Distance favors the trained marksman.

  • 1911 Target


Maybe you’ve heard this saying before?

“Distance favors the trained marksman”

Know what it means, and is it true?

I first heard this saying before I was an instructor. I heard another instructor at a popular firearms school say it. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, it just seemed like more jargon or propaganda. Over the years I’ve thought about this more and more, and eventually I started using the line myself.

So what does it mean? Basically, it means that the more of a marksman you are, the better off you are at creating distance between you and the person you’re engaging. You know that failure drill you do with the hostage scenario? That’s not where this comes into play!  😉 This is more for when someone is coming at you, or has chosen, or might choose you as a target.

Is it true? Yes, it is… and here’s why. The more you train (properly) and understand your firearm, the more able you are to make shots at distance. While the untrained or lesser trained person will struggle with distance. This doesn’t mean you have to start shooting at 100 yards with your pistols, but you could. What it means is as you become more and more proficient you can start extending your targets further out while you train, eventually having some shots at 25 yards. Why some and not all? Because there is what I believe an inverse (to the user’s skill level) proportion between speed and accuracy. Yes, some people can shoot really fast and really accurate, but once you throw in distance you have to slow down to become accurate.

Most people train at 3, 5, and 7 yards. I’m over six feet tall, and my arm’s reach about three feet in front of me when extended. If I’m training at 3 yards, that’s just over 9 feet. I’ve taken that distance and removed 1/3 of it from the end of my gun to the target. This is a very close distance! But, most shootings are this close and sometimes closer. But what does this have to do with distance, isn’t this the opposite? Yes! This is why it’s important to remember that you can create distance if at all possible. And don’t run backwards, you’ll be slower and more apt to trip or run into something. Go sideways, make some distance, and give yourself the advantage.

Another thing distance does is give you more peripheral vision. Instead of focusing on one person right under your nose, you can make some distance opening your view. This allows for the easier spotting of accomplices and other dangers.

Moral of the story? Start training how you want to fight. If you want to be kissing the person you get into a firefight with, keep shooting at 3 yards. If you want to give yourself the advantage, make distance.

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Greg Ryman is a certified NRA instructor and RSO. He is also a California DOJ Certified Handgun Safety Instructor and a Certified Glock Armorer. Greg has been shooting for over 20 years and is the owner of Ryman Tactical.

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