Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Force Over Distance – Shooting Distances For Home

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By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

It’s been said more than once that you should be able to shoot accurately and precisely at multiple distances in order to save your own life or that of another person. Anyone can learn to shoot at 7 yards, but stretching out to – say – 20 yards or further may push your capabilities.

Granted, the old saw of the “rule of threes” still has a lot of validity; odds are that if you’re ever going to use a gun to defend yourself, those are the circumstances they’ll take place under, but of course there’s plenty of exceptions to the rule.

If you want to realistically prepare yourself to shoot in defense of yourself or someone else, you need to be able to shoot out to the furthest distance you’re likely to have to shoot at, if not further. Obviously, that’s impossible to do out on the street, but it’s completely possible within the confines of your home, the building you work in, the church you attend (if you go to one, anyhow) and so on.

In other words, you need to work out what the longest distances you may be called on to shoot at when that distance is knowable in advance.

What’s the furthest linear distance that exists in your home without obstructions or walls being in the way? From the bottom to the top of a staircase? From the back wall of the dining room to the front door? End of the hallway to the back wall of the living room?

Is it 10 yards? 20? 40?

Likewise, what is that distance in your place of work, worship and other fixed locations that you frequent?

Top tip: the average male has a stride length, measured from heel to heel, of about 30 inches, according to a quick Google search. The average female has an average stride length of about 25 inches. The average man wears size 10 shoes, the average woman wears a size 9. Therefore, one step – measured from the back of the rear heel to the front toe – is about 1 yard for men (give or take a couple inches) and a few inches shy of 1 yard for women. If you don’t have a tape measure, walk it out and make a note of it.

For those who keep a shotgun for home defense – and the scattergun is the queen of personal defense weapons inside about 100 yards – you’ll also want to pattern your gun and your defense load at that distance.

Yes, the traditional patterning procedure is on a 30-inch square at 40 yards, but the gun in this instance isn’t for shooting clays, or for that matter, for bagging bobwhites or longbeards. Figure out the longest linear shot you’ll make inside the home with your shotgun, and pattern your defensive load at that distance. Chances are the pattern will be tight at that distance, but figure it out all the same.

This might also raise the question of chokes. At typical home defense distances chances are it won’t matter; the typical home likely doesn’t have an unobstructed linear distance longer than maybe 12 or 15 yards; a buckshot pattern is likely still pretty tight. Your home may be different and therefore your mileage may vary.

So this much is completely up to you. Again, pattern your gun at the correct distance for you and make your own decisions.

If it were me, I’d err on the side of more constriction and use a full or turkey choke, with the idea being to put the greatest amount of lead in the smallest area, and aim for a sensitive area. Spread is for clays or quail, not hostile personnel. If there’s no effect, then there’s no effect, but if it concentrates the pattern more than the cylinder or an IC, M, or IM choke that’sawesome.

However, there’s a certain amount of evidence that chokes don’t do much for buckshot, though all the pattern testing I’ve seen seems to indicate that the effect of the choke depends heavily on the load you’re using and the range at which you’re using it. Again, figure out your gun, your load and any choke you plan to put on a defensive shotgun.

Once you have the distance worked out, you can start working shots at those distances into your training regime. If your primary weapon system is a handgun, you’ll want to drill firing from the draw as much as you want to practice from the ready position.

As we all saw in the White Settlement incident, you may have to make a shot from the holster beyond what are considered typical combat distances, possibly even a head shot. If you’re going to be serious about defending yourself with a gun, you need to work on being effective with the equipment you use and have, and at the shooting distance you’ll likely use it at.

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Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit