Mar 18

The “Muscle Memory” Shooting Fallacy

Over the last few years I’ve run into guys who advocate muscle memory shooting (or point shooting), and as soon as they do I try to keep from rolling my eyes.  What they claim to be able to do is draw and fire their pistol accurately without using the sights.  Some have told me they practice so much that if they draw and point their weapon at a target and THEN look at the sights, everything will be lined right up.  Others have stated that sights are ok for flat range shooting but that in real shootouts (or combat) muscle memory shooting is better because any hit on a target is better than letting them get a shot off on you.

I need to bring up a few points of clarification.  In every instance the advocate of muscle memory shooting was a cop and in every instance the distances we were discussing were beyond that of 3-5 yards.

I should also note that I have good friends who are police officers so this isn’t a dig on the entire force, and I also guarantee there are police officers out there who could definitely out-shoot me in any given scenario.  However I did find it ironic that the only source of this muscle memory shooting did come from cops as I have never heard of such a thing in the military.

Here’s the part that’s hard for me to overcome: why take the shot (outside of very close range) when you aren’t looking down your sights?  How can you be accountable for every round that goes down range if you have no idea where that round will go?  The muscle memory advocates will state that they can draw and fire just as accurately without looking at the sights, at distances of 10, 15, and 25 yards and I find that very hard to believe.  That’s not to say that world champion shooters couldn’t knock the wing off of a gnat at 25 yards while shooting from the hip, but those individuals are few and far between.

This is what I think happens in many cases, and I make this assertion because I USED TO DO THIS MYSELF back in the day.  We all like to be fast and the combination of speed and accuracy is a hell of a thing.  Unfortunately working through drills a few rounds at  a time in a methodical manner isn’t sexy and while at the range we often find out that trying to use the fundamentals equates to not being fast.  So the only way to speed things up is to ignore some of the fundamentals (i.e. sight picture) and blow through those last few boxes of ammo doing fun stuff.  Utilizing an standard IPSC target getting 10 rounds within the C or D zone (hey they are still hits right?) is pretty easy at 10 yards using muscle memory.  But what about one of the targets picture below or even worse a real life scenario which mirrors the said target?  Point and shoot?  Not that if that’s your wife or mom he has next to his body.

Hostage Target

Here’s a great vid from Kyle Lamb where he gives his thoughts on point shooting, his credentials obviously dwarf mine by miles.  Great stuff and something to ponder the next time you are out on the range.


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    • CanadianVet on March 24, 2014 at 1:13 AM
    • Reply

    While firing a shot at any target beyond the effective range of bad breath without taking proper aim is in the realm of stupid, I do believe muscle memory has its place in the world of shooting.

    Building muscle memory can help you speed up how you draw your weapon and bring it up to the proper position so you will be looking down the sights instantly instead of taking more time to adjust. It also definitely helps with reloading and clearing malfunctions with a greater degree of speed and precision.

    That is where muscle memory comes in. And anyone who claims he would be as accurate snapping a shot after a fast draw and no use of his sights as someone taking the time to aim is full of it. Not to mention that you can NEVER miss fast enough to win.

      • PJ on March 24, 2014 at 8:04 AM
      • Reply

      Great points! Muscle memory does have its place, specifically in the areas you mentioned.

    • SFC Dave Holtz on June 23, 2014 at 1:29 AM
    • Reply

    When I was on active duty at the Armor School at fort Knox I was an Instructor on

    on the AOB quick kill range and demonstrated to a young 2lt on the quick kill method by using his pistol with which he had just failed to qualify I fired Expert the far target was at 150 meters. It dos have its place

      • PJ on June 24, 2014 at 11:01 PM
      • Reply

      So did you use your sights when engaging targets? If you were dropping 150m targets with a Beretta by using muscle memory (and not the sights) you are truly the man.

    • Big balls McGee on September 8, 2014 at 5:37 PM
    • Reply

    Point shooting is not for precision accuracy. Is for engaging an 18″ circle at 25m which is the average width of a mans shoulders with multiple shots. If it did not work and was a fallacy, the combat arms community which I am a proud member of; would not teach our Soldiers this method of weapon manipulation and execution. It proved valuable when I was in Sadr City, Ramadi, and in Afghanistan. Muscle memory past 50 meters minus lasers…. Your full of shit

      • PJ on September 8, 2014 at 9:02 PM
      • Reply

      Combat Arms? Please tell me more! 🙂

      I’m glad it worked out for you. If you don’t believe in accuracy or watching your sights, well I don’t know what to tell you. Some guys should master a butter knife before picking up a weapon.

    • Big balls McGee on September 8, 2014 at 5:38 PM
    • Reply

    9mm at 150…. Nice story pog

    • David on September 27, 2016 at 12:17 AM
    • Reply

    Having been trained in pistol and rifle at Ft. Benning and serving as a Chicago Police Officer since 1994, I can tell you from experience that Muscle Memory only helps with the draw. In a real life attack, both you and your combatant are moving. The standing still, breathing, and aiming done at a range is much different in combat, so the muscle memory does nothing to locate and put rounds on a moving target. The best thing you can do to learn how to fight with a gun is to practice on moving targets.

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