Front sight focus or point shooting: Which is better?
Thursday, October 04, 2018
This is a can of worms that divides the shooting world almost as much as the 9 mm vs. .45 debate.
No matter which side of the debate you’re on, you’ve probably got some valid points…and some that aren’t so valid.
So, today, we’re going to dig into which of these is the best…for self-defense, for competition, and for fun.
But first, let’s define terms.
Front sight focus shooting is where you focus on the front sight and let your target and rear sight get blurry. Sometimes, it’s called "aimed" shooting, but that’s not always accurate.
There are several names for "point shooting," including "threat focus shooting," "combat focus shooting," "instinctive shooting," "hip shooting," "unsighted shooting" and more.
This is where you point the gun at the target and aim without using the sights. This may be because you’ve rocked the gun right out of the holster and can’t see your sights or because you’ve gone to full extension and haven’t shifted your focus back to the front sight.
Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of each method…
Benefits of Sighted Shooting
- If you have proper sight alignment and sight picture and don’t disturb it while pressing the trigger, you’re guaranteed to hit your intended target at self-defense distances as long as the sights haven’t been monkeyed with.
- Sights are on the gun for a reason…and they have been for over 100 years. If you didn’t need them in a fight, they wouldn’t be installed on military and law enforcement guns in the first place.
- Once you learn sighted shooting, you can pick up any sighted-in gun in the world and, using proper trigger manipulation, shoot it accurately on the first shot.
- Once you start calling your shots (knowing where your sights were pointed the instant that the round was fired) you will know where your rounds hit without looking at the target.
- When all else fails, you can always come back to sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger press.
- In a fight for your life, if you’ve trained correctly, you’ll be able to use your sights.
- Because it’s based on step-by-step fundamentals, most shooters can become accurate with aimed shooting quicker than with point shooting.
- After extended gaps in training, you’re more likely to be able to make first aimed hits without a warmup period.
- It’s more forgiving of a bad or inconsistent grip.
- It depends primarily on the visual system for aiming.
Benefits of Point Shooting
- You’ve been pointing since birth…everyone knows how to do it already.
- Some law enforcement courses of fire that demand sighted shooting are actually created so that you must point shoot or have done tactical vision training to meet the time demands.
- Point shooting can be faster because you don’t have to wait for the shape of the lens of your eye to change and your focus to stabilize.
- Point shooting can be faster if you’re wearing bifocals, trifocals, or progressives.
- It can be quicker to teach a shooter trigger control with point shooting than with sighted shooting.
- Point shooting is oftentimes faster if you’re cross-eye dominant, have visual suppression issues, or convergence insufficiency.
- In a life and death situation, it’s natural that you’ll be focused on the threat and won’t be able to bring your focus back to your front sight.
- As Colonel Cooper, founder of modern gunfighting with a pistol, said, “Pointer fire is not as hard to learn as sighted shooting, once you realize it’s range limitations,” and “its mastery is often the difference between life and death.”
- Uses other-than-visual aiming systems, like the vestibular and proprioceptive systems in addition to the visual system.
Drawbacks of Sighted Shooting
- It’s not natural to shift your focus away from a threat.
- It may not be possible to change the shape of the lens of your eye under stress enough to see your front sight clearly.
- With bifocals and trifocals, it’s difficult to tilt your head to where you can see your sights.
- If you have to wear readers to read, you may not be able to see your front sight clearly anymore.
- It can be slower than point shooting.
- It’s harder to do if you’re cross-eye dominant or have visual suppression issues.
Drawbacks of Point Shooting:
- As Colonel Cooper also (roughly) said, “Nobody’s born with a natural ability to point a gun.”
- If you hold a pistol in your hand correctly and your trigger finger is indexed on the slide and pointed towards your intended target, your muzzle will be pointing low. If your finger is on the trigger and you straighten it and point it towards your intended target, your muzzle will be pointing high. The only way for your finger to be pointing where you want to shoot is if the webbing of your hand is so far down on the back strap of your pistol that it’s even with the trigger.
- Point shooting takes more rounds to master.
- Point shooting is a more perishable skill.
- Point shooting is more dependent on a consistent grip.
- Depends on the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems being calibrated and synchronized.
- Incredibly difficult to switch to sighted shooting under stress to make a precise shot if you haven’t done it in training.
Which is better?
Here are some of the answers people give…
"front sight for distance, point shooting for close up"
"front sight when you’ve got time, point shooting when you need speed"
"front sight for precision, point shooting for combat accurate groups"
Each of these highlight the problem with the “front sight vs. point shooting” debate.
All of the problems with each technique and all of the answers to the question, “which is better?” presume that it’s an either/or answer.
This leads to all sorts of problems…
If you go all-in for front sight focus, you unnecessarily cap your speed.
If you go all-in for point shooting, you unnecessarily cap your accuracy.
If you try to straddle the line and do some of both, it takes more time and more ammo than necessary.
But what if there was a way to seamlessly integrate point shooting and sighted shooting?
And what if practicing both together was quicker and more effective than doing either on their own?
You’d get the speed and close-up performance of point shooting and the precision and dependability of sighted shooting.
You’d get all of the benefits of both approaches and none of the drawbacks.
Sound like a pipe dream?
Done correctly, point shooting helps pre-align your sights for sighted shooting and they mesh seamlessly.
Done correctly, every single sighted shot validates and enhances your ability to point shoot.
Which is why this approach is quicker than either point shooting or sighted shooting on it’s own.
It’s the exact training technique I used to shoot the fifth fastest recorded IDPA classifier time in the world with a subcompact (20.8), even though I only practice a few minutes a day, a few times a week and I didn’t know we were going to shoot the classifier until I showed up for the match.
And it’s exactly what I teach in the Draw Stroke Mastery course.
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