“I’m so confused” was a catch phrase for a sit-com star in the not so distant past, and it got him a lot of laughs; however, when it comes to confusion in defensive shooting, it’s no laughing matter. It can be deadly serious. This confusion has been perpetuated for decades with folklore, speculation, and unsupported opinions. So, lets try to clear up of the confusion with some research supported facts and commonsense.
Point shooting is only used at close ranges (0 – 20 feet), and it doesn’t focus on using the front and rear sight alignment or sight picture. It depends on a strong grip, locked out elbows and shoulders, a smooth straight back trigger pull, and practice to develop muscle memory. The Israeli Special Forces use this method. They believe that it’s easier to master, and it’s fastest way to get accurate hits on the assailant, because it doesn’t focus on the front sight. With the known effectiveness of the Israeli forces, and since FBI statistics document that 83% or all police shooting occurred under 21 feet, point shooting must be considered a very effective and practical self defense technique. (1)
Sight shooting can be used at close range (0 – 20 feet) or longer distances. It focuses on the use of the front sight as well as a strong grip, locked out elbows and shoulders, and a smooth straight back trigger pull. Competitive shooters use this method. They believe that it’s just as fast as point shooting and more accurate.
I have seen both techniques in action, and used them myself. The point shooting technique enables most shooters to fire accurate first shots faster than the competitive technique; however, the competitive technique enables the shooter to get more accurate follow up shoots.
Why not use the best of both worlds? This would give you speed and accuracy at close range as well as distant targets; use point shooting for fast center mass hits. While firing the first or second shot at center mass, start focusing on the front sight, and use it to move up on a head shot or for any additional targets. This gives you the best of both worlds – fast effective center mass hits and accuracy for follow up head shots, additional assailants, and additional targets at greater distances.
Accuracy vs. Speed and Number of Shots Fired
What’s more important in a gun fight, accuracy or how fast you can start shooting, and how many rounds you can shoot at your assailant.
Wyatt Earp is reported to have said that in a gun fight, you have to take your time fast. He was trying to emphasize that you must quickly find your sights and fire an accurate shot at your attacker. Wyatt Earp survived several close range gun fights, so I always took his advice to heart.
Furthermore, there have also been numerous reports of assailants surviving multiple shots to the body with small and large caliber handguns, so just hitting the assailant can’t guarantee stopping the assailant. A “Police Marksman Magazine”, survey on real life shootings, documented the fact that all head shots stopped the assailant(s) 100% of the time. (2) And, FBI research documented the fact that only shots severally damaging the brain or severing the central nervous system could be depended on to stop the assailant. Therefore, the best way to make a head shot or a shot severing the central nervous system is to quickly find your front sight and fire an accurate shot at your attacker.
This documented research has proved that the most important thing in a gun fight is getting quick well placed hits on your assailant(s).
Bullet Size/Caliber vs. Accuracy
In “Accuracy vs. Speed and Shots Fired” we discussed the research establishing the need for accuracy over speed; bullet size/caliber vs. accuracy deals with several similar issues.
For years people believed in the one shot “knock down power” of large caliber handgun projectiles. More recent empirical research previously discussed in the “Police Marksman Magazine, Stopping Power” survey (2) and the FBI “One-Shot Drops Surviving the Myth” article as well as common sense practical physics, clearly negate this belief. (3) Once again, the most important thing in a gun fight is getting quick well placed hits on the assailant(s).
Furthermore, the use of large caliber and high velocity handgun rounds (i.e. .45 Cal., .357 & 44 Magnum) produce much harder recoil. This elevated recoil makes the weapon harder to control, when trying to fire successive shots, and it makes the gun even harder for small frame individuals and women to control.
Therefore, larger handgun bullet size/caliber can not solely be depended on to achieve one shot “knock down power”, and it makes the weapon harder to control for successive shots. While a well placed (i.e. a headshot) smaller caliber handgun round can achieve a one shot stoppage of an assailant with controllability for successive rounds in multiple assailant situations, even when fired by small frame individuals and women.
Are you still confused? I hope not. This should have cleared up some of the confusion. If not, do some of your own research. After all, isn’t your life and the life of your friends and loved ones worth the effort. Yours and their safety shouldn’t hang on folklore, speculation, or unsupported opinions. Stay alert, keep practicing, and stay safe.
1. 2004 FBI UCR Editions of State and Local Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted; Law Enforcement Officers Killed with Firearm, Distance Between, 1995 – 2004, table 35
2. Dick Fairburn. (1993, March/April). PMA STOPPING POWER SURVEY ENDS. Police Marksman Magazine; p. 32 graph 11; p. 34 graph 13; p. 35 graph 14; p. 32, “Other Factors”.
3. Anthony J. Pinizzotto, Ph.D., Harry A. Kern, M.Ed., and Edward F. Davis, M.S. “One-Shot Drop Surviving the Myth”; 1 The FBI hosts four 10-week sessions each year during which law enforcement executives from around the world come together to attend classes in various criminal justice subjects. 2 “Physiologically, a determined adversary can be stopped reliably and immediately only by a shot that disrupts the brain or upper spinal cord. Failing to hit the center nervous system, massive bleeding from holes in the heart, or major blood vessels of the torso causing circulatory collapse is the only way to force incapacitation upon an adversary, and this takes time. For example, there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.” See U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Firearms Training Unit, FBI Academy, Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness (Quantico, VA, July 14, 1989), 8. 3 Ibid. 4 U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2002 (Washington, DC, 2003). 5 Members of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division collected and supplied this information to the authors for this article.
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