Pointers for point shooters

The debate about point shooting (a.k.a. unsighted fire or instinctive shooting) has always been crowded with opinions.  Some argue that shooters ought to practice unsighted fire, others suggest you should always look at your sights.  Some say point shooting doesn’t work at all and others admit that it may for the gifted but mostly makes poor shooters.

If this disunity amongst the “pros” makes anything clear, it’s that the truth about point shooting is complicated.  That stated, I do think there are a few important things that anyone serious about carrying a handgun for personal protection should know about point shooting.

You may not see your sights

In response to the extreme stress of a lethal threat, the body reflexively prepares itself for mortal combat on a chemical level and this change affects human sight.

Under stress we may have intensified focus on the person trying to kill us.  Part of this fixation is psychological, but it is also due to a physiological change that occurs within the eye during moments of survival.  We likely will also experience perceptual narrowing (or tunnel vision), making it difficult, if not impossible, to see anything to the left or right of the thing or person we perceive as a deadly threat.

The eye also changes shape, making it almost impossible to focus on anything up close.  So while you may hope to focus on your front sight post and make it crystal clear, in reality, your body may not allow you to do this.

Training can help if done right

The biggest problem I’ve seen with people training for point shooting is that many never actually mastered looking at their sights before trying to do without them entirely.  Of course, that creates a major problem.

Those who succeed at point shooting drills have watched their sights so often that when they raise their gun to shoot, the gun is already positioned where it should be.  In other words, while shooters may not actually have a focus on their sights, their sights are still aligned.

If you don’t look at your sights, you won’t hit what you’re aiming at.  Point shooting is not accurate shooting.  Period.  At it’s rawest, it’s a tactic meant to get you out of a lethal pinch, so to speak.  Unsighted fire won’t work at any sort of a distance and is never a sound option when a precision shot is needed.  In other words, the target should be pretty close when point shooting, and even then, the shooter needs to bring the gun up to eye level to get it right.

To continue on this point, point shooting should not be done often.  Regular shooting, with training and repetition, will build muscle memory and allow shooters to raise the gun to eye level where it needs to be.

Training suggestions

As mentioned above, the only way a hopeful point shooter can have any sort chance at control over the maneuver is through training. Here are a few drills that I think work the required competencies.

To start with, run a piece of black electrical tape across your rear sights and another piece over the front sight.  Hold it up to the eye, aim and shoot.  My guess is that a lot of you will be amazed at how well you can still hit the target. Now, refine this accuracy through training and by experimenting with your point of focus when shooting.  Drill:

1) Focusing along the slide of the pistol or the barrel of the revolver. Do NOT look over the slide, but rather look along it, kind of like how you would look down the barrel of a shotgun.

2) Shooting while focusing on the target (remember, the target should be pretty close and a human-sized silhouette).

3) Focusing about half way between the target and the muzzle.

Personally, I can see my sights when performing all three drills (sights not taped, of course) even though my focus changes with each one. I don’t see the sights perfectly, of course, but I see them because I keep them in line with my eye and the target.

Another exercise you might try (without tape over your sights) is a flash sight picture.  With a flash sight picture, you’ll see the front sight post inside the rear sight.  In reality your front sight post will be bouncing around a little, and it won’t be perfectly aligned, but that’s okay since with this type of shooting you will never be that far from your target.

There is another facet to point shooting that requires attention and that’s speed.  Since point shooting is only relevant to lethal confrontations, you should strive to simulate the real experience safely in your own training and that means shoot as fast as you can, too.  Remember, there’s a trick to doing that well.

Force-on-force scenarios using Airsoft guns or dye-marking cartridges can be an effective way to inject some speed and stress into your training regimen.  The more exposure you get to real time, dynamic training, the better prepared you’ll be when it comes to actual confrontations.  Just remember to practice getting a look at your sights during these exercises.

Finally, the best way to improve your skill at point shooting is to not spend too much time practicing point shooting and focus more on learning to shoot correctly, accurately and consistently and every time.  Developing these skill will invariably help you when you want to try some unsighted drills.

In closing if you need to make a precision shot, you’d better find your sights, focus on them until you can see them clearly, and then press the trigger smoothly.  After all, sometimes you need to make a perfect shot count like into the head of a hostage taker, and that won’t happen when you’re point shooting.

The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.