If force-on-force training has taught me one thing it’s this: adrenalin (not love) changes everything. When push comes to shove, biological chemistry dramatically degrades your motor skills. In many cases, point shooting becomes the default option. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world—provided errant bullets don’t take out innocent bystanders (void if member of law enforcement). At bad breath distances, point shooting can git ‘er done. And “covering fire” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re shooting at someone, legally, it’s probably best if your bullets hit them where it hurts. To do that, aiming’s good. Here are three ways to increase the odds that you’ll use your sights in a gunfight, should it be possible or advisable to do so . . .
1. Make sure you can see your sights quickly and easily
Plenty of shooters use guns with sights they can’t see well because that’s the way the gun was set-up for sale—and they don’t know any better. There are a large number of sighting systems on the market, from big ass Big Dots to funky pyramid things. Depending on your eyesight, the firearms’s point-of-aim and the way your brain’s wired, some systems are going to work for you and some ain’t.
Trial and error baby. Borrow a friend’s firearms. Find a gun range that rents guns and test drive different sights for target acquisition and marksmanship. You may find you’re good to go as-is (Glock’s U-shaped sights are damn handy). Or you may want to swap out. Just remember: the best sights for armed self-defense are ones that you can see quickly.
Oh, and get your eyes tested regularly.
2. Practice bringing your gun on-target, taking it off-target, acquiring new targets
In terms of aiming, what do you see at the gun range? Shooters put their sights on-target for the first shot and then keep their sights on target for all subsequent rounds until they’re out of ammo. Reload. Wash, rinse, repeat.
This routine predisposes self-defense shooters towards tunnel vision (must hit one target) and emptying their gun (at a single target). In a crisis, the shooter’s subconscious knows the gun is aimed at the target so . . . chocks away! Hey, if one bullet’s headed in the right direction they must all be headed in the right direction, right?
The trick: change it up in training. Fire a couple of shots. Take your sights off the target. Put them back on. Fire a single shot. Change targets. Have someone call out targets. Best of all, move and shoot; varying the number of shots and targets. Re-holster.
If your range doesn’t let you allow this kind of training, find a range that does and do it as often as possible, even if it’s once a month or less. At the same time, draw the curtains, warn the fam and practice acquiring targets at home with your unloaded (safety-checked) firearm.
3. Head for cover/concealment
If you’re out in the open, the natural urge is to shoot your gun dry. Why wouldn’t you? You’re exposed. STOP THE THREAT! STOP THE THREAT! If, however, you’re heading for cover/concealment, you’re giving yourself a little psychological lebensraum (note: I’m Jewish). You know—if only instinctively—that the gunfight will last longer than the first fast and furious fusillade. You have a reason to take a little more time. Time you can use to assess the threat and aim.
Disclaimer: This is, of course, a theory. It’s worked for me in force-on-force training but who the Hell knows what could/would/will go down in the heat of battle? Think of it this way: it’s a good idea to head for cover/concealment in a gunfight anyway. Making that Job One—which can be instantly followed by ballistic Job Two—will not hurt you.
One more thing: the further away you are from a target the more you need to use your sights. Sometimes the best self-defense strategy is to move towards the bad guy to ensure accuracy and surprise the hell out of him/them—without using sights. Just sayin’.