As a longtime NRA Certified Handgun Instructor, I preach front sight focus almost as much as I do a smooth press and surprise break of the trigger. These are the things that have the greatest impact on accurate, effective shooting, in my experience. The front sight must be the center of visual attention because the human eye is capable of truly focusing on only one object at a time (a particular distance from the eye). In the case of handgun shooting, proper front sight focus should render both the target and rear sight at least slightly blurry.
This concentration on the front sight is essential as a shooter’s skills improve. However, once a shooter has become competent enough to reliably place rounds on target, a different approach should be tried. I am referring to something called “point” or “instinctive” shooting. Basically, it’s shooting without using the sights at all.
Many newer shooters may wonder why this would ever be something to strive for. The short answer is because the real-world conditions associated with a brutal fight for life makes the body and mind do some wild stuff. One of these things is threat fixation. Our eyes often focus solely on the threat or threats that face us and not on that really important front sight. If we are smart and choose to do some good force-on-force training with Simunition® or other marking rounds, this point will be driven home very quickly. Deliberately acquiring the front sight in a fight is very much a learned thing, not at all natural.Point shooting can be remarkably accurate. I consistently make headshots on IDPA targets out to about 10 yards using this method.
Ideally, as gun owners we all become immunized to stress through this kind of training and always default to use of the front sight. However, most of us have to deal with the fact that we’ll never be as good and experienced as the dudes in the Tier 1 military units. One way to give yourself an advantage in this department is to use a true fighting handgun sight system with a very prominent front sight. My personal favorite is XS 24/7 Express Big Dot sights. There is no doubt that these large, bright front sights increase the odds that sights are used when everything is going wrong around you. For this reason, these ride on all of my dedicated carry guns.
Point shooting can be remarkably accurate. I consistently make headshots on IDPA targets out to about 10 yards using this method. There are other shooters who can use it much more effectively. When first starting to practice this, you must alter some things to ensure your rounds are impacting the berm of an outdoor range or the back wall of an indoor facility. For example, shoot at only close distances and err on the side of placing your target lower on a stand or backing instead of higher. This will ensure that rounds do not go over berms or into ceilings if there is a learning curve associated with accurate point shooting.
One good way to begin your practice is to place your paper or cardboard target at about three yards from your shooting position and then tape over your rear and front sights on your handgun (electrical tape usually works well). With all you’ve got, visually focus on a very small portion of the target while pointing your muzzle at that same thing. Slowly and deliberately press the trigger until you get that all-important surprise break. You will likely be amazed just how accurate you are right out of the gates. Continue this slow practice process until you are confident you will hit your target every time.
Increase your distance to five yards and do the same thing. As your confidence grows, begin to put multiple shot strings onto the target using the same method. If your groups are too small, speed up. If they get a little too big, slow down. In this regard, it’s exactly like firing with sights. The single most important aspect to good point shooting seems to be the intense visual focus on a small target within the target. It does go back to the age-old line, “Aim small, miss small.”
I am becoming an advocate of introducing shooters to point shooting fairly early in their learning process. This is primarily due to the confidence it inspires in the person if a defensive situation ever does arrive. The usual response from a student is along the lines of, “Wow, if I can shoot this well without sights, it really tells me how much better I am capable of shooting with them. I really do feel that I can get the job done if I’m ever forced to act in self-defense.”Remember that you “own” every bullet that leaves your muzzle. This is important to keep in mind anytime, but especially in a self-defense situation in public.
Remember that you “own” every bullet that leaves your muzzle. This is important to keep in mind anytime, but especially in a self-defense situation in public. Most self-defense shootings occur in isolation, where it’s just the good guy against the bad guys. This stands to reason when taking into account the fact that most violent criminals don’t like witnesses.
However, in the rare instances where there are innocent parties in the area, every effort must be made to acquire a good, clean sight picture before shooting. It is apparent how difficult this is when viewing footage of law enforcement-related shootings in public—sights are often not used. This is all the more reason that consistent sight use should be a consideration we drill into our minds on a daily basis as daily carriers.
While we always need to keep the exceptional situations in mind, training for the more likely instances is smart. This is why practicing point shooting is something I strongly encourage. At the least, it inspires confidence and will help good people prevail more often when the fight is brought to them.