Are police use of force statistics good baselines for civilian CCW training?

I was recently involved in a thread with an “instructor” who maintained that students should primarily train for shootings that occur at ranges of 10 feet and less. He based this assertion on the fact that most police shootings occur at extremely close ranges, and so that was the distance we should train for. I don’t agree with that assessment, and believe that the pure civilian CCW shooter should train for longer ranges and complex shots.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of actual hard data around pure civilian shootings. The best examples are from Tom Givens at Rangemaster, and that’s where we’ll start. Tom’s had 64 students that have been involved in defensive shootings. Of those, only two occurred at contact distance, three happened at ranges of greater than 15 yards, and the remaining 59 shootings went down at 3-7 yards. While 3 yards is certainly close, and is within that “10 foot” radius we were talking about, it’s also somewhat deceptive. Tom’s rule of thumb is that most defensive shootings occur within a distance equal to the length of a car, which actually makes a ton of sense. As a result of this data, Tom focuses primarily on training students to get quick, effective hits with a two handed grip at distances of 3-7 yards. That makes a ton of sense.

The other reason I don’t like necessarily using police related statistics when it comes to training for defensive gun use as a civilian is that police, by the very nature of their job, are required to get in bad-breath distances of people who might try to kill them. Civilians don’t. With Tom’s students, the majority of the shootings were in public places involving some sort of armed robbery, and the student happened to be in the wrong (right?) place at that time.

What I’m not saying is that we should entirely discount police statistics. They certainly have some value to the average CCW holder, but it’s important when you’re using anything to base your training on to understand the source it comes from. Cops have a duty to get close to bad people, and in general, most normal people don’t.

For more reading, check out Tom’s excellent article When Citizens Fight Back.


  1. This would be an interesting topic for some criminology PhD dissertation.

    Unfortunately without some centralized data sources and a serous funding stream (also university politics would have to be coddled, but I’ll respect the gun nuts ‘non-political’ stance) I don’t see those studies happening anytime soon.

  2. Nice Caleb! I am a fan of Tom’s work. And since I live in Memphis’ runner up city for crime, the points are just as applicable.

    As an aside, what’s the vest you’re wearing in the above photo?

  3. I think the “car-length” theory is about right. A car length or less is the usual armed-robbery distance, and it’s also about the length of a room or hallway in a house.
    But when you say “car-length,” do you mean a ’61 Coupe de Ville or a Smart Car?

  4. The question to be resolved is: at what distance depending on the state you live in, is it no longer considered a threat on your life? That is, if in fact there is a distance guideline? Certainly if I am in a situation where I believe my life is in danger, I will react as necessary. I am not going to question the distance before deciding to take action. However, it would be wise to know what your state finds as necessary and unnecessary; before you end up in jail or spending 10’s of thousands of $$’s you do not have, defending your actions. Know the law(s) before you carry.

    1. The distance at which lethal force is justified could depend entirely on the situation you’re involved in. Things like how the badguy is armed, your availability to retreat, the location you’re in, all of these are factors to consider.

      My personal standard is that a competent shooter should be able to make a headshot on command at anything inside 10 yards, and be able to get hits on a man-sized torso on command with a handgun out to 50 yards.

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