What’s the first thing you learned when you first began to shoot handguns? Watch the front sight—right? Wrong! In a deadly force confrontation, you won’t have time to acquire a good sight picture. Your opponent won’t be standing facing you twenty yards away. He’s likely to be within six to ten feet of you. His aim is to part you from your money, valuables, car or even your life, and your job is to stop him, using deadly force if necessary. The shooting method you should be using is called, Point Shooting.
Point shooting is sometimes given other names: reflex shooting, instinctive shooting, or reactive shooting. The method has been known and used since the earliest recorded use of firearms, but has been largely ignored because the methods taught were flawed and ineffective.
The ‘FBI crouch’, used since the 1920s, was one of the worst examples. In this, the gun was held in a one-handed grip a couple of feet below eye level and a foot or so to the right or left, depending on which hand was used. The weak hand was brought up and held across the chest, presumably to act as a shield. Shooting this way is little more than a party trick; it can be made to work, but only when shooting at static targets at fixed distances.
Point shooting is used every day by shotgunners. They use it successfully to hit small, moving targets without using the sights. Why does this work so well? It’s because the gun barrel is close to the line of sight. The shooter looks over the barrel, with both eyes open and focused on the target.
This can also be done with a handgun. The gun is held in a two-handed grip, than thrust forward at the target and held at eye level, with the shooter looking over the sights, and focusing on the target. If necessary, shooting can be done using one hand only, using the same method.
So, why bother with all this when we already know how to shoot, using the Isosceles or Weaver methods already? There are several reasons why we don’t want to look at the sights. First of all, the human eye can only focus on one thing at a time. Second, when you are busy focusing on the front sight, the target is blurred and out of focus. This is fine when you are shooting at targets, but when your target is a human, who is looking to rob or harm you, the last thing you want to do is concentrate on the sights. Instead, you should focus on the threat, to see what he is doing.
FBI statistics tell us that most gunfights take place at night. Unless you have night sights fitted to your gun, you won’t be able to see the sights anyway, so you won’t be able to focus on them. However, you will be able to see your target and if you have the correct grip on your gun, you will get the hits.
If you have trained yourself to acquire the front sight before shooting, you may find that your trained reflex won’t allow you to shoot in circumstances where you can see the target, but not your sights. This is the type of situation that can get you killed!
In a combat situation, you simply won’t have the time to find a good sight picture. You’ll see your opponent and realize that you have to shoot NOW! In practice sessions, you’ll find that all of your shots will be centered in the target at normal gunfighting ranges (between 6-10 feet). However, at distances beyond this, you will need to use the sights.
The Shooting Position
Whenever possible, you should hold your gun in a two-handed grip because this gives the most recoil support to the weapon. However, at the time of the attack, you may be carrying something and be unable to use both hands, so you should learn to shoot one-handed too.
The best shooting stance is the isosceles. In this, you stand facing square to the target, with your feet about shoulder width apart, about 10 feet from the target. Keep your knees relaxed; don’t lock them, as this will ruin their shock-absorbing properties.
Hold the gun in a two-handed grip, then move both arms straight out towards the target. You’ll find that the gun is right where you want it; aimed directly at the center of your target. Keep both eyes open! Don’t look at the sights; look at the target. After all, that’s where the threat is coming from.
Your arms, shoulders and back will form a very stable, triangular shooting platform with the gun’s barrel at the apex of the triangle. This may feel a little strange at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. You should practice getting into this position quickly until it becomes a conditioned reflex.
Start with the gun held at waist level, pointing straight towards the target, with your elbows locked firmly into your sides. When you are ready and have focused on the target, just push the gun straight out, as if you intended to stab it with the barrel. Fire the shot as soon as the motion is completed. This is the best time to shoot because the forward motion of your arms will help counteract the recoil when the shot is fired.
You can practice this technique at home. Pick a spot on the wall, always with an unloaded gun and assume the shooting position. You’ll soon find that the gun will point just where you are looking. After a few practice sessions, you’ll find that this will become instinctive.
You can also shoot one-handed, by simply pushing the gun straight out, as if you were pointing a finger. The shot should be fired just before your arm reaches full stretch. This will counteract the gun’s recoil and will allow for faster follow-up shots, if these are needed.
The Ready Position
This is the position you should be in if you’ve drawn your gun and intend to search your home or business for a possible intruder. The gun should be held in a normal, two-handed grip, just below chest height, with the barrel horizontal. This is comfortable and the position can be held for some time with you feeling any strain.
Don’t use Hollywood techniques, where the gun is held with the barrel pointing at the ceiling, as it’s highly unlikely that Spiderman, or a Ninja warrior is clinging to the light fixture! Also, don’t use the police method, where the gun is pointed at the floor. This is used because police SWAT units operate in teams and is for their safety.
With the gun held at chest level, you can walk around normally, and swivel from the waist, allowing you to look from side to side. When you are doing this, move your head as little as possible; always move your body. This way, your upper body is acting like the turret on a tank and your gun will always be pointing right where you are looking. Also, at close quarters, say 6-10 feet, you will be able to shoot from this position with a high expectancy of hitting your target.
Remember, FBI statistics show that most gunfights take place at an average distance of only 7 feet and are over in less than 10 seconds, so being able to achieve good center hits on your target from this position could help save your life.
Shooting in Confined Spaces
As we’ve seen, the technique of keeping the gun at chest level enables you to keep the gun pointed in the direction in which you are looking. Let’s now take a look at some of the problems that could arise if you are forced to shoot inside your home.
Many new houses, especially in the warmer states, are not very substantially built: they have no long, cold winters, and sometimes, not much in the way of rainfall. Therefore, they tend to be timber-framed buildings with sheetrock walls. Most handgun bullets will easily penetrate these.
…if you should be unlucky enough to be involved in a shootout in the street, get down behind the front wheels of a car or truck. From here, you will be protected by the engine block and wheel
Here’s one possible solution; instead of shooting straight on from chest level while you are standing, drop to your knees and engage your target from a lower angle. If you should miss, or if the bullet penetrates your opponent, the bullet isn’t going to travel horizontally through the wall and possibly injure a family member or an innocent party. From your knees, you can then roll to cover and shoot from a different position, or get back on your feet and appraise the situation.
Another benefit is that, with your elbows being held close to your body, you have more control over the gun, and if your attacker does manage to get within arm’s reach, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to take your gun from you.
There are two types of cover: soft cover or concealment; and hard cover. Going for soft cover can be something like hiding behind the drapes; you certainly can’t be seen, but the drapes won’t stop a bullet or a knife. Hard cover is something you can hide behind and not be seen, yet will still provide excellent bullet stopping capabilities. Indoors, the mattress of a bed will reliably stop bullets, as will a shelf full of books (try shooting at a big-city phone book one day).
Finally, if you should be unlucky enough to be involved in a shootout in the street, get down behind the front wheels of a car or truck. From here, you will be protected by the engine block and wheel. If you’re really street smart, you’ll take cover behind someone else’s car!
[ Tony Walker is President of SAS Training, Inc. in Arizona. He teaches regular defensive handgunning classes with his wife, Vannessa (who can shoot better than him!) and he is the author of numerous magazine articles. Tony has just published his first action thriller, Snides, and has also just completed a sequel, Pilgrim’s Banner, which will be published later this year. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his web site www.johnpilgrimbooks.com to learn about his books, all of which feature characters, John and Sally Pilgrim. ]