Learning to quickly acquire a sight picture essentially trains you to point the gun at the target

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Are pistol sights actually useful for self-defense?

It didn’t take me any longer to use the sights than to point shoot, but the accuracy was much better. Most of the old point shooting techniques were developed back when iron sights on handguns were small and very difficult to see. With modern, high visibility iron sights, there’s really no reason I have to rely on point shooting at seven yards.

Handgun Sights from 1930s vs. Modern

The real paradox of the point shooting versus sighted fire debate is that learning to quickly acquire a sight picture essentially trains you to point the gun at the target. If you practice sighted fire the correct way, you will automatically get pretty good at point shooting at the kind of ranges where a lot of people claim you will not have time to see the sights.

If I was unable to see my sights for some reason, or my red dot and my backup irons have both somehow failed, I can just do what I’ve always done in practice and I’ll usually still get some pretty good hits. Practicing with sights doesn’t mean I suddenly forget how to shoot if I don’t see them. On the other hand, if you primarily practice point shooting, it does not make you better at sighted fire. If a situation calls for a higher level of precision, you will have limited your ability to get that precision on demand.

So there’s a place for point shooting. You might want to try it on occasion to see if you can do it. It’s what I would teach a novice if I thought they were realistically never going to practice again. But if pistol shooting is a skill you intend to improve, most of your time should probably be spent on sighted fire.


  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    As far as I’m concerned point shooting means you understand the dynamics and geometry of hitting center of mass. Practice it enough for the pistol to become an extension of your body and you’ll never miss in a close self defense situation like your home. Sights are for accuracy if you don’t have the muscle memory and neural habits engrained.

    Place a 8×10 piece of paper at 21′ and my point lands in the general center. I don’t care about bullseye markmanshipbragging rights. Hold a 8×10 sheet to your chest for a reality check.

  2. Goober says:

    I think that when these debates come up over this way or that way or whatever way is best, it all is just a discussion that is vastly overcomplicating a very simple thing.

    It’s simple to me. As this author states, If my gun has sights on it, I practice shooting it using the sights. If a situation ever comes up where I can’t use the sights, going through the motions from memory will still lead to accurate fire, and generally speaking, ranges where you’re using a gun in a life and death situation aren’t going to be far enough that your muscle memory won’t suffice to get the hits.

    I practice long shots, too. I figure that if I can reliably hit a clay pigeon target at 50 meters with my pistol (yes, meters, not feet), that I’ll be able to reliably hit anything closer with ease.

    The long and short of it is this: if you want to get good with your piece, then go shoot it. A lot. Don’t get hung up on all of the little stupid details. Just shoot it. Figure out what it takes to hit the target, then repeat. Do it a lot, until the motion becomes ingrained, and you’re fine.

    It’s like weight training. I do weight training 5 times a week, and have made it a thing where I try to bring in new guys and teach them my routine to share what I know. I find that people that I’m introducing to weight training are always amazed at how much their “strength” increases so quickly after starting a new weight training program. It’s so common that the weight lifting community has a term for it: “newbie gains”. They think they’re building muscle, but study after study has revealed that, no, they’re not actually building that much muscle that early on. It actually takes quite some time to really noticeably put on muscle, like months, not days or weeks. What’s happpening is They’re re-wiring neurological pathways that allow them to get more efficient at the movements. They started trembling, unsure, and off balance, and after doing it for a bit, with nearly exactly the same muscles, they have increased the amount that they can lift substantially just by building that muscle memory. .

    Think about riding a bike. An unfamiliar motion, an unfamiliar feeling. The first time you got on a bike, you were wobbly, unsure, and at risk of crashing. By your tenth time riding, you were doing just fine.

    It’s all about muscle memory, wiring neurological pathways to new movements, and building habits based on what works.

    Shooting is no different. I used to concentrate on grip, squeezing the trigger, breathing, etc. Now, I don’t even think. The gun comes out, the sight picture acquired, and the trigger is squeezed without me even putting thought into it.

    Stop getting hung up on the piddly details about this and that, and just go shoot your gun.

  3. Allen says:

    I’ve played with a simulator that displays various scenarios on a screen, you have a pistol that fires a laser at the screen and registers hits. It didn’t occur to me until later that I hadn’t actually used the sights.

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