Why “point shooting” doesn’t/does work…

I get into frequent discussions with shooters and instructors on the merits of sighted shooting vs. point shooting.

Now, to be clear, I teach that there’s a time for both and teach a blended approach that let’s shooters seamlessly and effortlessly switch back and forth, but this isn’t something you can just decide you’re going to do…it takes deliberate practice.

Ironically, the blended approach I teach ends up making it easier to be fast + accurate than either pure sighted or pure target focus shooting…and it’s almost identical for red dots and irons!

The big argument against sighted shooting is that it’s too slow…which can be largely, but not completely mitigated with vision training.  Besides retention issues and the fact that you probably can’t get a sight picture on a threat within 3-6 feet, it’s a basic law of physics that it’s quicker to shoot when your gun is on the way out to full extension than waiting until it’s at full extension.  (Shooting sooner is quicker than shooting later)

The big argument against point shooting is that it’s not accurate or predictable enough.

But, at the same time, countless instructors claim—and demonstrate–that point shooting IS accurate and predictable by shooting shotgun shells, 9mm brass, and coins out of the air–all without using their sights.

And thousands of students have taken point shooting classes and shot like rock stars by the end of the class.

So…what’s going on?  Why is there any debate or disagreement?

Try this little experiment with me…

Most people have had a pointer finger attached since birth, and feel pretty darn confident in their ability to point.

So, right now, pick switch on the wall, a screw/nail head, a book on a bookshelf, hinge on a door, or something else 10-20 feet away that you can point at.

Try the drill both standing and sitting and see if there’s a difference…a lot of times, people will do better sitting than standing, because of the added challenge of balance.

With your hands by your side or in front of your chest, slowly extend your shooting arm/finger out so that you’re pointing at and covering the switch/object you picked.  (your finger will be between your dominant eye and the switch/object.  Your non-dominant eye will still be able to see the switch/object.)

Repeat this 3-5 times until you are confident you could do it with your eyes shut or with the lights off.

Now, with your hands by your side or in front of your chest, shut your eyes, extend and point where you think the switch is.  Open your eyes.

Are you dead-on?  Then you have a much better than average chance of making first hits on target with point shooting, but keep in mind that with this drill, you’re aligning 1 point (the end of your finger) with the target and with a firearm, you’re aligning 2 points (the front and back of the slide) with the target.

Are you high/low/right/left?  Then you’d probably miss in that same direction if you tried making a cold shot with point shooting.

Are you off a lot?  That’s part of why people regularly shoot 2, 5, or more shots at attackers who are only feet away and miss with every round.

(Regardless of which of the 3 categories you find yourself in, you want to check out our Automatic Aiming presentation that will show you how to improve your ability to automatically deliver your sights to the point in space between your dominant eye and the target…at full speed…in 1-2 minutes, during the presentation.  Click >HERE< to watch it today.)

How’s that even possible?

When you’re pointing in a low stress situation with your eyes open, your brain is constantly adjusting and correcting as you extend your arm.

Your brain is getting immediate feedback of where you’re pointing and your brain self-corrects on the fly…like a servo.

The same thing happens when you practice dry fire with a laser, live fire against a dirt berm, live fire on a target where you can see where you hit, or when you’re training with projectiles like sim rounds airsoft, or paintballs where you can see the round flying through the air.  These are all, as Dusty Salomon termed them, artificial aiming systems.

This self correcting process is called a cybernetic loop.  (cybernetics is a fancy–but not new–word for a self-correcting loop.  The concept has been around since Plato, Ampre and comes from the Greek word kubernetes…which is a name for a self-correcting rudder on a ship.)

When shooting, your brain makes adjustments as you’re presenting (if you’re presenting slowly enough) or sees where you’re hitting, and makes minor adjustments between shots to get you on target—creating a self-correcting loop.

This also serves to calibrate and synchronize your visual system, your balance/vestibular system, and your proprioceptive system…or your brain’s awareness of where your body is in space.  When they’re all working together, point shooting is natural, easy, and it’s normal to think that everyone should be able to do it.

It usually doesn’t take too many reps to get dialed in…and then the gun seems to aim itself.

When it’s working, it’s F A S T, accurate, and pretty amazing.  There’s a tendency to think that if you can do it at the end of a range session, you’ll be able to do it on-demand with a first shot when lives depend on it.

The problem is, it’s an incredibly perishable skill because most peoples’ senses don’t stay synched up.

In a point shooting class, shooters will oftentimes have to “warm up” again after lunch and at the beginning of each day to be accurate again.

But, by the end of each day, performance levels are oftentimes unbelievable and confidence levels are through the roof.

The problem comes in with shooting situations where you don’t get to warm up first…or when you aren’t putting 40,000, 50,000 or more rounds downrange per year and constantly refining the skill.

Or when you can’t see where your hits are going…like in a self-defense situation…and can’t take advantage of that self-correction process.

Or when you need to make a precision shot…like a hostage situation, or someone behind partial cover, or a distant target.

Or when you do all of your practice with your head and torso squared up to a threat and real life feeds you a situation where your body is facing one direction, your face/eyes/gun are pointed in another direction.

If your visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems are all working together at that moment in time, then you’ll get your hits.

If not, you are probably looking at ineffective hits, misses, OR hits on people you don’t want to hit.

So, when you see some youtoober saying that you don’t need to aim and then demonstrating THEIR ability to point shoot…take it with a grain of salt.  Don’t use it as an excuse for not training.

What’s happening is that, when you start pushing speed with sighted shooting, your sights are going to naturally start being in alignment with the target sooner in the shooting process and you get “point shooting” as a bonus skill.

For someone shooting every day or a few times a week, they’re going to get better at point shooting regardless of whether they practice sighted shooting or point shooting.

And it’s going to seem like point shooting is natural…but that’s only because of the reps they did in advance…not because of some natural ability to point.

As my friend and fellow instructor, Dusty Solomon has exhaustively tested and written about, if you start with point shooting…because of the fact that it’s easier for the brain to do…it’s very hard to switch from point shooting to sighted shooting.  The brain is going to want to default to the method that takes less effort…even if it results in more misses, so it’s vital that you start with sighted shooting.

Now, there are several techniques that I teach for integrating point and sighted shooting in Automatic Aiming and  Praxis that will cut the overall amount of time you need to practice, but here’s one to keep in mind:

When you’re practicing…if you decide to point shoot…begin disciplining yourself to either transition to sighted fire for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th shot OR make sure to get a sight picture before you bring your pistol back in from full extension.  Even if you shoot from a compressed or retention position, maneuver until you can extend your pistol and get a follow-up sight picture.

So, the way this sometimes plays out is like this…if the backstop and situation (lack of no-shoot targets) make point shooting a viable option and you’ve decided that you’re going to point shoot to get a round on target faster, discipline yourself to try to get a sight picture for the 2nd shot.  If you don’t get it by the 2nd shot, get it by the 3rd shot.  If you are done shooting before your eyes catch up, let your eyes catch up and get a sight picture before coming back to high-ready and reholstering.

So, can point shooting work?  Absolutely.  IF you have a consistent grip and your visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems are integrated and calibrated.  Automatic Aiming will help you integrate and calibrate those systems so you can point shoot more accurately and do sighted shooting quicker.  And, if you train correctly, they’re synergistic skills/techniques that help you be both quicker and more accurate.  But you’ve got to have a plan for when point shooting doesn’t work…and ingrain that plan into your practice so it’s hardwired into your brain.

But what are your thoughts?

What is your preferred method of shooting?  If you do both, how do you integrate and switch between the two?  Share your thoughts & questions by commenting below:


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  • Al

    Reply Reply June 4, 2023

    First and foremost, I am a believer in the point and shoot method. Not because I think that way is superior to using sights, but during most critical incidents, that is the way most people who do not train regularly are going to shoot, especially at common self defense incidents. I believe in techniques that are easily taught, easily learned, and easily maintained. We all know that to improve our skillsets in any endeavor, one should put forth the effort to training and practice regularly. However, life happens and most people simply can’t squeeze the training in the day to maintain skillsets, regardless of how important the skillset may be. This is especially true for firearms proficiency training. We see this in the law enforcement career field due to financial reasons, time restraints, and resource availability. In the civilian community, all of the same reasons exist to include physical handicaps, as well as a plethora of other reasons why defenders do not train as much as they should. As such, that is why it is imperative that carriers train for those shorter self-defense distances when seconds count and shooting platforms are compromised, one barley has enough time to clear holster and garment, and our physiology is working against us when deterioration of fine and complex motor-skills occur, but that is another issue for another forum. Not to be negated, sighted shooting has to be mastered if training to shoot at uncommon self-defense or defense of others distances. If mitigating a threat at 45 to 50 feet while working security or law enforcement duties, one better know how to effectively use their sights. At the same time, if this is the only way one trains and their training is sporadic at best, they will default to sighted technique when time is not a friend at 3 to 15 feet. I will say if one has the time, money, and resources to train to place the front sight on target during most critical incidents, this will serve to the defender’s benefit. This is demonstrated in the Center Axis Relock technique of shooting. It simply works. In short, using sights and point shooting both have a place. However, for most people training for self defense, the point and shoot method is an easier skill to acquire suitable for most critical incidents.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 4, 2023

      Hi Al,

      I do not dislike point shooting, but there is a huge amount of evidence backing the need to practice sighted shooting as much or more than point shooting.

      There are a few things that you said that I want to refine…

      1. If we craft our training for the shooter who doesn’t practice, we would be better to use a grip activated laser and not point shooting.
      2. Point shooting is easily taught and learned, but it is especially prone to the illusion of competency. It requires that the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive be calibrated and integrated AND combined with a consistent grip. If any of them are off, shots will be off and there’s no handrail/visual reference to get them back on target (like sights). Point shooting can be taught and learned incredibly quickly, but the decay rate is very, very fast.
      3. The ranges where people need to be able to use their sights in training is much shorter than 45-50 feet. Studies into touch screens and gesture activated devices show that people are off by as much as 10″ at 10 feet. That’s missing a target that’s 20″ wide. Add an inconsistent grip and ANY muzzle movement due to poor trigger manipulation, and it becomes easy to see how gunfights can happen across a bed in a mobile home where the people empty their guns and miss with every round. We need to be able to smoothly and effortlessly “shift gears” between aiming methods depending on the requirements of the shot AND the effectiveness of prior shots. A shooter may end up point shooting at 10 feet, but the way they build durable skill is with sighted shooting and the way they learn to respond to a miss is with sighted shooting.
      4. In my “4-speed aiming” I lay out 2 forms of aiming between point shooting and a crisp focus on the front sight. It’s not an either/or, but no matter what level of aiming refinement you use, you do want to get a clean, clear followup sight picture at the end of every string of fire.
      5. It’s important to test the durability of point shooting skills in your students. Ideally, you would be able to do a “pop quiz” 5-7 days after a training and see how they perform under the stress of a buzzer with no advance warning based on the training that they did on their own between the class and the pop quiz. What we see is that psychomotor skills that don’t have frequent short repetition between learning and testing decay very, very rapidly and the skills that we see at the end of a day of training are way higher than what we can expect to see in the real world a few days later.

  • Russ

    Reply Reply June 2, 2023

    I use my sights to have fun target shooting, although I just put a SX big dot tritium (dot the i rear sight) on my CCW, for quick target acquisition (QTA).
    When I train for real life application, I do just how you were explaining; I point shoot, and am gradually getting my front sight on target with consecutive shots.
    *I simply pretend there is a threat to life, and get on it.*
    I don’t make one hole, but all my shots are hitting the intended area.
    Thanks for all your tips, you make a positive difference in my efficiency.

  • Legion Training

    Reply Reply March 28, 2023

    All shooting REQUIRES pointing, not all shooting requires sight focus or even seeing the sights.

    Again, the dogma misses the point.

    Jim Cirillo was/is a great resource for how it is done.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply March 29, 2023

      From your comment, I’m not sure if you were able to read the article, but yes…dogma either way misses the point.

      Cirillo’s books and videos (that are still available) are great resources on successfully fighting with a gun…what we do just teaches you how to do it 10x-20x faster.

  • John

    Reply Reply January 21, 2023

    I learned to shoot a pistol using a Browning 1922 in 32 ACP.
    I does not have much in the way of sights and I can keep shots in the 9 ring of a man size target at 15 to 20 feet point shooting.


  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply January 20, 2023

    My training came from Fairbairn and Applegate OSS curriculum.
    They were firm believers in training both methods, the deciding factor in real life is time and distance.

  • Tom Aiellos

    Reply Reply February 10, 2021

    Whats troubling is that after twenty seven years of law enforcement and the most the majority of the the departments encourage is target shooting during annual mandated firearms training.

    The mayors and council along with the prosecutors barely allow budget further education once the candidates graduate the police academies. The public has over expectations that our police are well educated and combat ready to handle the streets; however, the police academies that once were a place the officers could self register for any trainings they desired must now be assigned by the training officers. I use to go to the training lists and take trainings on my days off when I joined the department but shortly after the academies were hoarding the classes for college students or requiring an officer be assigned to the academy by the departments.

    If an officer is not skilled with a firearm, the range masters modify the qualification to get the officer through the mandated minimum qualification score. Barely adequate target shooting is taught shutter the thought that the officers take “Tactical Training” shooting exercises that simulate real life confrontations.

    Once and only once when I was working on loan to the federal marshals, we had patrol cars in the background with their sirens blaring, shotguns being fired in the background and each officer perform calisthenics prior to engaging their targets for both night and day qualifications.

    I took my profession very serious but was quickly labeled too aggressive and likely to cause a confrontation which saw me assigned to our most crime infested housing projects with strict supervision and kept in highly visibility patrol assignments.

    After leaving the military and having a strong interest in high crime duties, I started the first officer to carry to and from my job at the Sheriff’s Correctional Facility and trained constantly at local ranges. I’m not a great shooter but while notching up over seven or eight hundred arrests in my twenty seven years active, I made sure of two things. Knowing when to unholster my weapon and bring in a tactically advantageous position.

    So to be able to prepare to fire on an assailant just using a front sight, I believe it would take the majority of shooters a lot of dedication and practice and with the price of ammo now is no very likely.

    I like the trainings that OX is putting out and will be utilizing them more in the future.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply February 15, 2021

      Thanks, Tom!

      • John

        Reply Reply January 21, 2023

        I learned to shoot a pistol using the Browning 1922, a pistol that virtually has no sights.
        I can keep shots inside the 9 ring of a man size target at 15 to 20 feet point shooting with a 1911 compact.


    • rod vanzeller

      Reply Reply January 20, 2023

      Solution: practice every day at home dry fire with laser trainer.


    Reply Reply September 29, 2020

    It seems as though everybody is leaving a very important factor out. Mental practice! You must practice this in your head even when you’re not shooting. It helps teach your body to obey what you want it to do.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 29, 2020

      Absolutely…dig in to our stuff and you’ll find 10 years of books, articles, and courses on the mental aspects of self-defense shooting.

  • Mikey

    Reply Reply February 17, 2020

    Nice article. Im really enjoying your classes and Im seeing some very exciting results. When I respond to any of the articles ill respond with Mikey lee my nickname so you don’t get confused with all the other michaels. More than likely ill just email you. Look forward to more advanced training in the future, hooah!!

  • Carter Leffen

    Reply Reply February 3, 2020

    Well, point shootin’ is viable fer those times when sighted firing ain’t available, time wise. Nice, tight groups, as a general rule, are good. Howsomever, IF you don’t have th’ benefit of time an’ distance, an’ yer blessed with a heavy, 3lb. revolver, ya aim fer the pelvis, an’ let the recoil ease er’ up- crotch ta gizzard, or for the educated, pelvis and thoracic triangle, culminatin’ jest above th’ eyes… That’ll do ‘er. If more than one threat, an’ bad guys now often wear soft armor, two to th’ thoracic triangle, step to th’ other guy’s dominant side, an’ trigger off two more ta their thoracic triangle. Works. Shoot move, shoot move, until they’re all down, an’ no more of a threat.

    Here’s where Dry-Fire makes sense- practice how ya fight, an’ fight how ya practice.

  • Richard

    Reply Reply November 20, 2019

    A reasoned and elegant explanation of a complex issue encompassing several disciplines.




    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 20, 2019

      lol…just link back, if you would 🙂

  • Arne

    Reply Reply August 17, 2019

    This explains why one instructor says that Point Shooting is what you to do to get time to get to your sights. Just like you pointed out, this instructor shows point shooting ability as a bonus to the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship.

  • Brian Sandman

    Reply Reply August 16, 2019

    At Camp X in Oshawa -Ontario Point Shooting was taught.
    My father graduated from there while serving active duty with the LARDG as a Gunnery Sgt.

    At the Smith & Wesson Academy (Instructor School) we had Charles Smith (Retired FBI Weapons Supervisor) train us in Point Shooting. Many specific corrective actions are left out in Modern renditions of Point Shooting that allow for continued accurate Fire and impact zones.
    The worst one is the failure to triangulate the elbow with the bodies
    centerline. Yes I had a problem with the shot placement until Charles smith gave me advice on how-to use the triangulation and proper extension of the weapon into your peripheral vision to align the muzzle and provide adjustment feedback to your brain.

    Point Shooting works when based on the practical demonstration plus understanding of the body mechanics. I enjoyed reading your article
    yet could show you the proper technique so the placement works every time.

    It would be amazing to show this in person for a understanding of the original method taught. I know for some reason this is taught via hands-on word of mouth.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 16, 2019

      Thank you for sharing, Brian. I’ve been fortunate to train with some incredible point shooters and I use and teach point shooting when appropriate. When I’m making 1 second hits from the holster, I use the sights, but when I’m shooting faster than .9, I point shoot my first shot and use the sights for the 2nd and subsequent shots. This time cutoff varies depending on the shooter…but it’s critical to identify it before spending too much time point shooting. You don’t have to identify it by time nearly as much as you need to identify it by feel & urgency and one of the best feedback tools for this is doing force-on-force training where you get immediate, tangible feedback on the balance of speed & accuracy.

      Keep in mind that if point shooting isn’t learned and practiced in it’s proper place in relation to sighted shooting, all sorts of problems and gaps in performance pop up.

      Remember…if you practice sighted shooting correctly, you’ll get point shooting skills as an added benefit. If you focus on point shooting, though, you won’t be able to manufacture the ability to use the sights under stress.

      But, I agree, I would enjoy seeing your method.

  • Michael

    Reply Reply August 16, 2019

    Single hand shooting is what I think you as the author are talking about,right? Sight alignment is important on a running target if he/she/it is shouting back and you hopefully are partially in cover if not you gotta do what you got to do,in the open, when,you want to make it count, with other objects,that are in the background,you do not want to destroy and of course,as the target gets farther away,then the science of a shrinking target or vanishing point takes over the Opportunity to make that shot count.Point shooting is very reliable when you are at least 10 to 7 and 5 and 3 yard’ where most CCW laws to qualify are taught in a defense class,where most 1 on 1 conflict begins.The old saying is seconds count as time goes by.In my learning experiences with a lot of video shooting scenarios,on dvd and online it’s tenths of second on the trigger,So pull it out and point at center mass to stop the threat,it can be to the bowl to the heart/chest and if the target is still moving,then you have time to use both hands,then the last shot should be with sight alignment,to the head

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 16, 2019

      Point shooting can be done with one or two hands.

      I do have to take issue with your statement that point shooting is very reliable at 5, 7, and 10 yards out. Law enforcement shooting statistics for the last 20+ years prove otherwise, as well as numerous studies. It CAN be correct, but it takes thousands of rounds of practice per month to make it a reality…and then, in a real world situation, if you miss…how do you know and how do you correct if you haven’t trained yourself to transition to the sights?

      As to speed…for most shooters, the speed that you WANT to make up by point shooting is lost with inefficiencies in their draw stroke, slow threat identification, a lag in response time, and 1 or more misses before a first hit is finally made. And all of those take WAY more time than the time that it takes to use your sights.

      You see, for many, point shooting is a crutch to justify practicing less often…in reality it requires you to practice MORE often. And when people use point shooting to justify practicing less, other problems creep in…like getting caught up in cover, a bad grip, mashing the trigger, and flinching.

      So, if you want to be really good at point shooting…effective in life & death situations…I’d suggest that you spend the time to dial in your sighted shooting.

      And, again…if situations warrant, maybe you do need to point shoot your first shot or two, but you want to discipline yourself to create the time and space necessary to transition to getting a sight picture…even if it’s just a followup sight picture.

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