'Aimed Vs. Point Shooting' - Massad Ayoob

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    'Aimed Vs. Point Shooting' - Massad Ayoob

    As featured in American Handunner:

    Aimed Vs. Point Shooting

    American Handgunner, Jan, 2001 by Massad Ayoob

    The argument over using gun sights versus merely pointing the handgun for defensive use has been one of the most acrimonious in the history of hand-gunning. However rancorously the debate may have raged, actual scientific comparisons are notable by their absence.

    It took several years before the chance came to test point shooting versus aimed fire in something resembling a scientific manner. Mike Briggs, who runs IDPA and Steel Challenge events in New Hampshire, invited me to design a stage for his upcoming IDPA Regional Championship of New England.

    Since Handgunner's Ken Hackathorn has noted that the point shooting debate has revolved largely around "the two Colonels," two prominent and respected handgun authorities with field experience, I titled the match "The Applegate/Cooper Conundrum."

    Through the good offices of Chris Edwards at Glock, two Glock 17 pistols were provided. John Koppel at Pro-Load donated a sufficient quantity of 124 grain +P 9mm ammunition. A Club Timer was donated for the course by Ronin Colman at PACT, Inc.

    For safety's sake, shooters began with the pistol in hand, finger out of the trigger guard, and the front of the frame resting on a bench in front of the shooter, which also represented cover. Though all would be briefed on the Glock's function, many shooters would be new to this pistol and accustomed to a longer, heavier trigger pull.

    Therefore, the test Glocks had New York triggers, specifically the NY-1 module which gives a firm resistance from the beginning and brings the pull weight to a nominal 8 lbs. An armorer removed both front and rear sights from one of the pistols.

    In designing the course and placing the targets, I wanted to prove or disprove as many hypotheses as possible. Since many instructors recommend that non-visual indexing of the firearm be limited to no more than four or five yards. One target was placed at four yards and another at five.

    For decades, FBI and NRA police instructors insisted that all shooting at the seven yard line and closer be done point-style, with the gun below line of sight. So, one target was placed at seven yards. This target, unlike the first two, was partially obscured by masking, which represented hard cover.

    Advocates of point shooting have insisted that unsighted fire would work reliably out to 12 yards. Therefore, a target was placed at 12 yards. There was a no-shoot target in front and slightly to the side of this target. A shooter could step to one side for a clearer shot if he wished to take the time.

    The late Col. Rex Applegate repeatedly stated that point shooting could deliver "head-hitting accuracy at 15 yards." Therefore, the fifth and final target was placed at 15 yards, with masking that represented hard cover and left only the head of an IDPA silhouette exposed.

    Match Results

    A total of 107 contestants shot the event. Because five turns were involved to engage the targets, 18 shooters succumbed to the instinct to shoot the next target visually in line and suffered a three-second procedural penalty. These were removed from computation when figuring comparative speeds. There was no reason to remove their scores when computing for accuracy, however. This left us with 107 scores to study for accuracy, and 89 to study for speed.

    The results are shown in the accompanying chart. Of the remaining 89 "clean" scores, 29 (32.58 percent) showed slower speed but greater accuracy when using the sights. The next largest group, 24 shooters (26.97 percent), experienced slower speed and lower accuracy with the sighted pistol. The third largest grouping, 15 shooters (16.85 percent) experienced greater speed but worse accuracy when aiming with the sights.

    The 15-yard headshot proved disastrously difficult. Rather than averaging, it was easier and more illustrative to tally up the number of hits and misses. Only one shooter-- Walter Carlson of Concord, N.H., who competes with a revolver- managed to make both headshots with both guns.

    Seven shooters made both headshots with the sighted Glock. Seven did so with the unsighted gun. Only 35 made one headshot with the sights, and 35 managed one headshot without sights. A staggering 65 missed both headshots using the sights, and 65 missed both using the sightless gun.

    The identical numbers in the previous paragraph are not a misprint. They are, certainly, a statistical anomaly. The odds of such a test coming out exactly equal should have been astronomical, but the scorecards do not lie.

    Shooters were observed and surveyed as to the technique they used with the gun that had no sights. Of the 98 surveys returned, slightly over 100 technique explanations were recorded, since some shooters combined techniques. Of those, 63 percent looked over the top of the pistol. In one way or another, they had used the top plane of the pistol's slide to index visually with the target.

    Of those, 14 percent used the silhouette of the gun from the rear, visually superimposed over the target. This technique was developed and popularized by Jim Cirillo, who calls it an "alternative sight picture" rather than "point shooting."...

    The whole of this interesting article can be found at; Aimed Vs. Point Shooting | American Handgunner | Find Articles at BNET

    - Janq is trained in and practices defensive Point Shooting
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

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    Member Array Skye's Avatar
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    Thanks Jang for an interesting report.

    My comments:
    While I have the utmost respect for whatever Mr. Ayoob says, we all must adjust our training to our own capabilities and percieved needs.

    In my own case, I have read a lot on shootings (mostly by LEO) and was impressed by the fact that most of them happened at close distances (from contact distance out to 7 yards).

    Which of course brings us to the age-old argument of point vs aimed shooting.

    If a bad guy grabs me and I am able to get my handgun out, it is pretty obvious that I will be point shooting to protect myself.

    Same thing if he is at arms length (one yard) away.

    But how about if he is five yards away? (that is only 15 feet).

    Some time ago I decided to test this for myself and set up two standard B27 (man sized targets) at fifteen feet and started to practice point shooting at them. ( I assumed that they were running toward me).

    Eventually I got to the point of solid center of mass hits using the Mozonbique (SP) drill of two shots to COM and one to the head.

    Using a timer I found that I can generally get six rounds off at the two targets in about four seconds.

    This slow time is due to being a civilian I must wear my handgun concealed and need to sweep the cover garment aside before being able to draw. Remember LEO's open carry and their time to presentation will be quite a bit faster. (danged buttons & zippers).

    This led me to experiment with doing the drill with weapon in hand at the low ready. I can get the six shots off at the two attackers in under two seconds that way.

    Still very slow especially if you have ever seen a competition shooter do the "El Presedente" drill (draw and fire 12 shots with a reload) in under 6 seconds.

    But we live in the real world out here and I am satisfied that point shooting at close ranges is the way to go for us civilians.

    Also I am convinced that if at all possible, you need to have the weapon already in hand before the shooting starts.

    Thanks again Jang. Do you have any comments on point vs aimed fire?

    ...Skye...

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    My first comment is that this is an interesting article. My second is that it is quite far from being "scientific" in the manner that we use it for testing purposes... There are simply far too many variables at play here (in fact, Mr. Ayoob intentionally put in as many variables as possible in order to test as many hypotheses as possible - this is in direct contrast to a true test using the 'scientific method' which seeks to eliminate all but one variable, and to test only one hypothesis).

    Third - I don't think that one technique can ever be scientifically
    proven to be entirely superior to the other. The real factor at play is the shooter, much more so than the system. A shooter highly trained in one technique is apt to be better at this technique than the other. A shooter who believes that one technique is better than the other may, consciously or unconsciously, sabotage his results when using the "other" technique. General skill with a handgun will come into play as well - a good shooter is apt to be faster and more accurate than a bad shooter regardless of technique. I just don't see "science" ever solving this one for us...

    All that said, here is what I have come up with: Use the sights as much as possible. If it's NOT possible, be as practiced and proficient with "alternate sight pictures" as you can...
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OPFOR View Post
    ....All that said, here is what I have come up with: Use the sights as much as possible. If it's NOT possible, be as practiced and proficient with "alternate sight pictures" as you can...
    I agree completely. I also agree that much is left out of the 'testing' process - like shooting in a crowded area, shooting in a hostage situation.

    To me the the true debate of point shooting vs sight shooting is four things: what point shooting is, whether to always point shoot until the situation forces the use of sights, whether to always sight shoot until the situation does not allow the use of sights, and fourth whether the eye is focused on the threat or on the front sight at the instant the shot breaks.

    What point shooting really is, is debatable. To some, point shooting is any shooting without focusing on the front sight. But all point shooting training I've had comes as a package consisting of stances, arm positions, techniques, etc. E.g. Applegate's method is one handed point shooting.

    Kelly McCann aka Jim Grover has been into training in all aspects of real-world combative training more than anyone I've ever heard of and has been provided tons of ammo and time to determine whether point shooting or sighted fire works best for the moderately trained man. His findings were crystal clear - focus on the front sight wherever, whenever possible. In his four DVD set, "Inside the Crucible", he describes not only his background but the research he did of famous gunfighters and how they won gunfights.

    My experiences in training schools have revealed the very same thing. One case in particular occurred at Blackwater. Two buddies and myself were shooting reactive targets in the funhouse. These were target initiated response drills. In other words, we react to the target, not a 'go' or 'gun' command. An interesting thing happened. We were blazing away and having a great time, but then started missing things we knew we should be hitting. This went on for a while and in our frustration we looked at each other and Jimmy said, "I know what my problem is, I started shooting without using the sights." We realized we were 'victims' of the same thing. When our turn came again, we went back to sights and the hits immediately improved. Now this is on dynamic targets, both in the sense of falling when shot, and popping up or moving sideways into play.

    In his DVDs, McCann also addresses the Applegate method, in fact, one of his instructors, Michael Janich, worked with Applegate and co-authored a point shooting book with Applegate, before joining McCann in his training programs. Michael now teaches sighted shooting (except at very close ranges), inspite becoming very proficient with Applegate's method.

    McCann is focusing on the moderately trained person. He does include what he even calls point shooting in his training, but it is only used in 'flinch' type, very close quarters shooting.
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    Great article and I have to say that I agree with OPFOR and Tangle.

    Use your sights when you can, but learn to shoot without them too.
    “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”

    ― Robert A. Heinlein,

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    For high accuracy at the range I have to result in a close one eye shooting style because of ghosting. If I open both eyes, I have learned to use my ghost images for sighting while focusing on the target. Not as accurate but still gets the job done. I'd say it's close to point shooting as it's hard to really get it lined up right when it looks like you are staring at a hologram of your gun, but still gets the job done at a Minute of Bad Guy. Add to that being colorblind and I have a fun time shooting anything but targets with a bright yellow background with both eyes open.

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    This is a topic that Ayoob spent some time on in my LFI-1 class, though this is the first time I saw this article. The conclusion that he presented in class was that most people with whom he has spoken who are proficient in point shooting, when they stop to analyze what they are doing, are really using some type of sight picture. It's not a full-up bull's-eye sight picture by any stretch, but something like using the top of the slide described here.

    That alternative sight picture is generally accompanied by body indexing (alignment of hand, arm, shoulder, body, feet, &c) that can be done quickly and easily repeated---as opposed, say, to the old FBI 'crouch' point shooting technique---which means the alignment of the body helps to aim the gun where the shooter is looking.

    The way I interpeted all of this was to conclude for myself that point shooting is basically a matter of tolerances---if the target is big enough (either because it is big or because it is close)---you can hit well enough with a very quick sight picture and good stance/grip, but if your target is small or otherwise difficult, you need the extra accuracy afforded by a full, careful sight picture to shoot to tighter tolerances.

    I honestly don't know if I would call what I do point-shooting. I do know that there is a distinct difference in the detail of my sight picture on a 7-yd IDPA target vs. a 15--20-yd target. I also know that this results in a 7-yd Mozambique from the holster in under 3-sec on a good day, and a typical first-shot split time out of the holster (again, at a relatively close target) in about 1.5-sec.

    Good post, Janq!
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    "Aimed Vs. Point Shooting' - Massad Ayoob"

    The title is wrong to begin with, the rest of the results can't be relied on to prove anything.

    What various forms of point shooting would be used is still "aimed" fire. In other words, you are still aiming the gun with threat focused skills, how could it be any other way?

    Mr. Ayoob erroneously advances the idea that point shooting is not aimed fire by the very title of the article and demonstrates he either doesn't understand the difference between the two or simply made the mistake many make regarding what point shooting really is.

    In keeping with the facts presented, I would believe most people had been formally trained in some form of sighted fire to some degree, while very few if any of the participants would have had any formal training in the various forms of threat focused [ point shooting ] skills thereby skewering the results and being as unscientific as one could get.

    "It's not a full-up bull's-eye sight picture by any stretch, but something like using the top of the slide described here."

    Using the top of a slide, if you are directly looking [ focal point ] at the slide isn't point shooting, you are still looking at the gun with direct vision. Using a peripheral vision skill and threat focused NOT directly focused on the gun in any way would be point or "instinctive" shooting.

    The term point shooting or instinctive shooting was formulated some 60+ years ago and has been accepted for that long until the recent past when some have been want to redefine the terminology to suit their own needs for some reason.

    The long accepted terminology stands unless the people who push their idea of the terminologies and what they want it to define are allowed to advance their idea unchallenged.

    I've been formally trained in the finer aspects of instinctive/point shooting by one of the originators of an instinctive skill within that subset of shooting disciplines back some 30 years ago now, and these "new" definitions being advanced by some is not going to go unchallenged on my watch. It's a disservice to the original masters who were recognized for their ability to use these skills to say the least.

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    Last edited by AzQkr; January 7th, 2009 at 08:08 PM.
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    Just when you think some people are begining to understand

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    If my intended target is close enough that I could reasonably expect to hit it with a rock, point shooting has definite advantages when time and speed are critical. OTOH, if my target is so far away I can't expect a reasonable (better than 50/50) chance of hitting a 6" target - which for me is around 50' - aim is what I will do rather than simply point. I also feel that if the target (read that as BG) is that far away, I'm also probably far enough from him to try and make a hasty retreat to a safer location unless I'm already under fire myself.

    The bottom line for me is if the BG/target is generally less than 30' away, I'd feel comfortable using a "point" method in most situations. Anything over 50' - unless I'm forced to do otherwise - and I'll "aim" my gun. The area between the two is a judgment call depending on the circumstances (lighting, weather, location, cover available, bystanders, etc). FWIW, these are my limits. Everyone has to decide for themselves what their personal limits are, if any.

    Finally, I will always try to as accurately as possible aim my gun IF I HAVE THE TIME AND CAN SAFELY DO SO.
    "... Americans... we want a safe home, to keep the money we make and shoot bad guys." -- Denny Crane

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    If I have the time and can safely do so, I would extract myself from the situation.(as in---feet, get me the hell out of here) If not, then the perp would most likely be within point and shoot range.

    Remember guys, these writers and SD "teachers" are in the game for one reason only--to make money! You carry a weapon for one reason only--to protect yourself and those you love.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecup View Post
    Remember guys, these writers and SD "teachers" are in the game for one reason only--to make money! You carry a weapon for one reason only--to protect yourself and those you love.
    That's not true. Many (I can think of a few off the top of my head) truly enjoy teaching. Many also offer significant discounts (up to and including free classes) depending on the circumstances because they believe they have something to offer those they're teaching that could save their lives one day. Yeah, certain instructors are more inclined to profit from their instruction, but remember that they do get paid to teach; the better they do, the more they get paid.

    Instructors, by and large, aren't out to rip off the layman, and most really do care about what they do.

    Gun rag writers... my opinion of them isn't so glowing.


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    The dictionary states: aimed, aim·ing, aims----"To direct (a weapon) toward an intended target."

    The thesaurus states: aim ----------"point or direct at a goal"

    If you intentionally direct the muzzle at some object, you are aiming, hence the idea that it doesn't matter whether you are going to directly look at some part of the gun with direct vision [ sites, back of the slide, top of the barrel/slide ] or you a going to look directly at the threat and ignore the gun you are always "aiming" the gun.

    Good post BAC!!!!!!!!!!

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    The author lost credibility with the suggestion that the odds were "astronomical" in reference to the shooters obtaining the same number of hits. I seriously question the validity of any other "findings" revealed here.

    Randy

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    Point vs. aimed shooting is a difficult subject to objectively debate because there are a number of definitions and opinions of what "point" shooting is. For me, it's actually fairly simple. When I aim a gun at a target I'm using the guns attached sight (be they iron or optical) to point the gun/bullet at a specific spot on that target. When I point, I'm not using any sort of sight mechanism other than possibly the sight plane of my arm and I'm not shooting at a specific point (like the head) but rather at a general area, like the torso.

    When it's aimed, I would expect the bullet to impact the target within an inch or so of where I had placed the guns sight. In a "point" shoot I'd be happy if the bullet impacts in the general area (say about a foot or so) of where I HOPED the bullet would strike the target. In navigation we called that dead reckoning, where you are only trying to get close to something and are usually VERY surprised when you actually land at the exact spot you were aiming for.
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