Saturday, March 28, 2015

How important are handgun sights? Do you really need an RMR?

    The vast majority of legal civilian use of firearms in self-defense take place at extremely close distances where a handguns sights won't likely be a factor. The disconnect and lack of understanding of this is perhaps due to the fact that the only shooting most people do is static range work and that's all some schools and instructors teach rather than studying how they actually happen or explore reality-based methods as well as lessons learned from FoF(Force on Force) training that would give them better insight. Many people take great satisfaction in their ability to shoot tight groups at relatively long distances, but real gunfights or scenarios where lethal use of force/use of a firearm is justified are almost always reactive, chaotic, dynamic and usually take place at close distances and under these circumstances, you must be able to immediately respond by getting off shots quickly as well as be able to incorporate movement when appropriate(getting off the X) and should be focused on/looking at the threat. 
         There are times when you could have to make a precision shot(even close range) or engage at farther ranges, but the odds are extremely low to be of any great concern. If a threat is 25 yards away, you should be moving/fleeing/leaving, not shooting or returning fire for common sense tactical as well as legal reasons and I won't even address the contrived notions of long rang engagement of the active shooter, pistol sniping or hostage scenarios. There's nothing wrong with developing traditional marksmanship skills or be capable of precise accurate sighted fire, you just have to understand when it's appropriate and applicable and when it's not. For the civilian defender, it most likely won't be. Interestingly, even at longer ranges, a relatively high accuracy can still be achieved using threat focused shooting. During Magpuls dynamic handgun classes they taught "instinctive” or threat/target-focused shooting from 5 to 25 yards, with each student determining at what distance he had to transition from threat/target focus to sight focus in order to make accurate hits and Chris Costa has been known to have shot a 10″ plate at a distance of 75 feet with a pistol that had no sights at all. Just throwing that out there, so take it for what's it's worth. 
         The bulk of your work should be 21 feet/7 yards and under as that is the most probable distances that you'll encounter if you are forced to use a firearm in self-defense and in those scenarios, sights are simply not a huge factor and something like an expensive RMR is not needed as it wouldn't really be of any advantage. In fact, in an extreme close quarter/ECQ situation, it's extra height/bulk could even pose a slight weapon retention liability since it just might provide additional leverage during a grappling/gun disarm attempt. Not a huge issue, but just something else to consider. There are certain longer range scenarios where an RMR might be an advantage(not a necessity as you still have your iron sights), but the odds are too low to justify it, especially considering it's possible disadvantages in the more probable scenarios. Bottom line for me on RMR's and expensive aftermarket handgun sights is don't waste your money on them.

Can you(and should you) really use your sights in a gunfight?

Sights-What and Why? Gabe Suarez and Rob Pincus 

1. Civilian armed self-defense stats and findings. 

2. The Citizen Armed- A 5 year analysis 

3. Analysis of 5 years of armed encounters(with data tables).

When citizens fight back.

FBI focuses on close-quarter combat.

Officer involved shooting stats.

The following are quotes from Gabe Suarez
Sources: Silly gun school things that will get you killed.  and  Debating if I need a red dot.

For close range gunfighting inside of 5 yards, any sights are irrelevant. You explode off the line of fire, press the pistol to the threat and press a burst into their chest. You wait for nothing and use physical indexing methods.

For indexed shooting in the grey area between pure threat focused shooting and the need for sight verification, you can use the silhouette of the weapon for indexing. We call this meat and metal (metal of the pistol super-imposed on the mass of the bad guy). You can use the corner of the RMR as an improvised front sight, or the top of the RMR at the bad guy's neck when shooting.

Q: Do you really need such a thing(a red dot)?

A: No, you don't. If you are looking at "need" a used S&W J-Frame with lead reloads will probably work. But to shoot well regardless of the aged condition of your eyes, or to shoot with extreme surgical precision up close, or to the limit of your pistol cartridge at distance, then this will certainly be something you WANT.

Shooters often attempt to focus on the dot for close targets. This is a mistake since they don't really do this with their iron sights. What they do with the iron sights is look over or through them as they press off the shots. They do not fixate on them as the speeds necessary for such problems do not afford too much sight time. With the red dot it is important to do the same thing. One is actually looking at the target or threat, and shooting from eye-sight-line, but noticing the red dot in the same way as they would notice the irons at such times...indirectly. The red dot being brighter and more noticeable than an iron sight makes this easier.

    If you need to draw and shoot a threat right there inside of 7 yards, you do not need to use a traditional sight picture at all. That some ostensibly experienced and prolific trainers are still, at this day and age, pushing the "all sights all the time" mantra is as astounding as a grown man still thinking the earth is flat. You can simply tape over the entire red dot sight with masking tape and go through your usual drills at zero to ten yards, relying on body index and your habituated and uniform grip and shooting position. Yes grasshopper, you can hit COM on a steel target while visually focusing on the threat and not on the sights.