The following guest article was written and submitted by John Veit
We welcome a variety of points of view on the subjects of shooting and marksmanship. Test them objectively on the range and let the results fall where they may.
Use Of Sight Shooting In Close Quarters Gunfights — Myth Or Fact?
An article by: John Veit
Sight Shooting has been taught for use in combat for the past 100+ years. So, to question whether or not it is used in close quarters gunfights at this late date, seems to be ridiculous.
Many say that they have used Sight Shooting, or that they know of others that have used Sight Shooting in armed encounters, and that they got hits.
And an NYPD study of over 6000 combat cases found that aiming was employed in 20% of the cases. As the distance between the officer and opponent increased beyond close proximity, the aiming or sighting ran from using the barrel as an aiming reference to picking up the front sight and utilizing fine sight alignment.
However, in 70% of the cases reviewed, officers reported that they used instinctive or point shooting. It was used for a variety of reasons: the close proximity of their adversary, rapid escalation of the incident, poor lighting, or the need for the swiftest possible reaction. No sight alignment was employed.
And in 10% of the cases, officers could not remember whether they had aimed or pointed and fired the weapon instinctively. NYPD officers were taught Sight Shooting. Also, officers, with an occasional exception, fired with the strong hand.
The study, which was published back in 1981, has been labeled old but relevant.
There is little hard evidence that Sight Shooting has been used successfully in gunfights. There should be hundreds to thousands of pictures and videos of it being used over the years, but they are as prevalent as hens’ teeth.
In a 2009 SureSight.com web article, this is what is said about the use of the sights in gunfights.
“It is an acknowledged fact that very few gunfight survivors ever remember seeing their sights at all during a life-threatening encounter. In other words, regardless of the amount of practice using the sights at the target range, the vast majority of shootout survivors are unable to see their sights when faced with life-threatening stress. One study found that when faced with stress, ‘93% of officers focused on the threat, not the weapon, and 88% of the officers resorted to binocular vision.”
And this is what the science says about our ability to see the sights.
In a close quarters life threat situation, our Fight or Flight response will kick in automatically to help us survive. And when it does, a number of involuntary and immediate physiological changes will occur. One is that the muscle that maintains the convex shape of the lens, which enables us to focus on near objects, relaxes and the lens changes to a flattened state. That allows us to focus at a distance, and things up close will be blurry.
Also, a deadly force threat drives the heart rate well above 200 BPM. So fine motor skills, which are necessary for precision shooting, and which deteriorate around 115 BMP, are lost to use and then some.
Point Shooting Used In Force Science Test.
In 2007, the Force Science Research Center published the results of a test designed to determine the shooting ability of 103 volunteers who were “new” to guns. Only a few had more than a passing exposure to sidearms, and over 1/3 had never fired a handgun.
After a brief safety review with red guns, they were given functional weapons with live ammunition. Those with no experience were allowed to fire half a dozen familiarization rounds to get the feel of sound and recoil but were not told how to hold the gun, except to grip it firmly and to avoid touching the trigger until the muzzle was safely down range.
Point Shooting Defaulted To.
An overwhelming majority of the test subjects used Point Shooting at all distances when firing rapidly, and almost all used 1-handed techniques at close ranges. At 5-7 yards and beyond, many shifted spontaneously to 2-hand stances, with an increase in hit probability.
Head Shots Made.
At close distances (1-3 yards), more than half shot at the head without being told to and had a very high hit probability with at least 1 of their shots. At 5 to 7 yards, many of the shooters directed fire at a bigger part of the body than the head. But still, a lot of shots hit in the head, neck, and upper chest.
Point Shooting = Speed.
A strong majority of the shooters fired all 3 rounds within 1.5 seconds. And an actual assailant could be expected to get a first round off even faster than the volunteers.
Point Shooting Is Quick To Learn.
Within a very short time, at least half the volunteers had a very good grasp on the basic mechanics of shooting. Some people just have a natural ability to pick up a gun and be able to control it. It was amazing how well many of these people could shoot with no training at all.
A Life And Death Matter.
Some say that Point Shooting is an advanced shooting method that can be learned only after extensive shooting practice. However, the test results refute that.
Point Shooting is quick to learn. But waiting to learn it until one is in an armed encounter, could be terminal.
The NYPD statistics say that 75% of gunfights occur at less than 20 feet, and that if you are going to be shot and killed, there is an 81% chance that it will be at less than 6 feet, and a 90% chance that it will be at less than 15 feet.
The only savings grace is that the mis rate in armed encounters is more than 80%. That means that for every five bullets fired at a target, four+ go somewhere else. So, unless you are having a very unlucky day, chances are you will not be in a gunfight, and if you are, you will survive.
But, regardless of the statistics, to not train students to Point Shoot at close quarters, is to set them up for failure in situations where there is the greatest chance of them being shot and/or killed.
And Point Shooting is not a bar to using the sights. If you can see and focus on them, and your hand eye coordination skills have not been lost to use, and there is time to use them, Sight Shooting can still be used.
There are various types of Point Shooting: CAR, FAS, QK, Quick-Fire, P&S, and others. Each is contingent upon a variety of things such as: stance, body index, gun grip, positioning the gun on your centerline, canting the gun, using a stiff arm and sighting along it, placing the muzzle on an aim point, placing the index finger along the side of the gun to aim it by pointing, etc..
Bill Burroughs, in his paper: Components and Considerations for Combat Shooting, says that “combat shooting is actually quite simple and anyone can learn it. In a span of less than two hours and fewer than 100 rounds of ammunition an officer can be taught this method and can reproduce it during periods of stress. Marksmanship levels are high inside the distances where the method was designed to be used – close quarters.”
The US Army in its Combat Pistol Manual (2003), says to use Quick-Fire Point Shooting for engaging an enemy at less than 5 yards and for night firing.
“Using a two-hand grip, the firer brings the weapon up close to the body until it reaches chin level. He then thrusts it forward until both arms are straight. The arms and body form a triangle, which can be aimed as a unit. In thrusting the weapon forward, the firer can imagine that there is a box between him and the enemy, and he is thrusting the weapon into the box. The trigger is smoothly squeezed to the rear as the elbows straighten.”
More information on self defense, point shooting, and closely related subjects can be found on the author’s web site: http://www.pointshooting.com