See target, engage

     When it comes to launching bullets under extreme stress, there are two major schools that debate the qualities of their platform. One advocates point shooting, the other advocates aligning the sights before pressing the trigger. In reality...


     When it comes to launching bullets under extreme stress, there are two major schools that debate the qualities of their platform. One advocates point shooting, the other advocates aligning the sights before pressing the trigger. In reality both are necessary skills for the law enforcement official facing a close quarter battle.

     In the school of point shooting, the shooter is taught to shoot without using sights. This skill is usually credited to Col. Rex Applegate, who was influenced by W. E. Fairbairn's and E.A. Sykes' techniques for close combat shooting.

     Applegate was a close quarter combat expert who trained allied forces during World War II. Fairburn and Sykes worked for the Shanghai Municipal Police between World War I and World War II, and both men were recorded in more than 200 close quarter confrontations.

     Point shooting is a product of real-life experiences of close quarter encounters using the knife and gun. It accounts for the instinctive crouching that people assume when shooting under high stress. Advocates of the method know that aligning the sights takes time and quick, efficient fighters tend to prevail.

     Other schools which teach combat shooting usually have students place their front sight on the target and engage, combining three elements of shooting: platform, trigger control and sight alignment/sight picture.

     Arguably, point shooting sounds a lot simpler than it is. But in actuality it requires knowledge of body mechanics, careful firearm selection and plenty of practice. And, it is not a universal concept. To some, it means firing from the hip, just as the gun clears the holster. To others, it means getting the gun up to the sighting plane (the imaginary area fixed between the eyes and the target) and firing.

     Fairburn and Sykes originally intended the concept of point shooting to be relative. If the target is close and quick, a hip shot is the answer. The transition continues to raising the firearm to the centerline of the shooter, until the firearm is in the sighting plane.

     Going back to our dilemma on which is better, the extreme end of the continuum is aimed, sighted fire. Point shooting from the hip is the fastest, but theoretically the least accurate method, followed by point shooting in the sighting plane, then "picking up the front sight," and lastly, deliberate aimed fire. In order for officers to prevail in a firefight, they should be proficient in all of these.

     The greatest limitation to point shooting in law enforcement will always be policy and liability. In areas where point shooting training has prevailed, the severe liability of a missed shot was never followed by a platoon of attorneys eager to empty the local government coffers. Any victim of the errant shot will easily win the lawsuit lottery with aimed fire. The agency with a training policy for un-aimed fire would be entitled to the mother of lawsuit jackpots.

     Realistically, if the close quarters shooting scenario is recognized for what it is, all combat shooting is really sighted shooting. The close quarters use of sights is body indexing based, using the eyes and gun position, not the eyes and alignment of the sights.

     Officers can train in point shooting, provided it is the policy to understand that the shooting is situation-driven. First, it must be recognized that precision and accuracy is relative. A timely, somewhat accurate shot will always beat an aimed target accurate shot in a combat zone.

Changes in distance

     As distance increases, other factors change. The shooter who would surely land a bullet in a clinch has a lesser hit probability from farther away. Distance also increases the potential for reactionary gap. Thus, the need for aimed fire increases as distance increases, and the potential for point shooting accuracy decreases as distance increases. The continuum is three dimensional. The "degree of emergency" or threat level has to be factored in. Thus, the equation is not distance driven, although distance is a factor.

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