For defensive shooters, there has long been a debate on sighted versus unsighted fire. In general, shooters engaged in a defensive situation are taught to aim for centermass hits and for very good reasons. The human torso pre- sents the largest target, and this is also where all the good stuff (heart, lungs, major blood vessels, assorted organs) is kept. The key word here is “aim,” meaning focus on the front sight, place it on the target and master trigger control to keep the front sight on target during the trigger squeeze. But on a range, in a controlled environment or during the stress of timed competitions, such sighted fire can take time to master. Now imagine having to make such shots count in low light or while someone is advancing toward you, armed and even firing.

Intuitive Shooting Concepts

It is in these circumstances that the advocates of point shooting, or intuitive shooting, have their most compelling arguments. Point shooting takes into account the natural tendency of people under stress to focus on the threat and loose fine motor skills. It involves very quickly en- gaging close targets using natural kinesthetic alignment, and bringing the gun in and parallel with your line of sight, not unlike the skills shotgun shooters use to hit fast-moving clay birds.

Historically, the two most famous advocates of point shooting are William Fairbairn and Rex Applegate. Fairbairn’s experience came from de- cades as a police trainer in China and later as a British Secret Service operative specializing in close- combat techniques during World War II. Applegate was also a WWII veteran and developed his close- combat experience with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of today’s CIA.

Of course, the greater the distance to the target (or the smaller the target, such as when aiming for a headshot or at a partially exposed target), the more precision matters and the less point shooting works. Here, sighted fire is far preferable, even if it takes longer.

Combat Focus Shooting

I recently attended an eight-hour Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting course taught by Evan Carson, president and chief instructor of Innovative Defensive Solutions, a firearms training company based in Manassas, Virginia. Also offered is an introductory four-hour course and a more comprehensive 16-hour course. If you attend any of these courses, come prepared to shoot because they are not taught in the classroom but on the range. Students are expected to come prepared with a gun, a holster, backup magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Combat Focus Shooting emphasizes the development of intuitive shooting skills, not just marksmanship. As the instructors explained, accuracy is “yes or no”—you either hit the target or don’t. Any hit in the centermass “critical area” counts, whereas nice tight groups do not make hits better. In fact, students were reprimanded when all shots were on target, a sign that they should speed up and challenge themselves more. Conversely, if students did not con- sistently achieve hits, they were told to slow down. We worked to achieve combat accuracy relative to our skill levels. While we were told to focus on the target without using our sights, the instructors emphasized that this was not simply a point-shooting class. The key to achieving hits lies in using and building proper technique while balancing speed and precision. A low, aggressive stance with a proper grip is essential, and that along with a proper strong-side draw was drilled into the students. We were drilled also on the difference between unsighted fire for centermass hits at close distance and slower sighted fire for precision shots at longer distances. It is critical to know when to use the different types of fire and to judge distances properly.

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  • check it out, there are 50+ CFS instructors around the world.

  • JMR

    Wow Evan, I didn’t know that. I am fortunate enough to have been certified by Rob a few years back when he was still training in Colorado. We have been teaching his techniques at the Sherrif’s academy here in Pennsylvania. I checked the web site out, wonder why I’m not on it? I haven’t been in contact with Rob since then, although my pal & partner instructor Randy has been & although my friend is recently deceased (RIP) I also don’t see his name on the list either. Anyway: AWESOME course & AWESOME technique!!! Life saver for sure.