Givens said about who is qualified to have an opinion in a technical field.

https://thestreetstandards.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/what-are-appropriate-credentials-for-instructors/

…and he and Tom Givens made some interesting comments as followups, too.    In particular the important question: “What constitutes “experience” in a civilian context?”

This is one of the things that I’ve talked about before, regarding military or law enforcement “experience” when talking about people who are qualified to teach citizen CCW courses–which Tom Givens discussed also, and I mentioned in my original article. Continue reading

Why don’t you charge more?

I posted a depressed comment on Facebook yesterday:
“I need to start charging over a hundred dollars for a half-day seminar. Apparently.
This explains why I’m poor!”

A couple of my friends replied:
Why don’t you charge more?
Do you think aren’t worth more? Or do prefer to be the better value?

My reply:

Truth? I think that my combination of training, experience, and practice in armed and unarmed self-defense plus the fact that I’ve actually been researching this topic (instead of depending on anecdotal evidence) means that my training is worth quite a lot (especially in self-defense classes)—and not only more than I’ve been charging, but much more than a lot of the crap that is taught around here by people who are teaching based on their background and experience, which doesn’t actually match the topics that they are teaching.* Continue reading

Why are you so mean?

Periodically, someone asks me why I’m so direct with my replies regarding civil rights such as self-defense.  They get angry because I say what I mean, without cushioning it for their feelings.  I’m not impolite, I just (quite some time ago) lost patience with caring about certain people’s feelings if I tell the truth, back it with facts, and state my conclusions from it, and they get all angry because their defense is purely emotional, with no rational basis.

“Why are you so mean?” I hear. Continue reading

Is the New York Reload faster?

I was recently in a firearms class when the instructor, in the middle of demonstrating a drill involving reloads with a semi-auto pistol, suddenly dropped his gun, dropped to a knee, pulled a j-frame revolver out of an ankle holster, and engaged the target.  When he stood up he grinned and said “And when you want a REALLY FAST reload, you simply grab another gun.”

That got me thinking, because up until that point in time I had simply gone along with the assumption:  New Gun = Faster.   Don’t have to drop the mag and find a new one and insert the new one and then shoot–just hit that New York Reload (for those new to firearms, a “New York Reload” is simply pulling another gun) and life is good.

Of course, it could be better.

BostonReloadBut….is that really true?  Are New York reloads (NYR) actually faster in this day and age when most people carry semi-auto pistols?  Obviously, it is true for revolvers being loaded with loose rounds (and probably still true for most people even with speedloaders or moonclips, Jerry Miculek notwithstanding)….but this seems to be a concept taken as “standard truth” by most people for all types of carry, including semi-auto pistols.

Watching the instructor pull his backup gun (BUG), I really wondered about it—because here was a skilled, experienced instructor whom I respected, and it took probably a little over 2 seconds from shot to shot between the old gun and the new gun–and he knew when the old gun was going to go dry so it wasn’t a surprise.  Sure, plenty of people don’t have 2-second reloads.  But…most people don’t have 2-second draws from BUG positions, either…

So are NYRs normally faster than standard reloads?

I thought I’d find out, or at least get one comparative data set.  In my case, instead of drawing a small backup gun from a ankle holster or some other place equally difficult to reach, I used a G19 from an IWB holster carried strong side behind the hip as the BUG.  My normal carry is a G17 in an AIWB holster, so I went from my normal carry gun as the primary, to a “BUG” that was a common primary carry pistol using a normal primary draw type for most people who carry.

In other words, I’m giving the NYR the maximum chance to be fast, by making it an easy gun to draw and shoot, and doing so from the place where most people carry their primary.

Contrasting this, I’ll be performing a normal reload-to-shot from my standard extra magazine carry position.

Here’s what happened:

There just doesn’t seem to be that much difference in time.  If I was drawing a j-frame from an ankle holster, it would have been even slower.

…I’m just not seeing much in the way of saved time here, using a New York reload.

Now, no matter what else is true, there are some useful things specific to each type of “reload”:

New York Reload Advantages:

  • If your primary has an unfixable malfunction (at least, unfixable within a useful time frame) the NYR is obviously going to work best.
  • If your primary is taken, lost, or unavailable due to position, then the NYR is obviously going to work best.

Standard Reload Advantages:

  • You aren’t reloading to a smaller gun that is harder to shoot well.
  • You are reloading to another full magazine of ammunition, instead of a 5-shot snubbie or something similar.  (If you shot so much that the gun went empty once, the idea of now only having 5 rounds doesn’t sound good…)
  • You don’t have to reach to draw from a non-primary position.  Example:  You can’t draw from an ankle holster if you are trying to run for cover.  Or run anywhere.  Many backup guns are holstered in unobtrusive (meaning:  slower to draw from and harder to get to) positions, making them harder (and slower) to access.

So ignoring the time differences, there are some potential cases when the New York Reload is the only one that will get you a working gun.  In others, the standard reload is the only one that will make it happen.

Best choice?  Obviously having both an extra magazine and a backup gun to cover all the bases.

That being said–there just doesn’t seem to be much of a time difference between the two “reloads” when going from shot to shot.  And in my case, my standard reloads are actually probably going to be faster than any backup gun that I’d actually carry.*

*Obviously this sample is one case, based on one set of guns/holsters, done by one person.  If your reloads suck worse than mine, maybe the BUG will be faster.  If you can’t hit anything at speed with a tiny gun past 3 yards, maybe the standard reload will be best for you.  But….that difference isn’t a function of the method, that’s a function of shooter skill.  From the viewpoint of method, there just doesn’t seem to be as much of a time difference as many people might think—especially if someone is drawing a tiny BUG from deep cover.