25, 10, 7

What do the numbers above have in common? If you guessed “they’re common distances for testing the accuracy of handguns”, then give yourself the no-prize prize.

There was a bit of ruckus at Guns & Ammo, when one of the writers said in response to questions as to why he accuracy tested defensive handguns at 25 yards instead of 7 that people who asked the aforementioned question “probably can’t shoot very well”. He then went on to state that he could probably shoot a cloverleaf group at 7 yards with a Jennings (and to his credit, he did get a bunch of cheap guns and shoot a cloverleaf at 7 yards).

For some reason, that whole column rankled me a bit; especially the statement that people who don’t test handguns at 25 yards can’t shoot. Here’s the thing. I can shoot, and pretty well. I don’t see shooting handguns at 25 yards off a sandbagged rest as much of a test of your marksmanship skills. Certainly, it tests trigger control and sight picture, but it removes pretty much all the other human variables that a good marksman must take into account.

Now, that’s not to say that testing at 25 doesn’t have merit. I like grouping handguns at 25 yards, even defensive handguns. But not for practical purposes – it’s more of a “I wonder how well this gun can shoot” train of thought.

For practical purposes, a truly defensive only handgun doesn’t need to be tested beyond 10 yards. I’m not saying that you couldn’t/shouldn’t but that you don’t need to ascertain the accuracy of your pistol beyond defensive ranges.

I also think that it’s a bad idea to call into question the shooting skills of people who question the necessity of bench resting a defensive handgun at 25 yards. It makes you sound like kind of arrogant and standoffish, and personally, it really turned me off to the particular writer’s column.

Update: Robb has a hilarious quote in the comments:

Sandbags mysteriously are generally not around when it comes time to have to use your gun in a self defense scenario.



  1. I test all of my firearms out to their maximum range. Just for fun. I don’t expect my little carry .380 to hit much at 25 yards. Well, actually, it can shoot minute-of-goblin at 25 yards, but I’m not that good anyway. There’s no such thing as a self-defense situation at 25 yards with a handgun anyway. If the assailant is 25 yards away, you should be running to find your rifle. Claiming “Self-defense” beyond 10 yards is gonna be hard in court, unless the bad guy has a rifle anyway.

  2. I only “test” my firearms by shooting offhand. Period. Sandbags mysteriously are generally not around when it comes time to have to use your gun in a self defense scenario.

    For my 10mm Glock 29 (my carry piece), I can gladly say that at 25 yards, each shot is going to hit the paper with most of the shots at least in the circles. But like Greg said, at that distance, you shouldn’t be shooting for accuracy, but for suppressive fire while you retrieve your rifle.

  3. If you can’t imagine a scenario at that range, you must never go in a mall.
    Here goes: Big mall in San Jose has two stories, but it is an open atrium style. That is, the second floor is open in the center, so there are walkways fronting the stores, and occasional crossovers and stairs. You are meeting your wife and children in a children’s toy store on the second floor. You are on the other side of the gap, when you see a guy reach the top of the stairs near the toy store and produce a cut-down long gun from under his coat and begin shooting. As he moves in the direction of the toy store, what do you do? (You have your .38/.357/9-10mm/.40/.45/etc/ slugthrower at hand.) Do you take the shot? Or, just hope he doesn’t find your family, while you run for an exit and pray that the responding officers get him before the sun comes up again?

    The local indoor range has a 25yd section. I know some vest pocket .22/.25’s will be key-holing at that distance. I think it was the British bobbies near a hundred years ago had target contests with snubbies at 100yds. The outdoor range has a 40yd tin can range. I shoot 2″ snubbbies double action there. Actually, I shoot all my revolvers DA, even the one with a ‘scope. Ayoob won a court case with a video showing him nailing a target with 6 of 6 shots from a snubbie at 100yds.

    To say one should not be able to hit a target within stone throwing distance, and never bother to find out if it can be done with your carry gun, is getting pretty far into foolish country. Sounds like something out of the mouth of a bureaucratic GFW. That’s as nice as I can phrase it.

  4. You should probably go back and re-read what I wrote. I never said that you couldn’t or shouldn’t practice out to 25 yards with your defensive blaster.

    As to your hypothetical situation, well, I’d try to close the distance and take a higher percentage shot.

    With regards to the mall shooting in Nebraska, if I was there alone, I’d book for the exits and only engage if the shooter stood between me and survival. I would also take the shot if I clear moment of opportunity – i.e. he has his back to me and I don’t have any obstructions, etc.

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