Why We Don’t Teach Point Shooting

POINT SHOOTING VERSUS SIGHTED FIRE

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WHY WE DON’T TEACH POINT SHOOTING

 

by: B. D. Pruitt

 

Point shooting was popularized at the turn of the 20th century. Those of you familiar with the names, Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate, should be familiar with the tactics advocated for by all three. The spirit of their argument was correct: We need to teach students combat shooting, not target shooting. Target shooting tactics simply weren’t working for officers involved in gunfights of the day. Unfortunately, advocating for unsighted point shooting was a regression in tactics. Even gunfighters of the Old West argued that sighted fire was always preferred – especially when you’re life was at stake.

 

Two primary arguments have kept point shooting alive as a valid firearm tactic long after it should have died a respectable death. One, it’s faster than using the sights. Two, individuals don’t see their sights in a gunfight anyway, so why use them? When examined thoughtfully, however, these arguments aren’t very convincing…

 

Let’s tackle argument one…speed. Right out of the gate, we see that this is a valid argument, at least on its face. Yanking a gun out of the holster and pressing the trigger is certainly faster than taking time to index the sights on target – even if you’re taking time to use the body-index method taught by Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate. Examined more thoughtfully though, we find this tactic lacking.

 

We’ve all heard the adage, “you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight.” Speed is but one factor in a gunfight. Speed must be balanced with accuracy. The body index method of point shooting might work well on a square range, with a smooth, flat walking surface, and few obstacles to navigate. Once we step off of the nice, square range however, it becomes increasingly difficult to use any sort of ‘indexing’ between the body and pistol as we navigate real world obstacles. We’ve seen time and time again in officer-involved shootings where officers have missed their target at extremely close range (mere feet) because they failed to use the sights. I know personally of one officer who missed a violent assailant from a measured six feet away using point shooting tactics. Luckily the assailant chose to surrender even though he hadn’t been hit. The statistics are telling – failure to use the sights results in misses far more often than hits.

 

But what about speed?? How much speed do we have to sacrifice in order to balance accuracy with speed?

 

Police departments who train using a flash sight picture against departments who teach point shooting have shown staggering results: Officers who use a flash sight picture hit their targets four times more often than those who point shoot. Average first shot times were less than one-tenth of a second slower (for those who use a flash sight picture).

 

Read that again. Less than one-tenth of a second separates a hit from a miss. How long does it take for you to fire a second shot if your first one misses? The best shooters in the world take around a quarter of a second. I could continue the logical progression from here, but I hope you can see my point. It’s the same point made in the quote above. You can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight. So, why not take that extra ‘less than a tenth of a second’ to use your sights. A fast hit beats a faster miss any day. “Speed is fine, but accuracy is final.”

 

Onto the second argument. Some instructors – ones who teach target-focused shooting – insist that, due to the fight or flight response, individuals will focus on the threat during a lethal encounter and never use the sights. So, why train someone to use the sights?

 

They’re correct in their observation that an individual will focus on the threat when threatened. However, just as we train fighter pilots to train past the threat-focus response so they can keep their jet in the air, just as we train martial artists to train past ‘instinctive’ responses, we can train shooters to transition their focus from the threat to the front sight.

 

It’s not that difficult. But, it is a trained response. Luckily, for the student, it doesn’t require years of practice to gain this response, even under stress. It simply takes a conscious effort in training by the student to transition focus from the target to their front sight as the firearm is presented toward the threat, and an insistence from the instructor that the student train this way. Perhaps instructors don’t teach sighted fire because they don’t know how to evaluate whether a student is seeing the sights during a course of fire or not. Regrettably, this shortcoming on the instructor’s part cheats the student out of a proven life-saving tactic.

 

Another claim is that most gunfights occur in such poor lighting that the student will not be able to see the sights. The wonders of modern science and technology surpassed this issue long ago. No doubt, pistols built 100 years ago had vestigial sights at best, and seeing them in poor lighting was an exercise in futility. Today, pistols are equipped with extremely easy-to-see sights, and the available aftermarket options solve any possible sight issues the shooter might have. Today, the argument should be that if you can’t see your sights, you certainly can’t identify your target. We never shoot unidentified targets!

 

A final argument commonly seen, really isn’t an argument against using the sights. If the threat is so close to you that you can’t extend the pistol out far enough to see the sights, then we’re not point shooting. This is contact shooting, or extreme close quarters shooting, and uses completely different tactics from point shooting. Many defensive courses don’t cover contact shooting tactics as time, safety constraints, or lack of instructor knowledge don’t allow for it. This is unfortunate as most gunfights occur within this range and the student should understand and be able to use contact shooting tactics. Regardless, contact shooting is not point shooting.

 

There you have it. Using the sights in a gunfight can be learned, it is absolutely possible to see the sights in a gunfight, it balances speed and accuracy, and it is a proven life-saving tactic. The sights are not merely a cosmetic attachment to the pistol. Use them!

Moving Forward With Firearms

We’ve got our front sight on target, our trigger slack is pulled to the wall, and the slightest pressure breaks it. Bullets flying all around us and we are about to take out the bad guy. This scenario plays through the minds of so many people who come in to the store searching for a firearm. When people incorporate a firearm in to their defensive strategy they always do one thing. They picture themselves saving the world. Right, Bruce Willis, Nakatomi Plaza, that sort of thing. The problem we see is the failure to envision the training involved with real life self-defense.

There are people out there in the gun world posting about all the great and wonderful things they found at the recent 2017 Shot Show in Las Vegas Nevada. The aisles were cramped with the enthusiasm of what’s new in the shooting world. Coupled that with the energy and excitement of celebrities brought a renewed life to the gun world. Recently I was asked if I had found anything worthwhile at the Shot Show this year. As I am asked this question I am reminded of the conversation I had with the fellas at the Strike Industries booth. He was explaining what was new in the world of Strike and what we can expect in the coming year.

This is what I came away with after talking with Strike Industries. Constantly moving forward in anything is so important.  I looked at this business and watched how companies like Strike Industries never settled for contentment.  This company came out with some great products early on with their AR parts and accessories. Once they had come out with these great parts did they stop there? Absolutely not, the company kept improving on what they had already accomplished. They kept moving forward. So many times we see other companies find that one hit wonder in firearms and they think they have made it, only to find out shortly down the road they hit the end and the company falls apart. We no longer hear from them or we put them back on the shelf to collect dust. The same can be said with firearms training.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO FIREARMS TRAINING

Training can mean different things to different people.  Training, for one person, may mean simply coming to the range weekly and putting rounds on a paper target. Someone else may consider training as a minimum of 8 hour classes where you run and gun and if you haven’t spent at least 500 rounds in that day then you are doing a disservice to your country. Whatever our skill level, training should consist of actual trigger time. Spending some time shooting to improve what you already know.

There are two different types of training, maintenance and improvement training. Maintenance training is what I refer to as spending time on the range maintaining or sharpening our current skill level. This is important in keeping our skill level up and crisp. This requires constant attention. It takes spending our time on the range pulling the trigger.  Some time ago a gentleman came in to the store and started talking about his training he had accomplished throughout his moments as a shooter. During the conversation the subject of maintaining our skill level came up. I was surprised at his response when he stated he didn’t need that anymore because he was content with where his skill level is at. “How is that possible?” I thought to myself as he stood there. There is always something we can learn when we spend the time sharpening our personal skills.  He failed to remember that shooting is a perishable skill. It can fade over time.

The next is improvement training. This is where we seek out personal instruction from a competent instructor and we achieve a new shooting skill to adapt in to our shooting routine. This is important for all shooters, at all levels of competition. If we sit down at night and say to ourselves we have reached our top training level, we have failed ourselves.  When we look at the greats who have entered the realm of shooting, they all have one thing in common. They never settle for contentment. They have always moved forward in firearms training.

 ‘MOVING FORWARD’ WITH FIREARMS TRAINING

Where do I go now with my firearm? We hear that question all the time in the store. The short answer, get training. It has never been acceptable for someone to carry a firearm and NOT know how to work it properly. I have always loved the statement that Amateurs work on it until they get it right, but professionals work on it until they can’t get it wrong. That is our challenge to everyone who pulls the trigger. We challenge you at all skill levels to find something to improve on and work on it until you can’t get it wrong. Become that professional with your firearm. Until we see you on the range, be safe out there. That is all.