by Sam Hoober
Alien Gear Holsters’ Sam Hoober makes the case that the point shooting masters of times gone by were greatly aided by the guns of the day.
The thesis is that handgun sights on older pistols weren’t as good as they are today, which is why so many old-timers used point shooting. As a result, you shouldn’t bother learning to point shoot since sighted fire is just as fast and more accurate with flash sighting given the quality modern sights.
And they weren’t. Even the upscale guns from the 1970s had vastly inferior sights to some of today’s value-priced pistols.
He goes on to mention some point-shooting wizards from years past, specifically Ed McGivern and Bill Jordan. Both men were capable of some incredible feats of shooting without using their sights; they were known to point-shoot by feel. Delf “Jelly” Bryce was another quick-draw
If you ever find footage of Jordan clearing leather and blasting ping pong balls or wafers in under a half-second…it’s harrowing.
But just how were they able to get so good? Practice – and a lot of it – and talent, no doubt…but the hardware of the day helped a great deal.
You see, every one of the abovementioned used revolvers virtually exclusively, as they were the tools of the time. Bryce was known to carry a .44 Hand Ejector or Registered Magnum (both N-Frame Smiths) and Jordan famously talked Smith and Wesson into making the K-frame Model 19 “Combat Magnum” because the Registered Magnum was too cumbersome.
Something that anyone that’s fired such a gun knows is the barrel is quite heavy. That provides a counterweight to the cylinder and frame, much like metal-framed semi-autos have a natural balance. Ever hear someone who’s a fan of the 1911, BHP or CZ-75 talk about how it “points” more naturally? It’s a similar effect; the large, metal frame balances the weight in the hand, making for a more natural “feel.”
If you’ve ever happened to read “No Second Place Winner” by Bill Jordan, he covers the topic of using the sights. The gist of what he said was to shoot by feel at close range, and to bring the gun up to eye level and “look down the barrel” at intermediate distances. Only at 25 yards and beyond should one really use the sights, and to use slow, deliberate traditional aimed fire.
Some time ago, I ran across an Elmer Keith article discussing Ed McGivern, wherein Keith asserts that McGivern shot by feel, even though McGivern professed to use the sights. When he shot, the sights were nowhere near eye level, so the only way it was possible was by feel.
Lamentably I forgot to bookmark the link, otherwise I’d put it here, and a search for it has been fruitless. If anyone runs across it, please post it up in the comments.
Point being that those incredible feats of shooting skill and speed that those old-school guys were capable of were partially thanks to equipment that made it easier than today’s polymer-framed semi-auto pistols. Not that you couldn’t get good with practice if you put in the time, but the natural feel of a heavy gun helped.
Today’s guns, of course, are better in many respects. They’re lighter thanks to more advanced materials. They have better sights, by FAR. Feed ramp angles allow feeding of hollow points that previous-era autoloaders do not.
Also, a person can learn how to use the flash-sight picture in seconds, which is incredibly fast and far more accurate than point-shooting for the typical shooter. You absolutely should use the sights, because they’ve been improved over time so you can.
That is, unless you want to carry an N-frame and practice a quick draw for several hours every day.