It all makes sense now

At Gunsite, I was talking to another one of the writers present about the whole “point shooting” thing.  He’s a mulitple Gunsite attendee, having taken their 250 course as well as a few other classes, and as such he’s a big believer in “watch the front sight”.  Obviously, my background is in competition shooting, where “watch the front sight” is also the key to victory.

During the conversation, we had one of those moments where angels descend from on high, and the crown all knowledge briefly passes over you head, because the whole “point shooting” thing finally made sense.  Point shooting was really laid out as a tactical doctrine by a couple of dudes in the first half of the 20th Century as a method for fighting with a pistol.  The original advocates of point shooting pistols also believed in using the sights if you were fighting with a rifle.  So why then did they say to not use the sights on pistols?

Have you ever seen the sights on a pistol from the 1930s?  They barely even exist on a lot of guns.  The sights on a military issue 1911 from back then were among the best sights in the game, and they’re not even close to what I’d consider an adequate sighting system.  So it actually makes sense that for close range combat shooting you’d adopt a school of thought that taking the time to acquire the itty-bitty-teensy-weensy sights isn’t really worth the effort, because the sights were just awful.

The issue of course is that times have changed, and we have modern, quality sight systems for handguns that allow the shooter to rapidly pick up the sights and place accurate hits on target just as fast as someone using a point shooting method of looking over the gun.  Teaching the flash sight picture isn’t even that difficult for most people, especially if you’re using a gun set up with Express sights.

What I’m saying is that now, I finally understand the point shooting guys.  And I want to welcome them into a new world, a world of awesome, easy to acquire, fast, accurate sighting systems.  No longer will you be slaves to an 80 year old shooting system, but now you can be free!  Free to aim, free to accurately engage targets past 5 yards, free at last, free at last!

21 thoughts on “It all makes sense now”

  1. I am a firearms instructor for my police department, and when I teach people to shoot, I try to break it down into two different basic theories.

    The first is marksmanship shooting. This is generally for distances 10 yards and farther. Based on FBI stats, this accounts for somewhere around 20% of all officer involved shootings. If an officer is shooting from here, they have time, distance and hopefully cover on their side. They have the time to concentrate on sight alignment and trigger control.

    From 10 yards and in (and for the other 80% of police shootings), however, we teach what we call “target focused shooting”. A guy named Lou Chiodo taught several seminars here in my area, and he made me a believer.

    Lou retired from the California Highway Patrol, and also served several years in the USMC as an officer. He completely revamped their handgun courses from the old marksmanship only theory to target focused shooting, and their hit rates went up dramatically.

    One of the biggest selling points to me was when he started talking about the effects of combat stress. When you are confronting someone who is trying to kill you, stress becomes a factor, right? We get tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, we lose fine motor skills and our heart rate goes through the roof. I don’t think anyone would argue those points.

    Lou contended, and I agree, that there is no way in hell that your eyes can watch a threat and pick up a little 1/8th of an inch sight under combat stress. I have spent quite a bit of time doing force on force training with simunitions and none of the times I shot did I ever have a sight picture. Even when I was playing the bad guy and wasn’t under stress.

    For competition shooting, sure thing. Wait for that flash sight picture, but in combat at ranges less than 10 yards? Align your body properly, stare right at your target’s center of mass, get the gun up to eye level, squeeze the hell out of the gun and work that trigger like mad. (That is a little bit overly simplistic, but that is the nuts and bolts of it)

    And even competition shooters, with their .20 second split times between shots. Are you really going to tell me that you are picking up a sight picture before you decide to pull the trigger the second time? Sorry, no freakin way that happens. Scoring hits on those multiple fast following shots is based on good stance, good grip and muscle memory, not the front sight.

    And although I wouldn’t advocate point shooting with a long gun at 25 yards, when you are within 10 yards and you need to get a shot off in a hurry, it also works very well.

    Only hits count, and we want to get our hits on target faster than the other guy. I really don’t care if the hit is in the 10 ring or the 7 ring, as long as it’s a hit.

    Anyways, there is my little rant defending point shooting. I want the guys and gals I work with to be gunfighters, not simply good target shooters, and I can’t state strongly enough that point shooting is a critical skill that every gunfighter should have.

  2. I shoot 0.25 second splits in competition, and yeah I do see the sights. There’s no “waiting” for the flash sight picture. Body is indexed properly, gun comes up and interrupts your line of sight on the target, you see your front sight on the target and the shot breaks.

    It’s all quite simple.

  3. It’s interesting because both Enos and Leatham talk about body-index shooting which is more in analogous to “coarse aimed fire” which is I think what Lou’s “target focused” shooting is akin to.

    Enos calls it “sight type 1”. Leatham said somewhere that he just sees sights “superimposed” on the target.

    Hell, McGivern talked about “superimposed” sight picture back in “Fast and Fancy”.

    I think the issue is one more with where the focus lies. For example, Caleb, when shooting a Bill drill do you see a crisp, clear front sight for each break or is it a more fuzzy, superimposed sight picture?

    For example, I’ve been thinking a lot about this coarse focus since I shot CM06-03 “Can you count” last night. I realized that I only saw the sights in the A-zone of my targets on the first shot, and they were fuzzy as hell too.

  4. Lastly, Enos’ forum had a neat exercise: Sights or Target

    The real gist is a few posts down, where Enos states:
    And this is really hard to explain… After some time practicing that way, whether shooting in practice or the match, I’d have this almost eerie sensation that the dot was “in the way.” It’s like the dot was preventing me from seeing the target as good as I wanted to see it. I know that doesn’t make any sense but that’s what it felt like.

    be

  5. Depends on how fast I’m shooting. As close range, it’s all about th Enos sight type 1 – the sight posts are superimposed over the target in sorta-kinda alignment and the trigger is pressed. It’s the same thing actually as the “flash sight picture”.

  6. I guess I should rephrase my question: Do you continue to see the sight superimposed after you’ve started your string?

    I don’t. I tend to see it for the first shot in each string, then, the target sighting sorta takes over – I don’t even really see my sights anymore.

    This is even more pronounced with transitions: by the time I’m transitioning targets, I’m not even looking at the target I’m shooting anymore; Kinda like this picture of Ben Stoeger on his vid’s section: he’s not even looking at the target as he’s breaking the last shot in a string…

  7. I guess the answer to that depends entirely on what I’m shooting, how I’m moving, and at what range. In a steel match, I’m always
    on the sights. IDPA, not as critical for a shot at 10 feet.

  8. I’ve got to start shooting steel – sounds like helluva time and different than what I’m used to!

    Have a good weekend! Good luck tomorrow!

  9. Okay… Now that you have made fun of me with your subsequent post… (I’m not really pissed, ,just making fun)

    There is no possible way that you see your sights for a shot second shot at a .25 split time.

    Say it takes .1 second for the gun to recover from the recoil from the first shot. You are trying to tell me that you wait for a sight picture and then make a conscious decision to shoot, and then break the shot in .15 seconds? I call bullshit on that. No freakin way.

    When you press the trigger for the first shot you are already committed to that second shot if you are getting it off within .25 seconds. Sight picture has nothing to do with it. Muscle memory, stance, grip? Okay… But sight picture? No freakin way.

    Tell me this… If you were to do a stage of fire where the second shot wasn’t predetermined, like maybe the target disappeared after the first shot. Are you trying to tell me that you could pull .25 splits if you didn’t know if the second shot was needed or not?

    Shooting steel plates? Sure thing, get that flash sight picture, but someone shooting at you from 7 yards away? Get your alignment, focus on your target and work that trigger. If you want to win the gunfight anyways…

  10. Technically, I wasn’t mocking anyone in specific, but rather all the guys who hype up their “combat tested shooting system”, when they themselves have never been in a gunfight.

  11. Are you trying to tell me that you could pull .25 splits if you didn’t know if the second shot was needed or not?

    Lots of people pull really fast splits when they don’t know whether a second shot is needed or not. This is why bad guys take thirteen hits to the torso (seven in front and six in back) and the wall behind them absorbs the other four rounds before slidelock forces the Good Guy to stop shooting his Glock. He’d already made the call to go cyclic before he even broke the first shot.

    And then we get to argue on the internets about why it takes thirteen rounds of 9mm to stop a bad guy! 🙂

  12. Cops have records for being bad shooters. However gangs members have been studied and use point shooting and they are fast and accurate.

    It really is practice at deadly situations and gangs are more practiced.

    The other group the CCW armed citizen has had remarkable success in drawing faster and getting a fatal hit under stress conditions. So I do think the muscle memory for CCW is the key. The probably do not acquire the sights but have practiced enough to know where they point and shoot is correct.

    Heinlein once said that it is important to get the first shot fast. That it rattled the other person so you can make the second shot accurate. That made a lot of sense to me

  13. I try to do low light practic at least once a month. All of my carry/defensive firearms wear Crimson Trace grips specifically because I do understand that you may not always be able to see the sights.

    In fact, I don’t even diagree with the general thesis that point shooting is effective at extremely close range. In matches, there have been times where a target is so absurdly close that you could in fact index your body and whack the sucker without using my sights.

    My problem is that you don’t need to teach people to point shoot, because if you teach a person the proper grip, stance, and how to use the sights, then they will already have everything they need to “know” how to point shoot. When you “teach” someone point shooting, you’re effectively saying “here, let me teach you this thing that you could do just as well if you practice proper stance, sight picture, and trigger control.”

  14. “Lots of people pull really fast splits when they don’t know whether a second shot is needed or not. This is why bad guys take thirteen hits to the torso (seven in front and six in back) and the wall behind them absorbs the other four rounds before slidelock forces the Good Guy to stop shooting his Glock. He’d already made the call to go cyclic before he even broke the first shot.”

    I, for one, am a strong advocate of what I call “burst fire”. I’m not planning on shooting to slide lock, but I’m also not simply firing one shot or a “double tap” and then stopping to assess the situation either. My plan is to rapidly fire several shots at the target while I myself am moving, preferably to cover.

    If the bad guy who needs to be shot is standing in a schoolyard full of children, then I will concentrate on marksmanship shooting, of course. I need my sights for that, and will be placing each shot as carefully as I can.

    So I understand the need for sighted fire. I understand that you can perform sighted fire while shooting rapidly (not at .25 second splits though), but being able to “point shoot” is a critical skill, and is one that every serious gunfighter should be good at.

    So, to get back to the original point of the post, there are many things to worry about in a close-quarter gunfight, right? I would think the priorities should lie with moving, getting the gun out and into proper alignment quickly, and then getting as many hits in on the target as quickly as possible.

    If telling yourself you are getting a sight picture for your third and fourth shots within a second helps you stay accurate, then by all means, go ahead and use that technique. I think you are doing others a disservice though to tell them that they should be concentrating on that when there are much more important things for them to focus on at that point.

  15. Sorry Caleb, although my previous post appears after yours, I started writing it before I saw yours posted..

    “My problem is that you don’t need to teach people to point shoot, because if you teach a person the proper grip, stance, and how to use the sights, then they will already have everything they need to “know” how to point shoot. When you “teach” someone point shooting, you’re effectively saying “here, let me teach you this thing that you could do just as well if you practice proper stance, sight picture, and trigger control.”

    My answer for that would be that training to point shoot is very important, for a couple of reasons. The first being that it is highly likely people will shoot that way when placed under combat stress.

    My police academy training was over 15 years ago, and was done in a more “traditional” manner. Weaver stance and sighted fire was emphasized. The first time I shot at a “bad guy” in a simunition scenario? I dropped my center of gravity and was in a perfect isosceles stance as I emptied my gun at the guy four yards away, never once even peeking at my sights.

    When I went through the “target focused” training 5 or 6 years ago, it was like a lightbulb went off. I was thinking that I have been taught a lot of things throughout my career, but these were the skills I needed to survive a gunfight.

    I makes perfect sense to me that we should train for how most people react under combat stress. We should be very comfortable shooting that way. I wouldn’t want to be thinking “I have to find that front sight” when stress has given me such tunnel vision that I can’t see something 1/8 inch wide.

    So, having confidence in the technique would be helpful. After going through a lot of training (probably 10 full range days worth), I got to the point where we would fold paper plates into 1/4 size, and I could move and hit that little thing from 7 to 10 yards away. If I was missing, it wasn’t by much. The first day of class, they would use electrical tape to tape off the sights of the gun too. It was very disconcerting at first, but as you learn to trust your stance and alignment, it became a non issue.

    So I would encourage you to not dismiss point shooting as irrelevant. At the very least, you should look at it as another tool to keep in your tool bag, another skill that might keep you alive someday.

  16. Like I said, if you teach someone proper stance and mechanics for sighted shooting, they’ll already know how to point shoot. “Proper stance” meaning isosceles, by the way. The whole point of combat isosceles is that it works with the body, not against it like Weaver. The use of the Weaver stance is where I break from the modern technique – there is really no good reason to use Weaver unless you’re not able to physically get into a proper isosceles stance.

    I never said that point shooting was irrelevant, just tha it’s a waste of time to teach it instead of proper sight picture. The reason point shooting is successful for people is that it really emphasizes body mechanics – which is something most shooters suck at. But a shooter that’s been taught proper isosceles stance and presentation (most competition shooters) is already going to know 99.9% of “how” to point shoot.

  17. Cops have records for being bad shooters. However gangs members have been studied and use point shooting and they are fast and accurate.
    It really is practice at deadly situations and gangs are more practiced.

    This is a half-truth… Yes, cops do a have a record for being bad shooters, but some of that is the dynamics of the situation. Most often the “bad guy” is the aggressor and has initiated the threat. The defender is then, behind.

    The practice of tactics is important here…

    As for gang members studying shooting, I think you’re referring to the FBI report – yes they practice, but they also have a non-complacent attitude and are focused on the killing, which counts for a helluva lot.

  18. My police academy training was over 15 years ago, and was done in a more “traditional” manner. Weaver stance and sighted fire was emphasized. The first time I shot at a “bad guy” in a simunition scenario? I dropped my center of gravity and was in a perfect isosceles stance as I emptied my gun at the guy four yards away, never once even peeking at my sights.
    When I went through the “target focused” training 5 or 6 years ago, it was like a lightbulb went off. I was thinking that I have been taught a lot of things throughout my career, but these were the skills I needed to survive a gunfight.

    I think this is a problem with the bureaucracy of the most departments – they keep the same curriculum for the rank-and-file so that the emphasis is all on perfect sight alignment. Is this an insurance thing? Are your higher-ups actually trying to kill you? I dunno.

    About splits…

    When the target is close, I don’t think you need to dwell on sights, however when the target moves out, they become more important.

    Witness that most excellent shooters will do a Bill Drill at 7 yards in ~2 seconds with all A’s or -0’s. Figure .8-1 second for a draw and the first shot then .2s splits.

    Move that target out to 15 yards and they’re running the drill in ~3 seconds.
    Figure a 1.1 second draw and first shot, and that gives you .35s splits. Remember, all A’s or -0’s.

    The difference between seeing the sights and not is probably that .15s delta.

    What is more important here, at least I think, is that subconsciously, you’ll know when things aren’t “right” and will try to correct.

    A few comment ago I said that I shot CM06-03 on Thursday and don’t recall seeing my sights past the draw and the reloads – Perhaps I’m really seeing the sights, but don’t don’t even know it… Perhaps I don’t need to know it because it is “correct” and I don’t need to expend thoughts on thinking about it.

    Conscious thought is always slower.

  19. There is a common fallacy that many point shooters emphasize; they say that people don’t remember seeing their sights means that they obviously didn’t use their sights.

    I tend to disagree with that. As an example, I do not “remember” seeing my sights while making a 35 yard shot a steel plate yesterday, but I clearly used the sights…because I made a 35 yard shot a steel plate yesterday.

  20. There is no possible way that you see your sights for a shot second shot at a .25 split time.

    Since I was the only one at my local range, I asked the owner if I could shoot targets in a hurry and do some holster draws. He declined on the draws, but said I could bang away all I wanted… So, I got a chance to run some Bill Drills tonight at the local range.

    As I mentioned a few comments back, I shot the wicked fast classifier CM06-03 and, while I think I did great for where I’m at now, it reaffirmed my need to practice shooting faster… My string times were ~5s for Draw, fire 5, reload, fire 5. One string was 5.2 and the other was 4.9. Just shy of a B class performance.

    Anyway, I ran my first Bill after not having shot it in a while and noticed that I was shooting comfortable .28s splits and seeing my sights for each shot.

    I sped it up and ended up getting to .25, still seeing great flash picture…

    I know I’ve got to let go the “pulling of the trigger”, but at this point, I just can’t pull it any faster…

    Interesting that I could see the sights pretty well though… Exactly as Enos describes: like looking through your rear sight and front sight, seeing the target.

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