How-To

How To Use the Flash Sight Picture Shooting Method

Ed LaPorta using the Flash Sight Picture when recovering from multiple shots fired during a Mozambique drill.

As an instructor, one of the most difficult concepts for me to teach students is the FSP. One of the reasons is because it is difficult to relate to them exactly what they will see in that 1/10 second. Even pictures lack the ability to give a true example. Only an animated video stands a chance of providing a clear example.

When target shooting or casually plinking, you take your time and align the front and rear sights. This allows you to make accurate hits in tight groups. It is easy to analyze whether the student understands the concepts of sight alignment and sight picture during slow, aimed fire.

Drawing of the correctly aligned front and rear post sights
The correct sight picture as many of you already know, has the front sight centered between the posts of the rear sight with the top of the front and rear sight even across the top.

Proper Sight Picture

The concept of which is accomplished by placing the front sight in the center of the rear sight with equal space on either side. The sights must be aligned across the top. The top of both the front and rear sights must be at the same level. This is what we refer to as proper sight alignment.

Proper sight alignment is essential for precise shooting, especially at longer distances. It is easy to analyze whether a student understands the concept by examining their target. If the groups are small and placed with precision, they get it. If not, they don’t. By analyzing their groups, I can usually tell what they are doing wrong and offer instruction to correct it without much difficulty.

Sight alignment is more important than sight picture when shooting fast at close range. If the sight alignment is correct, even if the sight picture is partly off, the target will be hit. In essence, when the target is big and close, you can get by with fairly unrefined alignment of the gun on the target and still get an acceptable hit. When the target size is smaller or it’s farther away, you need more precise alignment.

For the concealed carry holder, the odds are that any ‘defensive shooting’ situation he or she will be involved in will be close-up. According to FBI statistics, the encounter will normally be at 21 feet or less. At that distance, during a rapid violent attack, there is no time for the perfect sight picture and precise sight alignment.

A quick response and center-mass hits are what is needed. It is not important that all center-of-mass hits are not arranged in a tight group. One could argue that multiple hit locations have the potential of causing greater damage to the attacker from dispersion and expansion, but I’m not so sure.

Colonel Dean John “Jeff” Cooper.
The modern technique (abbreviation of modern technique of the pistol) is a method for using a handgun for self-defense, originated by firearms expert Jeff Cooper. The modern technique uses a two-handed grip on the pistol and brings the weapon to eye level so that the sights may be used to aim at the target.

Flash Sight Picture

During the creation of what has become known as The Modern Technique of Pistol Shooting, Jeff Cooper invented a sighting concept called the “Flash Sight Picture (FSP).” This part of the modern technique has been refined over the years. The basic idea is to get your sights on the target quickly with multiple effective hits.

Colonel Cooper analyzed the sighting process and realized that you only need about a tenth of a second to recognize where the front sight is. Through repetitive training stressing the proper grip, you train the muscle-memory responses of the shooter to align the sights on the target without the delay of the slow, time-consuming, conscious alignment of sights. For this to work, it is imperative that the shooter’s grip be correct. A good way to practice this is in front of a mirror.

Ensure the firearm is unloaded and no ammunition is in the area. Start with your handgun holstered. Slowly execute your presentation bringing the gun to eye level. It should be pointed directly at its reflection. If the sights are perfectly aligned, without any adjustment needed, your grip is correct. If your sights are not properly aligned, make adjustments to your grip and repeat.

The correct grip demonstrated with a straight line through the sights up your forearm aligned with your pointing index finger.
The correct grip demonstrated with a straight line through the sights up your forearm aligned with your pointing index finger.

Continue repeating the exercise and adjusting the grip until it is correct. Do not worry if you are seeing the two images aligned, that is another problem and takes another lesson to correct. Once you can repeat the grip on demand, slowly increase the speed of the presentation in front of the mirror. Remember, they say it takes 500 perfect repetitions to build the muscle memory needed to learn an action.

What you want to do is take advantage of your innate ability to point at things the way you have your entire life. Remember your mother telling you not to point because it was impolite? Well now it’s not, and we want to be impolite. So, point away to your heart’s content.

The technique to obtain the FSP is to first look at your target, focus on center mass, present your firearm — bringing it from the low-ready position to eye level — and move toward the target while maintaining focus on the threat. When you see the front sight in line with the target, transfer your focus to the sight.

Jim Hoag shooting a pistol one handed
Jim Hoag using the FSP around the time of its invention.

When the front sight hits the A-Zone, press the trigger. You should be rewarded with good center mass hits. Of course, this assumes competent trigger control, which is something you have already mastered. Trigger control is, after all, a critical fundamental skill for shooters to concentrate on, regardless of the technique used.

Point Shooting

Something needs to be mentioned now and that is the difference between the FSP and Point Shooting. When Point Shooting, the pistol is drawn from the holster and fired from the level of the hip or forward of the hip. You do not bring the gun to eye level nor are the sights being aligned.

Some research statistics and studies indicate that being in a gunfight and shot or killed, you stand an 80% chance that it will happen at 21 feet or less. So, using a method to aim and shoot that is instinctual, fast, and accurate — such as FSP shooting — makes sense to me, especially for close engagements. If you have been trained in proper sight alignment, then it should be an easy transition to learn to use the FSP method.

Understand however, that it is a technique you must practice, study, and decide when, if, and in which situations it will work best for you. Again, do not use this technique without lots of practice. Remember, to safely practice bringing the gun up and on target quickly — without ammo in the area designated for dry-firing in your home.

When you go to the range and engage in live fire, you will be rewarded by the number of A zone hits and how quickly you are able to get them. With Flash Sight Picture shooting at seven yards, you should be able to get consistent hits in the A zone almost every time — even when the front sight is not in perfect alignment. If you are out of the A zone, slow down a bit, and check/adjust your grip until you are on target.

Proper sight alignment for a handgun on a silhouette target
The Flash Sight Picture is a method that allows the defensive shooter to get quick hits on a threat using the level of accuracy that is needed in close-range gunfighting.

The key to all things shooting is to practice often, beginning slow and then increasing the speed slowly. The speed will come on its own as you master the skill. As the good Colonel used to say, “Ride hard, shoot straight, and speak the truth.”

Although the pictures show perfect sight alignment, that will not always be the case with a Flash Sight Picture. The concept is about getting a quick sight picture that is accurate enough to land a critical hit to the threat — before the threat lands a hit on you. Have you practiced FSP? Do you train using another technique? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Ed LaPorta using the Flash Sight Picture when recovering from multiple shots fired during a Mozambique drill.
  • The correct grip demonstrated with a straight line through the sights up your forearm aligned with your pointing index finger.
  • Drawing of the correctly aligned front and rear post sights
  • Proper sight alignment for a handgun on a silhouette target
  • Jim Hoag shooting a pistol one handed
  • Colonel Dean John “Jeff” Cooper.
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Comments (7)

  1. Ed Laporta taught me this in 2015.
    I made fast consistent mass dead centre hits all day i dont think I ever missed.
    It works.

  2. Great article on what may be the most important practical pistol skill. This is something we should all be sharing with our friends – because this knowledge could be the difference between life or death. Understanding this principle AND being dedicated to practicing it, so important. In these crazy times this is real life saving advice. Well done Ed – thank you for this.

  3. I have been practicing a similar technique where I keep the front sight “proud,” or elevated about 1/8″ above the rear sight in my sight picture. Of course, you have to allow that the bullet will strike several inches higher and you allow for that. The advantages are you are less likely to lose sight of your front sight and you see more of your target, not blocked by your sight picture.

  4. We are living in dangerous times. Any pointers to improve the outcome of an encounter, I’m all ears. I tried this method and experienced a benefit. I will be practicing using FSP at home. Right now I’m 999 short of perfection.
    Keep these thought provoking articles coming.

  5. Mr. Laporta is always coming in hot with the necessary fundamentals.

    His advice to practice presentation from the holster in front of the mirror truly does work, even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes a day because trying to consistently get the proper sight alignment IS difficult for us new shooters.

    If you have one of those dry-fire cartridge’s that’s also a battery operated laser, that can give you a better idea of where you’re actually aiming should that be a concern.

  6. I was among a large group of individuals who were taught how to point shoot by Jim Gregg. Ol’ Jim was a great guy and the method he taught thousands of us is still in use and practiced today. I’m a firm believer that the method he taught us is by far the fastest way to put rounds on target once the threat has been assessed. Those of you who have practiced and utilized his method would surely agree.

    Nothing can replace lots of practice or as some would say (perfect practice makes perfect shooting) for staying sharp and focused for a threat and coming out on top when someone is trying to rob you of your life.

    So no matter what method works for you, practice it thousands of times until it becomes so second nature that it’s like brushing your teeth in the dark.

    And if you ever find yourself in a deadly encounter always remember to NEVER GIVE UP!

    Be safe in all manner

    Tcu

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