Almost all handguns have open sights. Aiming an open-sighted gun effectively depends on the alignment of the rear sight, the front post, and the intended target. The process is familiar to almost everyone who has fired a gun (and many who haven’t, thanks to video games).
In defensive shooting scenarios, though, proper sight alignment is complicated by adrenaline and an urgent need for immediate action. It is difficult to keep your focus on the front sight, while also coordinating the alignment of the rear sight with the blurry image of a target (especially if it is moving). That’s when a passing familiarity with point shooting can become useful.
William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes, two British combat experts and weapon designers who trained Allied special forces before WWII, wrote a book called Shooting To Live With The One Hand Gun.
“Target shooting has its place and we have no quarrel with it…There probably will be a quarrel, however, when we go on to say that beyond helping to teach care in the handling of fire-arms, target shooting is of no value whatever in learning the use of the pistol as a weapon of combat.
“The two things are as different from each other as chalk from cheese, and what has been learned from target shooting is best unlearned if proficiency is desired in the use of the pistol under actual fighting conditions.”
It goes without saying that you must follow the precepts of proper gun safety. When shooting at close distances, use cardboard or paper targets. If you shoot steel at close distances you risk a ricochet, or may end up picking bits of full metal jackets out of your forearms. Don’t ask me how I know this.
With safety in mind, begin by practicing dry fire. Work on presenting the gun to the target and pulling the trigger without jerking the gun. Rack the slide for a quick trigger reset (the gun is empty, right?) and do it again. Get the feel for where the trigger breaks. Watch for any jerky movements and work to eliminate them.
The next step is to add live fire. Shoot from close distances. Leave three feet between the end of your extended gun and the target. Begin at low ready, gun drawn. Raise the gun, keeping your motion smooth and controlled, and fire. Start slow.
This isn’t an excuse to begin shooting from the hip. If you were to take your eyes off the target to focus on your front sight, you would still be able to do so. Work on placing your shots in center mass.
From this distance, work single shots into double taps, and then strings of three. Then add a designed mag change into a string of three by shooting two from one magazine, then making a change and firing one more.
Work from the holster. Practice the same drills above from your concealed carry holster. When it comes time to practice the mag change, be realistic about it; pull your magazine from concealment, too.
Add some distance. After you have run a few magazines at close distance, back up a bit. I will typically practice at 3 feet, and a 10 feet. Then I go the opposite direction and get up to where I’m touching the target when I start.
The last step comes with practice. As you get comfortable with the feel of the gun, and the way it moves, you will develop muscle memory that allows for you to begin to combine elements of using the sights with the motions of point shooting. The best way to hone these skills is to run similar drills with very small targets on top of your larger ones. In other words, shoot for a 1″ dot in the middle of that torso target.
Your accuracy will improve. Remember, though, accuracy is relative in a defensive situation. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t cover three shot strings with a quarter. Well spaced holes in center-mass aren’t always a bad thing.
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