Shooting to Live Methods and Results


Shooting to Live by Captains Fairbairn and Sykes is one of the most mentioned books ever in the shooting community. Or at least a caricature of what the book actually said. The reality of what Fairbairn and Sykes taught in reality is much different, both in method and results, than is usually understood.

Clarifying what the two men wrote and trained other to do is not hard. Their “Recruit Training Program” is a grand total of 35 pages, which are heavily illustrated. There are 4660 words in total so it should take an average person 23 minutes to read it. That reading just doesn’t seem to be done by many who talk about their system.

One of the first demonstrations the Recruits received was of the “Extreme Speed” that a pistol without a round in the chamber could be fired at. This is a live fire demonstration of what the Recruits were shown in Dry Practice.

Note that in one iteration, I forgot to chamber the round despite being set up for the drill. Contrary to popular belief, while Fairbairn and Sykes may have “practiced their draws thousands of times” their Recruits did not. In fact, there is very little draw practice in the Recruit Training Programme other than as incidental to the drills fired from Ready and Three-quarter Hip.

The first live fire the Recruits had is demonstrated in this video. It’s quite rudimentary and most likely could be successfully taught to anyone who wasn’t afraid of gunfire with a dozen or so iterations of dry practice. Using a .22 would make it a piece of cake.

Let’s skip to “Advanced Methods.” Note where the hits are on the target. Hits in areas that are likely to have rapid debilitating effect are highlighted. The geometry of the position, being crouched down, forearm even with the stomach, and bore parallel to the ground is almost guaranteed to cause the bullets to impact below the diaphragm.

As Tom Givens likes to quip:

“What do people do when you shoot them below the diaphragm? Pretty much the same thing they were doing before you shot them.”

We need to keep in mind what Fairbairn and Sykes wrote their system was capable of, i.e., their performance standards. The hits had to be somewhere on the entire silhouette target; whether the legs were included is not explicitly stated but neither was it disavowed. The shooting distance of their Programme did not exceed 4 yards at any point and nearly half took place at 2 yards.

“The qualification we require before the recruit’s course can be successfully passed is 50 per cent. of hits anywhere on the man-sized targets employed. Time has shown this to be adequate for the purpose in view.”

Explaining what Shooting to Live was the first segment of my Patreon series on Unsighted Fire. The next segment being addressed is US Army Handgun Marksmanship Training Evolution of WWII and Beyond. It’s very interesting to leave The Telephone Game The Telephone Game and the Training Industry behind and go to the source itself. If you would like to learn more about point shooting and personal protection incidents, click on the image below.

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