Editor's Notebook: The Distance Precision Shot
First attempts at the "Bane Test" distance shooting exercise included the Ruger American Pistol (right), the S&W Performance Center Shield (top) and the Glock 43/Streamlight TLR-6 -- all in 9mm.
Michael Bane, writer-producer-TV personality and all-around gun guy, has been involved in production of the program The Best Defense
on the Outdoor Channel since its inception. A natural direction for the program was doing a demonstration of a mass casualty event with volunteer participants – which they've now completed. In the hours after news of the militant Islamist dingbat shooting up an Orlando nightspot, he took to his blog
and listed necessary gear and skills to prepare for such an event.
In that blog post, he noted that people had previously called him out for "saying you should be able to make a 25-yard head shot and a 50-yard torso shot with your carry gun." He also mentioned medical skills, but the question was presented: can you make the distance precision shot on demand?
Without our discussing it, our Publisher took to the range last week and found that he could accomplish the 25 yard head shot with a Colt Rail Gun in .45 Auto. I'd already considered an attempt – or three – before I found out that he'd done it. I was still working with Winchester's USA Forged ammunition brand and a Ruger American Pistol, but I elected to take along a couple of smaller guns to see where I was. Those were the Glock 43, altered only slightly, with stock sights, and the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Shield 9mm.
I wasn't anyplace good.
The 25 yard 'head shot' should be easy with the Ruger American Pistol. Hint: Knowing the point of impact for those sights is critical to success.
To start with, it was already sunny, 84° with 85% relativity – made it feel like 94° but wrapped in a soaked blanket. It was hard to keep the eye pro clear of condensation. I laid the Ruger American Pistol out, set up a target. It had a sheen of condensation on the slide by the time I returned.
I elected to shoot the 'demand shot' cold, as you'd have to for real. I used a Gunsite Option Target, available from Brownell's
, and three permanent markers to mark bullet holes: red for the Ruger American Pistol, green for the S&W Performance Center Shield and black for the Glock 43. The Ruger American pistol had three-dot sights from Novak's. Here's a hint: lay the front sight dot over the mark you want to hit instead of using the top edge of the front sight. Trust me on this . . .
The Performance Center Shield had the factory provided HIVIZ fiber optic sights and the Glock 43 still had the plastic "ball in the bucket" sights. I'm awaiting a new sight installation tool before I resolve that particular difficulty.
I had to zero the Ruger as I found the rear sight to be off-center. This didn't take long and put five shots into a group the size of a quarter at ten yards.
This remote camera shot had the camera fifteen yards ahead of the target -- and the shot is cropped to show the shooter at the 50-yard line. Hint: left side of the image.
For the "Bane Test," I elected to make it one hit centered in the head box on the target at 25 yards followed by three hits to the thoracic cavity from fifty yards. Sadness ensued.
I nicked the head box on the right with the Ruger American. From fifty, there was a hit in the "x" ring (6" ring), another hit on the silhouette and one miss. I'm calling that a 'fail.'
The PC Shield gave a miss on the head box, an "X," one on the silhouette – and another I never found. This was shaky. Missing a horse blanket size silhouette at only fifty yards doesn't inspire confidence.
As to the Glock 43, the head was a miss, followed by one hit on the silhouette. I was three for three. Unimpressed – and now "warmed up" – I tried for three hits in the head box from 25 yards with the Glock 43. As the photo shows, there were a pair in the ocular box followed by one about an inch-and-a-half over the main scoring zone, still in the head box.
Warming up first is cheating. This is three hits from 25 yards into the Gunsite target's "head." Two were in the main scoring area, the last "parted his hair."
Lessons? Well, it's not the size of the gun, it's the familiarity with equipment. You'd best get that pistol zeroed – smart to do it for the load you'll carry. Know how you need to see the sights to make that hit. The Ruger American Pistol is regulated to hit to the white dot on the front sight – at least this one is – and that's a handy bit of information to have. Making a hit in a 4x4 box at 25 yards should be no chore for a gun like that. Likewise, going 2/3 in the "x" on the option with one more on the silhouette should be easy. It's a failure of a firm enough grip – though I could use condensation on lenses as an excuse, it's not a good one. Consider lighting in a movie theater, for example.
Know the grip as it relates to the trigger on the gun you're using. Grip relates to trigger finger placement like it relates to recoil management. It's not like the recoil was going to hurt: I didn't have temporary PTSD, my shoulder wasn't bruised, and the flying empties didn't disorient me. It does help you track the sight back on target for the next shot. Additionally, having your natural point of aim – checking it didn't cross my mind as I rushed to get out of the jungle – goes miles toward making those follow up hits.
Why three hits at 50 yards? I presume that one centered hit won't be effective. That could be due to armor, adrenaline – anything. Is this the be-all, end-all "qualification" test? No, it's one skill set and it's probably low on the probability scale. Still, it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not be capable of delivering. I'm not going to spend lots of training time and ammunition on it.
But I'm going to work more on the head shot at 25 yards and body hits at fifty yards to up my game. I want 100% hits on target to call it a "pass." Nicking the silhouette – even having a full-caliber hole inside the outside line of the silhouette – isn't enough for me. I'm thinking the A/C zone on the USPSA for fifty yards – or simply an 8 ½" x 11" sheet of paper which is easily found and cheap. As to the 25 yard shot, it's one and done on a 4"x4" sheet. These are to be done on demand.
I'm not sure I'll ever get there, but I have a goal.
How likely is it I'd try that shot for real? At the moment, it's unlikely and, even if I turn a range trick into a 95%+ likelihood, taking a shot like that operationally is a tough decision. As we're responsible for every round we launch and there's a real probability that someone else could get hurt, I likely wouldn't try the 4"x4" at 25 yards – the human head moves quickly and I'd be concerned about the "beyond" aspect of Rule 4. However, doing that shot repeatedly at 25 yards on the range builds confidence in one's ability. If that shot is required at 30 feet –for example -- the confidence would be there. Likewise, engaging a deadly threat at 25 yards – again, considering what's beyond and either side of that threat – is more likely.
It's something to consider.
-- Rich Grassi