Walter Mittyism, mental masturbation, and 100 yard head shots

I sure hope I haven’t given away my opinion with the wording of the title.

My friend Marcus Wynne recently took a break from his usual fare of Jerry Springer reruns to send me a link to an internet post about the need to practice 100 yard head shots…with a pistol.

You know, because terrorism.

There are certainly some instructors out there making good coin teaching this stuff to the kiddies, and true, the practice hardly needs debunking.  But I have a couple minutes before I need to resume real work and the debunking leads me to some more useful points that I’d like to hit.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. Distance head shots – to be generous assume an 8-inch steel plate for practice — require a zeroed pistol at that distance or the ability to offset your POA to compensate.  Which further assumes you know where your gun shoots at various distances, can judge that distance under stress, and and make the compensation under stress. That’s four “nopes” for almost everyone.
  2. Past 20 yards on an 8-inch plate means fairly slow shooting for most even well-trained people, and by slow I mean slower than your adversary will be moving.  Oh, BTW, they will be moving.  When’s the last time you shot down zero scores on an erratic mover at 25, let alone 100, yards?
  3. How many active shooter events will allow you a clear shot at a BG at distance, even if they were stationary (which they won’t be)?  And by clear shot I mean you don’t shoot the nun or the child in front of them, assuming you could make the shot…under stress…to begin with, and further assuming there’s no innocent moving into your  line of fire, which you couldn’t see under stress or while aligning the sights in any case.
  4. Sure a MRDS can make this all easier…in theory.  But MRDS are not instinctive for many — possibly most — shooters, and their, say, 5MOA dot will obscure most of the target at 100 yards.  Your pistol has to shoot under 8-inches at 100 yards (that’s 2 at 25, and most don’t) for you to hit an 8-inch stationary plate, assuming that you can 1) align the sights perfectly in the center of the target and 2) are as rock-solid as a Ransom Rest…under stress.  Any deviation from these two standards demands a pistol so accurate that it can’t be made, or that you miss regardless of the gun you have.
  5. Lets assume you have a pistol zeroed for 100 yards. That means you now have to offset your POA for all your practice, and the real-world events, that happen much closer-in.  That’s a stupid trade-off.
  6. I’m sure that whatever Delta is called these days, and whatever 6 is called these days, and whatever their equivalent units in England and Germany are called these days, can pull off 100 yard shots — even head shots — reasonably well (but not all the time).  But I, and you, don’t shoot full time and don’t shoot thousands of rounds before lunch on a regular basis.  Plus, truth be told, we probably just aren’t good enough (I know I’m not).

OK, that was easy enough.  Now here’s the points I think might be worth making:

A)  Any talk about 100 yard head shots, or any other highly unlikely to be accomplished feat, is ignoring the Life 101 fact that sometimes you can’t win.  Sometimes, in all areas of life, there’s just nothing you can do given the resources you have.  Sorry.  So better to spend your time and energy on things that can make a difference than to have childish fantasies about turning into Superman.

B)  Many active shooter events will have so many people pressing against and disrupting you while trying to escape that anything but a very close shot will be impossible.  In a thinly populated mall maybe you could get a clear distance shot, in an crowded auditorium, no way.

C)  Therefore, your only chance of heroism, if you choose to play sheepdog, is likely to involve fighting the crowds running away from the shooter(s), working your way to them; very close to them in fact, so that you can get off a decent shot.  This is better theorized than done, however.  There’s a reason people get trampled in crowds: they aren’t easy to go against.  See point A) above.

D) This notion of having to be a sheepdog is one of the mainstays in the tactical community.  But why?  In the kinds of situations we’re discussing here your only realistic choices may well boil down to a) do nothing, b) get killed (trampled, etc.) trying to “help”, or c) do your best to get yourself and your family to safety.  If c), what about the people you did not try to save?  Well, why aren’t they armed and capable of fighting for themselves?  Isn’t that their responsibility?  Why should they mooch off of you?  (On this last point, see the article I wrote in American Handgunner some time ago.  Reasonable people can disagree on this issue, and in fact I can argue both sides.)

P.S.  I am not saying that practice at distance, by which I mean 25-50 yards with a handgun, is not useful.  In fact I subscribe to the traditional belief that such practice builds competence at all distances by ingraining fundamentals.  Even 100 yard shots can be fun, if less useful.  Our 100 yard range has some steel at the end; hitting the 2’x2′ plate is pretty easy, and the 12-inch plate is fun, too.  But unless your handgun is zeroed for 100 yards – and it shouldn’t be – one tends to walk those rounds in. Therefore so long as you are steering your gun fairly consistently for a few shots you’ll still hit the plate…while mis-managing the fundamentals that distance shooting should be building.


3 thoughts on “Walter Mittyism, mental masturbation, and 100 yard head shots

  1. Well said. Your first duty is always to your family and yourself. If it happens right in front of you, do what you have to. Otherwise, you’re better getting away. If you get crushed by a fleeing mob or shot by responding police, you haven’t fulfilled your first duty.
    I once read a blog post by a respected instructor, whose identity I can’t remember. He had run his class through a mall-shooting scenario inspired by the shooting in Nairobi. You could either shoot your way out or engage the attackers and save the shoppers. One of his best shooters chose Door Number One and left the other shoppers to their fate. When asked why, he replied, “My gun is for me. Everyone in that mall had the same opportunity I did to get the equipment and the training they needed to save themselves. They chose to watch TV.” Cold, but maybe not wrong.


  2. I work in a mall that is often thinly populated. On a Wednesday in December I counted 21 people, in the way or blocking, a 100 yard shot. Granted it’s December but even June or July wouldn’t be ideal.


  3. Part of the recent focus on the ability to make a head shot under stress has a lot to do within the proliferation of body armor rated to take multiple rifle hits without failing (I’m writing this on Cyber Monday, when I can get a carrier and a pair of level-III plates for about $200). The San Bernardino shooters wore them, as well as the church shooter down in Texas. Hitting one with a 9mm is basically just screaming “Shoot me next!”
    That being said, who the fuck is advocating doing it at 100 yards? That’s ridiculous. 25 yards? Fine. Just make sure to take real-world scenarios into account while training (which you should be doing any way). If the shooter is 100 yards away, and you don’t have a long gun at hand, you should probably be leaving before you become a casualty. You aren’t a cop. You don’t carry a gun to hunt bad guys. You carry a gun to defend yourself. You cannot effectively defend yourself at 100 yards with a handgun if the bad guy has both armor and a long gun.


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