What is the effective range of a 9mm semiautomatic pistol?

How does recoil affect time/accuracy of subsequent shots?

Interested in:

  • Range of untrained person
  • Range of average marksman
  • Range of expert marksman
  • Range of world class marksman

Wiki says "The accurate range of pistols generally does not exceed 100 metres (110 yd; 330 ft)"

This seems extremely unlikely to me in regard to the average person, and enthusiasts have suggested the effective range for most.

  • What is the effective range of pistols in reality?

Do magnum loads/long barrels increase the effective range?

  • 1
    While guns and gun safety usually relate to martial arts, this question does not seem to ask about application in martial arts. For this reason, I believe it is off-topic
    – LemmyX
    Dec 23, 2020 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


The effective range is not defined by the distance the round may travel.

The effective range is defined by the distance you have a fair chance hitting the target with kinetic effect. Having the short barrel and no resting points for your weapon or body, it is hard to point it to the right point to hit.

I guess

Group Range (m)
Normal 30
Police 30-50
SWAT like police 50-100

This is nothing scientific. It's just voice of experience.


This is a somewhat ill-posed question, but I will try to frame it in a self-defense perspective. Disclaimer: I would consider myself an average marksman, not an expert by any means, but also an enthusiast in the limits of aspects of self-defense.

First of all, if we define the "effective range" of a pistol as the distance that can still injure a person, I have no reason to doubt the wiki entry. Of course, hitting the target is a strong function of experience and tools.

Generally, if the relative size of your front sight is reasonably smaller than or at worst, comparable to the size of your target, your sights are properly zeroed, you can hold the firearm sufficiently steady, and your action of pulling the trigger doesn't pull the sight away from the target, you have a good chance or hitting your target. This means that the longer the barrel, the more accurate you can be within reason. This is also a function of the burn time of the round inside the barrel, meaning that pistols, with their relatively short barrels won't typically achieve the maximum velocity and therefore range. I don't know if the amount of propellant in a 'typical' 9 mm round (for example) is matched to the burn time corresponding to the 'typical' barrel length? Perhaps someone can chime in about that?

Now, from a self-defense perspective, effective range is coupled with how you behave when you get an adrenaline dump, how your weapon is stored/holstered and drawn, and how practiced you are at these motions with different types of clothing, as well as other potential environmental factors. I can speak from experience at a range when I was first starting to shoot, that picking up the gun from the table in front of me and firing one shot as quickly as possible at a target -- even only ~10 feet away, at least half the shots completely missed the paper.

Talking with more experienced shooters (i.e. law enforcement, and "gun people") about effective distances with pistols, you essentially converge on a rough distance of ~20 yards (60 feet) - or the distance across a full volleyball court (lengthwise). Now, if you have the luxury of time in taking the shot, you can of course be much more accurate and precise at longer distances.

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