Sight alignment question from a newbie...

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Oct 15, 2009
Hey all,

I am brand new to the world of shooting and recently purchased a new P229 .40 (with a 357 Sig barrel of course!) that I haven't had the chance to shoot yet, but I've been doing a LOT of dry firing lately with snap caps. I'm working on my trigger pull, grip and such.

When I line up my sight picture, I'm noticing that it feels rather unnatural to focus entirely on the front sight.

I find myself focusing either:

A) on the target (target is sharp, sights are fuzzy but still easily visible)
B) about halfway between the front sight and the target (where both are mildly out of focus)

I then use my peripheral vision to line up the front sight over the target (the gun has night sights + a fiber optic tube in the front so it's easy to see). I do this with both eyes open. I'm right-handed and right-eye dominant.

This method seems completely natural for me, and I have absolutely no issues thus far lining up the sights as even in my peripheral they aren't too fuzzy. However, being a new shooter I don't want to start enforcing bad habits early on.

Any advice from you grizzled vets out there?
It has probably been said many times before Tom Selleck said in the "Jesse Stone" movies but it should be remembered. "In a fight, front sight". The front sight indicates the direction of the bullet. Look through the rear sight as if it were a window, focus on the front sight. Then put the front sight on the target where you want the bullet to hit. That's the way I was taught 30+ years ago. It worked then and still works today. If you are having trouble focusing on the front sight you may need to see an eye doctor just to make sure there is nothing wrong with your vision. Another possibility is that you may be what is sometimes called cross-eye dominate. This means that if you are right handed, your left eye is dominate (stronger). If you are left handed your right eye would be dominate. People with this condition (for lack of a better term) sometimes use the wrong eye to try to focus on the front sight. This is a not an uncommon occurance with many solutions and techniques. One is to close the weaker eye and align the sights with the stronger (dominate) eye. I am cross-eye dominate and use a different technique. I use a focal point reference. Since I shoot a handgun with both eyes open I align the sights in a position where both eyes are able to see the sights equally. For me it has become a natural reaction. The gun automatically comes up to that point during the draw.
You have to make yourself do it correctly, it might take a while, but remember that correct front site alignment may save your life someday.

No way around this unless you add a red dot or other optic system.
As a new shooter, master the traditional sight picture first, as it is the most accurate, and you may just need that high degree of accuracy one day.

Front sight is crystal clear and centered in the blurred rear sight. Target also blurred.

Once you are confident you can land a round where you need to with a traditional sight picture, you can move on and learn alternate aiming techniques, and will always have the traditional sight picture at your disposal to fall back on should you need it.
It really depends on what you're trying to do.

DON'T focus in between. We call that "MEGO" (My Eyes Glaze Over). It serves no purpose and degrades your shooting for no apparent gain.

Shamelessly stolen from Brian Enos and Rob Pincus:

Shooting groups in slow fire--definately focus on the front sight. Equal light/equal height, all that. About the only way to gain more accuracy is to look at the front sight and focus on the trigger.

Shooting moderately difficult targets where your confidence level is not what it should be and the consequence of a miss is higher than it should be--acquire the target, then check the sights, then go back to the target as the shot breaks. This is a fast method.

Shooting easy targets with high confidence and low consequence for a miss--look at the target. The sights will be a dual ghost image; pick one and line them up roughly. This is a faster method.

Shooting targets you can't miss with no/very low consequence for a miss--look at the target and trust your natural ability to point your finger to gain hits. Fastest method.

So--what should you look at? Depends on the following: The target (size, distance, movement, etc), your confidence level in making the shot, and the perceived consequence for a miss.

In the beginning, accuracy is a fundamental skill. Until you have that mastered, stay on the front sight. Then, start working the other 4 focus methods in the order listed. (IMHO)
the target can be fuzzy, the front sight is what you should be focused on, and you will be good to go. you will get used to it.
Sight alignment question from a newbie...
Focus on the front sight.

I can assure you that these people are hitting that little target only because they are using the proper sight alignment and sight picture. The center piece of which is focusing on the front sight.

Matter of fact, that day I had the girl explain to me, sight alignment, sight picture, 6'0clock and center hold and five or six other things I asked her.

I have a thing that I insist the folks that I teach basic shooting to, know and understand the subject well enough to teach it to me.
And it pays off in how well they can shoot in a very short time.
Sight vs Target

I have found through personal adverse experience that in very low or bad light situations, without night sights or other such tools, it is impossible to focus on the front sight. Given that I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through M1911 and S&W angled pistols and revolvers, *I* concentrate on the target and "point my piece" at the target that I am concentrating on. Also, the ranges to the targets have all been inside about 30 feet.

When at a firing range with good lighting, and slow firing, I will always try to focus on the front sight. Older eyes prevent a completely clear view of the front sight, but, whenever I pull a trigger on a handgun, I can count on 4 to 6 inch groups out to 30 feet.
Sights vs Target

I forgot to mention that very very very many gun wonks talk about strictly focusing on the front sight, and, they are generally not wrong, at least as far as shooting at stationary targets is concerned. However, there are studies out there that confirm that when the target is moving, and you focus on your front sight, your piece will stop moving in relation to the target. Therefore, you have to consider whether your target is moving, how fast it is moving in your relative view and work from there. Practice shooting at moving targets...coming in at you, moving away from you, and moving side to side.

I have never experienced an adversary in a gunfight or battle standing target-still.......just as you should be moving (to cover) as you return fire, they are usually moving as well.........

Just because they are bad-guys, that does NOT mean that they are stupid or have less of a will to live than you do........
target/plinking/hunting-front sight

Defensive handgun shooting at close range-look at the target, point your gun, and fire until the threat ceases to be such.

When we practice defensive shooting, it's all about the BG. Defensive ranges are close, so careful aiming with sights is unnecessary and only serves to delay the most important aspect of defensive shooting-getting bullets into the threat.

You should be able to hit a man-sized target inside of 20 feet from the hip. It's not difficult. If you actually have time to raise your gun, just aim using it's profile (slide/barrel). Most handgun designs lend well to instictive aim.

Only if that threat is behind cover, leaving you a small target to engage, do you need to worry about sights.
When I line up my sight picture, I'm noticing that it feels rather unnatural to focus entirely on the front sight.
As posters are starting to point out there are times that you may not use the gun sights at all.

There is a lot to getting proficient as a all around good shooter but you have to craw before you walk. First learn to shoot the gun accurately using the iron sights, then go from there.
DON'T focus in between. We call that "MEGO" (My Eyes Glaze Over). It serves no purpose and degrades your shooting for no apparent gain.
Oddly enough, I have a video tape of former 4 time USPSA Limited Division National Champion Jerry Barnhart in which he discusses using a focus split between the target and the front sight. Guess it works for him.
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