This article is meant to spur your introspection, investigation, research, practice and safe-environment experimentation about Flash Sight Picture shooting to see if it is a technique that will be an improved self-defense survival method for your use later in an actual real-life defensive shooting situation. Conclusions and applications are left open to the reader to determine how appropriate this information is for their particular needs and style of shooting. Carefully decide since this could be a Life or Death issue.
When target shooting or casually plinking, shooters can take their time and use both the front and rear sights to make accurate hits and tight groups close to the bullseye. As you know, Sight alignment is accomplished by placing the front sight in the center of the rear sights with equal space on either side of the front sight, aligning them vertically. Also, the front sight is horizontally aligned with the rear sight in that they are at the same level at the top of both sights. This is the usual fundamental of proper sight alignment, especially for distance shooting of over 10 yards and long distances. Sight Alignment is generally recognized as more important than sight picture (aligned sights on target), because if the Sight Alignment is correct, then even if the sight picture is partly off center, the target will be hit. In essence, when the target is big and close you can get by with fairly unrefined alignment of the gun with the target and still get an acceptable hit. When the target size is smaller or it’s farther away, you need more precise alignment – and all of this assumes competent trigger control, which is the critical fundamental skill that shooters using any technique need to concentrate on.
However, in close-up, life or death DEFENSIVE SHOOTING situations of less than 10 yards and usually much less distance, where there are very rapid violent attacks, there is no time for perfect, precise sight alignment and a QUICK response with center-of-mass hits is critical. It is best if all center of mass hits are NOT placed in the same hole, but in multiple center locations, so they will cause the greatest damage to the attacker from expansion. So a shooting technique called “Flash Sight Picture” (FSP) can be used here. Jeff Cooper invented the FSP as part of his Modern Technique to pistol shooting and it has been refined over the years. Cooper’s basic FSP technique is a way to get your sights immediately on target with a lot of hits on target… not necessarily bullseye hits. The FSP is a method of allowing the cognitive, innate muscle-memory responses of the shooter to align the target and the sights without the delay involved in the conscious alignment of sights. In Point Shooting (PS), by contrast, the pistol is drawn from the holster and fired from the hip, or forward of the hip, without bringing the gun to eye level and without the sights being aligned at all. More on PS later.
Several research statistics and studies conclude that if you are going to be shot and killed in a gunfight, there is a 80% chance that that will happen at less than 21 feet. So using a method to aim and shoot that is natural, fast, and accurate, like FSP shooting, makes life over death sense to me, especially for close-up encounters. If someone has been trained in sight alignment initially, then it is natural to transition and learn to use a FSP method when needed for close-up distances. But, you must study it, practice it, and decide for yourself ahead of time when to use it and in what general scenarios it is best for you to use it. Again, be careful using this technique without considerable practice! You can safely practice bringing the gun up and on target quickly without ammo in your dry-firing area of your home. You will be amazed at your number of target hits and how quickly you’ll be able to do this at the range. With FSP shooting at close distances, you should be able to land hits in a 10-inch target almost every time, even if your Front Sight is not perfectly aligned.If you are missing try going a little slower. The key is to practice regularly, beginning at a slow speed, and then the faster speed will come naturally. To obtain the FSP, you first look at your target focusing on center mass and draw your firearm and then raise it from the low-ready position towards the target maintaining focus on the target (during this stage only.)
As you bring your firearm up to eye level to shoot with the target in view, you should immediately and very definitely shift your total focus from the target to the FRONT SIGHT of the gun… ONLY on the FRONT SIGHT. Proper FSP technique involves seeing the front sight very early in the draw stroke. You should be TOTALLY FOCUSING on the very TOP of the FRONT SIGHT and see all its nooks and crannies, scratches and serrations. When the front post is somewhere (anywhere) in between the rear sights– note you are NOT trying to precisely position the Front Sight vertically and horizontally in alignment with the Rear Sight– you press the trigger when the front sight meets the blurry target in the background. The Front Sight blade may be slightly off right or left or high or low, but remember that this technique relies on many hits to the target, rather than on all bullseye hits. The Rear Sights are blurry, but you only see that with your peripheral vision because the eye cannot clearly focus on more than one object at different distances at the same time. If the target and rear sights are both blurry, you have successfully focused on ONLY the front sight and are using the FSP technique. The key is making sure the trigger press and hand and finger movement do not move the front sight off the target. At this distance I believe the grip (wrist locked and firm, high on the backstrap) and trigger press (smooth, consistent, no stop-and-go straight to the rear) are the most important fundamentals.
FSP shooting is different from POINT-SHOOTING (PS). PS is a very controversial and debated issue. PS is the ability of a shooter to be able to hit a target WITHOUT AIMING with the Front or Rear Sights at all… to naturally point at a target. In PS, the shooter raises the handgun from the ready position with the muzzle pointed toward the center mass of the target and fires quickly. The two-thumbs-down-range, two-handed grip approach helps in PS by allowing the support-hand thumb to “point” at the target quickly. Another PS approach is to place the index finger along the side of the gun, pointed at the target, and the trigger is pressed with the middle finger. In either approach, there is NO sight alignment or aiming at all. Of course, be very careful using this technique (and decide if you even want to use it) without a lot of practice because you might jeopardize your life.
In this photo, Jack Ruby in 1963 used his middle finger to press the trigger and his index finger, the usual shooter’s trigger finger, along the gun’s frame to point right at his target, Lee Harvey Oswald. He shot and killed Oswald close-up where he pointed with his finger, using the PS method. Note Ruby’s middle finger extending through the trigger guard and beyond it in the photo.
Recognize that the US. Army’s Field Manual 3-23.35- Combat Training with Pistols is both tradition driven and dogma laden. In it PS is mentioned, but only with a few sentences, and only after pages and pages are first spent on describing in great detail the proper stance, grip, sighting, breathing, and trigger pressing that make up the must-be-met-requirements for successful Sight-Shooting.
While PS initially sounds like a great technique, it is for this writer (and probably for the majority of shooters) a very BAD idea as the only and primary shooting method because of its inconsistent accuracy results. However, the late Col. Rex Applegate believed that the shots-fired-to-hits ratio during police gunfights was so low that it proved to him that sighted shooting was not the answer and that police should be taught to Point Shoot without using the sights. Applegate advocated “sighted” fire at longer distances, but did believe that “pointed” fire should be your primary technique, while “sighted” fire would be the secondary technique. Applegate’s methodology was published in his 1943 book Kill or Get Killed.
Given the documented adrenaline rush, the loss of near vision and night vision, about 70% reduction of peripheral vision, the disrupted depth of perception, and the impairment of reflexes, fine motor skills, and eye-hand-body-mind coordination in a stressful encounter or gunfight, using PS past two or three yards or so may make it impossible to get reliable hits on the center-mass of a target. Recall the guideline: “Think of your worst day at the range and you will be twice as bad as that in the middle of a stressful gunfight.” So you need as much help as possible and “some” aiming and much related practice to be more accurate. Recognize that in a real self-defense close quarters situation (CQB), your near vision focus will be very impaired, which is needed to align the sights correctly and place them on a target. So, unless you know, practice, and use an effective alternative to Sight Shooting, like Flash Sight Picture, for close-up shooting, you will have no effective shooting method to use in CQB where there is the greatest chance of you’re being shot and/or killed.
Studies in police departments which train with flash sighting against departments who teach PS have shown staggering results. The Flash Sighting police hit their targets four times as often as those who Point Shoot. Average first shot times were less than one-tenth of a second slower (for those who FSP). Most people can use that one-tenth of a second to get that guaranteed hit instead of just putting a bunch of holes in the walls behind the bad guy. FSP shooting is something that needs to be rigorously trained for, otherwise, the shooter may return to PS.
When using the FSP technique properly (even with the worst Flash Picture Sighting), almost all of your shots will usually hit the center mass of your target at three to about ten yards. You will experience the “epiphany” of the Front Sight focus. You should strive for your GOAL in FSP Self-Defense shooting of getting ALL SHOTS in Center Mass, rather than hitting the bullseye with all shots. This accuracy does not come without practicing the FSP, so IT IS IMPORTANT TO PRACTICE THIS TECHNIQUE to create muscle memory for self-defensive shooting. When you decide to train with the FS P technique, focus on the basic technique and accuracy. Do not be concerned with your speed in the early stages of your training. Slow down to master the technique before you speed up later in your training. As your training progresses for tactical readiness or for self defense, most practice should be quick draw and flash sighting rather than slower-paced sight-shooting. Distances for Flash Sight Picture shooting should be generally less than 15 yards. Any farther and FSP shooting becomes inconsistent or unreliable.
Probably, the optimum answer is to use all three of these shooting techniques: PS for real close distances of 3 yards or less, FSP shooting for over 3 to about 10 yards, and Sighted Shooting for beyond about 10 yards. Effective PS, just like Sighted Shooting, is dependent on the time available, the distance to the target or threat, and how much accuracy is actually needed to resolve any given situation. With any technique, practice for accuracy is what really matters.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.