How Far Is Point Blank Range?

Often, we use many phrases in English without paying attention to their original definition. For example, your favorite sportswriter may say that the local team "decimated" their opponents, to mean beating them thoroughly and unambiguously. However, as Your Dictionary notes, the word refers to only eliminating one-tenth of something. So for example, if a bad storm "decimated" a farmer's crop, the word literally means that they only lost one-tenth of it.

Another such phrase is "point blank range," which describes a gun being fired in very close proximity to its target. For example, in February 2022, a Louisville, Kentucky political candidate was shot at "point blank range" but survived (per Yahoo News). Days earlier, in Louisiana, a man was shot at "point blank range" in what appeared to be an ambush, as KLFY explained.

However, unlike a meter or a foot or some other standard unit of measurement, "point blank range" isn't set in stone and depends largely on the type of weapon and projectile being used.

Point blank range depends on the weapon

When you aim a firearm or a bow-and-arrow at a target, you are accounting for a variety of factors. Simply lining your weapon's sights directly at your quarry and firing will work sometimes, but the further away from your target you are, the more factors such as the wind, and gravity happen to come into play, as Mental Floss notes. 

For example, at a certain distance from a target, gravity will pull the projectile downward, so the shooter will have to aim slightly above it to account for the droop. However, at "point blank range," you're so close to the target that you don't have to account for gravity when you fire. So, a weapon's "point blank range" could be a few feet, or a few hundred feet, depending on the type of armament used. 

As is often the case with English phrases, the origin of "point blank" is lost to history. However, as Mental Floss notes, it may have come from the verb "point" and the French word "blanc," meaning "white." According to Phrases, the center spot of an archer's practice target used to be white, so the original definition of "point blank range" may be the distance at which an archer could hit the "white" without accommodating for the arrow's drop in trajectory.