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...

Target focus considerations

     In order to train for close quarters shooting, officers must learn several aspects of their own limitations: How accurately they can point shoot, how quickly they can pick up the front sight, and where, in their own skill level, these factors overlap.

     It is unreasonable to allow shooters to train point shooting engagements at 15 yards. It is also unreasonable to train "slow fire" techniques at targets one can touch. If trainers are writing this into the training plan, the language should be "… distance reasonable to the degree and nature of threat …"

     The first skill to learn is target focus. Officers must see the threat and learn to concentrate on the area in which a bullet would most likely stop it. Officers must literally look at this area.

     Target focus is a powerful window to the subconscious. That is, a person's subconscious driven skill is much greater than his or her deliberate engagement. Occasionally, this manifests itself in the form of actual incidents where the shooter sees the greatest threat and shoots it. In rare occasions, people have shot the gun out of an assailant's hand. Regardless of how the shooter trains, target focus should be the primary goal.

Indexing the body

     When startled or threatened, the shooter will assume a crouched position. This Fairburn/Sykes observation led to training soldiers to shoot from the crouched position. Applegate's writings actually had the shooter take a step toward the assailant, thus indexing the body.

     Practicing in a crouch should encourage the handgun to the centerline of the body, from the point where it leaves the holster to its extension to the target. The timing of the threat dictates where in this plane the shooter will fire.

     Trainers should first have officers establish their natural point of aim. The natural point of aim is where the body will command the bullet if the eyes are closed. In fact, shooters test the natural point of aim by closing their eyes and assuming a good shooting index. After settling in this position, the shooter points at the target in their mind and opens his eyes. The index of the body will indicate the natural point of aim. Knowing where the body indexes will indicate where the body will command the bullet naturally.

     Most shooters in a crouch position will establish a natural point of aim, which puts the prominent hip bones more or less parallel to the target, so the hips form an isosceles triangle to the greatest threat, regardless of where the feet lay.

Choosing the right equipment

     If the gun can be brought to the sighting plane, the shooter must be able to "pick up" the front sight as it enters the plane. If time allows, the front and rear sight alignment should be consummated. The shooter should always focus on the target. The gun is brought to the line between the eyes and target, not the other way around.

     There are products out there specifically designed to convince the brain to "make sense" of the sight picture. Foremost is the Advantage Tactical Sight, which causes the shooter to align the handgun by completing a picture, with the tip of the picture on the target. This product encourages the brain to draw on the subconscious' desire (which is faster than conscious thought) to assemble patterns, like putting a puzzle together.

     The user's skeleton and muscles must maintain their alignment, especially the wrist. Range practice should include drills where the shooter maintains continual visual contact with a specific area of the target and a barrel parallel to the ground shortly after it clears the holster.

     The equipment that will give the most advantage here is the handgun itself. The better the gun's ergonomics, the better its "pointability." Applegate taught one-handed shooting that used the non-firing hand for balance. The goal of close quarter shooting should be aimed, two-handed fire with all other methods leading up to this goal. Guns that point will sit level in the hand when thrust toward the target. This will not always be the same gun for every shooter. It will depend a lot on the backstrap design and the size and shape of the hand.

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