How To Shoot Targets at 200 Yards With Your PISTOL!

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I recently wrote about the idea of “combat accuracy“, what it means and what qualifies as an acceptable level.

A reader who either mis-read what I wrote (or like most people on the internet, immediately scrolled to the comment section to leave his thoughts before he read the article) said some of it was silly implying that I thought one should be able to shoot targets at 200 meters with their handgun.

In actuality, I had quoted Kyle Defoor who talked about his basic standard of 4″ groups with a handgun at 25yds and 4MOA with a carbine at 100/200yds.

But what the hell!

Today, let’s talk about how you CAN make hits at 200 yards with your handgun.

Long Distance With Your Handgun Is More Than 25 Yards

While 25yds is the “standard” of long range shooting with a handgun, I have to admit I don’t spend much time practicing at that distance. I have done a fair bit of it, but not to the extent of say a pistol bullseye shooter. To me it FEELS like a long shot at 25 yds, but it’s really not.

As far as taking shots out past 25yds, I can only recall doing it one time. It was at the excellent FPF Training Course I took — we did a “walk back” drill (a mini competition where if you hit the target, you take a few steps back and try again until you miss) — and I believe I made it back to somewhere in the range of 40-50 yards before I missed.

At that distance, I clearly remember not being able to make a hit if I used a normal sight picture due to a number of reasons — not the least of which being the front sight of the handgun was covering the whole c zone steel target we were using. Heck John’s range only gave us enough space to get back to about 75yds and I think that’s where the winner of that drill finally missed.

So, I’ll readily admit that I’ve not gone past 50yds. But I’d like to when given the opportunity again. Here’s why …

Is This Silly? Just a Parlor Trick? Why Practice Long Distance Handgun Shots?

Back towards the end of 2014, there was an active shooter attacking downtown Austin. He actually didn’t get very far (go Texas!) because he was stopped by Austin Police Sergeant Adam Johnson.

The crazy part of the story, if you remember the news coverage though, was that Sgt. Johnson shot the bad guy from 104 yards away … with one shot from his duty pistol … one-handed … while holding the reins of two horses agitated by the gun fire!

Yeah. That’s a hell of a shot.

And YES. Good ole Lady Luck definitely smiled on Sgt. Johnson that day in Austin TX and God Bless her …

But, I can guarantee you that Sgt. Johnson, at one point in time, had practiced making long distance shots with his handgun because if he hadn’t — if he thought his handgun was “only good” inside 25yds — he would have never even TRIED taking that shot.

So yes, while the probability of taking a long-range shot with your handgun may be low — you should become intimately familiar with your own equipment and how it and you can perform at all distances.

How To Shoot Long-er Distances With Kyle Defoor

Again, Kyle Defoor is a former Navy SEAL who now runs a private training company. In the video below he shows you how to stretch out your handgun past 25 yards. NOTE: this video is old and he’s shooting (what I believe is) a Gen 2 Glock. If you have a Gen 4 Glock you can ignore his comments about getting a more accurate barrel as the Gen 4 Glocks tend to be more than accurate and he runs a stock barrel — getting the same performance — in his Gen 4 G19 now.

How To Shoot Targets At 200 Yards With Your Pistol

In another bit of coincidence, while I was pondering all this I came across an article written by Tiger McKee, the author of “The Book of Two Guns” where he explains how to make long distance pistol shots.

It’s all about knowing your hold offs and trigger control at that distance. As Tiger writes (emphasis mine) …

“The key to shooting long distance is application of the fundamentals. Focus on the front sight, smoothly press the trigger, and you’ll get good hits. Don’t be surprised if have to change your point of aim as the distance increases to hit the center of the target. In class today I had two good shooters. We were shooting at seventy-five yards and each of them had to hold at the bottom right corner of the target to hit the center. But, once we determined where they needed to hold they were wearing it out, scoring hit after hit, with most of them within six inches of center on the target.

If possible it’s good to brace or rest against something for stability. Can I hit the target at one hundred from standing? Yes, but if I can brace for stability it’s going to improve my accuracy. In a recent class I had a group of great pistol shooters, but they had never really worked on long distance shots. By resting the pistol and hands, bracing on the wall, they were able to score head shots at seventy-five yards. They were not perfect head shots – between the eyes and nose – but they would have put a hurtin’ on the bad guy for sure.

long-distance-pistol-sight-picture

For really long distances you’ll have to start compensating for the bullet drop. For this you want to hold the front sight on target, then lower the rear sight to get the elevation necessary for the hit. You need the front sight on target; trying to aim high or above the target doesn’t work. If you can’t see the target – your hands and weapon are blocking your line of sight – you’ll have a hard time holding the sight picture. Keep the front sight on target and then lower the rear sight for elevation. For example with my 1911 I know the rear sight has to be half way down the front sight in order to hit at two hundred yards.

Even if you don’t ever have a need to fire at long distance it’s a great confidence builder; if you can hit at one hundred you can make hits at fifty. Hitting at fifty yards means twenty-five yard shots are easy. Now a ten-yard shot is a piece of cake.

The majority of your training should be within realistic distances. But, sometimes “real” might be different from what you thought it would be. Start working on long distance shooting. Apply the fundamentals. Learn where you need to hold in order to hit. You’ll be surprised at the results, and it will make getting hits at normal distances easier.”

I don’t know if you realize the value of what Tiger shared, but that sight picture trick he mentioned is EXTREMELY important at that range. Because you quite literally can’t see the target if you use a normal sight picture because it’s smaller than the width of your front sight when you look at it.

Pistol Shots Have Been Made At 300, 400 and even 1,000 Yards (and caught on camera!)

Of course, this is nothing new to a lot of professional shooters who know the capabilities of themselves and their gear inside and out.

Here’s Instructor Zero drilling man size targets at 300 yards with his Glock pistol all day long …


Then of course, there’s the amazing Jerry Miculek. I waited to talk about him because hey, the rest of us are just mere mortals. But here is Jerry using his .380 Bodyguard POCKET PISTOL to make a 200 yard shot!


And his full size M&P 9mm competition pistol to make a 400 yard shot — on the first try!


And of course — because he’s Jerry Miculek and only Jerry Miculek can out-shoot Jerry Miculek — he takes a 9mm revolver and makes a shot at 1,000 yards!

What About You?

What’s the furthest you’ve ever shot a target with your handgun?

What type of gun were you shooting? Caliber?

How did you do it?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts!

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Caleb
Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.

28 COMMENTS

  1. I’ll have to admit that I was once doubtful of the ability to hit on target at long range with a pistol. Then I saw a video of a woman shooting the same gun as I have, Kahr cw9, at a target 200 yards out. She missed the first shot. Then, with a slight adjustment, nailed the next one. I am a believer. I can’t wait to try it myself.

  2. Colt Python, 8″ bbl, 150 Remington

    100 yards from a prone over the knee position. Consistent hits.

    Then it was whitetail hunting time. The longest shot was 120 yards with a bullet through the heart, and the deer running about 20 yards. I was well please. I’ve had some other successful shots that were between 80 and 100 yards. Never tried 200 yards.

    The closet shot was 10 yards in the pouring down rain. I just think that deer was suicidal. 🙂

  3. I read Sixguns By Keith, by Elmer Keith, and he opened my eyes to what can be done with a revolver. He showed a ‘recumbent pose’ that looked pretty comfortable and used the same sight technique, when going so far as to graduate his front sight for a known long distance (like your sits but more precise). He discussed many shots at 400 – 600 yards.

    I think the first part of shooting long distance is just believing it can be done, the second part is some technique as you’ve described, then of course #3 is practice.

    Having said all that I’m only in step 2.

  4. When I first got back into shooting, I went to the public range and brought my 7mm Remington Mag hunting rifle and my Glock32 (.357 Sig). Was shooting at the 100 yard target with the rifle. Had run out of my ammo for the 7mm, and since we were still “live fire” I didn’t want to step away to get more rifle cartridges so since I had my pistol and another box of 50 rounds,I decided to shoot at the 100 yard target. Then when we went to cease fire, and we could get our targets for inspection, I just saw a lot of holes. Couldn’t figure out which were which but this article makes me want to try it again. I know that factory rounds for the .357 Sig will do 200 yards, am willing to get er done with my 115 grain Handloads to see what it can accomplish. Thanks Caleb. Enjoy all the articles!

  5. We used to have “Turkey Shoots” as they were called. I had a Blackhawk .357 Mag, and could hit the bullseye at fifty yards three times out of three. 100 yards I could hit the standard rifle target at 100 yards. close to the bullseye. This was done one handed, with a “drop” the arm from an upward bent elbow. So, depending on what pistol/revolver one has, and if it has any accuracy, you can practice shooting, and figure the elevations, and get where you can hit the targets.

    Now, I have a Hi Line 9mm, which I would say is one of the worst pistols I have seen. At 25 yards it hits everywhere on the target, without hitting the bullseye, while aiming the same spot. So, I now have a Ruger SR9 which I have test fired at 25 yards for start, and it hits the bullseye.

  6. I don’t think anyone is going to believe this, but I was able to keep 10 rounds within an 18 inch circle at 100 yards with a Ruger Mk-III .22 pistol. The whole trick was finding the right sight picture (the rear sight was almost at the bottom of the front sight).
    I have also gotten consistent hits on a 12 inch target at 100 yards with .45s, both my XD(m) and my old ParaOrd P-13 limited model will do this all day long as long as I do my part (I’m now an old fart and my arms get tired after a couple hundred rounds).
    You might be interested to know about a retired USMC armorer, now a civilian gunsmith, named Linneard (I’m not sure of the spelling) who makes a modification kit for the 1911, that replaces the front sight and tightens up barrel tolerances. He was filmed by SOF magazine and one of the popular gun magazines (I forget which one now – did I mention I’m old – I’m allowed to forget minor stuff!) routinely hitting steel plates out to 600 yards, and says he could at least provide “suppressive fire” out to 800.

  7. Everyone should take Jim’s advice. Read Elmer Kieth’s “Six Guns” if you had you would not be surprised by this article. Then read Elmer Kieth’s “Hell I Was There” and you’ll be less surprised and gain even more knowledge about long distance shooting with handguns. When you have digested those read “Fast and Fancy Revolver shooting” by Ed McGivern. Only an old timer like me would remember that one but believe me Jerry Mikulek and all the other champion pistoleros know exactly who these guys are. They set the bar and records that were not broken for many years. And remember these records were set with old technology, you know blued steel and wood and some of you will remember those things called revolvers!
    Good health and good spirits to all of you and shoot safe!

    • Thank you Charles for your endorsement. You are clearly a man of quality and distinction. I haven’t got ‘Hell I was there’ but do have ‘Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting’ and I thought it was great. Made me want to try arial targets. Except around here that would be irresponsible.
      I’ve probably burned 30,000 shotshells in pursuit of about 25,000 clay targets in my life. I think (short range but moving targets!) a great time could be had with a 28g ir 20g revolver on the skeet course. Except due to the wisdom of our benevolent Federales that would be illegal of course. But I think it would make me a better pistol shooter as I’m already a decent low-gun skeet shooter. Last I went anyway Curse the long commute.

  8. I worked as a Letter Carrier for USPS with a lady who was Ed McGivern’s niece she never talked about Ed much. his record of five shots into a playing card target at 21 feet both handed from holster to finished in 2 fifths of a second that is .4 seconds to fire two shots with one gun and three from the other. Witnessed, verified etc. That is incredible and very fast shooting. He was a noted trick sho9t artist shooting thrown dimes out of the air with I believe .22 rifles with his wife throwing the coins. I believe some of these stories are recounted in his book.

  9. Will have to practice with my Blackhawk 41 mag and see what happens. With a flat trajectory it would be interesting to see how things turn out.

  10. Some may remember Hunter’s Pistol Silhouette competitions. Handgun 4lbs or less, with optics, trigger pull no less than 2lbs, 10 targets each: Chickens – 25 meters, pigs – 50 meters, turkeys – 75 meters and rams – 100 meters. All standing unsupported. All of the silhouettes were 1/2 size. This was a frustrating, but fun, course of fire and you really had to hone your long range shooting skills to be successful. I guess what I’m trying to say is that long range pistol shooting is nothing new and I believe many people enjoy practicing beyond 25 yards.

  11. I haven’t made the terrific long range shots yall have, but I have been pretty good at hitting a golf ball at 50 yards with a 4″ Dan Wesson 715 .357 magnum. If I used a baseball, I would hit every time. I guess the whole point is:
    Know your weapon, know your self, and have fun learning what the two of you can do together.

  12. My long range experience is 100 yrds. with a replica black powder pistol.
    Reproduction of the 1858 Remington import by Lyman back in the 1970s.
    I shot at pie plate size targets and hit quite regular. Those old class pistols
    seem to be sighted for longer ranges so it was easy enough to hit with that
    pistol. This pistol shoots 7 inches high at 25 yrds and i have a replica 1860
    colt Army that shoots even higher at 25 yrds. but i never shot the colt type
    at longer range. The load was just a regular black powder and .451 RB load.

  13. A little bit of “Kentucky Windage” can do great things. Had an 8 3/8 barrel Smith Model 27. Yes, it was not all that hard to hit a man sized target at 100-200 yards.

  14. I am AMAZED, and I can take the head off a wood chuck at 300 yds. with my old contender.

  15. One year, at Camp Perry, OH, (1987, if I recall correctly) we were advancing up Vaile Range to set up on the 200 yard line. (Vaile is the 1000 yard range.) At 750 yards, we were finding 240 grain .45 ball bullets lined up in a fairly neat row across the range. We found out later that they had used Vaile as an overflow range for the pistol matches and that was the explanation given for the bullets lying on the ground.

    Whether they were airborne when they landed, or just skidded across the ground was not known, but I have an idea they were still airborne since they were all lined up so well.

    I was impressed. I had successfully fired a .45 pistol at 100 yards, but never knew what the maximum range was.

    Using a Ruger Redhawk, I have shot a 4 inch group of .44 magnum at 200 yards. This was the maximum range available to me, but I felt I could have shot much further than that, with that revolver.

    I agree with the hold-over on the sights. A little practice with a particular firearm will determine proper sight picture for various ranges.

    If you use a record book (you should) you could sketch in your final sight picture for each range adjustment, thus giving you an advantage when you shoot that same firearm again.

    By the way, you do know, don’t you, that God don’t count the days of a man’s life off his total if they are spent on a shooting range? ; )

    Semper Fi

  16. My pistol, a single action , 10.5 inch barrel, fluted barrel, with 44mag.305 gr. /21.9 IMR, Lazer and Phantom scope, predominately used for hogs, but some deer, am regular about 100 yrd., shots, not hard if patient and comfortable with the weapon.

  17. I fired NRA PPC competition from 1966 through 1977 we fired 38 special ammo (speer FWC 158 grain) from max of 6 inch barrels. I started with a K38 and graduated to a Colt Python when I got better. The course started at 7 yards went to 60 yard prone in to 50 yards left and right hand barricades then nealing, and finally 25 yards left and right hand barricades, all double action timed fire. We fired the course twice for one match for a total of 60 rounds on the standard FBI target. Out of a max score I was able to fire in the high 580’s to high 590’s in most matches. I had friends that could shoot possibles (600) on a regular basis. Sometimes for fun we would shoot with our 2″ backup guns, I have a chiefs special still. I have shot over 100 yards with a hand gun, it is all sight picture and trigger squeeze. Those were fun days, with good people. The trick was too make a big hole at 7 yards (all shots touching) in the ten ring then just shot at the hole the rest of the match. That big a hole was easy to see.

  18. Leave the long range to the professionals, practice ranges you would need in self defense. Looks like that is and will be the greater need in the future.

  19. Longest pistol shots I ever mad were at Cam Roberts, after a service rifle match.
    We would stand on the 500 yard line (Roberts didn’t have the usual 600 yard line) and shoot the 55 gallon drums (trach cans) on the 200 yard line.
    I was able to ding those cans pretty reliably with a rack-grade 1911 using the sight-elevation technique described in the article.
    I made slightly longer shots with y .44 mag from the Creedmore position in other instances, but that’s almost cheating.

  20. My son couldn’t hit anything with his 1911 .45acp so I took it and shot 125 yards at a milk jug and hit it 1st try. Shot right on target but shot on top side 1/2 of jug and hit center. Once having one of those junk Ravens in .25 caliber…I was bored shooting it at 20′ and 30′ then 50′ and eventually shot at 175 yards to a 4×8 sheet of plywood…it was quite a rush hitting that with the 1 1/2″ barrel. Fell in love with pistol hunting and after a couple of years with a .357 mag. expecting to shoot at 100 yards give or take another 50 because of the type of terrain I was in, it was great. Went and bought a S&W 460XVR 8 3/8″ and love it…kicks no worse than the Ruger Redhawk .44 mag. I ended up being sick 2 years and missed hunting but still plan on getting some meat in forests at 3000-5000′ elevation. Mostly medium range, nothing too long. With 2200 FPS shooting a 395 gr. bullet at 2865 foot pounds at muzzle, it seems the gun will provide elk and large deer success as well as some protection against the grizzlies…at least better than the .44. Anybody have a success story for hunting with the .460? It certainly has proven to be the most enjoyable pistol I’ve used…X frame is awesome. Just need some meat to fulfill that dream. With all the pistols I’ve had, it has always been a challenge to back off farther and farther with each successful range that I shot at. Don’t think I’d shoot game at 300+ with the handgun just for concern about wounding the animal…also have had others pick up my animal before I got to it at long range shots. Enjoyed the article though…thanks

    • That’s great, it wasn’t my intention to talk about hunting with pistols in the article, but I’m becoming more and more interested in the possibility like you have. Thanks!

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