WHY IT’S CRITICAL TO TRAIN IN ALTERNATIVE VISUAL FOCAL POINTS
Let’s talk about sights—in a traditional sense— iron sights. Depending on the difficulty of the shot, the shooter’s focal points should shift. Focal point can be described as visual, mental, sensual, or a mixture of all. For our purposes, I'll narrow this down to only the visual.
Sighted shooting is a fundamental of marksmanship. We were all taught first to have front sight focus when shooting. We all need to start somewhere and using this method is proven where it ensures that the weapon is aligned upon the target precisely.
I know, I know … that’s what I teach at the police academy where I work and at TAC-1 weapons training school on the weekends. However, we must not neglect to teach other types of focused shooting.
As you become more advanced and adept at shooting (tactical or competitive), you must also evolve in understanding the availability of other visual focal points while shooting. To do so, we must understand the nature of gun fighting. If you have ever experienced any force-on-force scenario-based training, you will quickly realize that the sights were often left out of the equation when returning fire at close range, regardless of the amount of training the shooter had. Let’s take a closer look.
If you are not the aggressor, you will mostly likely be reacting to a violent situation. Action causes reaction, and reactions are much slower than action. We often can’t wait for our focus to go to the front sight when aiming—the trigger must be pressed.
Generally, when aiming, the front sight focus is the standard. This is the only way to learn and cognitively know what the sights should look like, in relation to the target. But the process of front sight focused shooting is slow. Slow in a sense that it would delay you from getting your shots out before the bad guy does in close quarters.
Front sight focused shooting is reserved for difficult shots in combat—long distance, moving targets, alternative shooting positions and small target areas. The shooter usually has some sort of cover … distance, cover fire or some other resources to increase survivability. However, the slow nature of this sighting system makes it impractical for close-range shooting when speed becomes a dominant factor.
VISUAL FOCAL POINT
Consider that the average distance of police officer-involved shootings in the United States is a mere 3 to 5 feet. That’s within handshaking distance, and it will be blazing fast. Where do you think your focal point would be? Sights? No. The focal point is in the motor skill— getting the gun up fast and pressing fast. So, it’s not visual. In this case, the visual focal point will usually be on target and will likely stay on target.
Officers often tell me that they did not see their sights, or they were not aware of the sights; they just aimed and shot. In other words, they had to rely on their body position to shoot.
This body position is acquired through proper body mechanics, such as stance. I often hear instructors negate the importance of stance in shooting, stating that the stance is only transitory and that strict stances are taught only for square range training. True, but they are missing the point here. Proper stance must be taught to teach the concept of proper body position when sighting.
Shooters should learn to use the body to properly aim and use the sights to verify that the weapon is aligned. This can only be developed through lots of training.
The concept of sights is very complex. Sight alignment can cause you unwanted anxiety when it does not go your way. Know that front sight focus is just one way to ensure sight alignment, but to perform at peak level during all types of shooting conditions, you should consider (and train) alternative visual focal points. TW