When I was still in uniformed patrol, I happened to be about a block away when another officer pulled into a restaurant parking lot just as two men were pulling masks over their face and getting ready to enter the restaurant. One had already drawn a handgun. When the suspects saw the marked car, they ran and immediately split up. The other officer chased the one who went east, and I saw the one who went north jump a fence into an apartment complex.

I gave chase and the suspect ran down into a creek, tripped in the mud on the opposite bank, and then flipped over on his back. It was night time, but the moon and a street light on a nearby bridge provided sufficient light for us to see each other clearly. The world slowed down for me as he reached into his waistband. I was approximately 30 yards behind him as I drew my pistol, brought it to eye level, and transitioned from focusing on him to focusing on the front sight. As I was pulling the trigger my subconscious screamed out to me that something wasn’t right. I focused back on the suspect and realized what he pulled out of his waistband was a cell phone. I believe you could classify being in a foot chase with an armed robbery suspect, alone, in the dark, and having to decide whether to shoot or not shoot qualifies as a stressful event. Yet, I was able to transition from target to sight to target for the simplest of reasons. I was trained to, and I had been through realistic force on force training that had made focusing on my sights instinctive.

I’ve spoken to a multitude of officers and armed citizens who have fired their weapons under stress. In one particularly relevant story, a rookie officer, still in his first few months on the street, was confronted by an armed suspect firing from behind a car door. The rookie had cover and was returning fire. In his own words, “I fired 5 to 6 shots very quickly, realized I was not being effective, and then slowed down and really concentrated on the front sight.” After the initial shock of being fired on dissipated, he was able to realize why he was being ineffective, fall back on his training, and use his sight to get good hits and survive the encounter.

Massad Ayoob relates similar conversations in this 2014 article in which he says, “I’ve lost count of how many gunfights I’ve studied where the survivor said something like, ‘I was pointing the gun and firing as best I could and nothing was happening. Then I remembered to aim with my sights, and the other guy went down and it was over.’”

John McPhee, the owner of SOB Tactical, confirms that it is not only possible to use your sights in actual gunfights, but it is key to your success. John, a retired special operations soldier with extensive combat experience from Bosnia and Iraq, has related to me that he was able to use his sights during stressful situations. In addition, when witnessing other soldiers shoot, they were obviously using their sights even if they had no conscious awareness of doing so. In his words, “Gun comes to the eye, shots are taken and gun is lowered. How does a guy bring the sight to his eye and not see it and… shoot perfect shots?” John also makes no bones that training to use your sights is imperative for success in combat shooting. “You have to train to see the sights every shot. When the time comes, you will do it so fast that the brain’s subconscious will do all this quicker than the conscious can even remember it.”

Read more:
http://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/cant-use-sights-gunfight/

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