Instinctive Shooting with a Handgun – Hitting Targets without Using Sights

Have you ever tried shooting a pistol without using your sights? It’s an important skill if you want to be able to use a gun in a defensive encounter.

If you spend enough time putting rounds down range, you’ll be surprised to see how accurate you can be at close distances without even using your pistol sights. That’s a good thing. Defensive shooters in particular need to be able to put rounds on target without acquiring a perfect sight picture and shooting stance.

Real life defensive shooting doesn’t happen in a square shooting range where you can obtain a solid shooting stance and ideal sight picture. Real life defensive gun uses are fast and dirty. Being the first to get shots on target is incredibly important, and being able to get shots on target while someone is right up on top of you is equally important. If a criminal is within arms length of you, you don’t want to extend the pistol for them to grab – you want to keep the pistol tight up next to you and “instinctively” put shots on target.

How to shoot instinctively with ease

There are two important components in accurate instinctive shooting: plenty of practice and a good shooting grip. By putting lots of rounds down range, your body naturally learns how to maintain accuracy. When your body learns to do things under ideal conditions and becomes proficient, it becomes better at doing those same things under less-ideal conditions. Shooting a gun without a good sight picture is simply less-ideal conditions.

Having a proper pistol grip is the other critical component of being able to shoot instinctively. Using the “thumbs forward” grip, or the “parallel grip” naturally points your thumbs forward in the direction you’re shooting. This helps your body instinctively point at the target, aiding in accurate shooting.

How to practice instinctive shooting

New shooters should definitely not even bother with practicing this shooting technique. New shooters should focus on building good shooting habits under ideal conditions before working on some of this less than ideal shooting technique. It may sound weird, but simply putting lots of rounds down range is great training for instinctive shooting.

After building a good shooting foundation, try using a laser training round and see how accurate you are without the risk of sending stray rounds around. If that goes well for you, try the same thing at the range, slowly, and at a close distance. Be sure your shooting range allows this, as many ranges require a sight picture for each shot.

Instinctive shooting isn’t something you should devote a substantial amount of your firearms training time towards, but it is a good thing to practice so you know your limitations when shooting in these less than ideal circumstances.

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Brian Purkiss
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Brian Purkiss is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He enjoys competing in and organizing Run and Gun Competitions, as well as shooting in USPSA, Outlaw matches, and 3 Gun.