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ILEETA: Force Panel Debates Point Shooting vs. Aimed Fire

Point shooting well under stress requires learned muscle memory.

April 27, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Introducing the topic of point shooting vs. aimed fire during the use-of force panel at last week's International Association of Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers (ILEETA) conference, moderator Massad Ayoob told the almost-capacity audience he wanted to discuss a topic that spurs copious comments on gun training forums.

The panel, which consisted of firearms trainers, law enforcement officers, a physician, an attorney, and a psychologist, discussed the issue in terms of training and officer-involved shootings. And it concluded that point shooting may be what happens in a gunfight but to point shoot well under stress officers need to aim when they train.

"Point shooting well under stress is all about muscle memory," said New Braintree, Mass., chief of police Bert DuVernay. "And the way you achieve that muscle memory is by learning to align your sights."

DuVernay said that training officers to point shoot without training them to aim was a "shortcut." "There is no instinctive ability to shoot. So we need to teach our people to use the sights under realistic conditions. That's the answer, not point shooting."

Firearms trainer Vicki Farnham said point shooting allows shooters to put a lot of shots downrange very quickly but the results are less than spectacular. "I had a student who was somewhat slower than the other members of one of my classes, but his groups were excellent. When I asked him about it, he was defensive. 'I shoot the old-fashioned way,' he told me. 'I use both of my sights.' You better be able to use both of your sights and to hit what you want to hit," she said.

Sgt. Brian Stover of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department echoed Farnham's story. "I was trained the old-fashioned way," he said. "And I've only been in one shooting. I fired three roundS and hit him once. I can tell you that an accurate shot ends the problem."

The panel acknowledged that point shooting is often effective, but firearms trainer John Farnham said that officers should not make the poor poker player's error of "mistaking good cards for brains." He added, "We trainers have to persuade our students to do what works best in most circumstances and that is use their sights."

Physician and gun trainer James Williams argued that trainers should keep an open mind on the issue. "What we need to do is find out what the agencies that really are doing a good job hitting the bad guys are teaching their officers and copy them," he said.

Law enforcement psychologist Alexis Artwohl told the audience that she is not a shooter and certainly not a gun trainer, but she did have some advice on the issue. "This is a life-and-death question. So we need to ask ourselves, 'What does the research show?' That's a huge problem in law enforcement: A lot of the training is based on myths, assumption, and personal opinion. We need to know what works."

Attorney Laura Scarry didn't have the actual last word in the discussion, but she summed up the feelings of every panelist with advice to every working officer in the room. "When it comes to point shooting or aiming, do what is necessary to come home to your spouse."

Tags: Firearms Training, ILEETA


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

octagon @ 9/10/2010 7:24 AM

No attack to the writer or the participants but a shockingly,lopsided,simplistic and misleading "debate". The moderator Ayoob, the Farnhams and DuVernay may be great and experienced trainers all but over many years have been strong proponents of sights and sighted fire in defensive shooting if not openly averse to point shooting or true threat focused shooting. WHERE ARE THE POINT SHOOTING ADVOCATES? As Dr Williams,Dr Artwohl and Scarry mention or allude to find out what works and then use it. WHERES THE DATA TO PROVE IT? FBI UCR on officers killed and assaulted has a lot of great and valuable info, but it doesn't have no of rounds fired/number of hits/location of hits for hit ratio and location effectiveness at all or consistently addressed. There needs to be a fair and open comparison of many agencies large and small and their HIT RATIOS to determine if sights or point shooting work or not. 2 anecdotal stories and an analogy about card games is not data or proof and hardly objective.

octagon @ 9/10/2010 8:19 AM

To offer positive alternatives instead of just pointing out the deficiencies in the article/debate here are other ways to OBJECTIVELY cover it. Gather a larger panel of experts or knowledgeable, experienced trainers FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE. Get point shooting advocates such as Mike Rayburn, Lou Chiodo, Matt Tempkin,Chuck Klein,Jim Gregg, Rob Pincus and others, as well as those that changed from sights only advocates to a mix or point shooting such as Mike Conti, Gabe Suarez etc.. Keep the sights advocates already included in the article and add the doctors/psychologist/psychiatrists and ergonomic/human kinetics experts such as Bruce Siddle,Lt Col Dave Grossman,Dr Bill Lewinski etc. Then have a detailed discussion and debate while presenting evidence, data by all the panel members as objectively as possible. The panel could also devise some experiments that could help clarify issues to be done force on force with Simunitions or airsoft and possibly with eye tracking systems such as Setcan's Eyelock system to accurately determine where shooters are looking sights or threat in simulated combat scenarios at least. Careful interviews of officers involved in shootings as well as review of training officers participated in (department and outside) should be compared with hit ratios and results in actual shootings( many shootings, many officers over time) to get enough information to determine what trends exist in support of or against sights or point shooting. What should be clarified is that there isn't all or nothing issue as at contact distance to a few feet point shooting is the only way and at distances out beyond 7-10 yards almost everyone will need sights to get hits. It is in the non contact non longer distances that the issue between sights and threat focus becomes controversial. Lets use clear thinking,objectivity,science,data and results from actual shootings to settle this issue properly for the good of every officer.

Live Safe Academy, LLC @ 3/30/2014 3:54 PM

If you would like to hear Lou Chiodo's perspective on this issue you can do so here:

Podcast 1 – Target-Focused Shooting featuring Lou Chiodo

Listen online: http://www.livesafeacademy.com/podcast/

Subscribe on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/live-safe-academy-llc-podcast/id847205026

New podcast released every 3 weeks.

Next podcast: Podcast 2 - Human Factors featuring Sergeant Joseph "Little Joe" Ferrera

Release Date: 4-14-14

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