Front Sight Focus or Point Shooting–Which Is Better?

This is a can of worms that divides the shooting world almost as much as the 9mm vs. .45 debate.

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, you’ve probably got some valid points…

And some that aren’t so valid.

So, today, we’re going to dig into which of these is the best…for self-defense, for competition, and for fun.

Let’s define terms real quick…

Front sight focus shooting is where you focus on the front sight and let your target and rear sight get blurry.  Sometimes, it’s called “aimed” shooting, but that’s not always accurate.

There are several names for “Point shooting” including “threat focus shooting”, “combat focus shooting”, “instinctive shooting”, “hip shooting”, “unsighted shooting” and more.

This is where you point the gun at the target and aim without using the sights.  This may be because you’ve rocked the gun right out of the holster and can’t see your sights or because you’ve gone to full extension and haven’t shifted your focus back to the front sight.

Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of each method…

Benefits of Sighted Shooting:

  1. If you have proper sight alignment and sight picture and don’t disturb it while pressing the trigger, you’re GUARANTEED to hit your intended target at self-defense distances as long as the sights haven’t been monkeyed with.
  2. Sights are on the gun for a reason…and they have been for over 100 years.  If you didn’t need them in a fight, they wouldn’t be installed on military and law enforcement guns in the first place.
  3. Once you learn sighted shooting, you can pick up any sighted-in gun in the world and, using proper trigger manipulation, shoot it accurately on the first shot.
  4. Once you start calling your shots (knowing where your sights were pointed the instant that the round was fired) you will know where your rounds hit without looking at the target.
  5. When all else fails, you can always come back to sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger press.
  6. In a fight for your life, if you’ve trained correctly, you’ll be able to use your sights.
  7. Because it’s based on step-by-step fundamentals, most shooters can become accurate with aimed shooting quicker than with point shooting.
  8. After extended gaps in training, you’re more likely to be able to make first aimed hits without a warmup period.
  9. More forgiving of a bad or inconsistent grip
  10. Depends primarily on the visual system for aiming

Benefits of Point Shooting:

  1. You’ve been pointing since birth…everyone knows how to do it already.
  2. Some law enforcement courses of fire that demand sighted shooting are actually created so that you MUST point shoot or have done tactical vision training to meet the time demands.
  3. Point shooting can be faster because you don’t have to wait for the shape of the lens of your eye to change and your focus to stabilize.
  4. Point shooting can be faster if you’re wearing bi-focals, tri-focals, or progressives.
  5. It can be quicker to teach a shooter trigger control with point shooting than with sighted shooting.
  6. Point shooting is oftentimes faster if you’re cross-eye dominant, have visual suppression issues, or convergence insufficiency.
  7. In a life and death situation, it’s natural that you’ll be focused on the threat and won’t be able to bring your focus back to your front sight.
  8. As Colonel Cooper, founder of modern gunfighting with a pistol said, “Pointer fire is not as hard to learn as sighted shooting, once you realize it’s range limitations” and “it’s mastery is often the difference between life and death.”
  9. Uses other-than-visual aiming systems, like the vestibular and proprioceptive systems in addition to the visual system.

Drawbacks of Sighted Shooting:

  1. It’s not natural to shift your focus away from a threat.
  2. It may not be possible to change the shape of the lens of your eye under stress enough to see your front sight clearly.
  3. With bi-focals and tri-focals, it’s difficult to tilt your head to where you can see your sights.
  4. If you have to wear readers to read, you may not be able to see your front sight clearly anymore.
  5. It can be slower than point shooting.
  6. It’s harder to do if you’re cross-eye dominant or have visual suppression issues.

Drawbacks of Point Shooting:

  1. As Colonel Cooper ALSO (roughly) said, “nobody’s born with a natural ability to point a gun.”
  2. If you hold a pistol in your hand correctly and your trigger finger is indexed on the slide and pointed towards your intended target, your muzzle will be pointing low.  If your finger is on the trigger and you straighten it and point it towards your intended target, your muzzle will be pointing high.  The only way for your finger to be pointing where you want to shoot is if the webbing of your hand is SO FAR DOWN on the back strap of your pistol that it’s even with the trigger.
  3. Point shooting takes more rounds to master.
  4. Point shooting is a more perishable skill.
  5. Point shooting is more dependent on a consistent grip.
  6. Depends on the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems being calibrated and synchronized.
  7. Incredibly difficult to switch to sighted shooting under stress to make a precise shot if you haven’t done it in training.
  8. Very difficult (but doable) to take a shooter who had thousands of reps of point shooting as they were learning to shoot and get them to be able to use the sights under stress.

Which is better?

Here are some of the answers people give…

“front sight for distance, point shooting for close up”

“front sight when you’ve got time, point shooting when you need speed”

“front sight for precision, point shooting for combat accurate groups”

 

Each of these highlight the problem with the “front sight vs. point shooting” debate.

All of the problems with each technique and all of the answers to the question, “which is better” presume that it’s an either/or answer.

This leads to all sorts of problems…

If you go all-in for front sight focus, you unnecessarily cap your speed.

If you go all-in for point shooting, you unnecessarily cap your accuracy.

If you try to straddle the line and do some of both, it takes more time and more ammo than necessary.

But what if there was a way to seamlessly integrate point shooting and sighted shooting?

And what if practicing both together was quicker and more effective than doing either on their own?

You’d get the speed and close-up performance of point shooting and the precision and dependability of sighted shooting.

You’d get all of the benefits of both approaches and none of the drawbacks.

Sound like a pipe dream?

It’s not.

Done correctly, point shooting helps pre-align your sights for sighted shooting and they mesh seamlessly.

Done correctly, every single sighted shot validates and enhances your ability to point shoot.

Which is why this approach is quicker than either point shooting or sighted shooting on it’s own.

How do you do it?

There are a handfull of previously unreleased and powerful training techniques you can use to integrate sighted and point shooting that I cover in the Praxis Training (We’ve got a free informational training presentation on it tonight that you can sign up for >HERE<, but here’s an easy one you can try right now:

It’s an eyes-shut draw stroke.

When you draw, you want 2 things to happen:

  1. You want your sights to be on target from the moment you make support hand contact until full extension.
  2. Your draw stroke should bring your sights into automatic alignment between your dominant eye and the target so you’re not “aiming” with your eyes…just verifying sight alignment.

So, eliminate distractions, get a safe backstop, and with your unloaded pistol or inert training platform holstered, pick a target with a safe backstop, shut your eyes, draw, and extend the pistol so that you think it’s aimed at the target before opening your eyes to verify and validate.

This is an over-simplification, but if your sights aren’t already lined up with the target when you shift your focus to your front sight, you would have missed if you tried point shooting.

But if you can get your muzzle in alignment with the target earlier in the draw stroke, you’ll not only be more likely to hit what you want to hit if you point shoot, but you’ll also be able to make MUCH quicker sighted shots.

Try it out…let me know how it goes.

And, if you’re serious about self-defense shooting and cutting edge techniques for blending sighted shooting and point shooting, I want to encourage you to check out the Praxis Training…particularly the free presentation I’m doing tonight >HERE<.

It’s the exact training technique I used to shoot the 5th fastest recorded IDPA classifier time in the world with a subcompact (20.8), even though I only practice a few minutes a day, a few times a week and I didn’t know we were going to shoot the classifier until I showed up for the match.

And it’s exactly what you’ll learn in the Praxis Training.

(And, this week-weekend, when you sign up for the full Praxis program, you’ll also get a set of 3 of our new PopUp Targets as a free bonus!  If you’re not familiar with PopUp Targets yet, you can see them >HERE<)

The reason Praxis works so well is because of the fact that most shooters completely waste 90% of their practice time…they just don’t know which 90%.  They use ineffective technique, bad mechanics, and wasteful practice methods…and don’t even know they have a problem because they’re doing the same kind of training they see everyone else doing.

Praxis will help you improve faster than you thought possible, in less time per week than a lot of people spend in line waiting for coffee, because it focuses on giving you the most efficient techniques and practice methods possible.

How fast?  Look what Mark had to say after going through the program…

“One of my older friends and mentor has been seriously shooting for decades and taken dozens of firearms classes at various schools across the country (tactical, cqb, long range rifle, low light, etc) He took the handgun II class with me yesterday for fun/practice.

He gave me about the best compliment during our long drive back from the course – it pisses him off that someone with barely a year’s training can go out and shoot better than him on a dynamic course. I told him my “secret” – the praxis training. He now plans to sign up for himself.”

It’ll get you dramatically better results with the same (or less) training time than what you’re using now.

Limited time and limited training budgets are no longer an excuse with Praxis.  You owe it to yourself to learn more and get started now by going >HERE<

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9 Comments

  • Brian Sandman

    Reply Reply June 25, 2020

    Greetings –

    I was taught Point Shooting by Charles Smith at the Smith & Wesson Academy back in the 1980’s. Several overlapping features blend in to making this technique accurate within the 3-5 yard range. The basis is the triangulation of the body Center Line; eye; and the Body stance. It is unlikely to learn the technique from printed material alone. In the presence of a qualified Instructor with adjustments made allow a person to develop the proper awareness. The Firearm point has to be pushed out to the peripheral point where the eye may see the weapon for positional triangulation. Of course this is seldom noted. Plus the elbow needs to be tucked into the Center line to maintain accuracy. We even practiced with the Lights out to verify our correct positioning.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 28, 2020

      Your comment brings back great memories 🙂 I really miss shooting Indoor Nationals and BUG Nationals at S&W.

      What they were teaching in the 80s was pretty cutting edge at the time. We’ve had some tremendous leaps in our understanding of neurology…specifically how vision, balance, and hand-eye coordination/proprioception work together. The 2 most cutting edge trainings available today are our http://DynamicGunfighter.com training and Automatic Aiming

      What you’ll find is that with the new approach that seamlessly integrates point shooting and sighted shooting, stance doesn’t matter anymore, peripheral awareness of the slide enhance precision, but isn’t required for hits, and the elbow no longer needs to be tucked into the center line.

      All of these are vital because the older approach was more rigid than what many real-world shooting situations allow for…the new approach is quicker, more accurate, and more resilient across a wide range of adverse conditions.

  • Earl Davis

    Reply Reply June 25, 2020

    I’m not anywhere near the level of folks on here, but I initially started with point shooting being heavily influenced by the whole WWII combatives approach (unarmed, knife, stick and handgun) ala Fairbairn, Sykes, Applegate and guys like Bill Jordan (No Second Place Winner). There is definitely a place for both. Col Rex Applegate was reported to have said if he had had more time to train folks he would have trained sighted fire first, but he was given limited to train folks going into harms way. I don’t think its an either or, you need both depending on circumstances.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 25, 2020

      You mentioned some of my heroes.

      One thing to keep in mind any time you read their statements on technique is how different sights are today compared to when they were shooting & training shooters.

      It’s a completely different world and sights are MUCH easier to use quickly under stress today then they were even 30-40 years ago.

      Applegate was correct on training sights before point shooting.

      The problem is that if you habituate an EASY process before you habituate a process with additional steps, you’ll default to the easier process under stress and it’s a challenge to fix.

      There’s definitely a place for both sighted and unsighted shooting, but if at all possible, you want to train a shooter to make sighted shots and get them making sighted shots for time under moderate stress BEFORE switching to unsighted shooting. This isn’t something that happens on the first day, 3rd day, or 5th day and any training that tries to make the switch before sighted shooting is habituated is going to give the shooter an artificial performance ceiling until it is fixed or remediated.

      For someone like you who studied those masters…some of my heroes…and has habituated unsighted shooting first, what you want to do is be incredibly deliberate about getting a sight picture every time you present your pistol. It may be before your first shot, it may be after you’ve completed your entire string of fire, but you want to switch from seeing the unsighted shot as the last step to simply a step in the process.

      We go into this quite a bit in the Praxis training and, done correctly, it will make you a better unsighted AND sighted shooter.

  • Jim in Jersey

    Reply Reply September 14, 2018

    I’d actually have to disagree with Col Cooper on this one. I think there is a natural tendency to point a pistol at close range. Try it sometime.

    Ever since childhood, when you saw your first cowboy movie, you recognized that the fastest way to shoot from a holster was to fire from the hip. Sure, hollywood is all crap… but I’ve been doing it with BB guns and .22’s since I could hold one. Years of practice with toy revolvers actually honed skills without even recognizing it.

    Get a SIRT pistol if you’re scared and try it.

    When you get older, and someone takes all the fun out of shooting a handgun….loads stress into the mix…right-eye dominant?… proper grip…sight picture…trigger control….squeeeeze… recoil!! Holy shit, no wonder everyone had to relearn.

    At close/contact range, there is no need to bring a pistol up to eye level. You should be able to strike a target when and where you wish without the need for sights or a sight picture. It’s called hand/eye coordination. It works with throwing a ball, catching a frisbee and anything else you learned in your life.

    The transition between ‘instinct shooting’ and aimed shooting should be equally seamless. There is no conscious switch that gets flipped that makes you realize you need to use your sights, you just do.

    In my opinion and after 50+ years of shooting, I think we’ve made a simple, fun exercise into a chore for a lot of people. The guys who flourish are the guys who can pick up any handgun and shoot it well. They’re the ones who don’t fear or anticipate recoil and shoot a wheel gun as fast or faster than most shoot an autoloader.

    In short, you should be doing both, practicing both and mastering both. If not, you’re struggling at close range and adding stress and pressure to an already volatile situation.

    Don’t shoot everything like it’s 25 yards away.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 14, 2018

      Hey Jim, you’re in good company…if you look above, even Col. Cooper disagreed with Col. Cooper 🙂

      There’s a natural selection process that happens with shooting and I want to thank you for touching on it. You actually mentioned several things about the learning process that I’m very passionate about.

      As you said, people who have the right wiring in their visual cortex and right coordination between their visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems tend to do well early with guns. They get “rewarded” with a positive outcome each time they pick up a gun. It’s natural for them. UNFORTUNATELY, a lot of “naturals” become instructors without understanding that there were some internal factors that allowed them to be as good as they are. When they run up against someone with a problem, they give the student the solution that worked for them, even though the student has a different underlying issue.

      The sooner we can take someone who’s having problems with shooting…whether it’s because of vision, granular motor output to the hand, or something else…and start getting them consistent hits on target, the more likely they’ll become a long term shooter.

      If we force someone who’s struggling to use the same process as someone who’s a “natural” then it’s going to be like banging heads into walls, but if we can take them from where they’re at, identify the underlying causes of frustration, and work through them, the entire process can be fun. (That’s why I mentioned point shooting initially on big close targets to learn trigger control)

  • Old Marine

    Reply Reply September 14, 2018

    “I will not carry a pistol without some type of laser pointer on it.”

    • Greg

      Reply Reply September 14, 2018

      Amen to that.

  • Dave B

    Reply Reply September 14, 2018

    To me it’s a Yin/Yang thing. One cannot exist without the other, and the two are interdependent upon each other.

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