One of the oft-repeated “truisms” as far as concealed carry and defensive shooting is concerned is the “rule of threes,” or something to that effect: most shootings where an assailant is shot by an armed citizen or police occur at close range. The “rule of threes” goes something like “3 or fewer shots at 3 or fewer yards in 3 seconds or less” or some variation thereof.
Incredibly quick and incredibly close; that’s also why a person should practice drawing from their gun holster. A practiced hand is a more efficient and therefore quicker hand.
That’s also why it’s good for a person to practice point shooting and front sight press shooting as part of their regular defensive shooting practice; those sighting techniques have proven track records when it comes to being able to score accurate hits at close range in quick order. Granted, point shooting is best inside 3 yards and targets between 3 and 12 yards are best to shoot using the front sight press, but those are the best defensive shooting techniques for up-close and personal shooting.
Sighted fire, the conventional wisdom goes, is best left for strict target shooting and iron sighted long gun shooting. It’s practically pointless, some might say, to practice traditional aimed fire with a handgun for defensive purposes. There’s no way you should be using a handgun to fire at a hostile human target at longer distances; that’s what they made shotguns for!
Or should you? Believe it or not, it’s a good tool to have in the toolbox. There have been gunfights concluded from longer distances using a handgun, so it’s not exactly out of the realm of possibility.
For instance, one of the most famous examples was actually Wild Bill Hickok’s duel with Davis Tutt, which occurred at a distance of 75 yards in the town square of Springfield, Mo., in July of 1865, one of the few well-documented actual duels in the “Old West” period. Tutt managed to get only one shot off while Hickok was aiming, but Wild Bell rested the barrel of his Colt Navy – mind you, that’s a black powder revolver shooting .36 caliber ball or possibly conical ball by that point – on his left forearm, aligning the sights and firing.
Tutt, from 75 yards away, was hit in the chest and died almost immediately. Bear in mind a .36 caliber pistol fired about an 80-grain projectile, putting it about on par with a modern .380. Granted, it also had 7.5-inch barrel, but Hickok was still able to line up the sights and hit his target.
There are other examples. For instance, the 1994 Fairchild Air Force Base shootings near Spokane, Wash., were settled with a burst of fire at long range from a handgun. The shooter, one Dean Melberg, had killed 4 people and wounded 23 when he was confronted by Andy Brown, an Air Force MP who fired 4 shots at Melberg with his Beretta 92 from 70 yards, 2 of which found the target and fatally wounded Melberg.
A more recent incident occurred in the same state; in 2015, one Nathaniel Terault shot and killed a man when 71-year-old Richard Johnson caught Terault going through his car in Puyallup, Wash. (It’s about 20 miles south of Seattle, in case you’re curious.) Terault began firing at houses in the vicinity, stole a car and police began to pursue. Terault was eventually stopped after colliding with another vehicle and fired shots at the occupant.
Roughly 80 yards behind Terault was Detective Scott Bramhall, according to Massad Ayoob’s writeup of the incident on the American Handgunner website. Bramhall fired twice with his Colt Lightweight Government, the second shot felling Terault by shattering the femur.
It was Bramhall’s first and only shooting, which occurred about 2 weeks before he retired after 35 years on the job.
Another example is that of Vic Stacy. Stacy, according to Guns.com, was a resident of a trailer court just outside of Early, Texas in August of 2012. A resident there, one Charles Conner, took exception to his neighbor’s dogs doing their business on his lawn. Conner retrieved a handgun from his home, murdered his two neighbors and then their dogs. At this point, Sgt. Steven Means of the Early PD arrived but Conner started firing on him before he’d exited his patrol vehicle. Means managed to get behind his car with his AR-15, but Conner had the drop on him.