Next Generation Pistol Sights - Tactics and Weapons -

Next Generation Pistol Sights



Dave Spaulding | From the January 2009 Issue Friday, January 2, 2009

The debate between sighted fire and point shooting rages on. There's little compromise between the opposing sides as both have drawn a line in the sand and will not cross it. We've seen this lack of cooperation before. It's a bit like Republicans and Democrats in Congress getting little accomplished. It reminds me of the old joke "If pro is the opposite of con, is Congress the opposite of Progress?"

Like many things in life, the truth about point shooting or target-focused shooting and sighted fire is somewhere in the middle. I admit that I'm all about using the sights, but I will also state that a shooter must be enabled to do so in the pandemonium of a gunfight. This means the shooter must be trained to look for, find and use the sights in the same stress-filled conditions a real shooting encounter will bring. Few law enforcement officers train to this level.

The truth is that at best, police officers are moderately training, and (we) individual officers are partly to blame. I say this because few agencies get their officers to the range as often as they can really afford. Most administrators are interested in saving money, thus, they send their officers to firearms training the minimum amount possible. I've had several "progressive" police administrators tell me they believe if they restrict the amount of firearms training their officers receive, the officers will be less likely to use their guns! I wonder how many cops have fallen in the line of duty due to this "progressive" mentality?

There are administrators who care about their officers, and they schedule as much training time as they can logistically handle. Remember: When officers are not on the street, other officers must cover the shifts, resulting in either overtime or a manpower shortage. But even if you get officers to the range six times a year, is this enough to keep a perishable skill sharp? Individual officers must take an interest here and practice even if it's just dry fire. Few do, which is why I say individual officers are partly to blame.

Is it any wonder that an officer who only practices shooting a few times a year might be incapable of finding their sights in a fight? Many of the officers I've spoken with didn't even see the threat coming, and they panic fired they filled the threat area with lead with no attempt to aim. As noted-instructor and founder of the 21-foot drill, Dennis Tueller so eloquently stated, "If you don't have time to aim, you certainly don't have time to miss!" Missed shots are the same as shots never taken if they don't stop the threat, and officers must be enabled to do so under life-like conditions on both the square range and through interactive training. I don't

buy the argument that it's impossible to see your sights in a fight because I've done it, but I can see where fear and panic would restrict someone from doing so.

I've had the pleasure of speaking with many returning vets from the Global War on Terror. Many have been willing to talk about what they observed and experienced, and one question I always ask them is, "When you were involved in a gunfight, do you remember using your sights?" Keep in mind that these vets were using either an M-4 carbine or M-16 rifle most of the time and almost 100% of those I've spoken with definitely used their sights. Why? Because they were looking through an optical device that actually interrupted their line of vision to the target! They deployed with a Trijicon ACOG, an Aimpoint or an EO Tech sight that was used to search for and find their opponent. This was something they were taught to do from the beginning of their weaponstraining, thus they were enabled to do this.

When using the red dot or reflex sight, there's no "eye sprint" from the target to the front sight and back again to confirm alignment. The shooter sees what they want to hit and they super-impose the red dot on the target. It's a single sighting plane with the eyes focused on the threat throughout the engagement. For years, many authorities on armed combat resisted the use of these simple dot sights stating that they were not as reliable as iron sights iron sights would never run out of battery life, lose their zero, jar loose, break, wear out, crap out, explode, implode or fail to make Julian fries (i.e any excuse to slam the sight system).

The fact is these sights work and they work very, very well. They stand up not only to the rigors of combat, but also to the harsh environments in which combat takes place. Sure, they break, but iron sights are still mounted on the gun in case this happens. How often do they break? I have never spoken with a soldier or Marine who told me their optic broke in a fight and they needed to employ their irons. It was always when their rifle fell off the back of a truck or was dropped down a stairwell or some other mishap/accident. I'm sure it has happened; it's just that I've never met someone who could relate the story to me. Regardless, red dot sights are a huge success and they pretty much eliminate the whole sighted-fire versus target-focused shooting debate.

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Dave SpauldingDave Spaulding, the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer's Firearms columnist, is a 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant.


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