If you pay attention to gun stuff on the web, every now and then you’ll encounter a debate about “point” shooting. The exact definition of “point” shooting varies considerably depending on who is talking about it so discussing things can get sticky as people argue about completely different pictures of what’s happening in their heads. For our purposes I’ll define “point” shooting as any form of shooting that does not involve deliberate use of a weapon’s sights.
The human being is a remarkable entity capable of adapting to perform complex tasks requiring mental calculation and physical manipulation of objects or machinery with incredible precision. Let me illustrate:
That’s Ayrton Senna, one of the legends of Formula 1 racing, driving a Honda NSX around the Suzuka circuit in Japan. The video footage shows Senna operating the throttle, clutch, brakes, and steering of the car (sometimes using all three pedals at the same time with only two feet) at speeds so high they’re not even visible on the speedometer. As one of the people who helped refine the handling and performance of the NSX, he had lots of seat time in the car in addition to having spent the majority of his life (Senna started racing as a young teenager) racing them. In all of that practice he had gained the ability to make seemingly instantaneous mental calculations and physical manipulations to keep the car under control. Several times in the video you see him snap the steering wheel to the right even though he’s in a left-hand turn. He’s correcting an oversteer condition that, if not corrected, would spin the car.
Shooting requires a similar blend of mental calculation and physical manipulation that, with practice, can be refined to a high level. Someone who spends time seriously working on their presentation to a typical shilouette target will eventually reach the point where they could draw and fire a shot blindfolded and still hit the target just due to learning the body mechanics of a proper draw. Some point shooting systems try to capitalize on this, teaching a set of body mechanic dependent movements to index on a target…to wit:
At about the 4:30 mark in the old FBI training film above they cover some point shooting techniques that depend on body mechanics and positioning to aim the gun. That looks pretty good in the video, but note a few things – the shooter is stationary, the target is stationary, and the target is also huge. There are other “point” shooting techniques which involve bringing the handgun up into the line of sight much like you would do if you were pointing your finger at something. These tend to be more easily learned and more accurate than the techniques that rely on body mechanics, but they also tend to have the same limitations. They are often demonstrated from static positions on fairly large static targets with abundant light.
“Point” shooting demonstrations wouldn’t look nearly as good if it was dark and both the shooter and intended target were moving. Yes, yes…a number of very serious people back in the day taught point shooting for combat application. They did so for a few crucial reasons:
- Equipment – Look at the sights on a 1911 manufactured in 1941. They are difficult to use in perfect conditions and utterly useless in low light.
- Training – most of the people toting handguns back in the day didn’t have an abundance of time or resources for training and a “point” shooting system could be taught quickly enough to get them a shot at hitting a man-sized target somewhere at speed.
- Lack of alternatives – Given the limitations of equipment and that the only other training of the day was centered around bullseye drills conducted at a pace much slower than gunfights tended to happen at, anything that taught speed and violence of action with a handgun was to be greatly preferred.
In other words, they used it back in the day because it was the best they could come up with given the constraints they had to work under. Today we don’t have the same constraints. Rex Applegate didn’t have the benefit of tritium sights, lasers, or red dot optics. We do…so while the very concept of sighted fire in low light was impossible in Rex’s day it’s something absolutely possible in ours.
Point shooting is a limited technique. In some circumstances it may be the best that one can do, but most of us aren’t forced to be in those circumstances. So why not use something more precise, more efficient, and that has proven to deliver better results under stress? Why not use the sights? Note that people who do this stuff seriously at the highest level from LAPD’s D platoon to Super-Squaders like Jerry Miculeck and Rob Leatham uses their sights…perhaps because they get a better result that way.
So will you if you use the sights. It doesn’t take anything away from those hard dudes from way back when to acknowledge that we have better equipment and training today than they did. They accomplished a lot despite those limitations so my hat’s off…but I don’t want to be stuck with their shooting techniques any more than I want to be stuck with their medical or communications technology. We have better options now…so let’s use them.