Distance, Sight Choices, and Some Random Thoughts.

Here of late, I have been involved with some interesting conversations on active shooter problem solving.  I will acknowledge up front that this thought process is somewhat flawed, and borderlines on the academic.  I will also acknowledge that I don’t have all the active shooter answers.  The answer I think we all can agree upon is the fact that good guys with guns is the answer to the active shooter/mass homicide problem.

There are some, myself included, that believe the next large scale act of terrorism in the United States will be a coordinated mass shooting over a large scale.  Think Kenya and Mumbai.  This presents certain problems for those who find themselves involved, be it the first responders, or legally armed citizens and off duty cops who get caught as it is going down.

Other contributors here at MSW have posted some great stuff in the last little bit that set this article up.  The question here is solving the active shooter problem over longer distances that would be associated with a mall shooting.  Steve Harris has wrote some good stuff on the potential ramifications of getting involved, and Hilton Yam on the sighting problems faced with iron sight selection.  The first problem we have to solve is having the trigger control to be able to hit at extended distances.  This is the hardest part, in my opinion.  Once we have that down, the next big problem is figuring out the distance gunnery required to hit over extended distance at 25 yards, 50 yards, and beyond.

The above photo is my duty pistol and five shots I took off hand from 25 yards.  I broke the shots at about a 1 shot per second pace.  All were good hits, on a square range on a blue bird day.  The pistol is a stock Glock 35 with stock Meprolight night sights.  In knowing my G35, I know to make these hits, I have to hold at the bottom edge of the plate, as the gun hits four inches high at 25 yards.  At 50 yards, I hold in the lower 1/3.  At 100 yards, I hold in the upper 1/3.  Which is all and great, on a blue bird day, on a square range with no one shooting back at me.  The sighting issues are the hand dealt to me by my employer – their gun, their sights.  I feel really good in shooting the gun on the move, with the target moving at 25 yards.  I have no qualms making good head shots under those conditions.  But as the distance increases, I feel less confident under all conditions.  I can do it, just that it will be neither fast nor dynamic.

Now comes the academic part.  I understand that MOST armed citizens and off duty police officers who might get caught up in an active shooter situation will not actively locate and engage the threat.  Many feel that their first responsibility is to safeguard their family.   Got it.  Check.  Understood and have zero problems with that frame of mind.  It is exactly why we teach police officers that if we go to a school shooting, and you find your child injured (or not), grab them, and get your child to safety.  We’ll press on without you, because even if you go with us, your head is likely not going to be in the game after leaving your child behind.

But in solving the academic problem of distance shooting in an active shooter problem…..does it change our selection of our equipment?  Yeah, some will say it is Rambo-esque fantasyland talk.  On the other hand, some will REALLY take it to the extreme with suggestions of impractical equipment for day to day carry.  But the conversation is worth having, even from an academic level for practical purposes.  Your daily carry gear off duty is a compromise.  Sometimes we compromise size and capacity for ease of carry.

If you are that off duty officer or armed citizen, does your choice of equipment (within reason with a concealable handgun) change with the thought of a distance oriented problem that will have to be solved?  Does this thought process bear the fruits of carrying a larger gun?  Does it bear the fruits of looking at carrying a gun with adjustable sights that can be zeroed properly?  Or are irons zeroed close enough at 25 yards sufficient?  And the biggie…..do I have the trigger control to exploit a properly zeroed pistol?

Again, this is merely an academic “what if” as too many variables exist to say “YES THIS IS HOW TO DO IT” for a properly trained shooter, with the proper mindset.

I really believe it is a conversation worth having.


This entry was posted in Ammunition, Modern Service Pistols, Training, Weapon Modifications by Jerry Jones. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones has been a Sheriff's Deputy in Kentucky since 1996. Jerry is currently assigned as a patrol deputy, firearms instructor and senior operator/training supervisor with a multi jurisdictional tactical team. Jerry is Kentucky POST certified to teach firearms, SWAT, and sniper operations and deployment at the Academy level. Jerry is also the President/CEO of Operation Specific Training and the Law Enforcement Representative for Apex Tactical Specialties.

14 thoughts on “Distance, Sight Choices, and Some Random Thoughts.

  1. In my experience you don’t need the pistol printing high at 25 yds to get effective hits up to 100 yds and beyond. I’ve shot all kind of handguns up to 200 m in a IHMSA range.

    As Hilton stated here: http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=12304 the best way to zero the pistol is POI just above POA. If possible I like the POI about 0.6″-0.8″ (1.5 to 2 cm) high at 25 m, which is coincidentally almost POI = POA at 50 m with a typical 9 mm load. The 9 mm is also flat shooting enough (only 8″-10″ low at 100 m with this setting) that even at 100 m you can easyly hit on a torso sized target.

  2. One of the problems I see in any type of shooting is the “backstop” and foregrounds which is usually filled full of running, scarred people or mothers holding the hand of their crying kids and standing behind the perp or directly in front of you.
    That is why the Secret Service and Dept of State Security folks are not so quick to shoot.
    We used role players running every which way and freezing in front of us.
    Some guys/gals got decked by role players running full tilt boogie.
    Threading the needle is really hard and making a long shot on top of that is pretty much almost “a blessed event”.
    Not just the shot but ensuing panic really complicates situation.

    • Amen. On thing is shooting on a range, and quite another this scenario.

  3. I’ve recently switched handguns because of some of those issues. I was carrying a M&P Shield but switched to a Glock 19.

    I’ve also started competing in NRA action pistol with the 19 to help me focus on shooting at distance. Depending on the stage you can shoot 8″ steel at 25 yards to out to 50 yards, all under time pressure.

  4. This incident would have bearing on the discussion. Info posted w/o comment, as I believe MSW readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions.




    DS: What gun were you carrying?

    KH: A Kimber .45. I carry it light six rounds. (Hammond explained he does this to minimize the wear on the magazine spring and to increase reliability.)

    DS: How were you carrying the weapon?

    KH: I carry it on my belt with a cover shirt or jacket concealing it.

    DS: Is this also your duty weapon?

    KH: No, I carry a Glock 22 on duty.

    DS: Do you carry handcuffs off-duty?

    KH: No, when I m not at work, I don t like to be at work. There s a limit to what I want to carry, but I always keep my gun with me.

    DS: You were armed during this incident, and it made a real difference. What s your thought about officers who don t carry while off-duty?

    KH: It makes me sick to my stomach. One of the 911 calls that came in [during this incident] was from an officer who d been standing right next to my wife. He didn t have his weapon with him. Me personally, that would have ruined my career.

    DS: Was this your first off-duty confrontation?

    KH: First time engaged in an off-duty incident yes. It s not that unusual for an officer to be involved in a shooting in our area, but this was my first incident like this and the first time something happened while off-duty.

    DS: When you first engaged the suspect, were you trying to contain him, keep him in a certain area? Some of the news reports made it seem that way.

    KH: No, I wanted to kill him. He was shooting people. He looked up, started turning towards us and shot. I wanted to kill him.

    DS: When you engaged, tell me some of the first thoughts that went through your head.

    KH: I fired only three rounds because I was only carrying six. I also didn t want to be seen as a suspect. I m thinking, I m off-duty, no body armor, short of ammo, out of my jurisdiction and I m dealing with an active shooter.

    DS: Tell me about your concern about being seen as a suspect.

    KH: I couldn t get to my badge, which was in my back pocket. Here I am in civilian clothes holding a gun. I made eye contact with the first uniformed officer on scene. He was on a lower level of the mall. Somehow he just knew.

    DS: Any specific advice about off-duty confrontations?

    KH: Absolutely. You need to be able to access your badge. I couldn t get to mine during the incident. You need to carry an extra magazine. That was one of my first thoughts after I fired that I had very limited ammo. I give so much credit to the Salt Lake City PD for their rapid response. They [arrived] in just a couple of minutes, and they saved my life and a lot of other lives.

    DS: Any thoughts about off-duty mindset?

    KH: The biggest thing is that you need to think, It s not if, it s when. That s the mindset you have to have.

    Sarita Hammond: I don t want to be with you on the next one.

    KH: If you re not mentally prepared and ready to engage, you need to re-evaluate your line of work. Training is so important. Train as you carry off-duty and carry extra ammo. Plus, keep your badge accessible.

  5. Great and thought provoking article. I have just gone through active shooter training with my agency. You brought up a lot of points they didn’t go into, and I had not thought of. They were talking about if one encounters a off-duty officer, do you take them or not, but did not give an answer. I agree with you and just let them get their kid and get out. Good read.

  6. You have already answered most of your own questions by practicing at extended ranges and knowing where your gun hits. Dynamic shooting is always different and more challenging than static shooting on a “blue bird day” but knowing your equipment and yourself is the first and most important step. Some of my best shooting on steel at 50yds was done with my off duty subcompact glock with faded NS. I feel very confident with my off duty setup, a mini glock.

  7. The holidays are upon us, so this is a timely topic given the bulletins we’re all getting.

    We need to first study the ground where bad things will most likely happen in our area.

    Go to your local malls and high schools and do some ranging. In my area 200-300 yd. hallways are the rule. Some big box stores are themselves more than 100 yards deep.

    We gotta carry what they give us on-duty, so the real issue is OD gear as Jerry says.

    A pistol is a must so I’m getting my first-year G35 out of mothballs because it’s my best service-style pistol for shooting out to 100 yards and more. And I did that a lot a few years back. The Shield was great this summer, but winter is coming.

    Seriously thinking about getting the 35 milled for an RMR, or some Extra-wide 10-8s with a skinny F/O post.

    However, given the ground where these things will occur is it unreasonable to suggest a small carbine?

    I’ve mulled a non-scary covert bag for my issued SBR and putting a low-powered scope on it. A Micro T1 won’t give you much target resolution at 200 yards.

    The carbine in your POV’s trunk a half-mile from the mall’s center court might as well be in another dimension.

    Nobody wants to wade into the American Mumbai or Nairobi Mall with only a pistol.

  8. Interesting stuff, but I respectfully submit that by far the largest problem in such a situation will be target identification.
    Off-duty officers and armed citizens alike will be in grave danger if they react with force, and that doesn’t even consider the problem of the attackers being dressed as law enforcement, such as was often seen in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Deciding upon which targets to engage will be by far the hardest part.

  9. An RDS equipped pistol significantly enhances the ability to get good hits at longer ranges. It is almost like cheating shooting bulls at 25 & 50 yds…

  10. The real problem is target ID, especially for a armed citizen or off duty.
    Who are the perps versus who are real armed responders.
    The lady holding a screaming kid may have an AK in the baby carriage and a suicide vest, the guy with the Islamic beard could be an undercover who couldn’t carry a badge.
    Do you have the days code word so you can check to make sure everyone with a badge is really “real police”.
    Being able to hit at distance is only part of the equation.
    It is a vital skill to be sure but for many of the above reasons not often used.
    As a civilian my first response is to determine what is really happening, who is shooting who and then can I intervene without getting myself and and others hurt or killed.
    Then I can shoot the perp.
    I have measured the distances for several local malls and a Costco, malls over 450 ft.
    Costco was 270 ft.
    Those are long shoots for almost anyone.

  11. All good points gentlemen and as Dan said, given the bulletins we’re getting the topic is timely. I’ve rethought my off duty carry and have retired my 1911 for my Glock 19 with WML, 2-17 round spare mags etc. ( A topic for another article). While tailoring our hardware for the mission at hand, as Jerry’s article points out the software, as in mindset and our skills may be the bigger factor in the equation.
    Should we be faced with this type of incident, our skills will be put to the ultimate test.
    Now to find a covert bag for my .308….
    Stay Safe

  12. I see two issues. First is, the shooters ability to engage targets with whatever weapon they carry. I see weapon shooting/handling as a martial art. In order to grow as a modern martial artist you have to know what you can and cannot do. Somewhat more importantly what you cannot do. This can inform your decisions on how you facilitate a response.

    The second issue is much more controversial and sociological. In the mainstream media and gov’t law enforcing agencies, armed citizens are the enemy. Anyone with a weapon is a threat that must be put down. We see this play out in so many ways with law enforcement that unarmed people are killed. I understand that according to the FBI UCR that more people die from hands and feet than they do with all types of rifles. However, you must be within a persons arm reach or leg reach to kill someone hand to hand. Until the attitudes from the media and gov’t agencies change towards law abiding, decent people carrying weapons. Trying to protect yourself or others might get you killed anyway.

  13. Jerry Jones said:
    “There are some, myself included, that believe the next large scale act of terrorism in the United States will be a coordinated mass shooting over a large scale. Think Kenya and Mumbai.”

    I couldn’t agree more and, frankly, I am surprised that it hasn’t happened already.
    I take ISIS/ISIl, et al, at face value; if someone tells you that they wish to harm/kill you, I will take their word for it and plan as best as possible.

    Mumbai was/is a major wake up call for low cost, high return scenarios on the homeland. When the Nairobi, Kenya, mall attack happened I really took notice…..not that I wasn’t already running “what if” scenarios as a veteran, CCW carrier, and husband to begin with. Having watched the recent CNN/HBO documentary “Terror at the Mall” (about the Nairobi attack) I started carrying an extra (3rd) magazine for my EDC.

    I watched the documentary at least 3 times and gleaned a few lessons:
    1. Always be armed (Duh, for readers of this blog!)
    *Put the 1911 in the safe and carry a hi cap gun with 3 mags (9MM now)
    2. No such thing as too much ammo for a handgun
    3. Just like a theater, a bad date, or dinner at the in-laws……have an escape plan
    4. Have comms
    5. Pay attention.

    There’s obviously much more than the 5 items above, but it’s a start.

    Now, I said all of the above regarding the primary “academic” question of practicing long(er) shots and the selection of equipment to say the following:
    1. Equipment alone will not make up for proper practice/training.
    2. Just as some above like an RMR on their pistol, I like the CT laser. It, too, is like cheating for many long and/or awkward shots. Good for signaling or identifying, too.
    3. Getting hits on bad guys while NOT hitting innocents is paramount (obviously), but in a mass-attack event, be mentally prepared for having things go “sideways”……for you and bystanders.
    4. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

    I’ll expand on #4:
    In this academic scenario, the attackers will be dedicated and suicidal. One of my “take aways” on the Nairobi shooting was that it took 3+ hours for a coordinated police/army response by the Kenyans. Yes, there were civilians and plain cloths PD that engaged the terrorists after a bit, but they were on their own for a long time! Civilians were trapped in the mall and the terrorists were able to casually roam sections shooting/executing the wounded or stragglers.

    My thought, and I’m sure I’ll be criticized by many, is that some/any resistance is beneficial and may buy extra time for civilians trying to escape…hell, you may wound/kill an attacker or two in the process. Again, to my thinking, if I can blunt or retard their assault I may swing the momentum away from them (temporarily). In this situation, unexpected return fire, regardless of sniper-like precision, may not matter. So, I put forth the concept that any “accurate-as-possible” return fire may be beneficial.

    Now, the US isn’t Kenya and I am confident that most, if not all, responding LEOs would not take 3 hours to make entry; the cavalry will arrive (this is where my cell phone comes into play). I’m not trying to be a one man fire team and conduct squad rushes on the hypothetical terrorists, but neither am I going be the first to exfil the local mall food court with mothers and their children in my wake. No hero fantasies here, but I’m not about to leave the helpless on their own when I could do something. I’m no longer a young infantryman, but neither am I some old guy…..far from it. I’ve lived a good life, and, hopefully, the Lord will grant me many more; however, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I stampede past women and children to save my skin under the present scenario.

    I’ve had this discussion with many of my shooting and LEO friends regarding liability, etc., but in the scenario on the table for discussion now, I’ve made my decision and will face the consequences, be they the courts or the big Man upstairs. If we’re talking about some yahoo stealing hubcaps, I’m not your “hero” looking to dual it out. If you’re talking about the members of a certain middle eastern “death-cult” wanting to strike terror and fear into the hearts of America with the intent of sawing the heads of Americans off in a graphic/dramatic/video fashion…..and on an industrial scale, well, game on.

    So, that was an EXTREMELY long way of saying that, yes, long shot accuracy skills are important to practice, but they may be second to the need to return fire on the initial assault and (possibly) pin the attackers down, or stall the attack. I also recognize/expect that this scenario will likely involve explosives, CS gas, fire, and multiple attack/entry points if the terrorists have really planned their attack out……a ton of scenarios!

    Anyway, I look forward to reading the opinions of others and learning something. I play the “what if” game every day and I’m positive that there’s always something new to learn.

    May God save the Republic!

    Semper Fi,

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