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Understanding Sight Picture and Sight Alignment


                       My dad used to call me Eagle Eye when I was a kid.  It usually followed me spotting something of interest and pointing it out with enthusiastic glee.  Even now I have a good eye for movement and critters.  It must be something primal deep down in the DNA.   Being able to see clearly and being able to focus back and forth between near and far items of interest in your field of view is critical to accurate shooting.  A lot of time is spent on this topic in our training program for good reason.  As we grow older it gets harder and harder for our eyes to change focus from near too far.  Moving from an identified target to the aim point on your pistol which is the front sight at arm's length for someone like me who now needs reading glasses to see anything up close is nearly impossible without some assistance.  So how do you compensate in such a way as to be able to hit the desires target?  In a couple of  words, practice and technique.

It takes concentrated practice and the right technique to be effective.  It has taken me some time to learn this method and it really works.  If you are the at the age where you need reading glasses this will help you become a more accurate shot.  First you will need to understand the fundamentals of aiming.  That is sight alignment and sight picture.  That may sound simple and it is but there is a lot to these two statements.

Let's take sight picture first.  It is very important that you know your target and what is beyond the target.  If you miss the target your projectile belongs to you where ever it goes.  That means you are responsible for all of your shots no matter where they land.  Yes they can go very far indeed.  It is a good idea to know where your bullet will stop before you let it fly.  Otherwise the consequences can be grave and serious.  In the interest of safety this is a solid backstop such as a dirt pile and other solid wall of sorts that will not splash back or ricochet toward the shooter.  Please go to the range it is a safe and inexpensive place to go exercise your rights to keep and bear arms and practice safely. 

Once you have identified a safe target and you are looking at it you are starting to develop sight picture.  In a way like taking a snap shot with a camera.  Our eyes have something called persistence of vision.  This is how your brain stores the image of what you are regarding.  Thus your sight picture.  Because your eyes are both placed on the front of your face a short distance apart for most of us our brain can a does discern the distance from that object or target in this case.  As you can appreciate, there is a lot of information that your brain is now processing to remember the image or target.  Take a breath and let your brain do the work don't over think it.  You already know how to do this you may simply never have thought about it like this before.  Relax and don't rush the shot or take too long to gently pull the trigger.  Generally you should fire within one to three seconds of correct sight alignment.  Taking too long to fire simply quickens fatigue.  Once you are tired or your concentration fades it is time to take a break or quite and come back another time when you are fresh.  Otherwise you are wasting your ammo! 

Now that I have a fixed image in my mind eye now I need to select the place that I am going to look at on the picture before I more to sight alignment. When you look at a photograph the image you see has a great deal of detail from foreground to background and you can wander around the photo and not really focus on any one thing in the picture.  We I go to the range with students we use a target that has five different targets on a 30' X 30' piece of cardboard.  The idea is as we shoot different drills we can move around the board to a fresh target.  What is important to stress here is that you have a lot of choices when you look at 30' X 30' board to focus your attention and you will need to choose where to look to develop your sight picture for that shot!  For example center of mass on the silhouette or lower left or upper right target.  I see student nail the bulls eye on one target while shooting at another all the time.

Okay, here is the trick.  One you have selected the spot on the target that you want to shoot at you now need to point the gun at it.  Sounds simple enough, doesn't it!  There is more to the trick.  You need to focus on several things at once.  You brain can help though.  Look a the spot on the target move your focus to the front sight.  If you are holding your gun correctly (grip control) you should already have it pointed at your spot on the target so now let your peripheral keep you on the spot while you focus on the front sight and then gently squeeze the trigger without disturbing the sight picture and sight alignment.  Bang the shot is fired let recoil happen do not try to resist it then follow through by coming back to the spot (point of aim) and start over at the beginning for the second shot. 

Don't be surprised if you have lots of great first shots with second or follow up shots slightly off.  This is normal and will improve with practice if you relax after the shot is fired.  You cannot stop recoil so don't fight it or anticipate it.  All that does is make you jerk the trigger and move the gun when the shot is fired.  A firm grip and consistent grip is need not a death grip let recoil happen and then follow through.  Now you are on your way to accurate on target hits when you take that important shot.  Relax and have fun!  

Watch this blog for more shooting tips to help you shoot straight! 

Chris Out!

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