Does 'point blank range' mean anything significant to you?

It’s not unusual to hear in some account how some perp shot someone at “point blank range.” Literally (well, basically), all that means is the shooter was so close that there was no way they could miss. However, I’ve always inferred when I heard this that that fact was added to make it sound a lot worse, as thought the damage at being fired at at point blank range would have been much more serious that, oh, say 20, 30, 50 or so feet away. I don’t think most projectiles slow down appreciably in most shootings. (And I’m not taking into account any power burns or other collateral damage.)

So. . . the question (which isn’t a looking for a factual answer), do you infer from an account of “point blank range” that the reporter is throwing that it in to make it sound more serious. I’d think that most domestic shootings are at point blank range, as opposed to carefully measured sniper type shootings.

And. . . from
Main Entry: point–blank
Pronunciation: \ˈpȯint-ˈblaŋk
Function: adjective
Date: 1591
1 a : marked by no appreciable drop below initial horizontal line of flight b : so close to a target that a missile fired will travel in a straight line to the mark
2 : direct, blunt <a point–blank refusal>

— point–blank adverb

When I hear the term “point blank range” I picture the shooter with the gun a foot or less from the victim.

When I hear “point blank” I immediately think two things. (1) the shooter was only a foot or two away from the victim (exactly as Eyebrows 0f Doom said) and (2) that’s not really what “point blank” means.

For a shotgun, being that close will result in more damage, but yeah, for most other guns it won’t. I think some reporters do use it to imply that it’s more serious, but I think sometimes it just indicates something about the circumstances of the shooting. A mafia hit at point blank range is a lot more up close and personal than a mafia hit by a guy with a rifle from a block away. It puts the shooter more in harms way and possibly indicates a more emotional involvement in the shooting.

I suppose it’s also less likely to be a grazing wound if it’s a point blank shot.

What they said, plus a shooting at point blank range is less likely to hit bystanders. I’m more used to hearing news about gunshots involving terrorists than domestic violence, which may be why I consider the bystanders angle; there’s a lot more likely to be bystanders when someone gets gunned down on the street than at home.

Grossman argues that the ability of someone to kill is highly dependent on proximity and orientation to the target. Most people can be conditioned to fire at a silhouetted target at tens of meters, but many people will freeze when coming face to face with the intended recipient of their violence. Firing at “point blank” range is indicative of someone who does not have the normal emotional governors against killing someone; it’s similar in context to stabbing.

You would think, but looking at the forensics data indicates that more effective shots are fired at close range, but not in anything like proportion to distance; there are plenty of ineffective, grazing shots fired at near-touching range, likely due (at least in part) to the sort of reflexive flinching that untrained or poorly trained fighters do at that range versus the more careful aiming at somewhat longer ranges.

Also, Point Blank is an awesome Lee Marvin film.


Nope, but if you’re shooting somebody with a gun pressed to their [body part], you’re going to blow [body part] away for sure. Whereas damaging [body part] at 50 feet requires some aiming, luck etc…
So, in that sense, shooting someone at point blank is more damaging, at least if the shooter is deliberately shooting for major injury or death.

Plus, as Stranger On A Train said, it does convey ruthlessness or cruelty on the part of the shooter, IMO. It’s already not the easiest thing in the world to shoot a human shape at a distance, but shooting some dude of whom you can see the pleading look in their eyes ? That’s just cold.

I learned that watching Léon.


What most people don’t realize is that there are two, “Point blank ranges.” The first is what you usually think of, within or just at arm’s length for all practical purposes. The other is on the terminal end of the bullet’s flight. Basically, if the bullet would hit you between the eyes at arm’s length, while the bullet is rising, it’s other point blank range is where it would hit you between the eyes as it’s falling.

Things about gun reporting in the news that tend to annoy me.

All rifles are “high powered.”
All semi-automatics are “assault weapons.”
A huge percentage of shootings are at “point blank range” or are “execution style”.

No, folks. No, they’re not.

That’s about what I think too. So very close, there is virtually no way you could miss, so the weapon is very close to the target.



In shooting terms there are two times when a bullet will intersect with the same spot on two different targets, once as it’s ascending and once as it’s descending.

Say you have the barrel at a 5 degree elevation and you have a target directly in front of you. You fire the weapon and the bullet punches through the X. There is another point on the trajectory arc where the bullet will punch through the X on a second target if it’s placed at the correct spot downrange. Either of those points of impact are, “point blank,” but only the first one is regularly used by non-long distance shooters.

Yeah, I understand ballistics. That doesn’t make the second intersection “point blank”.


I know very little about guns, but it’s never been my impression that “point blank range” indicated more serious injury to the victim. It seems to me that emphasizing how close the shooter was to the victim is usually meant to suggest that the shooter was either someone the victim trusted or someone who kept their weapon hidden until the last moment. In other words, the situation was such that the victim didn’t suspect that s/he was about the be shot until it was too late to run away.

I’m not sure if you are objecting to the concept in general or if you are objecting to FallenAngel’s description of it, but that’s exactly what point blank means.

The term “point blank” comes from cannons originally, and means the distance where the cannon ball drops below the level of the bore of the cannon when the cannon is fired from a non-elevated position. At all ranges beyond “point blank”, you have to elevate the cannon. “Point blank” is also the closest shot where you can actually get the range right. Any closer than that and you’d have to point the cannon down, which most cannons aren’t designed to do, so the term does have some significance.

When people began applying the term to hand carried arms, it generally meant the point at which the bullet crossed the point where the sights are aimed at. My civil war musket has the sights in their lowest position set up for 100 yards. This is therefore “point blank” for this musket. As FallenAngel said, if I aimed the sights directly between your eyes, the bullet would hit you exactly between the eyes just a bit out of the barrel, and then again at 100 yards. Closer than 100 yards, and the bullet hits you somewhere in the forehead. Beyond 100 yards, the bullet hits you lower in the face or the body. I don’t have to worry about bullet drop within 100 yards (in fact, I actually have to aim a couple of inches low at 50 yards for example), so “point blank” range again has some significance.

“Point blank” over time morphed to mean basically any range at which you don’t have to factor in bullet drop, so people began to use it synonymously with “close range” even though that’s not at all what it meant. Eventually the term morphed even further to mean only a foot or two away from the target as it is used today. “Point blank” on my musket is 100 yards, but most people today wouldn’t call a 100 yard shot a “point blank” shot.

I agree with this. When I read that someone was shot at point blank range, I infer that the shooter was particularly callous.

Also, Grosse Pointe Blank is an awesome John Cusack film.