I was running a tactical course and doing my dead level best to put the pumpkin balls from my 1911 into the X-ring. I was going too fast and not scoring well. The big man beside me kept yelling, “Front sight! Front sight!”
I slowed down. I did not win the match, but I learned not to let stress eat me up. I did not machinegun the target, I placed each round into the X-ring. Focus on the front sight and everything else will fall together. I finally learned this, and it is among the most beneficial lessons in the shooting world.
When you aim the handgun properly, the front sight is placed between the rear posts. Equal portions of light are on each side of the front sight blade as it is aligned in the rear sight. The top of the sights is all even across the top. This is sight alignment.
The sight picture is the superimposition of the sights on the target. Press the trigger properly — straight to the rear — and you’ll have a hit. It seems simple enough. The shooter can’t focus on the front sight, rear sight, and target simultaneously. The eyes don’t work that way. You are only able to focus on one thing in the focal plane. That should be the front sight.
Too often shooters focus on the target. That makes for poor accuracy. Let your focus be the front sight. The front sight tells us where the gun is pointing and where the shots will go.
The rear sight should be blurred, but not that blurry, and the target is out of focus. The front sight should be sharp and clear. That combat focus makes for very accurate shooting at moderate range. Called variously… combat focus, speed shooting, or flash sight picture focusing on the front sight is the proper course in combat shooting.
Practice Makes Perfect
A small misalignment of the sights is aggregated at longer ranges and may result in a complete miss. So, the longer the distance, the greater the time you must take to ensure a hit. The grip is also important in marksmanship. A small misalignment of the sights will ruin the shot. The grip should be firm in driving the pistol toward the target. The sights and the eyes should be looking toward the same place.
While the focus is on the front sight, the sight is aligned with the blurred rear sight. Even though you have not focused on the rear sight, it will be apparent if the front sight isn’t properly aligned. Very fast and accurate shooting may be done with a focus on the front sight.
Practice getting the pistol into action by first drawing the handgun, moving into the stance, and culminating with a focus on the front sight. After a short period, it will become second nature. Place the sight just below the target when using the six o’clock hold or dead-on for the dead-on hold.
For very fast speed shooting at close range, you may use only the front sight and get a fast sight focus. At 5–7 yards, drawing quickly and placing the sight on the belt buckle (approximately) of the target or the threat should be practiced. When you fire, the shots will strike higher than the point of aim since the front sight is held higher than the rear sights. This makes for very fast shooting and will drive shots into the threat.
Speed comes with practice. When we are firing for accuracy in personal defense, the sight alignment isn’t perfect but plenty accurate for the usual combat range of 5–10 yards. You quickly get the sight on target. There will be some correction if the front sight is off the mark. Place the sight just below the target, the spot on the threat you wish to hit.
Never aim for the whole area or the whole target. Instead, aim at a finite small spot on the target. A front shirt button or a belt buckle is a good aiming point. Don’t hesitate, and then get in a hurry and over correct.
You are firing to save your life. Get a good, fast, aim, and press the trigger. If you hesitate too long and stress out over the sight alignment, you may end up jerking the trigger and ruining the shot. Fast but smooth is the rule.
When firing for speed, be certain to pay attention to the front sight and the trigger press as well. The trigger press is begun as the sights are lined up on the target. Drill this into your muscle memory. Lay the front sight on the target, press the trigger, and you will get a hit.
There have been several alternative techniques proposed for speed shooting. Point shooting and instinctive shooting are bad ideas when you have sights to use. In the past, handguns with small sights that were difficult to see limited shooters who needed speed.
Many shooters of the past had their front sight modified. Tom Threeperson’s modified SAA is in a museum. It sports a tall front sight. Bat Masterson ordered his SAA revolvers with a special, tall front sight according to Colt records. At one time, gold bead and even mirrored front sights were offered. Today, we have aftermarket sights from TruGlo and HiViz that offer excellent clarity when aiming.
SIG’s factory SIGLITE night sight is a good choice. I prefer the SIG XRAY sights to the SIGLITE. Springfield’s Emissary and Hellcat Pro both offer excellent sights. Remember, it is all about the front sight when fast hits are needed.