The Great Sight Debate
September 24, 2010
Another TAKE on the aimed-fire vs. point-shooting QUESTION.
The author think the key to quick, sure sight acquisition is using a contrasting front sight such as this HiViz overmolded model.
I recently attended the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association conference, looking for new ideas or a fresh perspective. After returning, my head was swimming with thoughts and ideas regarding use-of-force subjects.
Most everyone who reads this column is either in law enforcement, the military or is concerned with their personal defense and reads what they can to help better prepare in the event they must defend themselves against an attack. This month I'm going to throw out a few thoughts to the readers in the hope that I will not only generate thought on your part but also some discussion. Dissenting points of view are always welcome because they assist others in arriving at a decision.
The point-shooting versus sighted-fire debate is still a hot topic among police trainers. What I can't understand is why one must be chosen over the other.
I have been studying armed conflict for more than three decades now, and I have come to the conclusion that a solid defensive firearms training program should incorporate both sighted fire and what is more accurately called "target-focus shooting" (as opposed to "point shooting"). Though some may not want to admit it, the two are not really that different.
For the record, I am not advocating the hip shooting that many equate with point shooting because I am convinced that this does not work beyond contact distances. What I am talking about is the gun brought up to the eye/target line and fired from an extended-arms position.
The only real difference is the point of focus. Within 20 feet or so, target-focus shooting works very well, but once this range is passed, the shooter should try to reaffirm kinetic alignment by referencing the front sight. If the gun is delivered to the target properly and consistently, missed shots are the result of poor trigger control--not whether the shooter made use of the sights.
I believe the "felt" aspects of shooting are grossly underrated. Let's face it; the gun is delivered to the target via a coordinated movement of the upper torso, arms and hands. All the sights do is confirm what the upper body should have been doing anyway.
This delivery is done by feel, and if this felt action is consistent, the bullet should hit the target whether the sights are used or not. Now, if the sights can be used to confirm the delivery, that's good, but it's the kinetic aspects that will get the job done.
Even the late, great Jeff Cooper understood that "the body aims, the sights confirm." What I do think aids in using the sights for confirmation is to have a bright, contrasting front sight. While black on black is fine for competition, when fight stress is introduced, being able to see a color that does not blend with your opponent can be a real asset.
The new Pro Glo sights from Ameriglo are a solid step in the right direction. These combination Luminova/tritium sights combine a bold orange sight face with a traditional tritium bead for a sight that can be easily seen in a wide range of environments.
Another setup that deserves a look are HiViz's overmolded fiber optic sights. These sights will glow in any level of light (one should not shoot in total darkness) and are protected from breakage by a tough polymer coating.
I look at sighting a combat handgun differently than many others do. I like to cover what I am shooting at when using a pistol, much like what is done when an Aimpoint is used on a rifle. The way I see it, this simplifies the sighting process, making alignment more likely to occur.
The Laser Option
Speaking of sighting, there is more interest in laser sights than ever before. I have long resisted this trend, but I have decided that I was wrong. When I was first introduced to these devices, I watched factory-sponsored instructors hip-shoot at 25 yards or shoot from between their legs while bent over--stuff I thought was irrelevant if not plain silly.
In addition, I saw many students come through my classes who would spend a great deal of time trying to perfectly align the red dot on the target only to mash the trigger when they had it right where they wanted it. Obviously they thought the laser turned the bullet into a guided missile.
What I have found works best is to adjust the laser dot so that it is right above the front sight in the eye/target line and think of it as the front sight lifted up from the slide and transposed on to the target. I have found that by making this small adjustment in how a shooter thinks, the laser sight becomes very effective. Again, it is the same as using an Aimpoint red dot sight on an AR-15.
When used accordingly, the laser sight becomes a useful tool for combat pistolcraft. Does it solve every problem? No; there are still concerns about it being on at the wrong time or being unable to use it due to dead batteries or a broken switch, but once again, it is up to the body to get the gun on target.
Sights or lasers only reconfirm what the body should be doing anyway. It's up to all law enforcement instructors to make sure that their students/officers understand the laser sight's true capabilities and how to use these tools properly.