The Reluctant Gun Owner

Modern handguns come with front and rear sights to help us aim at our target. In addition to having a steady hand, there are three things we need to be aware of when we think about aiming: Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, and Focus.

Sight alignment is the relationship between the front and rear sights. When the sights are aligned, theres a straight line in three-dimensional pace from the center of the rear sight to the front sight to the target. Usually, the rear sights have two clearly visible dots, while the front sight has one. Proper alignment places the dot on the front sight exactly in between the dots on the rear sights, and also at the same level vertically. When you can see the sights properly aligned this way, the bullet will hit whatever is covered by the front sight (depending on sight picture, as described below).

If the front sight is higher than the rear sights, the bullet will hit too high. If the front sight is lower that the rear sights, the bullet will hit too low. If the front sight is closer to the left rear sight, the bullet will hit too far to the left. If the front sight is closer to the right rear sight, the bullet will hit too far to the right.

Proper Sight Alignment
Proper Sight Alignment 1
Sight Alignment Errors. L-R: Too low, too high, too far to the left, too far to the right.
Sight Alignment Errors. L-R: Too low, too high, too far to the left, too far to the right. 2

In general it is better to shoot with both eyes open. This is because you have greater peripheral vision. If you’re in a self-defense situation, you may need to be aware of hazards approaching you from your sides. Some people, though, find it beneficial to shoot with only their dominant eye open. They close their non-dominant eye.

Because we have two eyes in different locations on our heads, each eye sees a a slightly different view of the world. The dominant eye is the eye whose view is preferred by the brain. For some people it’s the left eye, and for others it’s the right. It doesn’t need to match the person’s dominant hand.

If you don’t know which eye is dominant, it’s easy to find out: Hold a pencil pointing upwards at arms length. Keep both eyes open. Align the pencil with something about 6-10 feet away, like a light switch. Then shut one eye. If the pencil seems to ‘jump’ a few inches in the direction of the eye that you shut, that eye that you shut is your dominant eye.

Your dominant eye is the one that will determine when you have proper sight alignment. The dominant eye will also see, beyond the sights, the target. The point that you’re aiming at. This is where sight picture comes in.

Sight picture is deciding where you place the front sight relative to the target. With most guns used for defensive purposes, at close range (less than 7 yards), the proper sight picture means that the top of the front sight is the target. There is no universally-correct answer: distance to the target, and wind, for example, all have an effect on this.

Our eyes are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. We have three things that we care about in our field of view when we’re aiming a gun at a target: The rear sights, the front sight, and the target. Only one of those three can be in focus at the instant that we pull the trigger. So the question is: What should you focus on?

Experience has shown that for best results you should focus on the front sight. Beginners at gun ranges are taught to focus first on the rear sight, then the front sight (to make sure the sight alignment is correct), then the target and then finally settle on the front sight. Rear, front, target, front.

When you focus on the front sight, the rear sight and the target will be blurry, and the front sight will be crisp and clear and in focus.

Front Sight Focus
Front Sight Focus 3

Continue reading: Trigger Pull

© 2019 Aijaz Ansari
The Reluctant Gun Owner by Aijaz Ansari is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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