layman-friendly definition of "point blank range"


March 25, 2005, 09:14 AM
Most of us here (hopefully) know that "point blank range" is not a synonym for "inches away" despite that popular misconception.

What's a good one-sentence definition that doesn't involve technical references to changing sight pictures and arc rise and fall?

I've heard, "the distance a bullet travels before falling the diameter of the barrel," but I'm not sure that is sufficient or entirely correct.

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March 25, 2005, 09:42 AM
One of the technical writers for American Rifleman managed to sum it up in about a paragraph or two in an issue a few years ago, but now that I want it, I can't find that issue... If you use phrases like "maximum ordinate" is that too technical?

March 25, 2005, 09:53 AM
"Maximum ordinate" would be too tehcnical. I'm looking for something we can tell people who have scant knowledge of and no experience with firearms -- something a gradeschooler could understand without a dictionary.

March 25, 2005, 10:00 AM
Point blank range is the maximum distance at which a particular weapon/ammunition combination can be aimed at the center of a target, (or, more appropriately for hunting/defensive use, a target's vital area), and be assured that the round will strike somewhere on the target (or vital area) without applying any corrections to aim or sighting equipment for distance - that is to say, without raising the rear sight, moving the scope reticle, or "holding over", (aiming ABOVE the intended point of impact). "Maximum effective range" for automatic weapons is defined as the point at which the tracers burn out. "Maximum effective range" for tank cannon is defined as the distance at which a well-aimed round fired at the center of a target the size of a T-55 tank viewed from the front, (minus a few feet on each side for the sponson boxes) will strike somewhere on the target 50% of the time.

March 25, 2005, 10:39 AM
I always thought it was the distance at which a blank round could kill.

I read something about a stupid guy on a movie set putting a blank revolver to his head, and then pulling the trigger, thinking it was safe to do without a bullet.
(Graphic bit here)
The blast sent skull fragments into his brain, causing a coma, and eventual death.

Or am I wrong?

March 25, 2005, 10:47 AM
Or am I wrong? You're wrong :). Point blank range could be measured in kilometers. It refers to the distance at which you can hit a bullseye without adjusting your aim to account for gravity's effect on the bullet.

P.S. the actor you are thinking of is Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee's son).

March 25, 2005, 11:10 AM
I read something about a stupid guy on a movie set putting a blank revolver to his head, and then pulling the trigger, thinking it was safe to do without a bullet.
(Graphic bit here)
The blast sent skull fragments into his brain, causing a coma, and eventual death.

The actor in question was Jon Eric Hexum, 1984.

Brandon Lee was killed by a blank, but fired by someone else:

Why do I remember stuff like this?

March 25, 2005, 11:33 AM
I have always defined it the maximum distance I can fire a projectile that will not travel too far above or below the point of aim. Example: My 30-06 is zeored at 300 yards, this gives me an arc of 6 inches at the highest point and lets the bullet get to 425 yards before it drops below the 6 inch mark.

March 25, 2005, 11:54 AM
When asked "How far is point blank range?"
Just hold your hands up, as far apart as they will go, and say "About this far." ;)

Vern Humphrey
March 25, 2005, 12:02 PM
"Point Blank" goes back to the days of archery and refers to the hold on the target. Holding on the white (the "blank") was no hold-over.

Point blank range is the range which requires no hold-over. It varies with the cartridge and the range for which you are zeroed.

March 25, 2005, 12:28 PM
Actually, Brandon Lee was not killed by a blank per se. There was a squib load in the barrel which no one knew about and the blank that was fired was enough to dislodge it and kill him.

Blank cartridges have a wad in them, so unless you are more than a few feet away, you need to be extremely careful, because that wad can still cause damage at close range.

March 25, 2005, 12:49 PM
Way I heard it (and I work part-time as a film armorer) is they had dummy rounds being loaded in the revolver earlier in the day. Took those out, but one of the bullets fell out of the dummy round and stuck in the barrel or cylinder or something. Blanks got loaded in, and the blank propelled the bullet, same as it would in a normal round of ammo.

They had sent the armorer home that day to save some money, figuring they knew what to do.

Squibs would almost never be put in the barrel of anything... squibs are generally used to simulate the effect of the bullet hitting a target- either a bit of scenery, or, if backed by a metal plate and covered with a bloodbag, a body hit.

Sergeant Sabre
March 25, 2005, 12:55 PM
I've always understood and described "point-blank range" as any range at which the rise and fall of the projectile does not need to be considered.

Therefore, point-blank range (PBR) is different for different targets. For example, 250 yards is technically PBR for my .300WSM against a whitetail deer. The same distance is not PBR for the same rifle and load against a crow, because of the size of the target.

Whenever you aim at a target that you don't need a hold-over to hit, that is PBR.

March 25, 2005, 12:56 PM
Yes, they were dummy rounds, but one of them was primed. How nobody caught this is tragic, but it was a long, unfortunate series of mistakes and coincidences.

Someone made a dummy round with a fresh primer
Someone fired the dummy rounds without noticing one "popped"
Someone took all the dummy rounds out without noticing one was missing a bullet
Someone never checked the barrel on a functional gun intended to be used with blanks

Jim K
March 25, 2005, 01:00 PM
Actually, the term "point blank" originally referred to the use of a gunner's quadrant to set elevation for a cannon. A gunner's quadrant is essentially a regular carpenter's square with quadrant and a plumb bob. The long arm is inserted in the bore and the cannon elevated until the plumb bob line reaches the desired range as indicated by a number on the quadrant.

If the gun barrel was horizontal, the plumb line was on a blank or "white" space, which was called "point blank" from the French for "white point".

So point blank range simply means the range at which a target will be hit with the gun barrel horizontal, with no need for any elevation. Obviously, "point blank range" will vary depending on the size of the target and the firearm used.

(FWIW, there is NO range at which the bullet "goes straight out". Gravity causes a bullet to begin to drop the instant it leaves the barrel, regardless of the power of the cartridge or the angle of the barrel to the ground. Nonetheless, there is a distance for which bullet drop will be insignificant, and that is another way of saying "point blank" range.)


March 25, 2005, 01:22 PM
I believe you may have said it right in your question. Although many terms have strong origins and current technical meanings, the usage of these terms in everyday language often changes their meaning to represent something far from the actual definition. This is a great example. If used by the media in a story or by the average person in everyday conversation, Point Blank Range will be interpreted as ..."inches away". As such, that becomes the accepted definition of the term to the general public, regardless of the true technical definition. Unfortunately .. "right to keep and bear arms" is another example.

Control Group
March 25, 2005, 02:01 PM
I'll vouch for what 2beararms said - until this thread I had no idea "point blank range" even had a technical meaning. And it turns out that its correct meaning is sort of the opposite of what I took it to mean. In my head, "point blank range" was "you don't need to aim" range - that is, so close if you just point the gun in the general direction of the target, you couldn't miss.

As opposed, of course, to "direct aim" range, where you have to aim without compensating for distance.

Of course, now that I've read this thread, it's exactly the sort of esoteric tidbit I'll take great pleasure correcting people on. :evil:

Too Many Choices!?
March 25, 2005, 02:50 PM
Point blank range means you won't miss your target area if you aim directly at it regardless of the distance(out to a certain range and dependent on target size).Point blank range for a man sized target ~2m tall with my ar 15 is between 250-300m, but its an M4gery and doesn't have the extra 5 1/2" inches of barrel.....for soda pop cans I think PBR is 100m for me 'cause my eyes suck :(

PS I hated having some of the "brainiacs" tell me what MOA was all about....Talk about talkin over someones head, sheesh! For my purposes all they had to say was a ~1" circle at ~100yds/m :rolleyes: and leave out all the lines and angles from the barrel crap :rolleyes:

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