How we train is just as important as how often we train. Defensive shooting requires techniques that are fundamentally different from those used by casual or recreational shooters. This is one of the reasons why I include basic point-shooting training in all of my concealed carry classes.
Now, just to be clear, I am not saying you should abandon sighted shooting. I’m simply saying that there are very sound reasons to spend a portion of your training time learning and practicing point shooting. Why? Because it works.
Colonel Rex Applegate, the founder of the OSS (which became the CIA) and world-renowned expert on handgun self-defense, once told a convention of law enforcement professionals (1998):
“Point shooting, whether one-handed or two-handed, is the employment of the handgun in close-quarters combat without the use of sights. It is the only battle-proven method of self-defense that works under actual high-stress combat situations.”
Colonel Applegate was right — and for a number of reasons. When human beings are suddenly faced with a serious threat to their physical safety, they experience a whole cascade of physiological and psychological effects.
Emotion Changes Everything About Shooting
Blood pressure increases dramatically, and heart rates jump to 170 beats per minute or higher. Your body also dumps a huge dose of adrenaline into your system. Adrenaline not only inoculates you against pain but also accelerates the speed of your perception and reaction times, which makes everything outside of you seem to be happening in slow motion (tachypsychia).
Adrenaline also produces a sudden increase in strength. You’ve all heard those stories of even a slightly built person who amazingly lifts a heavy object off of someone pinned under it.
The Eyes Have It
But it is the change in your vision during a traumatic encounter that makes point shooting something to consider. You will get “tunnel vision” (visual exclusion) as your brain focuses on the source of the threat. Survivors of gunfights report that not only did they not see their sights, but most also didn’t even see their own guns!
Even more importantly, scientific research has shown that under such extreme stress, human beings are unable to focus clearly on anything closer than about 4 feet (which means that you will be physically incapable of focusing clearly on your gun’s sights).
In the simplest terms, point shooting involves stance and focus. The ideal stance is a very slight crouch: the knees unlocked, leaning forward from the waist and using an isosceles grip, and arms equally extended, elbows slightly bent. The gun should be held just an inch or two below the natural line of slight.
Now the most important part: Keep both eyes open and focus on the target, not the sights. This comes easier to bird shooters, who are used to keeping both eyes open as they track a usually fast-moving pheasant, duck or other bird.
I employ a “jump-start” technique with new students. I start by having them stand only 6 feet from the target, firing a moderately quick string of five or six shots. I then move them back, just a yard at a time, and it isn’t long before they are shooting quickly and effectively at typical self-defense ranges (5 to 7 yards).
Obviously, I encourage you to get some professional instruction where possible, and point shooting will take a fair amount of practice. But learning to point shoot just might save your life.
About John Caile
John Caile is an NRA Firearm Instructor Certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home. He has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. John was Communications Director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John is a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine and has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television. He has been frequently published in the press. John lives in Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights.