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sight picture advice

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by high country, Jul 20, 2019.

  1. high country

    high country Member

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    I am hoping that someone more experienced can lend some insight on an issue that I have been struggling with when shooting for groups. Let me preface this with saying that I am far from a good handgun shooter, but have been shooting more handguns lately and am making an effort to improve. This issue is basically the same whether I am shooting a glock, a 1911 or a 4" .38 revolver.

    When I start moving out further than 7 yards or so shooting iron sights I struggle a bit with sight picture. If I focus on the front sight properly, the target is a blob, and it is impossible to tell exactly where on the target the sight is. I have good vision so I don't think this is an eyesight related issue.

    I have been trying to focus on the target first, line the sights up roughly with the target still in focus, then move my focus to the front sight. If I adjust my grip, or move at all for whatever reason and try to move back, and don't run through the focusing sequence again, my ability to aim is limited by approximating the target center in the "blob".

    I am likely exposing my inexperience/ineptitude by asking this, but any tips, hints, tricks, experiences, etc. anyone could give on this issue would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. badkarmamib

    badkarmamib Member

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    That is normal, actually a product of the human vision. The human eye cannot focus on more than one object at a time. For accuracy, focus should be on the front sight, with rear sight and target blurry. For speed, focus tends to be on the target, with sights slightly blurred. Myself, I tend to shoot best when my eyes are focused on the target, but my brain is focused on the front sight, if that makes sense.
     
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  3. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator Staff Member

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    What you are experiencing is the normal behavior of your eye's ability to focus. There are a number of ways to explain "why/how" it works, but they are a bit esoteric.

    The easiest way to think about it is to focus on the front sight and allow your subconscious to center that alignment on the target.

    A small sidebar hint to accurate shooting: How accurately you can shoot a handgun is ultimately determined by your ability to press the trigger straight to the rear without disturbing the alignment of the sights...Trigger Management. Handgun accuracy isn't determined by how you see the sights...nor by how you grip the gun, stand, breathe, or any number of other things that people believe.
     
  4. high country

    high country Member

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    Thanks for the responses. It makes sense that everyone has this issue because it is an unavoidable function of focusing at a certain distance. I think I get what you are both saying,and it sounds like everyone sort of develops a way of "seeing" what they need to mentally even if their eyes don't actually work that way. My guess is that if I keep working on my fundamentals putting lots of rounds down range, I will develop my sighting sequence naturally. Just wanted to make sure I wasn't practicing something counterproductive.

    Like I said, I have been focusing more lately on group size (as opposed to informal plinking). Part of that has been addressing stance because I am cross-eye dominant and my stance was not consistent. A much bigger part of that has been addressing flinch/anticipation jerking, which is an ongoing effort with lots of dry fire drills, exercises with a few randomly placed rounds in a revolver, and lots of practice with lighter wadcutter rounds to focus on the fundamentals. I only get to the range every month or so with family, work, etc. commitments, so I don't ever anticipate being a competition level shooter, but am having a great time getting to know my handguns and my own mechanics better.

    Keep the suggestions coming, I do appreciate the insights.
     
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  5. drband

    drband Member

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    I know this Rob Leatham video has been posted a lot, but it really gets to the heart of the matter of getting smaller groups:

     
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  6. murf

    murf Member

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    next time you are out, put up a blank piece of paper @ say 7 yards. shoot a cylinder full (or mag full) at the approximate center of the paper concentrating on pulling the trigger straight back. don't worry about aiming, just put the front sight on the paper and pull the trigger straight back. and make sure you follow through on that trigger squeeze with every shot.

    luck,

    murf
     
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  7. KeithET

    KeithET Member

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    If you are just trying to shoot good groups and not speed shooting then you may want to try an aperture sight affixed to your shooting glasses like the Merit aperture. This will work very well to bring everything into good focus. I have done this for shooting at mid to long ranges and it helps a bunch.

    KeithET
     
  8. high country

    high country Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions and the link. All very helpful.

    Bottom line, it doesn't seem that I am practicing something counter productive as I try to find the balance of focus that will ultimately work for me. No question but that the ability to pull the trigger without moving the gun is #1, by a lot. And, it is a lot easier said than done. I am relatively recoil sensitive, so even after lots of dry fire practice, if my brain knows that the gun is going to go off, I have to fight hard not revert to old habits.

    Ahh well, practice makes perfect. Guess that means more trips to the range and more time at the reloading bench, darn...
     
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  9. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator Staff Member

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    Just explain to your brain that the noise, flash, and slap only occur after the shot has broken
     
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  10. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    I really don't care for that dude, but after watching that video in the past I agree with him completely.

    When I taught my last girlfriend to shoot she was all over the place initially. We were looking at things like sight picture, trigger squeeze, stance, yada yada yada. She had me shoot her gun to ensure it was shooting straight. It was.

    Then I watched that video and followed Leatham's logic. We focused on a good solid, and slow trigger squeeze. She started hitting where she needed to. After that, the rest took care of itself.
     
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  11. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    It is great that you have identified that as the big issue in your handgun shooting. That is the big issue for about 95% of people when they shoot handguns. All the other stuff doesn't really matter until you can get that sorted out. A 1MOA sight misalignment doesn't really matter if you've got a 40 MOA pre-ignition push. Many, many people resist the notion that they have a flinch, and spend years addressing stuff that isn't the real problem.

    For people with a tough-to-cure flinch/pre-ignition push (and I speak from experience on this), there is one key insight that you need to have: Almost all severe pre-ignition pushes are accompanied by - indeed, barely preceded by - a blink. Shooting is, first and foremost, a visual activity. When we blink, we turn off our conscious awareness of where the gun is aimed... and the subconscious reptile-brain impulse to push against the gun's impending recoil takes over. Worse, because our eyes are closed, we cannot monitor the sights and we cannot even see the flinch in action. We just see shots straying far from the last point-of-aim that we saw, and it's baffling/frustrating. Once shooters manage to keep their eyes open and visual perception running well enough to see the push happening, they're pretty quick to stop doing it. And by "pretty quick," I mean less than a magazine's worth of shots.

    So job #1 is to cure the flinch. And step #1 of job #1 is to cure the blink. OK, how do we do that? Attention on seeing. Spend some time shooting without any concern over group size. In fact, shoot without any target at all. Just aim at the backstop and watch the gun go off. See how much you can see. Try to see the brass eject. Try to see the slide move or the hammer fall. Try to see the muzzle flash (lots of people have never seen their own muzzle-flash!); with a revolver, try to see an B/C gap flash. Once you can reliably see the gun going off, you can focus your attention on the sights. Once you can reliably see the sights through the shot, then it's worth adding a target. Until then, don't worry about targets or groups. Once you are getting visual input, you will begin to make rapid and easy improvements in marksmanship, because you will be able to literally see your mistakes as you make them, and you will be able to self-cure the vast majority of them. It's like driving a car... if you kept blacking out on the road, not only would you have lots of accidents, you wouldn't learn anything from them and wouldn't get better as a driver. But if you were able to start maintaining awareness, you'd learn to drive acceptably well in short order.

    OK, what if you are trying the above and just cannot get there? Even without a target, you just keep blinking on half or more of the times the gun goes off? Here are some things to make it easier:
    • Maximize insulation from blast/flash/noise. Double plug (earplugs under muffs).
    • Find the lower threshold of what is blink-inducing, and shoot a lot of that. If a .22lr only induces a blink some of the time, shoot a lot of that until you blink 0% of the time with that power level. If an airsoft gun is enough to set off a blink, shoot that a lot. (I actually had a blink that was so sensitive that I did this... just the CO2 puff from an airsoft gun with a reciprocating slide would induce a blink from me. So I spent time in my house "firing" an airsoft gun that had gas, but no pellets, just to desensitize myself to it.)
    • Conversely, sometimes it helps to shoot a few rounds of something that has a lot more blast and flash. Shoot a few rounds of full-power 10mm and even +P 9mm will seem soft by comparison. Sometimes it just helps to reset levels of what your subconscious considers "a lot" of blast and flash.
    • If the exercise of seeing the gun go off is proving very difficult, if you can, have an experienced shooter go stand next to you. Hold the gun in a firing grip pointed towards the berm, but with your finger off the trigger indexed on the frame. Allow the other person, standing safely to the side, to put their finger in the trigger. When you think the sights are aligned on the target, tell the other shooter you are on target. They will wait a short, but random period of time. You may feel your eyes fluttering as your brain tries to guess when the gun will go off, but within a few tries, your brain will guess "wrong" and accidentally see some shots go off. This can sometimes kick-start a willingness in the brain to "see" more with greater trust that nothing bad will happen just because the eyes are open at the moment of ignition. Chances are good you might shoot a really good group this way, too!
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  12. StrawHat

    StrawHat Member

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    I competed in PPC for nearly a dozen years. Accuracy, speed and reloads all come in to play. My mentor once told me to not worry about time (speed), anyone can shoot x shots in y seconds. The key is having them in the X ring or very close to it. To that end, I would dry fire my revolver everyday, at least 6 or a dozen cylinders a day, while summing at a totally blank wall. I was not trying to hold my sights on the target, merely trying to hold my sights aligned with each other. Once I got proficient with that, then I move on to live fire on target. Then to timed live fire but every day, EVERY DAY, dry fire practice at a blank wall.

    If you get used to holding the sights aligned, you become a better shooter.

    Kevin
     
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  13. high country

    high country Member

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    Thanks all for the suggestions, very helpful. ATLDave, you make a number of good points, I appreciate the insights from your personal experience. As I will continue to work against my natural unhelpful tenancy to flinch, and keep working to improve my shooting, I will keep everyone's suggestions in mind.
     
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  14. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Fantastic. You can do it (if I can overcome it, anyone can - I always got "two for flinching" on the school bus). One other point I forgot to mention in the prior post is that the long-term cure is to build up enough "trust" in your brain that the gun will not harm you just because it fires while your eyes are open. People struggling with a flinch (and the blink part of it) are struggling to overcome the brain's pre-programmed connection of "big noise and inanimate object moving less than a yard from my face" with the need to close one's eyes to protect one's valuable eyeballs.

    The bad news is that there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here. The only way for your brain to begin to "trust" that keeping your eyes open throughout the shot is safe is to accumulate instances of keeping the eyes open with no injury resulting. The good news is that every time that happens, the trust grows. The trust is not diminished by the gun going off with the eyes closed. So you're not going to damage your shooting by trying-and-failing to keep the eyes open on shots... you're only going to improve (on those occasions when the gun goes off and you see it go off).

    This dynamic does open up one more approach/trick to building that body of evidence in your brain: firing a number of shots in rapid succession such that your blinking is mis-timed for some fraction of them. If you are pointing the gun at the backstop and trying to focus solely on seeing the gun go off (per my prior post), and you are still struggling to see it, try firing 4-6 shots as fast as you can pull the trigger. You may time up the eyelid-flutter with the first shot or two, but you will eventually get out of sync (if you are really shooting fast) and see the muzzle flash. Every time that happens, it builds trust. You just need enough of those instances to start being able to keep your eyes open through single shots.

    A funny dynamic occurred as I started to get past my flinch with centerfire pistols. If I shot slow-fire for groups, the anticipation would build as I slowly applied pressure to the trigger, and the flinch would manifest. If I shot relatively briskly, I could actually shoot more accurately, because I stopped blinking (and the pre-ignition push went with it). Getting into USPSA really helped to finish off my flinch as a regular occurrence, both because of the sheer volume of shooting (again, every time the gun goes off with your eyes open it builds trust), and because I was shooting under time pressure. Rather than anticipating (really dreading) the gun going off, I was looking forward to the gun going off because that meant I was that much closer to the next shot and then to the end of the stage (which stops the timer).

    Good luck. Perseverance will see you through. Different people require different levels of "proof" to build the trust, but I am convinced that everyone can get there - even the very flinch-y by nature (such as me!).
     
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