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Short History Of Applegate/Fairbairn Point Shooting

3348 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Matthew Temkin
Let’s get off to a good start and define our terms.
Point Shooting means firing the weapon with total focus upon the threat/target without any reference to the gun/sights WHATSOEVER.
Let me also state that point shooting is a COMPLEMENT--not a REPLACEMENT--for sighted shooting.
In other words, a well rounded self defense shooter needs to master both.
When exactly to use which is dependent on time, distance and circumstances.
Now that that is cleared up, let us go into a brief history of W.E. Fairbairn.
While no one man can claim to be the inventor of point shooting ( that honor belongs to the first cave man who discovered that a rock can be thrown) W.E. Fairbairn’s influence on the field of close combat is well documented.
After only three years with the Shangahi Municipal Police, Fairbairn was promoted to musketry officer in 1910.
He took his job seriously and went on as many shots fired calls as possible--which happened on a weekly basis.
In 1919 the SMP lost 9 officers to hostile gunfire, out of a force of 1500, which shocked even the bosses.
They called Fairbairn into their office to ask what was the problem with the men?
Why were they losing so many gunfights?
(Gotta love the bosses. When in doubt, always blame the troops. Some things never change)
Fairbairn responded by stating that it was not the fault of the men, but rather the outdated training methods that he was forced to teach them.
(For the record they were being taught standard one hand bullseye shooting at long distances.)
Fairbairn was asked if he could solve the problem, and was given free reign to do so.
It was a chance that he was obviously preparing for quite some time.
The first thing he did was to replace the revolvers with Colt 1911’s in .45 for his larger officers and Colt 1903’s in .380 for those with smaller hands.
To avoid a possible embargo, he decided to use American ammunition, and Remington responded with both the ammo and a sales rep named E.A. Sykes.
(Who, according to Applegate, was also an American spy, but that’s another story.)
Next was to completely revise the training.
Based on his extensive combat experience, Fairbairn noticed several things that most men would do under stress,
1) Face the target squarely.
2) Slightly crouch.
3) Fire quickly, usually with the elbow well bent.
4) Rarely take the time to use the sights.
Fairbairn also noticed that most fights happened within 12 feet, as opposed to the longer distances required of them in previous training.
To better prepare his officers for battle, he decided to devise his system around these facts, rather than trying to impose “Good marksmanship” techniques on his troops.
In his book SHOOTING TO LIVE he describes the basics as follows….

1) Extreme speed, both in drawing and firing.

2)Instinctive, as opposed to deliberate aim. (Note that instinctive means the ability to point a finger at an object and not inborn ability to shoot a gun.

3)Practice under circumstances which approximate as nearly as possible to actual fighting conditions.

The first two were accomplished with his simple point shooting method and the latter with the creation of a “Mystery/Kill House”

The results were outstanding, and after the training the SMP began winning the vast majority of their gun fights.

Since Shangahi was an international city many nations had an armed presence there, including the USA.
After Fairbairn’s pistol shooting article was published in the March, 1927 edition of The American Rifleman, many U.S. Marines came to visit and exchange notes on all aspects of close combat.
One was Wallace, who later became a General, Marine Raider and was send by Roosevelt to observe British Commando training in Scotland in early 1942.
One SMP story which I always enjoyed occurred in 1927, when a few Chicago police officers were sent to Fairbairn on a lend lease type of deal.
After seeing more violence than they could endure, they soon begged to go home to where it was “safer” to be a cop.
In 1940 both Fairbairn and Sykes reached retirement age and set sail for England, where a small problem with Germany was happening.
They were immediately made captains in the British Army and were assigned to teach combat tactics to the Home Guard, who were preparing for an all out invasion.
By 1941 the threat had passed, and F&S were assigned as instructors for the then forming commandos, special intelligence agents and other special ops units.
In 1942 Fairbairn was loaned to the O.S.S, assigned to the Washington D.C area and was assigned a young lieutenant by the name of Rex Applegate as a student of close combat.
Applegate eventually added his own take to the Fairbairn system, which was later written down in his own book which is still available, Kill Or Get Killed.
( In 1996 Applegate admitted to me that he wrote a great book, but gave it a lousy title)
The main difference is that Applegate preferred to bring the gun up to nose/chin level rather than the hip/chest level favored by Fairbairn.
Applegate was later assigned to the combat section ( section 8, which I find rather humorous) at Camp Ritchie, MD where quite a few famous people paid visits.
Two of which were FBI firearms instructors, who would later adopt many of the Camp Ritchie methods.
By the war’s end the point shooting system--handgun, rifle, shotgun and submachine gun, was well established and had passed the test of actual combat and time.
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My father was in the OSS in WWII and this is the method he was taught combat shooting. I learned it as a child. Intersting and informative article.

Jungle Work
Jungle Work said:
My father was in the OSS in WWII and this is the method he was taught combat shooting. I learned it as a child. Intersting and informative article.

Jungle Work we have to talk.
PM on it's way.
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