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“Modern” Point Shooting History

Shanghai Municipal Police Department- SMP

1920-30s Shanghai – Considered the most violent city on earth.

Two British policemen, William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes(reserve officer) were instrumental in changing the way officers survived violent encounters on the streets of Shanghai during this time period.


While in confrontations assaults and shootings with criminals and street gangs Fairbairn observed a number of common themes

  • They occurred at very close distances, typically at 21 feet or closer often at 0-5 feet.

  • They occurred in low light conditions

  •  They faced often more than one assailant.



British military style marksmanship or “Bullseye” shooting was how officers were typically trained.

Fairbairn and Sykes observed firsthand (over 200 violent incidents personally) and through evidence conducted of survivor interviews of gunfights that none of the highly stylized shooting methods were being used under the intense stress of close quarter gunfights.


These were their findings.

  • The use of sights were abandoned in favor of reflexively or “instinctively” point shooting keeping eyes focused on threat that was trying to kill the officer.

  • Officers assumed a “Combat crouch” not a high upright shooting stance.

  • They convulsively gripped the gun.

  • More often  than not, shooting was one handed.


Fairbairn was allowed to develop a more naturally instinctive way to train his officers under his command.


The F/S Basic Shooting system consisted of training officers to 

  • Square body to target

  • Hold pistol in dominant hand 

  • Arm extended, locked out and held in line with center of the body

  • With both eyes open pistol was raised to just below line of sight and inline with target

  • With the gun hand convulsively gripped, the shot is fired while focus is on the threat/target, not the sights


Other blocks of instruction included various shooting positions, moving and shooting as well as the use of two handed firing of the pistol while using the sights and from behind cover.


The “Mystery Shoot”


The Mystery Shoot was a course developed by Fairbairn and Sykes to try to mimic the unpredictable conditions of a close quarter gunfight which included props and 3D dummies that represented real world threats and non threat for making quick decisions in a “Life and Death” encounter.

The Results


According to Fairbairn and Sykes, members of the SMP that had been trained in the aforementioned method had experienced no less than 666 armed encounters with criminal over a twelve and half year time period.  (Approx. 53 incidents per year)

In close quarter encounters where pistols were used by the police officers, more than 260 criminals were killed and 193 were wounded verses 42 police officers killed and 100 wounded.


In comparison members of the SMP suffered only 3 officers killed per year and 8 wounded compared to 21 criminals killed and 15 wounded during this incredibly violent place and period of time in modern history.


Interesting to note that during this same time (pre WWII) in the United States, law enforcement training consisted of highly stylized marksmanship training. 

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