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Truth about Sights

TAC-1Let’s talk about sights in a traditional sense – iron sight’s.  Depending on the difficulty or ease of shots, the shooter’s focal points should shift. Focal point can be described as visual (ocular), mental, sensual or mixture of all. For this opinion I am to narrow down to only the visual.

Sighted shooting is the fundamental of marksmanship. We were all taught first to have front sight focus when shooting. We all need to start somewhere and using this hard front sight focus method is proven where it ensures that the weapon is aligned upon target most precisely.  I know, I know…that’s what I teach at a police academy where I work and at TAC-1 shooting training school on the weekends.  However, we must not neglect to teach other types of focused shooting.

As one become more advanced and adept at shooting (tactical or competitive), one must also evolve to understanding the availability of other visual focal points while shooting.  To do so we must understand the nature of gun fighting. If you’ve ever experienced any force-on-force scenario based training, you will quickly realize that the sights were often left out of the equation when returning fire at close range regardless of amount of training the shooter had. 

Front sight focus not the only kind

Hard front sight focus is SLOW to acquire.  If you are not the aggressor…you will mostly likely be reacting to a violent situation.  Action causes reaction and reactions are much slower than action. We often can’t wait for our focus to go to the front sight when aiming – the trigger must be pressed.

Generally, when aiming, the front sight focus is the standard. This is the only way to learn and cognitively know what the sights should look and thus the body mechanic must be spot on in relation to the target. But the process of front sight focused shooting is slow. Slow in a sense that it would delay you from getting your shot(s) out before the suspect does at a given its proximity.

Front sight focused shooting is reserved for difficult shots in combat – long distance, moving target, alternative shooting positions, small target area. The shooter usually has some sort of cover, distance, cover fire or some other resources to increase the position of advantage and survivability. However, the slow nature of this sighting system makes it impractical for close proximal shooting when speed becomes a dominant factor.

Target Focused through the sights

The average distance of police officer involved shooting in this country is mere 3 to 5 feet. That’s a hand reaching distance and it will be blazing fast. Where do you think your focal point would be?  Sights? No. Actually, the focal point will be on target and the motor skill – reacting to the target getting the gun up fast and pressing fast. So it’s not on the sights.  In this case the visual focal point usually be on target and will likely stay on target.

I often hear officers telling me that they did not see their sights or they were not aware of the sights – they just aimed and shot. In other words, they had to rely on their body position to shoot. Is this taught in schools you attended?

How is this body position acquired? Through proper body mechanics i.e. STANCE and GRIP.  I often hear instructors negate the importance of stance in shooting stating that the stance is only transitory and that strict stances are taught only for square range training. True – but they are missing the point. Proper stance must be taught to teach the concept of proper body position when sighting.  

Human beings can gain the natural ability to aim at objects with proper training. Our body sometimes are much more superior than our minds in certain areas.  Shooters should learn to use the body to properly aim and use the sights to verify that the weapon is aligned. This can only be developed through lots of training.  Shooters must learn to aim with the body and when practical verify briefly that the gun is aligned with the target. 

In sum, the concept of sights is very complex. Sight alignment can cause you unwanted anxiety when it doesn’t go your way which may affect the way you press the trigger. When shooting, your eyes must bounce around to make sure that your shooting is justified and at the same time be accurate and be fast.  Know that front sight focus is just one way to ensure sight alignment, but to perform at peak level during all types of shooting conditions, you should consider (and train) alternative visual focal points.

Game Changer

The Miniaturized Red Dot Sight (MRDS) on the pistol allows the shooter to keep a target focus while aiming and shooting at various distances. This can significantly improve speed and as well as reacting through threat assessment.  MRDS’ ability to keep target focus can mitigate accusation of excessive force and aid in accurate round placement over traditional iron sights. MRDS is known to be easier and faster to learn the concept of marksmanship over iron sights.

Think about it, when you have 3 visual cues to consider when aligning the weapon on to target (the target, front sight and rear sight) traditionally…and when you must do it fast to save your life – wouldn’t you say that’s a daunting task. With the advent of MRDS, you can keep your focus on the target and still be able to align the weapon onto target…precisely.  This will aid not only in speed but also allows the shooter to be more precise over traditional iron sights.