Aiming with your body

There is a thread at The High Road discussing “point shooting” or shooting without using the sights vs. traditional aimed fire that got me thinking about some of the shooting and training we did at Blackwater.  To sum up the debate at THR, it’s devolved into the classic “Aimed fire is better/nuh-uh/yeah-uh” ad naseum that such conversations often turn in to.  That’s unfortunate, because there has been some pretty solid information offered by both sides of the discussion.

I’m of the school of thought that if I’m shooting at a distance any further than immediate contact distance, then I should probably be using the sights on my gun – Jeff Cooper and Todd Jarrett told me to use the sights, and I figure they’re pretty smart guys.  But Todd Jarrett also touched on shooting at close distances without using the sights.

As part of demonstrating the frangible ammo, we shot some big steel plates at about 2 or 3 yards.  At about the 10-12 second mark of this video Todd demonstrates firing from the close in retention position we were taught.  Notice the two handed grip on the gun, and how he keeps the pistol rigged in very tight to his side.

One of the objections to “point shooting” is that you’re not aiming the gun – when you use a tight retention method like what Todd demonstrates in the video, that’s actually not true.  Yes, your aim won’t be as fine as it would be using sights, but it’s more than accurate to hit a torso sized target at very short range.

The key is holding the gun tight into your body – to aim the gun, you simply square up your body to the target, and if your grip is correct the pistol will be pointed roughly at center mass.  Think of it like a World War I fighter pilot aiming his guns – to aim the guns he maneuvers the entire aircraft into position.  Where the aircraft is pointed, that’s where the bullets are going to go.  You could also use the tank turret analogy, but let’s face it, biplanes are cooler than tanks.

I’m not really going to address the whole “aimed fire vs. point shooting” debate per se, because as I said above I think that both have a utility.  I will admit by bias in that as a competition guy, I see more utility in using the sights, but I also understand that a gunfight or a self defense encounter is a dynamic event, and you may not be able to use your sights.  Aside, that’s why I thoroughly endorse getting a laser grip for your SD gun, but that’s a whole different post.

Characterizing point shooting as unaimed isn’t really accurate – by using a close retention position and your body as the guide to point the gun, you are in fact “aiming”, but it’s a much less fine point of aim than you could establish by using the sights on the pistol.


  1. Jeff Cooper said “The body aims the eyes, verify”

    Once you learn a natural point of aim, & proper grip, the eyes just tell you that you are there

  2. A LOT of LE agencies used to teach point-shooting as the way up close; as Bill Jordan wrote in his book, as distance increases you extend the arms. And with practice, it can be pretty damn accurate.

    Neither is perfect, both point-shooting and using the sights are valuable methods to have in your arsenal.

  3. When talking of point shooting I like to use the analogy of a fighting bull, the sort that the Spanish breed for the bullring. As the young bull grows he uses his horns for defense, and after a couple of years’ practice, he knows exactly how to use his horns, and where they will go when he moves his head, even though he doesn’t see them. Through training he has become an expert on using his horns, and he doesn’t have to see where they go to know that they are on the target. (Unscrupulous bullfighters know this, and will pay ranchers or other hirelings to shave the bull’s horns down a fraction, thus throwing off his aim).

    Same with the point shooter. Through long periods of training he and his weapon become one entity, so that even though he isn’t looking at the sights, his body knows when the gun is lined up on the target. It takes dedication and lots of practice ammo to get this good, however, which is why the typical cowboy in the Old West wasn’t a gunfighter.

    So for the typical gun user on a limited budget, the opportunity for excellence in point shooting is low, which is why the masses train with the sights on a gun. The person with sufficient funding and dedication can become an excellent point shooter. It’s like any other endeavor, and works on a bell curve.

  4. When an assailant is that close, where you can literally “reach out and touch someone,” aiming with arms extended is pretty much pointless.

  5. You have to pick a side sometime, Robb Allen. And when you do, I will write a long and winding internet post explaining in exquisite detail why your side is wrong. There will be accusations, recriminations, and bullet points.

  6. It’s interesting that McGivern’s style of “point shooting” was using the body to anchor the gun so that you could aim by body position…

    Very similar to CQB stuff today where body indexing is very important for sub 6′ engagements…

  7. Caleb, have you ever seen any of Rob Pincus’s videos? He teaches something similar to the Bill Jordan methodology mentioned above, but I’d liken more as nearly point-shooting up close, and transitioning to sights as you get further out. Of course there’s much more to it than that, but it does seem to be a valid methodology. It seems to me that if you’re at contact distance, it’s much more important to put rounds on target than to get all tied up in sighting. However, as the distance increases, you get that fraction of a second to aim, and you need it, since point-shooting is going to be inaccurate, except for the few who practice, practice, practice.

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