Some MORE Thoughts on Point Shooting, Modern Technique, and Instinctive Shooting

I read John’s article about Point Shooting vs. Sighted Fire just before he posted it to the blog here. I must admit that I probably have not given it all as much thought as he has, but thought I would throw in my two cents.

Schools of Thought

It seems like the two schools of thought out there are to use sights AT ALL TIMES, or to use Point Shooting (and different people seem to have their own ideas about what point shooting is. For me, it’s not the classic “shooting from the hip” style so much as what would probably be called “indexed fire,” where I am pointing out at eye level but target-focused rather than front-sight focused) when needed/possible. Like John, I have attended courses with various instructors who have belonged to each school of thought. For me, this all remains an area with which I have not come to any firm conclusions.

I have heard those who advocate for the “classic” sighted fire say that your sights should be used for EVERY shot you take. This sounds reasonable (ever hear the expression that every bullet has a lawyer attached to it?), until you realize that you might be involved in a situation where you have to shoot from a retention position. At that point, you WILL be firing without using your sights! Trying to extend the gun to obtain a quality sight picture could be a fast ticket to being disarmed.

On the other hand, we have the point shooting proponents. I don’t think many would argue for point shooting at 50 yards, but they might say that out around 7-10 yards is “reasonable.” I don’t live in a place where I can practice point shooting in an empty field or the like, so I don’t get to practice it much with live ammo. But I do practice it fairly regularly with an airsoft gun that is an excellent copy of my favorite self-defense handgun, and I’m good out to the full length of my garage (about 8 yards). I also had the pleasure of taking the same force-on-force class with John and found that my accuracy in that class wasn’t bad at all. I shot a number of good groupings on the chests of my opponents from about that same distance, usually while moving.

Good for You and Bad for Them

As law-abiding citizens, there is another factor at play. A bad guy can “spray and pray” at me because he is unconcerned with collateral damage. I don’t have that “advantage.” My rounds must hit their mark. As good as I’ve so far proven to be with point shooting (I must confess that most of what I know has been instinctive rather than “taught” to me), I am not confident enough with it to guarantee, to the greatest extent possible, that I will get my hits.

I believe it was in a Suarez International class where I first heard the term “any hit on the bad guys is going to be good for you and bad for them.” I guess this makes sense, but one doesn’t have to search long to find cases of guys who got shot five times, ran down the street, and took a bus to the hospital. While I suppose the shots did their job of stopping the fight, I would rather not rely on an incapacitating shot to a bad guy’s toe to end the fight.

It was in the Sentinel Concepts Critical Handgun Employment II class (see my AAR here) with Steve Fisher where he shared what sounded to me like a bit of wisdom. Not satisfied with the accuracy of the students up to that point of the class, he said to us, “What’s a miss?” A student replied, “A potential lawsuit.” Fisher replied, “Not just that. Even more important, each miss gives more time for the bad guy to keep doing what he’s doing.”

Movement: Yea or Nay?

I would love to write separate articles on point shooting vs. sighted fire AND movement vs. stand and deliver, but to me they are inextricably linked. Like John, I have taken some courses with Suarez International, and I liked that they teach that the best way to win a gunfight is to not get shot. I think most people would agree with that. But the path there is different for different people. For students of S.I. doctrine, not getting shot would mean “busting off the X” while drawing and then doing some sort of point or index shooting – while moving fast – to put the bad guy down. Others advocate a quick sidestep with the draw, and then sighted fire on the bad guy. Still others would advocate a lightning fast draw and then the sighted fire, but with no movement. I’m not sure if there are any other schools of thought (turn tail and run really quickly away?), but I think that about covers it.

I like the S.I. doctrine and it works well in a some environments. However, in my opinion, it does NOT hold up in any area with geography/geometry that does not afford such mobility, nor in any sort of a crowded environment (mall, busy street, etc.) . It might save the practitioner, but it might result in innocent bystanders catching rounds from the bad guy or from misses from the sprinting point-shooter! This might fit in with the “pirate” mentality of those who crowd Warriortalk, but I am not comfortable with the idea of running and point shooting in a crowded place, nor do I believe that the answer is more training in point shooting. Even at relatively close distances, I am more comfortable with sighted fire in such a scenario.

Indeed, look at the following photo from the Suarez International “Force on Force” class that John and I attended (AAR here):

Having gained space, I've drawn and am already shooting.
Having gained space, I’ve drawn and am already shooting.

In this photo, I’m being chased by two knife-wielding bad guys. I was running flat out to avoid these guys, drew, and am clearly point-shooting here in a more classic, gun-below-eye-level form. Did I get my hits? Yes! How many times did I miss? I have no idea! And therein lies the quandary.

Paul Howe (an excellent instructor who I cannot recommend highly enough) wrote in an article some years ago that, in all of his time in Special Operations, he never shot while moving. He said that, when he moved, he was moving fast enough to not get shot, and in so doing was moving too quickly to fire accurately. Accordingly, he advocates stopping before shooting (with sighted fire, needless to say). Jeff Gonzales, who acknowledges that shooting and moving is very do-able at a certain pace, also admitted in class (see AAR here) that if you’re moving fast so as not to get shot, you’re not going to get good hits on an adversary.

Natural Response

None of us knows how we will respond to a situation like those we typically consider. Does movement with associated point shooting go more in stride with our natural response? Or does stand and deliver get the hits more quickly and therefore end the fight while bad guy sprays and prays? Can I stand there and “deliver” while bullets are whizzing past my head?

I don’t know that I’ve managed to shed any light on the topic(s), but hopefully at least put some food for thought out there. As I have said before, my self-defense journey is not complete (it probably never will be), but the road of knowledge is paved with many different stones.

***What are your thoughts on point shooting vs. sighted fire, movement, etc.?  Please comment and let us know.***

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