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Old June 7, 2012, 04:11 PM   #1
Dave McC
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Aiming vs Pointing.....

A recent thread on this generated more heat than light. This shall not.

Here's my take, of course, YMMV....

A shotgun is as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife. HOWEVER, technique doesn't come in a"One Size Fits All" package.

When the targets are small, fast.closer and/or visible for only a moment, I point my shotguns. I'm aware of the barrel in my peripheral vision but I'M LOOKING AT THE TARGET. Experience tells me where the barrel needs to be.

Think clays, rabbits, birds and so on.

When the targets are large, slower, farther and/or dangerous, I use sights. I AIM.

Would I aim if charged by( to use a current case) a naked wacko cannibal loaded with some homebrewed pyschotropics?

I dunno. I can deliver a load of buck or a slug rather quickly with either system. And one doesn't have to be OCD exact with a shotgun, though one needs to know to shoot the thing. That's obtained by abundant and frequent practice.

Comments, questions, rants?

Discuss among yourselves, courteously....
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Old June 7, 2012, 05:03 PM   #2
Sigowner
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This is a serious request.....please describe the difference between pointing and aiming.
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Old June 7, 2012, 05:25 PM   #3
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Thank you for starting what hopes to be a less heated thread on a topic that seems to be very popular with the shotgun crowd.

Having a lot of shotgun experience from birdshot to slug, here is my definition of pointing vs aiming.

Aiming: aiming is a concious, deliberate aligning of the front and rear sight. If there is no rear sight, then the shooter will align the top of the barrel (rib) with the front sight. One will most likely close one eye to accomplish this goal, although few may use both eyes.

Pointing: pointing is much more instinctual. this is done with both eyes open and requires practice to be accurate with. (not that aiming does not).

We tend to want to point a shotgun during clay shooting or hunting moving targets. The reason for this is because shooting at a moving target requires you to "lead" the target, so for the most part, there can be no point of aim. with enough practice with the shotgun and instinctually knowing how much lead a target requires, we are squeezing the trigger when we think the shot will intercept the target. Because a shotgun produces a pattern, all that is required of the shooter is to get a piece of the pattern on the bird. Some patterns are wider than others due to the choke. None of what I mentioned above is all that precise as compared to aiming.

You will aim a shotgun when a more precise point of impact is needed. Most commonly, this is when shooting slug (but is also common with OO buck). Generally speaking, when you are using the shotgun more like a rifle, aiming is neccessary.

Overall, it is inaccurate to say that a shotgun never needs to be aimed. That might be true for a clay shooter, but is not true for a deer hunter.

Someone who shoots a traditional english longbow is pointing, and someone who is using the latest and greatest of compund bows with sights is aiming.

-George

Last edited by l98ster; June 7, 2012 at 05:30 PM.
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Old June 7, 2012, 05:44 PM   #4
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When I started shooting shotgun I got an excellent British instructor to get me to point rather than my long used aim of a rifleman or handgunner.Then I could hit the birds !!

There are three things in sighting -- rear sight , front sight ,and target . Your eye can't focus on all three .For rifle and handgun you focus on the front sight and line up the three points
For shotgun you focus on the target, and point.A proper shotgun is made to fit the shooter and mounting of the gun is always the same . Shooting at birds is a wonderful example of how good a computer your body is !!!
An exception with shotgun is the use for turkeys where you do sight and use rifle like sights.Combat sights are also found on police shotguns.
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Old June 7, 2012, 05:48 PM   #5
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l98ster's description is one of the best I've read. It won't be the end of this thread, but it should be.

I couldn't have said it better.....unless I said it first
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Old June 7, 2012, 06:08 PM   #6
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To me - its an issue best described ....as to whether a target is moving relative to my position ...especially hard to my left or right ...( then I point, and follow thru )....watching the bird ( never the barrel ) - feel the lead required - as the target continues to move - bang - keep focus on leading edge of the target - even as I follow thru ( matching the speed and flight of the target - whether clay or feathered).

If the target or intruder were advancing on me ...in a tactical situation ...probably more straight on toward me then I would be executing a shot with a shotgun ...more like aiming...with no left to right barrel movement...bang - recover from recoil - then a follow up shot as I come back on target - etc....( my eyes are primarily on the front bead of the shotgun - just like in handguns )..."Front sight", "Front Sight"...and while you're aware of the target ...focus is on the front sight ...so I would consider it aiming.

In both cases I shoot with both eyes open ....but I shoot with both eyes open even on Tactical Handgun drills too with my revolvers, 1911's etc.

So to me its a subtle difference between pointing and aiming .../ and how I react to execute a shot based on the targets movement relative to my position as I am firing.
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Old June 7, 2012, 08:07 PM   #7
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Good thread all around. I may be wrong but my understanding is that while it is best to point with both eyes open, not everyone can do that. For example someone with cross dominant eyes. In that case they still point, when shooting a flying target, but may do so with one eye closed. In a home defense situation should arise in which I have the time to aim, I probably would be best served to take it. Especially if we are only talking about a split second. I imagine the worse thing might be to get off a rushed first shot in a panic. While I am not a trained LEO or any kind of correctional officer, and neither have I taken a combat training course other then the rudiments way back in the Marines of the 60's, I have been there and its a lot of pressure. If I panicked I hate to think where I would be.
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Old June 7, 2012, 08:29 PM   #8
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Great post George! Very good explanations of pointing vs aiming.
Thanks for setting this one up Dave. I was reading the other post a couple of days back and wishing it could have been cleaner and here you've made it so.

I shoot clays and point shoot them but also noticed that my hits improved when I put a fiber optic sight on my Benelli. Keeps my eye stable I believe.
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Old June 8, 2012, 02:07 PM   #9
Dave McC
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Sig, if your focus is on the target, you're pointing.

On the sights, you're aiming.

George, good archery analogy. Good post also. Thanks.

And thanks to all. Let's see what generates....
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Old June 8, 2012, 02:50 PM   #10
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Understood and appriciated

Dave,
I fully understand the concept and use. When I point a shotgun, I can't really say that I see the sight but instead, the target. When I aim, I use the sights/optice. .....

Perhaps and extreme case in point, is my 1100. When I used it for upland and rabbits, I pointed and when I mounted my slug barrel, I aimed. I even change between trigger groups. One was my rifle, aiming group and the other, my shotgun group. I did a trigger job on my rifle trigger group. ...

Be Safe !!!
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Old June 8, 2012, 04:07 PM   #11
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I like and agree with the definition(s) for aiming and pointing. Personally, I have always been more of a "point and shoot" instinctive shooter but then I have never hunted turkey or deer with a shotgun. As for use in a HD situation I have little doubt that I would use the point and shoot technique. Using both at the local indoor range I found that even at 50-60 feet my impact using either #4 or 00 buck was about equal regardless of aiming or pointing. The really interesting thing to me is that I produce similar results with the my P220 at ranges of 20-30 feet.
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Old June 8, 2012, 10:12 PM   #12
Dave McC
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For those that poo-poo pointing, consider this.

Most decent game and clay shots can place a pattern on a rapid target inside 30 yards. For clays shooters, that means hitting a 4 1/4" disc moving at up to 55 MPH.

Anyone who can do that will have little trouble placing a load into the CNS of a hostile individual much closer and moving slower.

The CNS runs about 4" wide for much of its length.....
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Old June 9, 2012, 09:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
For those that poo-poo pointing, consider this.

Most decent game and clay shots can place a pattern on a rapid target inside 30 yards. For clays shooters, that means hitting a 4 1/4" disc moving at up to 55 MPH.

Anyone who can do that will have little trouble placing a load into the CNS of a hostile individual much closer and moving slower.

The CNS runs about 4" wide for much of its length.....
...

...too, I will add that for 'aimers' going quail or grouse hunting with experienced point shooters, plan on coming home with less game 9 out of 10 times.

Seems I remember a thread some time ago discussing point shooting pistols as well. If I remember correctly, that thread got a bit spirited too.

Point shooting or instinctive shooting is a technique that IMO, should be learned the same as aim shooting. There are scenario's in both hunting and SD that require both styles and both should be learned.

Had an instructor one time give a brief lecture on point shooting and one thing he said stuck in my mind.

Most people don't practice point shooting.

He went on to explain that most peoples shooting sessions go similar to this:

Buy your targets and ammo, pay for your range time, set your targets up and try to get a bullseye with every shot. After all, range time and especially ammo is expensive so we have to make every shot count.

The point is, learning to 'point shoot' efficiently was going to take a lot of ammo downrange with hits less accurate then aiming and an intimate feel/comfort of your weapon.

Many just aren't willing to spend the time or $'s to learn to point shoot well as they feel they are wasting ammo with the lessor hits.

Same with practicing the technique of aimed shooting to be a better shot, we need to practice the technique of point shooting to be efficient at both since real life SD scenarios may require either technique.



For those poo-poo'ing pointing(as Dave put it), what will you do faced with a BG you've got pinned down in your house with your light/laser(name your preferred illumination tool) and you suddenly have no illumination and cannot see your sights?

The expense of time/ammo learning point shooting along with the intimate knowledge of your weapon will be invaluable at that time.
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Old June 9, 2012, 09:20 AM   #14
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Quote:
Most decent game and clay shots can place a pattern on a rapid target inside 30 yards. For clays shooters, that means hitting a 4 1/4" disc moving at up to 55 MPH.

Anyone who can do that will have little trouble placing a load into the CNS of a hostile individual much closer and moving slower.
This.

Clay and field shooting requires ingraining multiple movements and skills, the most important of which is mounting the long gun in the same place and in the same way repeatedly enough that it shoots to POA without conscious effort.

And there is no way that such a skill set CANNOT have significant value across the spectrum of needs and uses.
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Old June 9, 2012, 02:34 PM   #15
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After all that's been said, I still have a question.

I understand that while aiming the focus is primarily on the bead or sights.

While pointing the focus is on the target.

What things carry over even though the focus is different? As in: is this given the same cheek weld, with only the bead showing /a little vent rib depending on your setup?

This is coming from a beginner to shotguns so I apologize for dwelling on the basics.

I suspect there is a difference in comparison to handgun point shooting - please confirm or refute: in handgun point shooting a main difference is that the firearm is not brought up into a "proper" shooting position. Either fired from the hip or arms extended below the line of sight. This would be equivalent to the shotgun not being shouldered in a standard fashion or the cheek not on the stock in alignment. But i suspect that the cheek weld is still supposed to be there so "pointing" may be different than a hamdgunner's "point shooting"
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Old June 9, 2012, 04:01 PM   #16
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As of right now my only real shotgun is a Mossberg 930 SPX. As you know, it has very good sights on it and since I bought it to complete my battery for HD, I use the sights, i.e. I aim. I've gotten quite good with it as well, with my chosen HD load. Fast-forward to a couple years from now. I am settled into my new house and plan to take up shotgunning games, which will require much practice, a different barrel or even a different shotgun, and a Trius Trap or similar. I will also be experimenting with what works for cross-dominant folks to make "pointing" a shotgun seem normal, because right now, I purely suck. At that time, I will be picking the brains of guys like Dave McC, who have mastered the shotgun despite their cross-dominance. But I am writing down all suggestions now, such as the translucent stickers and such. Good thread.
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Old June 9, 2012, 04:31 PM   #17
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I think we should develop and practice aiming and once that has been learned...move on to point shooting. Then return to mastering the basics.

Suppose we like shooting aimed shots as they are more impressive looking targets than the point shooting targets after we have added holes to them.

Now if making super tight groups is your thing. Rock on but don't equate it with good self defense shooting skills.

Crazy how much pride gets in our way in life.
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Old June 11, 2012, 10:30 AM   #18
dyl
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Cheek weld / alignment?

To bring this thread back to the top (because I've very curious about the answer):

Again, what parts are the same between aiming and pointing?
- Same cheek weld?
- Same shouldering of shotgun?
- Therefore the same "sight picture" although the focus is not on the sights in pointing?

In other words, is every physical technique the same except the eyes and mental focus are on the target rather than fixed on the sights?

It would help me understand the difference a lot better if someone could address this.
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Old June 11, 2012, 11:03 AM   #19
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Dyl,

If we are talking about a stationary target, then you are basically correct. The only difference would be your mental and physical eye focus.

If we are talking about a moving target (clay bird), then its a lot different. To hit a moving target, your barrel must be pointed in one direction, your eyes are looking at the target from another angle, and then everything is swinging to get everything lined up as the target moves.

If you are farmiliar with a skeet field: lets pretend you are on station 4, and ready to call for the high house bird.

1) Your barrel should be pointed about half way between the center stake and the high house window.

2) Your eyes should be looking basically right at the high house window.

3) When you call for the bird, you start your swing and (with practice), INSTINCTUALLY, you will know when to pull the trigger.

The reason I say instinctual, is because high house station 4 has about a 4 foot lead. That means when you pull the trigger, the barrel should be 4 feet in front of that bird (which from the shooters perspective the front bead is about 4 inches in front of the bird). As the pattern travels toward the target, the target is flying into the pattern. It literally takes that much lead (time) for the shot to reach the bird. If we were on the skeet field, there is no way I could tell you an exact point of aim, because there is none.

If you were to aim at that bird in the same scenario, your barrel would be aimed directly at the high house window. Your eyes would be looking straight down the barrel looking into the high house window. When you call for the bird, its going to come out so fast, that even if your eyes pick it up, your barrel is going to be "chasing" that target, resulting in a miss. You would always be behind the target if you were going to aim instead of point. Its not good to play "catch up" to the target. The technique I use is a sustained lead.

Remember, a stationary target is not going to move out of your sights, so you have time to line everything up. If you take that same amount of time to aim at a 4.5 inch target moving at 55mph, I can GAURANTEE a miss.

-George

Last edited by l98ster; June 11, 2012 at 11:19 AM.
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Old June 11, 2012, 11:10 AM   #20
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BTW, cheek weld, alignment and fit of a shotgun is also important. If your equipment doesnt "fit" you, its almost like your eyes are going to lie to you when you think everything is lined up.

Quick check (not complete): pick up your shotgun and make sure its UNLOADED!! close your eyes and shoulder the gun to where it feels comfortable. Open your eyes and see if your eyes are aligned directly over the barrel. That is a good "fit" indicator. There are other factors in gun fit, this little test just gives you a better than ballpark idea of how that particular gun is fit to you.

-George

Last edited by l98ster; June 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM.
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Old June 11, 2012, 11:14 AM   #21
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Okay here's something a little different to think about:
Being an old gray beard, my eyes are no longer happy with traditional open sights, so these days my rifles and handguns are wearing optical sights. This isn't the case with shotguns, I can see the target or I can see the beads, but I can't see them at the same time. This is no problem since I learned shotgunning as a pointer and it's served me well. I guess it's too late for me to learn to aim a shotgun; but, why would I want to?

With respect to dyl's:
Quote:
Again, what parts are the same between aiming and pointing?
- Same cheek weld?
- Same shouldering of shotgun?
- Therefore the same "sight picture" although the focus is not on the sights in pointing?
Dyl, you're making some assumptions because I don't think you understand the versatility of pointing. With training, you can accurately point a shotgun without having it mounted. This might be useful in a HD situation. How do you think the exhibition shooters pull off all those crazy shots? It's not magic, it's with dismounted pointing.

There are subtle aspects of pointing that many shooters overlook. How many of you use a "pointer grip" with your left hand?
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Old June 11, 2012, 12:59 PM   #22
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To me everything about putting the gun to shoulder is the same. The only difference in question, as best I can tell, is whether you take your eyes off the target and align the sighting plane, or not.
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Old June 11, 2012, 01:39 PM   #23
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Quote:
Again, what parts are the same between aiming and pointing?
- Same cheek weld?
- Same shouldering of shotgun?
- Therefore the same "sight picture" although the focus is not on the sights in pointing?
Cheek weld? No, not the same - folks who aim really want to "scrunch" themselves down on the stock like they do on an M4 - someone who points doesn't even THINK of cheek weld or understand what that is.

Same shouldering? Again, no see above. Plus when aiming, you are consciously trying to plant that stock for a stationary shot

Look up "Move, Mount, Shoot" and the "Churchill" method for a better explanation. The English really started and mastered the pointing aspect. A "Gun" from 100 years ago, shooting at birds, would not know what cheek weld was, but knew about a fluid fit of the stock. Those using the gun as a rifle want short LOP, again "scrunched" up on the stock, when they might really need something an inch or two longer for a fluid motion mounting and firing of the gun.

Therefore, it is NOT the same sight picture

And when it comes to SxS guns, it isn't even in the same arena
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Old June 11, 2012, 02:13 PM   #24
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Quote:
3) When you call for the bird, you start your swing...
Not if you want to shoot good scores. Why look in the window if you're going to start your move when you make your call? For newer shooters, you should start your move when you see the target, not before. Experienced shooters may let the target fly a little before they start to move.

Some shooters are spoiled by perfect the pulls given by voice activated systems and develop/reinforce bad habits. Remember, the rules NSSA allow the puller to have up to a 1-second delay (more in Int'l Skeet), and jumping the target (moving too soon) is one way of guaranteeing a miss.
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Old June 11, 2012, 02:40 PM   #25
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So when I mount my bayonet on the Citori XS Skeet, how can I help but point that pointy thing?
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