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.

The training is based on an analysis of real defensive shootings. Despite its name, the course is not about offensive shooting. The techniques taught are designed to quickly deal with a threat in the most efficient manner possible. Each step of the class was explained and drilled before moving on to the next step. And every subsequent step built on the ones before, giving us multiple opportunities to repeat what we learned. But in the real world you don’t just draw and start shooting. Threats appear without warning, and your initial reaction will normally be sur- prise or shock.

Accordingly, students were asked to simulate surprise before moving to the next step: Recognize the source of the surprise, determining whether it was a threat and locating the potential threat before choosing to draw.

Move & Shoot

Lateral motion was also a key element of the course, with movement introduced before making the decision to draw and fire. Firing itself is static, but speed reloads occur while moving and remaining target focused. Carson explained, “For new shooters, CFS advocates that magazines carried on the belt be staged with the bullets pointed away from the centerline, as this method requires less Volume of fire was emphasized, and 123 students were taught to get out of the double- or triple-tap mindset. Instead of always taking the same number of movement of the hands than the tradi- tional bullets forward orientation.”

shots on target after each draw, we were required to mix up the number of shots. In a real-world situation the number of shots necessary to end a threat will naturally vary, so it will not do to become stuck on firing a specific number of rounds. Instructors taught one-handed shooting for cases that could involve injury or for other situations in which a two-handed grip isn’t possible.

For this course I used my Glock 19 pistol with a Safariland Model 5188 Concealment paddle holster, my usual concealed carry rig. This injection- molded holster provides good retention and keeps the pistol high and close to the body. The low-cut sides and front aid in achieving a quick draw, while the suede interior lining protects the pistol’s finish throughout repeated draws and re-holsterings. The 1,000 rounds I needed for the course were generously provided by Black Hills Ammunition—I used its excellent 9mm 124-grain JHP, also my standard self-defense load. As expected, I experience no malfunctions of any sort. You should try and train with the gun, holster and ammunition combination you routinely carry when- ever possible, to develop the utmost confidence in your skills and gear.

At Day’s End

In addition to being a competitive IPSC and IDPA shooter, Evan Carson is an experienced instructor who is certified in many disciplines and shooting courses. I asked him what sets this course apart. “I wanted to know the best and most efficient way, backed by real evidence that could be explained thoroughly and with great detail. Among the many reasons that Combat Focus Shooting appealed to me, this was the biggest. You get instruction backed by solid research within the context of civilian- involved shooting incidents,” he said.

This course bridges the gap between intuitive shooting and aimed fire for precision, teaching the shooter to determine their own balance of speed and precision so he or she can make lifesaving combat accurate hits in the worst case defensive shooting. Maybe now the debate will be settled—both techniques work and have their place. For more on Innovative Defensive Solutions LLC, visit or call 877-545-0492.

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