By A Long Shot

Statistics tell us that the average self-defense shooting takes place at three yards, expends approximately three rounds, and lasts about three seconds. Knowing this, there’s no point in practicing for longer distances, since it’s not likely that we’ll every have to take a long shot. Or is it? Don’t be too certain.

Interior shot of a mall.
A simple trip to the mall can turn deadly quickly. Consider the long distances involved.

As I write this, an armed citizen in an Indiana mall, very recently, took out a mass shooter. The citizen engaged the murderer at 40 yards, expended 10 rounds, and scored eight hits. He neutralized the murderer just under 15 seconds after the gunman opened fire. The rest of the details are a bit sketchy right now, but the facts that we do have speak volumes.

Out and About

Start thinking about different scenarios that you might face in your daily travels in which you might have to use force. For the sake of this article, though, think a little more about having to use force at longer range than normal. Thinking about “What If” scenarios will help develop your situational awareness, which is the key to survival.

I’ll throw a few scenarios out there to get things started. I don’t doubt that many readers can and will come up with many additional scenarios, considering the varied lives that our readership leads. We have people with many diverse lifestyles and experiences.

The Mall

As mentioned above, the most recent example is the mall shooting. I can tell you that my local mall definitely has some scenarios where a 40-yard shot could be taken. Some shots could even be farther than that.

In addition to the ground floor of the mall(s) that I occasionally frequent, they also have additional floors upstairs. One could find him or herself on the upper floor with limited space to move when trouble presents itself.

Inside a mall.
Shopping malls offer some scenarios in which very long shots might need to be taken.

Given the massive crowds that malls often draw, they can be enticing targets to mass shooters. If there are crowds, the shot(s) we may have to take would be greatly complicated, given that we don’t want innocent victims from our bullets.

Many people whom I speak with and who may be reading this might say, “Well, I never go to the mall, I can’t stand those places.” Fair enough. With that said, it’s quite likely that you do go some places in public. Unless you’re a hermit living in the woods and have your food and supplies airdropped in, you will go into public venues at some point.

Pumping Gas

As I was pumping gas one day, it occurred to me that it would be an unfortunate place to be targeted by an active shooter. The cover available to me was not all that great, although there was some cover. Gas pumps, however, wouldn’t be the greatest cover that I could think of. Still, even jumping in my car and trying to drive away would leave me vulnerable; the attacker could merely run up and shoot me while I’m in my vehicle. Running away might not be a whole lot better, depending on what type of weapon the attacker is armed with.

If I decide to fight it out, there’s often not a lot of cover nearby. Perhaps a kiosk or a gas station building. Running into a gas station or convenience store would basically amount to trapping myself in an enclosed area, which is not attractive to me.

Fueling kiosk at a grocery store.
Refueling the vehicle can be a tricky spot. This grocery store fueling kiosk presents wide open spaces around the area. There’s not much cover in the event of an attack.

These days, many grocery stores have gas kiosks, which I do use often. They’re normally located away from the store in the parking lot. One advantage to that is that I can see for quite a distance, so I should theoretically notice of danger is coming. On the other hand, if a nutcase with a rifle is on the loose, I’d have to cover all that distance to get to any real safety.

Sure, I could hide among cars and such in the parking lot, but that’s far from ideal. It could turn into a deadly game of hide and seek among cars with the rifle-armed bad guy. Not my idea of a Sunday outing.

How far might you have to shoot in such a scenario? It could easily go out to 50 yards or more.

Parking Lots

Every establishment that comes to my mind has some sort of parking lot associated with it. They’re really pretty difficult to avoid. As mentioned above, playing a deadly game of hide-and-seek in a parking lot would really suck! Even if the playing field were even and the bad guy “only” had a handgun, it would still suck a whole lot.

Walkway and parking lot at a mall.
A walking venue and parking lot outside of a mall. Another place where long shots could occur.

In fact, in at least one place that I frequent, there have been shootings in the parking lot, so the concern is real and verified. And the particular place where I’m thinking of is not a scummy type of dive, but a high-end establishment. I typically do not frequent questionable areas where trouble is likely to crop up. These days, it can be difficult to predict where we might run into danger.

Large parking lot.
A lot of cars and a lot of distance.

Sometimes parking lots are packed with cars, while other times, they’re nearly empty. That can make a huge difference. How far do you suppose you might need to take a shot in a parking lot? Some of them are large; it might be quite a distance.

Grocery Store

Even for those who eschew public appearances and forays, the vast majority of us go grocery shopping. The aisles in most grocery stores can be somewhat long. Where I often shop, I’d say the aisles are about 30 yards long, if not longer. The produce section is huge, and I’d say a 40-yard shot might be possible. The front and back end of the store are quite a bit longer than either of these and would likely offer a long shot in excess of 50 yards.

Aisle in a grocery store.
Grocery stores can pose challenges with very long shots, made trickier by crowds. Imagine being part way down this aisle and an active shooter pops around the corner. At that point, it’s do or die.

Naturally, we’d try to break contact and get ourselves out of danger as quickly as possible, and the idea of a running gunfight with baddies in a store is pretty unlikely. Or is it?

How about your family? Maybe your wife and kids go for some items while you are browsing in an aisle. You hear shots ring out. Are you going to run out of the store with your loved ones still inside when the shooting is happening?

Suddenly, you’re on a rescue mission. You’re actively seeking out people to get out of that store. It’s quite possible that you will run into the bad person who intends to murder as many people as he can.

How far away might that bad guy be? Next time you’re at the store, take a look and see. What you find could startle you, in that it could be a considerable distance.


Many churches are rather large buildings. Some are huge. These days, churches have become targets, unfortunately. How far of a shot might your church offer should people bent on your destruction come barging in and shooting?

Inside of a church.
Some churches are larger than others. Shots in these types of buildings can sometimes stretch far distances.

Every Day

In the places you go in the future, start asking yourself, “If gunfire broke out right now, where might it come from?” It could be very close. On the other hand, it might be from quite a distance away. Are you prepared to engage a homicidal lunatic at 40 yards?  60 yards? Even farther?

The purpose of this article, as with many of the articles that I write, is to get the reader’s mind engaged and thinking. To get you prepared. 

Author's favorite coffee shop.
How about the coffee shop that you frequent? It might offer some extended ranges.

The above couple of scenarios that I outlined are merely a few possible ones. There are dozens, if not hundreds, more. People often go to restaurants, banks, sports venues, entertainment venues, and the list goes on.

Tools At Hand

For our purposes, we’ll assume that most of us will be armed with a handgun while in public. The public seems to develop a massive case of heartburn when they see folks walking around a store or other place with a long gun, and so we generally carry handguns.

Author exiting vehicle with AR pistol.
People tend to get upset when they see us exiting a vehicle with a long gun, especially at the grocery store and such. Consequently, we typically carry pistols concealed, so as not to upset the local populace.

Not because handguns are the most effective weapon; they suck at stopping bad guys. We carry them out of convenience and social décor.

Which handgun would you want to have if things hit the fan and you had to engage an active shooter? 

Glock 19X

I can tell you that, for me, it would be my Glock 19X. Why? Because it holds more bullets (17+1 or 19+1) than any of my other pistols, it’s larger and heavier (less recoil and easier to control), and has a longer sight radius (more accuracy). Plus, it’s actually built for combat. I normally load it with 9mm HST 124 grain +P rounds. I’d feel more confident making the longer-range shots with this pistol than my others.

Glock 19X and Fenix GL22 weapon light.
The Glock 19X is, in my opinion, one of the best combat handguns to hit the market. It would be my choice if I were ever caught in a shootout. Unfortunately, it’s large and heavy as far as concealed carry pistols are concerned.

Unfortunately, because of its size, this is the pistol that I carry the least in my daily travels. It’s simply heavier than my other pistols, which sometimes causes me hip pain, and it’s more difficult to conceal.

Glock 43X

This one is smaller than the 19X, but would still be a decent choice as far as pistols go. It’s more concealable than the 19X, but the ammo capacity is less (ten rounds).  The accuracy is fairly good with this pistol, though. It’s not overly heavy and it’s concealable. I typically load it with 9mm HST 124 Grain +P rounds or Speer Gold Dot 124 grain +P rounds.

Glock 43X and spare magazine.
The Glock 43X is on the smaller side and well capable of being a good defensive pistol.
Glocks 19X and 43X.
Seen next to the Glock 19X, the 43X is a bit smaller, lighter, and a little thinner than the 19X.

Smith & Wesson CSX

There’s every chance in the world that I’d have this pistol with me because currently, I carry it a lot. It holds 12+1 rounds and is super concealable. I love the single-action trigger. It’s not heavy, either. Mostly, though, I love how it feels in my hand and how concealable it is. It also is loaded with the 9mm HST 124 grain +P loads. Could I take a long shot with it? Probably, but I’m not as confident with it as the others.

Smith & Wesson CSX and ammunition, Spyderco Para 3 knife.
The S&W CSX 9mm has won a spot in my heart due to its comfortable grip, small size, and ease of carry. Despite its small size, it still carries 12+1.

That might strike you as strange, given that I’m the one writing an article about taking long-range shots, yet here I am carrying a pistol that’s not really ideal for it. Well, I’m human too, and sometimes convenience wins out.

Smith & Wesson 642-2

Speaking of convenience, this pistol epitomizes the entire concept. It’s super light, very concealable, and just damn convenient. Is it effective? Yeah, for short range. I’ve never tried to take a 50-yard shot with it. Yet. But that will change soon. I want to see how it will pan out when I try it.

Smith & Wesson 642 and ammunition.
S&W 642 with Speer Gold Dot 135 grain +P .38 Special rounds that are specially made for short-barreled revolvers.

I carry Speer Gold Dot .38 Special 135 grain +P rounds that are specifically made for short-barreled revolvers to get the most performance from the barrel, which is just under two inches long.

Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points
Carry the best ammo that you can get your hands on!

In Closing

For many of us, sometimes we go the route of convenience. Will it bite us in the ass one day? It just might. Am I going to lug my Glock 19X around with me wherever I go? No. It’s just uncomfortable for me. I do carry it from time to time when I’m in the mood, normally in cooler weather when it’s easier to conceal.

The first rule of gunfighting is, “Have a gun.” With the options that I own, I will make sure that happens as long as it’s legally possible.

Will we be appropriately armed if we ever need to take a long shot? That remains to be seen. I encourage all of us to take out whatever pistol we carry and give it a try at a longer range. You may be surprised at how well you do. I’ve fired Glocks and other handguns at 100 yards and I can score hits. Friends have scored hits at ranges much farther than 100 yards, so it can be done.

Check out your surroundings in the various places where you frequent and try to figure out just how much of a long shot you may one day need to take. The answer might surprise you.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.


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