Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

We looked at whether red dot sights are a smart option for a concealed carry pistol a few weeks ago. Many of our followers were skeptical, not only of red dot sights, but of any sight being useful in a real-world defensive situation. Is there a point at which we should shoot “instinctively” rather than relying on the sights? Is sighted fire even viable in most cases, given the tight range and short reaction times required? Should we combine sighted firing and point shooting in our training? We can’t give you definitive answers, but we can give you our thoughts! Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

Details can be found in the video below, or you can read the complete transcript by scrolling below.

Hello, everyone, Chris Baker from here. We’re continue our investigation into the myths and realities of armed conflict today. Last week, we attempted to determine the distance at which most justified defense shootings occur. The normal range appears to be three to five yards – possibly three to seven yards. We’re going to see if we need to utilize the sights on our handgun to strike a threat at that range today. Is it really possible to use the sights at all, given the speed and mayhem involved in these encounters?

Of course, not all encounters are the same. There have been incidences that occurred at ranges as close as three yards and as far out as 25 yards and beyond. Some of you wondered how a defensive shooting beyond 20 feet could be justified. There could be a variety of reasons for this. For example, if you’re being shot at or threatened with a handgun from 50 feet away, it might be permissible to respond with a shot, especially if there’s no option to seek cover or retreat. However, the vast majority of so-called “long range” self-defense cases that I’m aware of were justified because the person was defending the life of another victim – usually a family member or friend. Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

However, such circumstances are uncommon. Most people only have a limited amount of training time and money, so they prioritize preparing for the most likely events. We’re concentrating on 10 to 20 feet because that’s where the majority of defensive shootings take place.

Point Shooting Versus Sighted Fire

The dispute between point shooting and sighted fire is what we’re really getting into here. It’s also known as instinctive shooting versus aiming. The way this debate normally proceeds has multiple flaws, starting with the reality that no one can seem to agree on what point shooting even means. I’m going to use the term loosely today to describe to any shooting that doesn’t clearly use iron sights, an optic, or a laser sight. That is not to suggest that it is the correct definition; it is just the one I am employing for the purposes of this discussion. Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

Another issue with the discussion over point shooting is that it frequently presents a false dichotomy. Either always use the sights because that’s the only way to get hits, or always point shoot because no one can use their sights in real life.

But all we have to do is listen to shootout survivors’ input to realize that these two extremes are not representative of reality. The majority of people have no recollection of ever seeing their sights, although they frequently get effective hits and halt the threat. Some people have intense memories of viewing a visual picture, and this produces good effects as well. Many people have trouble remembering one way or the other. Depending on the person, either strategy can be effective. Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

Another nuance that is frequently overlooked when discussing sighted fire versus point shooting is that using the sights is not an all-or-nothing proposition. A tough long-range target may necessitate a textbook sight picture. We don’t need the sights when the target is extremely close. There’s a grey space in between where we might see an imperfect sight picture that we use as a very rough reference — what we call a flash sight picture. If you’re new with the notion of flash sight, I did a video on it a few years ago with some helpful animations that you might want to see.

At any given distance, there are no hard and fast rules on whether or how much you should rely on the sights. And distance isn’t the only aspect that determines success; it’s just the most evident. We could be dealing with a moving target, poor illumination, impediments, or spectators. The difficulty of the shot is determined by a number of factors. The more difficult the shot, the more we need to rely on the sights or some other aiming aid.

Two Point Shooting Demos

I’m gonna to show you how I use iron sights on a pistol at different distances. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of what everyone can or should do. Everyone’s pistol sights and vision are a little different. Even among shooters considerably more skilled than I am, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard two of them describe what they see when they’re shooting in exactly the same manner. My purpose here is just to show that the line between “always utilize a hard front sight focus” and “always point shoot” is blurry.

This was shot in two distinct ways. The first was with a training partner using an airsoft handgun with the sights covered up. Kenneth agreed to play the bad guy for me and let me shoot at him. I wanted to see how far away I could go before I couldn’t guarantee good hits without using sights.

This camera perspective offers us a good idea of how much space there would be between me and an attacker at various distances. Even a difference of a few feet can be significantly more significant than we realize.

Unfortunately, with our kudzu jungle backdrop, the airsoft pellets didn’t really show up on video. So I completed a similar practice at the range using a paper target to give you a better indication of where my hits are traveling.

Because I wanted to see the difference between a good fight-stopping hit and a not-so-good peripheral hit, I employed a photographic target with an anatomical overlay. In retrospect, it’s not a particularly realistic anatomical overlay, but it’ll enough for our current needs. Are Pistol Sights Actually Useful For Self-Defense?

On the timer, I fired three sets of three shots at each distance, starting from a high ready posture. I did four sets of three with my sights covered and four sets of three without.

Back to our airsoft exercise, Kenneth is starting out at true contact distance: in this case, about two feet away. He’s a pretty tall guy — 6’3”. I’m 5’9”.

If the gun isn’t already out of the holster, it might not be a good idea to draw it at all. He has the ability to reach out and grasp me or my pistol with ease. So I’m not even going to try to use the sights, let alone extend the gun. That’s how my gun becomes our gun, and it’s a terrible situation to be in.

Defensive shooting at extreme close range is a distinct discipline in its own right. I’m not going to get into it today since it’s totally outside my comfort zone. To put it another way, if you have to shoot from a close range, using your sights is the last thing on your mind. Look up any videos with Craig Douglas or Cecil Burch on close contact and retention shooting for additional information.

On my paper target at two yards, it doesn’t make any difference whether or not my sights are covered. I’m not looking at them. I can actually fire with the gun at chest level from here if I really need to.

The thing to really pay attention to here is the time difference. 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.

The true paradox of the point-and-shoot vs. sighted-fire discussion is that learning to swiftly acquire a sight picture essentially educates you to aim the gun at the target. If you practice sighted fire the right manner, you’ll get very proficient at point shooting at ranges where a lot of people believe you won’t have time to look at the sights.

If I can’t see my sights for some reason, or if both my red dot and backup irons fail, I can just do what I’ve always done in practice and score some decent hits. When I practice with sights, it doesn’t imply I’ll forget how to shoot when I don’t see them. If, on the other hand, you’re mostly interested in

As a result, point shooting has a place. You might want to give it a shot once in a while to see whether you can handle it. It’s what I’d teach a beginner if I didn’t think they’d practice again in their lives. If you want to enhance your pistol shooting, though, you should definitely spend the majority of your time practicing sighted firing.

Guys, I hope this has provided you with a new perspective on the point-shooting topic. If that’s the case, hit the like button, subscribe to our channel, and go to to get some ammo.

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