Lessons from Shooting with My Eyes Closed
There are some interesting lessons to be learned from shooting and/or training with your eyes closed.
I’ve always said conceal carriers and competitive shooters should have a goal of being able to close their eyes, draw their pistol from a holster, and have their sights lined up when they open their eyes. If someone can do that with their handgun, so many other important skills become easier – especially from a conceal carry standpoint when stress goes through the roof. This standard means shooters will be able to look at a target and naturally point their gun and be mostly on target.
To put this to the test, I went out and Passed the Texas LTC Shooting Test with my eyes closed.
In testing to prep for the Texas LTC Test with my eyes closed, I didn’t realize how far this eyes closed skill could be taken and how useful this skill is. In a way it’s a gimmick skill, since I don’t exactly want to shoot with my eyes closed. But at the same time, running these drills was educational and being able to do this is such an excellent indicator of where other skill levels are.
Natural point of aim is easier (and more important) with a pistol than I expected
Natural point of aim is a very important component and often taught skill in riflery. My precision rifle instructor really hammered hard on it and it’s an important component of the Appleseed Project curriculum. It obviously exists in pistol shooting, but practicing shooting with my eyes closed really showed me how important natural point of aim is with a pistol.
Properly squaring up on the target with a pistol will help your sights go straight to the center of the target with greater speed and consistency – which helps your time to first shot.
Squaring up your entire body provides some incredible consistency, but in dynamic shooting that almost always isn’t possible. Only squaring up your shoulders on the target is a big help, even when the waist down isn’t entirely squared up.
Try it the next time you’re at the range. Orient your body off of the target and do some presentation drills – either from the low ready or the holster. Do several reps and think about how consistent your sight alignment on target is and put it on the clock if you can. Then square up on the target and repeat the drills. The results might be eye opening.
Tension points in your stance throw off NPOA more than expected
The entire concept of natural point of aim is that tension is removed from your body, so your sight alignment comes to a natural and consistent rest. When you have tension in your body, this creates inconsistencies with how you tighten muscles resulting in an inconsistent sight alignment – an un-natural point of aim if you will.
Closing my eyes during drills and cutting off that entire input allowed my mind to better focus on all of the feeling parts of shooting. It really opened my eyes to the tension in my stance throughout my body. The tension in my legs and abs stood out to me in particular.
I experimented with a few different stances, both finding what would be the ideal one and figuring out what tension I have to deal with in common shooting positions dictated by target positions.
A good neutral stance is very helpful for fast and accurate shooting, but in dynamic shooting we can’t always get a true neutral stance – so we need to get it as neutral as possible.
Most everyone is ready to pull the trigger sooner than expected
In my experience in my own shooting and in teaching, over confirming the sights is the greatest barrier to speed amongst shooters. This is something that I already knew, but it was reinforced through a different light with the eyes closed reps. My body is ready to pull the trigger as soon as I get a grip – I don’t even need full extension of my arms. But I was able to get in some excellent reps where I pulled the trigger as soon as I got to full extension. This means the only thing holding back speed of the first shot on target is sight alignment. While we don’t want to rush a shot we know we will miss because our sights aren’t lined up, this also means we need to pull the trigger as soon as our sights are lined up.
Running pistol manipulations with your eyes closed is an excellent way to self diagnose
In a similar vein to noticing the tension in my body with my eyes closed, running reps of a drill with my eyes closed allowed me to notice other issues with my movement – in particular excess/unnecessary movement. By removing the visual input, we can better pay attention to what our body is doing and identify things we shouldn’t be doing.
Try running non-movement drills at half or two thirds speed with your eyes close. Pay attention to every movement of your body. The killer of speed is making movements you don’t need to make – so try to identify those excess movements and streamline your manipulations and presentations.
A good grip is critical for consistent sight reset through recoil
This is also a “duh” statement and isn’t exactly news. But the lesson is emphasized when you don’t have your eyes to correct your sight alignment for follow up shots. If you push the muzzle down to counteract recoil or have an uneaven grip and your sights settle to a different place each time, then that is a huge problem. While that issue can be corrected with your eyes open, the inconsistent sight reset means your top speed shooting won’t ever be accurate or your accurate shooting will be slower than it should be.
My two biggest takeaways is how much of a difference natural point of aim makes in handgun shooting and how surprisingly useful running drills is with your eyes closed is. Please do not shoot live ammo with your eyes closed without proper safety precautions, but dry fire practice with your eyes closed can be quite… eye opening.
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.