Flash Sight Picture & Point Shooting Aiming Techniques

By Col. Ben Findley

Flash Sight Picture
Flash Sight Picture
Col. Ben Findley
Col. Ben Findley

USA -(Ammoland.com)- Where do you focus in a self-defense situation? You must get your shots off to stop the threat and to end the gunfight quickly.

Most of us recognize that you should use your sights if you can, but realistically in the 2-3 seconds that a typical up-close combat, tactical deadly encounter lasts, you just don't have the time to precisely aim by lining up your front and rear sights.

You might fire from the hip and probably may not even use your sights. Distance has a lot to do with it and so does your handgun skills and the shooting technique you use for the particular situation. Do you focus on the threat or target? Do you focus at all on your front and/or rear sights and at what usual self-defense distances? What are the factors to help you make these decisions?

There are two aiming techniques that you might consider, apart from the usual plinking, non-combat longer distance sighted shooting. They are the Flash Sight Picture (FSP) and Point Shooting (PS) aiming techniques.

What is the Flash Sight Picture Shooting Technique and the Point Shooting Technique?

Flash Sight Picture Technique

For up close, shorter combat self-defense distances, a technique called the “Flash Sight Picture Shooting” (FSP) technique may be used, e.g. from about 3-7 yards. Distance from the threat or target is only one consideration when deciding on the aiming technique. For other than self defense, sighted aiming is usually used for distances beyond about 7-10 yards, but the situational factors and the shooter's expertise and preferences affect that decision. For quick self defense, defenders want well-placed shots to stop the threat and discontinue the gunfight. With FSP, the shooter does NOT concentrate on the nearby threat or target, does NOT dwell on the front sight or even use the rear sight for precise aiming, but rather focuses on the Front Sight (FS) … ONLY.

When you do this, the target or the threat and the rear sight will be blurry. They should be blurry. Using FSP, the shooter is NOT looking specifically and directly at the bad guy/gal threat or the target, but in his/her general area.

Very quickly glance at the front sight relative to the fuzzy rear sights, and place the front sight on the center of the blurry target or threat in the background. Concentrate and focus ONLY on the front sight, with this technique. Just focusing on the front sight seems unnatural for those new to this technique. Some are distracted by the bad guy/gal's movement, gun, or the bad guy/gal's aggressiveness or angry facial expressions. They are accustomed to looking directly at the target or the bad guy/gal. But up close for self-defense purposes, you must discipline yourself to NOT do this. Focus on the front sight. BE CAREFUL! You can get killed by using this technique without practicing and mastering the technique.

Practice. You MUST practice this extensively BEFORE you use it and apply it in a real-life, deadly-force encounter.

You need to build this technique into your muscle memory for an automatic and proper response for self defense. So PRACTICE this BEFORE you employ it. Seriously practice it, so you do not put your life in jeopardy by not having the specific skills to effectively use the Flash Sight Picture technique for quick hits.

With the Flash Sight Picture the key is NOT the number of rounds fired, but rather the well-placed hits in a reasonable amount of time. Self-defense shooting with the FSP is NOT precision, bullseye shooting or competitive shooting. It is NOT precision sighting and exactly lining up the front and rear sights. While I strongly believe you should use your sights as much as possible, in as many situations as you can, and should know proper sight alignment and sight picture fundamentals, the up close and personal encounters in sudden and imminent shooting situations with bad guys/gals call for an immediate response to quickly stop the threat.

This is a very situational decision and is not an optimal technique for ALL encounters or purposes at all distances.

Point Shooting Techniques

Flash Sight Picture is very different from Point Shooting. Some think they are similar, but they are different. The “Point Shooting” (PS) technique involves not using the front and/or rear sights at all in very close encounters of less than 3 yards. PS is very controversial since there is NO sight alignment or aiming at all and sometimes a finger other than the trigger finger is used to fire the gun. One PS approach is to place the index finger along the side of the gun, with it pointed at the target. The trigger is pressed with the middle finger, rather than with the customary trigger or index finger. Some like this technique, but this writer dislikes it as the primary or only shooting method because of its inconsistent accuracy results. There are several inconsistent results noted in studies, but some support its use. Col Rex Applegate, for one, in 1943 believed that PS should be a primary technique for up close self-defense.

[Editors Note, the following video training techniques are dated and for interest only.]

For me, I am not accurate with this technique, but must admit I don't practice with it that much. So carefully practice with it and make your own conclusions and decisions.

Did you know that Jack Ruby used his middle finger to press the trigger and his index finger to point his gun at Oswald when he killed him in 1963.

I have a chapter about both the FSP and PS techniques and others in my recent book “Concealed Carry and Hangun Essentials.”

How Do You Perform the FSP Technique?

Using the FSP technique means quickly looking/glancing at the FS. ONLY the front sight. It does not mean taking the extra time to look at both front and rear sights for this specific technique.The FS should be placed somewhere in the region or area of the blurry target or threat where you want your hits to be to stop the threat and to impact. You are quickly looking at the FS to confirm the general area for hits before your press the trigger for the shot. Recognize that when using the FSP your FS placement can vary a little up or down or left or right in the area. This is acceptable for this close encounter approach using this technique and you will realize an epiphany. It will suddenly hit you and you will realize in this epiphany that most of your shots with this technique will hit the desired general area or region of the threat or target.

But, there are no guarantees and you have to do your part with the fundamentals of shooting.

Your hits should be in the general area of center mass of the body and they do not have to be in the same, ragged hole. This is not bullseye precise competitive shooting. Your goal using FSP is to have hits in an area of the body target that will give you the highest probability of stopping the threat and the gunfight quickly. Effectively using the FSP means that almost all of your shots will usually hit the center mass of your target at about three to less than ten yards. Since trigger control is a very important part of the FSP, in addition to solely focusing on the front sight, be sure and Dry Fire practice at home, in addition to actual live-fire practice.

Continued success and enjoy the Epiphany!

About “Col Ben” Findley

“Col Ben” is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor.

Ben recently wrote the book Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protectionwith 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at [email protected].

  • 10 thoughts on “Flash Sight Picture & Point Shooting Aiming Techniques

    1. sir:
      Aiming with Flash Sight at 4 meters, and using a cartridge red Laser bore sighter, the red dot is about 3-4 inches above the target which at first I properly aimed or sighted with my front and rear sight obtaining proper sight picture and the red dot is within the bull’s-eye. When I move-up the front sight that i can see its bottom within the top-level not on the bottom level of the opening of the rear sight, the red dot is 3-4 inches above the bull’s-eye. When i keep head’s-up and snapped up the pistol until i can see the front sight on the bull’s-eye, the red dot is above 5-6 inches the bull’s-eye. maybe this means that if i will look at the relation of the front and rear sight, the rear sight is already, not just on the bottom base of the front sight but at a distance away to the rear from the bottom base of the front sight which protrude up further. Please correct me. If i am right then I understand what is flash sight picture; and why you do not need to properly aim your handgun or rifle in a close quarter. Thanks.

    2. Having served as a Safety Officer in numerous IDPA matches I have seen hundreds of rounds fired from retention with the strong arm touching the strong side of the body. It is impossible to align the sights from that position. Of those hundreds of rounds I have seen one hit outside the zero ring. It still would have resulted in an incapicitating hit. With a little practice and a couple minutes of training it is easy to make accurate fast hits on multiple targets inside 3 yards.

    3. Col Ben
      You are pretty much “spot on” based on my experience.
      Thanks for your insight.
      Those who doubt you, have probably never actually had to defend themselves in a real gun fight.
      Probably will “say” like many I know “sure I can shoot, been shootin all my life” but don’t really have a clue.
      Go to the range, 5-6 times a year, fire off a box of 50 at a wall. Go home thinking, “that was fun, “I am ready”.
      Like I said – don’t have a clue. When people like us are shooting 1-2000 rds/mo or more in all conditions. RH, LH, moving, name it.

    4. Don’t have time to “precisely aim by lining up your front and rear sights”. Sorry but that is a straw man argument.

      Things like ‘Flash sight picture” where your presentation ALIGNS the sights and you merely verify the alignment does not takes seconds. More like tenths of a second.

      Sure you can align using your body or the slide of the weapon as an index, but you most certainly can use the sights. And if the sights cannot be seen due to darkness or such, you just bring the weapon up AS IF YOU COULD SEE THE SIGHTS, for again the presentation should be the index that aligns the weapon.

      The keys are the alignment and trigger control. Just how you align the weapon is up to you but you most certainty can use the sights.

    5. I have been training with and using the threat focused pistol skills for three years now, and attending two day training classes twice a year.

      When properly trained; even one handed shots can be placed quickly and accurately at ranges a good bit further than three yards.

      The shooting positions I most often use are 1/2 hip, 3/4 hip and point shoulder.

      My wife attended her first class last October, and much prefers the TFP skills to using the sights, as it’s “more natural” for her, and she shoots more accurately than when using the sights.

      I expect to get a good bit of flaming over this (the front sight press folks always are incensed over it, calling it “snake oil”, etc.), so I’ll just close with this; “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

      85% of the training is strong hand only, with two handed quick kill skills used (still without use of the sights) used at 10 and 20 yards.

    6. For those interested in Point Shooting they should check out Sig Sauer Academy. They offer a class on this subject. It was excellent. I found a system that was a combo of both styles. It worked well on both static & moving targets.

    7. KC, I appreciate your opinion and thank you for it. But, I do believe your emotional judgment is not factually supported nor experienced-based and your slanderous statement against me as a firearms instructor saying something supposedly false is not necessary and contributes nothing to the topic. To accomplish something, there should be an open, intellectual and objective discussion and analysis using facts and relevant experiences and data to support what we believe, for a win-win result. Let’s stick with the topic and existing factual-based data and documented experiences, rather than personal defamation statements and hearsay. The real question is should you always use your sights in a gunfight? You probably should IF the situation permits. Of course, there are many situational variables and considerations, since all encounters involving deadly force are not alike at varying distances, etc. It is impossible and not prudent to generalize about THE proper response in ALL gunfights. Very realistically, in the 3 seconds or so that most close-up (less than 3 yards) combat, tactical gunfights last, you may not even have time for precise sight alignment of front and rear sights. You may not use them at all and fire from the hip, depending on the tactical situation. Some respected and experienced shooters will argue that at contact distance or for point shooting you don’t need sights, since in these very limited up-close instances the sights are not used. I understand that in limited confrontations at close distances. As you probably know, some revolver sights for up-close defensive purposes are almost non existent and are just a small ramp at the end of the muzzle.

      I must ask “Do you have experiences under deadly fire or research to support your opinion?” I try to give my comments based on the many variables involved in each unique situation and supported by scientific research and experiences from those under fire. I have a lot to learn and have from Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute and police psychologist. He has conducted very many substantiated shooting studies and presents much evidence to support his conclusions. He was asked if you should use your sights in a gunfight. He responded on the website policeone.com in March 2015:

      “It’s important to understand that using your sights in a gunfight is not always necessary or even desirable for effectively placing rounds. In a panic situation, where an officer is caught in a threat by surprise and perhaps overwhelmed by emotion, he or she may not be able to respond with sufficient control to attain a sight picture in the fraction of time available. At distances where most gunfights occur, trying to use your sights may take too long; by the time you’re sighted in, your target may have moved. At less than 20 feet, you’re probably best to fix your gaze on your target and quickly drive your gun up to align with that line of view, firing unsighted. Obviously, to do this successfully requires a great deal of consistent practice, responding to force-on-force scenarios at various distances that develop realistically in terms of action, movement, and speed. This will help you learn to identify the telltale patterns of an evolving threat so you can get ahead of the reactionary curve.

      Continued Success!

    8. “but realistically in the 2-3 seconds that a typical up-close combat, tactical deadly encounter lasts, you just don’t have the time to precisely aim by lining up your front and rear sights”

      Lost me here. That’s a absolutely false statement, and you should not be a firearms trainer if you believe this is true.

      1. I would have to ask, are YOU an instructor of any kind? Ever been in an actual close encounter, and had to react quickly? You are very quick to deride, and bash someones knowledge, and expertise in the field. Attacks and name-calling do nothing to advance your position, and only serve to illustrate the fact, that you are either new to firearms, or that somehow, YOURS is the only opinion that matters, and care not for any others’ . We were all new at some point, and most of us have learned thru the years, to take advice for what it’s worth.

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