Gun Sight 101

January 18, 2013, by Ken Jorgustin


So having spent some time at the range recently with my new Smith & Wesson M&P45, I thought I would share a ‘back to basics’ tip that helped me get better on target after expending my first magazine with poor results…

It’s like any sport, skill, technique… we sometimes get distracted with the effects or experiences of something new, which sometimes leads to over-analyzing things, and once in awhile we lose sight of the basic fundamental techniques of what we are setting out to accomplish. In this instance, I was simply trying to hit a standard pistol target at 30 feet, ideally somewhere within the 6-inch diameter ‘black’ rings of the paper target. Heck… anywhere within the 10-inch target itself would be a good start… or even hitting the perimeter of the cardboard that is holding the target… which was where most of my first bullets went.

Admittedly though, this was a new pistol for me, and a larger caliber that I’ve not had before. I know, I know… excuses.

In any event, after some good-hearted teasing from a few of the other folks in the pistol house, we began to chat about the basic fundamentals of shooting straight, including the following two things, which got me back on my game…

1. Focus your eye on the front gun sight

2. Pay attention to your gun sight air gaps (lining up the dots)

While I knew that my grip and my stance was good, I had become more mentally focused on the fact that it was a new firearm, I was unfamiliar with the trigger pull/tension versus when it would fire, and I had even started to ‘anticipate’ the shot, which really makes for a problem.

On my second magazine, I settled down, and thought only of the fundamentals. I focused my dominant eye on the front gun site, while being fully aware of the slightly blurry rear sight and the blurry target itself.

As basic as it may sound (and be), the fact is that in order to shoot straight, or accurately at your intended target, you must pay attention to properly lining up the gun sight dots. Any slight misalignment WILL cause the bullet to travel either left, right, high, or low. The shorter the barrel of the gun, the more pronounced and extreme this will be. And naturally, the further away the target, the more these effects will apply.

I had some fun playing with my camera while getting a picture showing the alignment of the front and rear gun sights which illustrate the equal air gap and lining up of the front gun sight dot with the two rear dots. It doesn’t take much to get it misaligned… but once they are lined up, you will shoot straight… provided that your trigger pull doesn’t move the alignment and that you are gripping the gun properly. In any event, the image below gives you an idea. It shows the dots lined up in a row which gives you a proper vertical alignment, and it shows the center dot right in the middle with a slight air gap on each side.


The next picture shows the gun sight position which would cause a miss to the left.


The following picture shows the gun sight position which would cause a miss too high.


I know that it’s all super basic, but often times getting back to the basics and focusing on the fundamentals helps us improve or re-establish our skill. Besides… it gave me an excuse to play around with my Sony A65 camera.


Appreciate topics of survival, preparedness, risk awareness – or planning for disaster?
Read our current articles on Modern Survival Blog