Shooting at long range with a handgun is one of the most frustrating yet satisfying skills you can learn. Extended range shooting with a handgun is relative to the gun and caliber. Twenty-five yards is a substantial distance for a pocket pistol chambered in something like .380 ACP. Most people are surprised that a full-sized pistol can very quickly hit a man-sized target at 50 yards.
Target size is relative as well. The side of a barn is pretty easy to hit at a lot of different distances so it’s not that impressive. A man-sized target is typically an excellent reference because it’s universal for handgun defensive shooting. However, hitting a smaller steel gong at 50 yards takes skill as well. As we talk about long-range shooting, try to remember it’s relative to the handgun being used as well as the distance and size of the target.
Why would we want to practice long-range pistol shooting when we have rifles?
First and foremost, it’s fun. It’s so satisfying once you get it. If you can hit a target with relative precision at long range then short-range shooting is going to be a breeze. You are still mastering essential skills for all ranges.
While they are scarce, let’s not pretend that long-range defensive shooting doesn’t happen. A police officer in Austin Texas hit an active shooter with a single shot from his .40-caliber pistol at 312 feet. The AK-wielding mad man outgunned the officer, but the officer had skill. Even Wild Bill killed a man at 75 feet with a weapon that is nowhere near as accurate as modern handguns.
It’s doubtful you’ll ever be called on to do the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a skill worth knowing. It shows you your limitations as well as the limitations of your handgun and its sights, trigger, and grip.
What do you need to start shooting at long ranges? A fancy handgun? Optics? Good ammo? Well, those all help, for sure, but they aren’t necessary. Most full-sized, modern pistols can make accurate precision shots at long range with a skilled shooter. Look at Jerry Miculek – he can hit shots at 250 yards with a .380 ACP DAO pistol.
The average Joe will likely need a handgun with a combination of features to hit targets at long ranges.
I’m using a Springfield Armory 1911 TRP in 10mm with a six-inch barrel, and this gun is the perfect example of what makes a solid long-range handgun. The six-inch barrel provides an excellent sight radius which is necessary for precise long-range shooting.
10mm is a very flat shooting cartridge that has minimal drop out to 100 yards. It has almost no drop with a good 180-grain load. While fun to shoot, the .45 ACP version of the TRP Operator does not have the same ballistics.
The single-action trigger is short, light and smooth which aids in reducing trigger pull-induced errors.
The barrel is a stainless steel match grade model which will improve mechanical precision.
Lastly, the sights are adjustable, and this helps with correcting the human error and zeroing the sights down for drift.
This combination of features and the caliber makes this an excellent pistol for long-range shooting, especially for those new to the idea. Most 1911s will be great long-range guns, but the extra features on the TRP 10mm give it a slight edge.
To shoot at long range, you need to master the fundamentals of shooting in general. This includes a good trigger pull, a solid grip, ensuring you have proper sight focus and are controlling your breathing. Be ready to get lots of dry fire in. Every little flaw is multiplied at long range.
Next, it’s about sight picture and ballistics. I know my chosen 10mm round has almost no drop at 100 yards and even has a slight gain at 50 yards. I can use a standard sight picture. If my chosen caliber has a steeper decline, I can use Elmer Keith’s method of sight alignment.
Elmer positioned the front sight in the center of the rear sight and then elevated the front sight above the rear sight. This places the front sight higher, in what is essentially a very small handheld mortar.
You also need to know how far your bullet drops and the range you’re shooting at to make correct range estimations.
After a little practice and a lot of misses, you’ll soon start ringing steel more than you miss it. That feeling of success is amazing, and once you feel it, you won’t want to lose it. Get out there and sling some lead beyond your comfort zone.