View Full Version : Point or Front Sight - let's talk

Harry Humphries
November 2, 1998, 02:54 PM
OK my turn to start one. There has been an ongoing battle between the point shooters (Col. Rex Aplegate) and front sighters ( Col. Jeff Cooper ) for many years. I, admittedly as a result of cross training with our SAS brethren in my SEAL years, was a point shooter until I was fortunate enough to go through the Gun Sight program which changed me back to the front sight. So I am able to understand both sides. Let's hear your comments and information relating to these two philosophies. I need to warn you though that the worst kind of a fanatic is the convert.

November 2, 1998, 03:14 PM
I believe in "point" or, more properly, "punch" shooting at contact distance. Otherwise, there's a reason God made sights.

Rob Pincus
November 2, 1998, 03:48 PM
I use the point method 90% of the time. I also tend to fire hundreds of rounds a week, which helps keep this skill up.
I also spend about 90% of my practice within 10 yards of the targets.

Only in what I consider extreme circumstances of range (over 8-10 yards) or environment (crowd, hostage, hunting, etc...) do I really ever concentrate on the sights. Two of my favorite practice pistols don't even have sights.

Concentrating on the front sight takes away forma situational awareness to my mind. When you have a gun out in a tactical situation we already know that "tunnel vision" is likely to set in, I train to avoid that, by conciously scanning between shots. I feel like focusing on the front sight will only increase my chances of missing something.

Of course, I've never been in a firefight, nor shot anyone. (but I've talked to quite a few who have... http://www.thefiringline.com/ubb/wink.gif)

November 2, 1998, 04:15 PM
I always start my shooting sessions working from what I call the interview position. Which is a modified weaver stance, with weapon holstered securely and hands up at chest level, like you were filling out a field interview card or writting a ticket or eating a doughnut and holding a cup of java.
This puts you into a modified weaver shooting position when the wistle blows. When it is time to move both arms extend out with the weapon and your in a "point" position which I have also heard called "isreali" position, using the sights as much as you can - but that depends on M.E.T.T.
I think you've got to be able to shoot from all positions and you've got to be able to MOVE and get some cover - citizens, military, and Law Enforcement. No man is an Island - No man is an ABRAHMS either!

November 2, 1998, 05:24 PM
I hesitated to jump in here, but, I guess what you have confidence in, and the way you train/practice is what works for you. In my experience, unless you are at contact distance, deliberate aimed fire is faster and more accurate than point shooting. I also fire hundreds of rounds a week - at least thats my plan - and the targets and timer show the same results month after month, year after year. I agree with the notion of practicing from different positions- backing up, running away- which is my first choice, etc. My .02 worth.

Don R
November 2, 1998, 05:34 PM
Although I have "played" with point-shooting in various forms, 98% of my shooting is done with a flash sight picture. Surprise Surprise!

Anyway, I will sometimes take the Old Benelli into what Ayoob calls a "High-Tuck" and let a double tap loose in close quarters, or with a handgun, palm smack the face of a standing target with my off hand and let it have 2 where it counts without using the sights of course. That is about it.

I have played around with Cirillo's "Geometric Point" (everyone comes up with these neat names) and found that it works, I just trust my front sight as a Brother.

Rich Lucibella
November 2, 1998, 05:49 PM
For those of us who believe in the Modern Technique of the Pistol, or otherwise follow the teachings of Jeff Cooper, front sight rules.

Point shooters suggest that point is quicker. However, Cooper reminds us that sights are used only to "confirm" our target, not to acquire it. If the presentation is practiced regulary and uniformly, the target is lined up and the front sight acquired as we push the weapon forward in the final stage of presentation.

I do not see how "front sight, press" is slower, under these conditions. I do, however, see how it might avoid a "fast miss" when the lead is flying and the adrenalin is pumping.

Even at the 3 yard line, where point might seem appropriate, our need to stop the threat dictates preparation for the failure drill. I find it tough to consistently make the head shot, using the point method, from a distance of 9 feet.
Rich Lucibella

November 2, 1998, 06:37 PM
Point shooting for up close and personal,
then the gun is raised higher and higher the
farther away the target until up to sight only.
Just as an academic observation, given equal
skill level, equipment, etc., how can a sight only person actually deliver a shot as quickly as someone who is holding at gut
level or mid-chest and shoots center of mass.
I am not a competition shooter guru, but,
as noted by the range officer, when I shoot
steel plates against another shooter and the
pressure is REALLY ON, I shoot all the 3 and
7 yards using a high position point shooting.
Just for me, it works very, very well.
I wasn't really aware I was doing this until
people told me. Funny part is, I used to tell
people I only used sights.
Go figure.....

Don R
November 2, 1998, 08:06 PM
I think learning how to shoot in close quarters without the aid of sights is a very important skill to acquire. When I say, "Close Quarters," I truly mean it.

I think the Cooper/Gunsite Approach is fine, but the Weaver never really worked for me as much as the Isoceles, in a very aggressive manner, ala Ayoob. I shoot from the Weaver too, as I believe it is an important technique...I just like "The Turret" it seems to work better for me personally...

Rich Lucibella
November 2, 1998, 08:27 PM
If your "front sight" firing is slower than your point shooting (not *hip* shooting or retention shooting), it may be because you're "bowling ball" the presentation. If you're using the Cooper technique, the weapon is being thrust out, like a punch, at your target. The front sight is not picked up *after* assuming the firing position, but during the presentation.

Rob Pincus
November 2, 1998, 09:49 PM
I shoot in what I guess would be called a modified weaver, with my upper body no more than 10 degrees from perpendicular to the target, but my hips about 60-70 degrees canted to the right. It works for me. In a fighting stance for staff, knife, hands, whatever, my upper comes more in line with my lower body.
My presentation is an up and out technique with my off hand meeting up with the gun hand about 2/3rds of the way to full extension of my right arm. This allows for my off hadn to not be a practiced part of the immediate presentation, in case it is busy when that crucial first shot is needed.
I find this works great for point shooting, and allows me to focus on the sight if I need to. I am not looking for the sight during the presentation though, as I believe the Cooperites do.

If you havne't already done it or arn't doing it, start your shooting WITH the donut, ticket book, or whatever in your hands. It changes things dramaticaly. I've seen having to drop something add a full second to some very capable shooter's presentation times. I practice throughing the clibboard, whatever at the target as I start the presentation. (After the first "doh!" I learned to use something besides my real clibboard (Hello, Gall's? I need another ticket book please..)).

Our core group has a time during most of our sessions when one person is "rangemaster" and the other guy or two is Hot and the targets are up. Will will have different designations for each silhouete (usually colors). While the shooter(s) is actiing out different scenarios the rangemaster will call out "BLUE,RED..UP!" or whatever and we react to and engage the designated target(s). Variations abound, including haveing one person designated as a bystander or protection client. The Rangemaster can call out "body armour!" during the engagement, requiring the appropriate reaction, etc. All non-hot targets are considered innocent bystanders. We use Tactical Ted Targets and Various stands and pieces of old furniture to create a three dimensional target area.
A good entry level deal, once you've covered drawing and firing, moving and firing, and st up an appropriate range, is to have the shooter walk in a figure 8 about 5-10 feet from the target. Make sure that the extreme left point of the 8 doesn't require a dangerously oblique shot on the right hand target and vice-versa. Then, as the shooter walks, the Rangemaster calls out as above. After a few engagements, you will have hit on a variety of presentations.
I think moving and shooting is one of the MOST overlooked aspets of training and practice.
This is pretty advanced back yard gun work, but once you get to a certain level, I think training in the most realistic way possible is very important.
(Standard Disclaimer: please don't shot yourself or someone else or your clipboard if you decdide to try this stuff out...)

November 3, 1998, 09:51 AM
Rob... You make me laugh...

At "danger close" I favor the "punch draw" and then a fast step back for follow on shots... usually 12 of them.

No, I have never tried shooting with pastry and cup in hand - but to pass the driving course in my academy we had to DRIVE with our hands full... Sugery baked snack, boiling hot drink, and talk on the radio all at the same time. With out spilling, messing up your uniform, or mistakes on the radio - you could take out a few cones if you needed to http://www.thefiringline.com/ubb/biggrin.gif
I miss that academy...

November 3, 1998, 11:44 AM
I tend to favor use of sights, and when I time myself against other agents at qualifications, I still usually am the first to get all my shots off, even when they are "point shooting" as instructed by the range officer.

Then again, I would not say I never use point shooting. Just as a general rule I prefer the use of the sights.


November 3, 1998, 08:17 PM
I guess I fall in the "front sighter" category. I've been fortunate in that I've been through the Gunsite program as well. I'm convinced that knowing where my front sight is, and shooting from a stable shooting position will allow me to get the hits.

Rosco Benson
November 3, 1998, 08:47 PM
Point-shooting is best reserved for bad-breath distances...just outside of arms length and closer. I use the sights for the majority of my shooting...even the hyper-fast stuff where one tries really hard to pick up that front sight and it SEEMS that one does, perhaps at a subconscious level. The mantra is and must always be "shoot as quickly as you CAN and as carefully as you MUST".

On a nice flat range, using a target directly to my front, I can get good hits by point-shooting out to about 7 yards. Anyone can with a little practice. However, if anyone has any doubts about the pitfalls of point-shooting, try some drills where the targets are to either side or on a higher of
lower level than that of the shooter. If still unconvinced, try point-shooting while utilizing cover. Also, try to arrange things so the shooter cannot see hit bullet strikes and adjust accordingly (try this with a grassy backstop and with old shirts draped over the targets). As frustration sets in (and it will) try the same drills using the modern technique. The sureness and rapidity of using the sights will be well illustrated. Oh yes...be sure to TIME the exercises. What "feels" fastest often isn't.

I have two E-tickets from Orange Gunsite. API250 in 1980 and API499 in 1982. I am a charter member of Rick Miller's Paladin Program and helped formulated the system (my help being much like that of a lab animal). I mention this only to establish that I didn't just fall off the turnip truck (in truth, I DID fall off the turnip truck...but it wasn't just yesterday). I'll even note that I CAN point-shoot pretty well (but I don't delude myself that it's other than a "stunt"). The superiority of the modern technique shouldn't be subject to debate. Just look at what the winners use in free-style, practical competiton.

Does anyone ever wonder why the point-shooting advocates don't show up at these events and clean the clocks of us slow, old "sight-users"? I don't.


Rob Pincus
November 3, 1998, 09:08 PM
Rosco, I have no doubt of your abilities or experience, but those are some bold overriding statements. Personally, I am very comfortable in every situation you mentioned using a point shooting technique. I have a "wall" of railroad ties that we use to hang our silhouettes on, it is nearly impossible to use our hits to adjust fire with the dark backgroud, and, as I said we use Tactical Teds (soon to be reactive Teds) with all sorts of clothing, on a regular basis.

I'm also not 100% convinced that many of the popular competitions are a great comparison to combat. I don't have to worry about what's beyond my target, nor what may be coming out of vehicles or from my side during competition. I also won't have to move over and around obstacles in a non-safety-oriented area during competition. I don't like the idea of tunneling in on my front site. While it may increase my shooting accuracy by a small percentage, I feel the liability it introduces in situational awareness could be infinitely more detrimental than a 1-2 inch deviation from center mass at 5 yards.

November 4, 1998, 06:57 AM
I subscribe to the philosophy set forth best by Brian Enos in Practical Shooting:Beyond Fundamentals. Without reproducing that chapter in its entirety, the basic concept is to use varying levels of focus depending on range and difficulty of target engagement. At the closest ranges (3 yds or less), mount the weapon and confirm body index, look at the target. If your body index is on, then the hit will occur. As distance and difficulty level increase, you take more time to confirm body index, get sight picture/alignment, and confirm sights before and during trigger press. If shooting at a long range/high difficulty target, you'd confirm sight picture all the way through the trigger press. The amount of sight attention will vary depending on focus level. When acquiring targets, I look at them first, then shift to the necessary sight focus.

November 4, 1998, 04:36 PM
I have always trained to find the front sight. I find at close range, during qualifications, the range officer may say to point shoot, but I am so used to going for the front sight that I just do it naturally. To try to point shoot or to switch stance slows me way down. They can't hardly say your wrong if you use your sight, and your done shooting before everybody else, and all your hits are center mass.
By the way, I don't make it to the range every week, but I do go at least once a month religiously and shoot 100-200 rounds. You would be amazed how few gun toting people, police or otherwise actually do even this much. IMHO civilians are actually better about getting to the range regularly than most cops. (no slam on the boys in blue, I am one.)

Rosco Benson
November 4, 1998, 06:41 PM
At speed, I think I often use a middle-distance focus...wherein my focus is actually somewhere BETWEEN the front sight and the target. Neither the front sight nor the target is in crisp focus, but both can be seen reasonably clearly. As the target becomes more distant or smaller, then a more intense front sight focus is required.

Rob; If you're happy with the results you're getting with point-shooting and have objectively established that you are faster and more certain of hitting in that mode, then don't change a thing. As to the notion of practical competition techniques being applicable to combat; well, to place well in such a contest, one must get his hits, QUICKLY, and avoid hitting "no-shoots" and dropping shots. It would seem that the fundamental desired results are pretty much the same. The results of not attaining these results in competition is a poor finish. The consequences are much more dire in combat.

I can't get too concerned about the notion that focusing on one's front sight will cause one to get "tunnel vision". One is only focused on the sight while firing the shot(s) and while following through. Immediately afterward, one should be assessing the effectiveness of one's initial response and scanning the scene for additional threats. As Hilton pointed out, our focus is first on our targets (how else could we know they need shooting?), then on our sights while shooting (with the "intensity" of the focus varying with the need for precision), and then...finally...our focus returning to our target and the general area of concern (with head movement to help break any tendency toward tunnel vision).


Rob Pincus
November 4, 1998, 09:34 PM
All good points, Rosco.

One other thing occured to me this evening. Several of us have several different firearms that we carry under different circumstances. I take this stuff more serisouly than the average guy, and yet only 5 of my handguns suitable for carrying have night sights. We know that most shootings happen under low light circumstances. Certainly, none of my "ultra-compacts" (tomcat, Jetfire, NAA Mini, Pro-Tec 25, etc.) have night sights.
What happens to the person who is looking for the sight that he can't see? Is there a vital fraction of a second lost?

(unfortunately, I am heading out of town tomorrow, so I may have to bow out of this discussion for at least a few days....)

Rosco Benson
November 6, 1998, 06:45 PM
I do a fair amount of low-light and no-light practice. Some of the pistols I utilize have night sights and others do not. In no-light use, where you have to use a flashlight to identify your target, it doesn't matter at all. Plain sights show up distinctly against the illuminated target. In low-light use (where one has enough light to identify one's target, but not enough to see plain sights) the night sights offer an advantage. Proper technique calls for one to present the pistol as normal and attempt to see the sights. If one can identify their target but cannot see their (plain) sights, the alignment acheived by one's practiced stance will usually allow for good hits (rememeber, we're talking pretty close ranges). This starts falling apart if one cannot assume one's practiced stance. If one is shooting around cover or in an otherwise cramped or improvised position, one has no "muscle memory" for that position to align one's sights. This is where being able to see the tritium inserts helps greatly.

As to the shooter wasting time trying to see sights which he cannot; One must have the presence of mind to know that characteristics of the weapon being carried. Does it have night sights or not? Is it a Glock or a 1911? Just as soon as one's hand closes around the piece, one should know what he's dealing with. It may not be the best course for the competetive shooter, but it is helpful to train with a variety of weapons. A truly competent shooter ought to be able to give a good account of himself with whatever weapon comes to hand. One might not be able to obtain their first choice in some situations.


November 8, 1998, 11:39 PM
I think that it is not a question of which but both point and weaver, this centers on time, space issue. When the target is very close and or you have only your gun hand free then engage from point shooting and the space increase between you and the bad guy so does your time, then use sights. But even more important is the 3 rules to remember 1.tactics(not having your head up your 2. cover move to cover as soon as you can 3. shot placement, it doesn't matter to the bad guy if the bullet that killed him was fired weaver,point, or holding the gun upside down and under your leg.

November 13, 1998, 01:40 AM
I'm late in getting into the game, but I vote for "front" as well. It's the most accurate of the two. When the intensity heats up, I find myself floating towards point anyways. Don't know if this is actually a good thing or not, but I believe in using the front as much as humanly possible.


November 13, 1998, 03:14 PM
I've been reading this thread since it started and believe everyone makes some very valid points. Now for mine. I don't view myself as a proponent of either discipline per say. I practice each technique and feel competent in both. Now I don't have a Special Forces pedigree or am I an LE or have I been to any "name" shooting schools, (I'm an aircraft mechanic and a former green, one ea. Marine). But shooting and handguns are my avocation. I have done much study and experimentation and have come to the conclusion that this topic can be best related to tools. Some like a socket wrench and are better with them than some who prefer a box end wrench who are more efficient with them than a socket wrench.... Get my drift? I feel that there is much variation in humans in coordination, reactions to stress etc... and each senario is vastly different in its dynamics. And that a definitive answer will never be achieved. My goal is to be as proficient as possible with both techniques and with my weapon. Combining this with good situational awerness, god forbid, if I ever have to use my weapon I feel confident that I will have at the very least a fighting chance of survival.

Sorry for the rambling post!

4V50 Gary
November 16, 1998, 11:01 AM
At the expense of sounding wishy-washy, I believe in practicing both front sight and point shooting. Here's why:

Contact with a subject is initiated using interview stance which is quite conducive to Weaver. However, when things suddenly go wrong, I created distance by stepping back while drawing. We've all taught or told others to seek cover but when you're in the middle of the sidewalk or in a hallway, there isn't much cover to seek.

In all instances, I noticed that I crouched, adopted the isoceles and brought the gun almost to eye level. My eyes focused on the threat and racing through my head is the thought, "Am I legally and morally justified to shoot?" All this time I'm yelling verbal commands to deescalate the incident. At close proximity, it's virtually impossible to watch the hands of the suspect (especially if they're around the waist area) and keep that front sight on the upper chest (unless you want to gut shoot him).

In searching buildings or where there is time to deploy behind some cover, I favor the Weaver as it affords a very steady hold and provides less exposure of yourself to your opponent. Try slicing the pie with both Weaver and isoceles and you'll see what I mean.

For me, critical in deployment of one technique over another is the time/distance and surprise element (sudden escalation). If afforded the time and distance, therefore no surprises, then Weaver. If sudden and close, isoceles and natural point.

Like I said, both work for me. Just my .02.

[This message has been edited by 4V50 Gary (edited 11-16-98).]

Ed Brunner
November 16, 1998, 09:19 PM
You have to temper this with some reason and good sense rather than trying to force all situations into one discipline.

If you could stick your pistol in his chest would you fire or would you take three steps back and go for the sight picture?

I have no doubt that Rob can do it without the sights. A lot of people including Bill Jordan could do it very well.

Most people cant.Those who can,probably learned to do it by using the sights and then graduating to the eye-hands-pistol relationship to the target.

A good point shooter isnt winging it he is relying on coordination, His brain knows where the pistol is pointed.

Better days to be,


Harry Humphries
November 17, 1998, 02:47 PM
OK let's look at a few facts related to traumatic encounters and revisit the original question.

Without getting involved with mind set and phases of rejection than acceptance towards eventual reaction, we need to be aware of the effects of hormonal or adrenalin dumps to the blood stream.

Most of us go through life with a heart rate of 60 - 80 beats per minute. While exercising or going through physically demanding competition, we'll experience an increase to 115 to 120 bpm. If we're in relatively decent shape we are still capable of mentally and physically performing with all faculties still in tact.

This changes for hormonal induced heart rate increases resulting from sympathetic nervous system arousal. At 115 bpm fine motor skills deteriorate. At 145 bpm complex motor skills deteriorate. At 175 bpm cognitive processing deteriorates accompanied by loss of peripheral vision, loss of depth perception, loss of near vision and auditory exclusion. Above 175 bpm irrational fighting or fleeing, freezing, submissive behavior, vasoconstriction, voiding from bladder and bowels occur, but gross motor skills are heightened to unbelievable levels.

These facts come from Lt. Col Dave Grossman's "The Psychological Preparation for Combat, Killing, and Death." Secondly, short of the voiding of bladder and bowels, I personally have experienced these phenomena at one time or another during combat situations although I was not aware of my specific heart rates. Trust me guys in the real deal things change from the practice range.

Another point of consideration is the work done by Dr. Fackler and other well founded Law Enforcement statistical studies. In general there was corroboration throughout all studies of officer involved shooting incidents within the US. Some 80% occurs within 10 feet, 70% within 7 feet. And almost always in low light situations. The exact percentages may vary from year to year but generally stay in this area. Last but not least is the fact that the successful hit ratio enjoyed by the officers involved is less than 25% more like 19%. Again these numbers close to study results.

Given the above it is safe to say that the shoot will occur within a very close distance, contact to 10 feet, and probably in low light. Further to that, the shooter will be traumatically taken by surprise experiencing a high dose of adrenalin which will essentially shut down his fine and complex motor skills, blind him to peripheral vision and render him temporarily deaf. - Now how do we train?

It is my belief that a sound combat hand gun training program considers the worst possible situation, close in and taken by surprise, it must condition or habituate a reflexive response within the trainee so as to initially deal with this type of encounter while continuing the presentation through to an effective means of delivering accurate shots at allowable distances. Whatever the technique it can not require a time consuming decision process the technique must be universally sound for contact presentation as well as from the comfort of ten to fifteen feet from cover. Folks that train against paper or plate or pin balls must remember that the close in fight has an inherent danger- the targets are charging and grabbing at your gun and are either on mind altering drugs or under the super human strength of the adrenalin cocktail.

The modern technique as developed by Jeff Cooper, Jack Weaver, et.al. verses point shooting really doesn't warrant conversation - it works provided the presentation is allowed to be made in full. Thus the presentation should include a retention block during the grip and draw phase while coming on to the full presentation be it to a weaver, modified weaver, isosceles, etc. The front sight is acquired as a flash sight picture as quickly as possible before or after the surprise break. This ladder point is where the point shooters fail to understand the system. While the initial phases of front site discipline instruction requires a look at the front site prior to press, the accomplished modern technique shooter often sees the front sight after the shot as a confirmation of point of aim. Yes one could say that is momentary point shooting but it includes the rapid acquisition of the front sight for the immediate second controlled shot while the point shooter, if truly a point shooter, will not acquire the front site for the rapid execution of the second controlled shot. Especially under stress..

What we habituate through training is what we will do under stress, there is very little thinking or decision processing going on under the traumatic encounter. If one doesn't train a behavior pattern, the debilitating effects of the adrenalin cocktail will cause them to do nothing- just die.