Point-blank selection isn’t what you’re imagining.
Point-blank is almost often used to describe a gunshot fired from a too-close range in action movies, TV cop shows, and even the evening news, which is not quite close enough to be a contact shot (where the muzzle hits the body).
The concept is a little different among ballistics experts and firearms enthusiasts, though.
Point blank is the range at which a given combination of weapons/ammunition can be fired at the middle or critical area of a given target and strike it without the shooter having to adjust the weapon’s elevation to account for the gravity effect on the trajectory of the projectile.
As soon as a projectile weapon – whether a gun, bow, arrow, or cannon – is fired, gravity causes the projectile (bullet, arrow, cannonball) to start dropping immediately. Within the point-blank range, this drop is insignificant and invisible. However, any more distance between the shooter and the target and the drop must be changed, usually by shooting above the goal.
Depending on the weapon type, the ammunition being used, and the target being fired, the point-blank range can vary. If you know your rifle/bullet combination’s ballistics, you can adjust your aim up or down to compensate. It is harder than it sounds because you also need to know the range to the target. You have to aim high at very close or very long distances, and you have to shoot low in between.
The origin of the phrase is a little questionable. Two hypotheses that crop up consistently: One is that during the Late Middle Ages, it was invented in France and is derived from the verb point and blanc, the French word for “white,” which applied to the distance at which a French archer might point the arrow directly at the center of a practice target-which was typically white-and strike it without adjusting for the drop of the arrow.
The other interpretation is that it may not come from the archers of the period, but cannoneers, and refers to the plumb-line location on the quadrant of a gunner (an early targeting aid) when a cannon was horizontal: the unmarked zero, or point-blank. Archers used to practice by firing arrows at targets whose centers were painted white in the 16th century. Thus, point-blank range denoted the distance from which an archer could easily hit the central white spot at the target by merely ‘pointing’ at it.