Instinct vs. Indexing: Close-Quarters Handgun Tactics - Tactics and Weapons -

Instinct vs. Indexing: Close-Quarters Handgun Tactics

Relying on instinct during a lethal force encounter might save the time that saves your life

Chuck Klein | Monday, March 5, 2012

Just to keep abreast of the “industry,” I periodically change gun magazine subscriptions. After an absence of many years, I re-subscribed to American Handgunner (AH) and was surprised to read a columnist championing the old mantra of focus on the front sight. Sight pictures and focusing on only the front sight might be a great advantage (even preferable) at distances beyond close quarter combat (CQC) where accuracy trumps speed. But paying attention to anything other than the target is of negative value inside the CQC range.

Recently, I tendered my 2010 Law Officer article, “Instinct Combat Shooting: The Tricks” for reprint in AH. The editor, however, refused to consider anything outside their staid and old look-at-the-front-sight routine, regardless of distance. Oh well. They’re civilians and don’t understand the real-life factors of the instinct combat shooting (ICS) techniques with its inherent life-saving advantages.

I define ICS as “the act of operating a handgun by focusing on the target and instinctively coordinating the hand and mind to cause the handgun to discharge at a time and point that ensures interception of the target with the projectile.”

The editor of AH insisted that not only was I not really shooting instinctively by focusing on only the target, but was “indexing” my shots by actually bringing into my realm of shooting the front sight or at least the front portion (slide/barrel) of the handgun.
He went on to challenge me to have someone hold a piece of cardboard in front of me to block my view of the handgun. This editor then projected that if I experienced this blockage, I’d be unable to hit anything. He might be confusing hip-shooting with the tactic of instinctively firing a shot when the handgun comes into battery at or near eye level. Please note, I’ve been teaching, writing about and practicing what I preach for over 40 years.

Regardless of whether the front sight or front portion of the handgun is in my tunnel of vision, as long as I don’t expend any time trying to align these appendages with the target, there’s no impact. In other words, so what if the shooter can’t see his hand or anything else in his line of fire as long as he is focused on the intended point of impact?

Somehow, I must have failed to communicate to this editor the difference between ICS and use-of-sights shooting. I’ve never claimed—nor have other proponents (Rex Applegate, Fairbairn & Sykes, et al.)—that while focusing on the target the handgun, per se, is not in the peripheral vision of the shooter.

Of course it is, just like the entire target is. Instinct shooting is not just looking at the target, it’s looking at—focusing, intense focusing—on a small portion of the target, such as a button or dirt spot on the target or the center of  the “X” of a paper target if practicing on the range. When the handgun comes into battery (out in front and pointed toward the target), the mind should have conditioned the trigger finger to pull, pull, pull.

Making sure of a sight picture or “indexing” in CQC scenarios is just wasting time—time that might mean the difference between your life or his.

The significant difference between true instinct shooting and “indexing” is the focus is on the target—100% focus on the target. If the shooter is trying to consciously or even subconsciously line up a sight picture or even the barrel/slide of the firearm then time is being wasted.

As noted in aforementioned article, during the micro-short span of time when a police officer has decided to shoot and is in the actual act of doing so, a LEO’s concentration level should be at tunnel-vision level. To put it another way, all of the officer’s concentration should be on the intended point-of-impact and not conscious of barrel/slide or any other peripheral objects.

Taking the time, even if only a split second to “index”—align an object with the target—can mean the difference between life and death. For a civilian target shooter, the difference might only mean a few points of increased score. For a cop, it’s much more.

Some might call this intense focus tunnel-vision. It is. Although tunnel-vision has been projected as a no-no, it is mandatory during the brief moment when you transition from deciding to shoot to the completion of that shot(s). Of course, you have to be aware of additional threats and the background (innocents), but only before the decision to shoot.

Once the timeframe of decide-to-shoot  to completion-of-the-shot(s)  has begun, full concentration—oblivious to all else—is required. This timeframe during which you’re engaged in tunnel-vision is a matter of milliseconds. Perhaps, World Champion race car driver, Phil Hill said it best: “True concentration is not aware of itself.” (Car and Driver, November, 1962).

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Chuck KleinChuck Klein is the author of Instinct Combat Shooting: Defensive Handgunning for Police (now in its third edition) and other police and firearm related books and articles.


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