Gun Sight 101

My S & W M&P45

Focusing on the fundamentals of an ordinary gun sight will help you shoot straight.

Like any sport or skill, we sometimes need to get back to the basics regarding technique and re-focus on the fundamentals – especially when we’re ‘drifting off our target’.

In this instance, how to simply line up your gun sight and shoot straight…



1. Focus your dominant eye on the front gun sight.

2. Center the front sight air gaps between the left & right dots of the rear gun sight.

3. Line up the front & rear sights for ‘equal height’ (line up the dots).

Focus your dominant eye on the front gun site, while being fully aware of the slightly blurry rear sight and the slightly blurry target itself in the background.

As basic as it may sound (and be), the fact is that in order to shoot straight 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 effects of any sight misalignment will result in an even more exaggerated miss. And naturally, the further away the target, the more these effects will exaggerate.


Gun sight alignment will cause a miss to the left.

Gun sight alignment will cause a miss too high.

Tip: When firing, “smooth trigger control straight to the rear”.
Tip: Practice!

I know that it’s all pretty basic, but often times getting back to the basics and focusing on the fundamentals helps us improve or re-establish a skill.


  1. Excellent reminder. There are a couple of things that I do when practicing with my handguns that have made me a better shot;

    Practice Dryfiring for trigger control. CHECK AND RECHECK TO MAKE SURE THE FIREARM IS NOT LOADED, THEN RECHECK…Place an empty casing on top of the handgun and practice dryfiring trying to keep the empty case from falling off the firearm.

    Use the “push/pull” method. (Right handed shooters) Slightly push outward with your right hand (trigger hand) and compensate with your left hand pulling it in. For me, this stabilizes the handgun.

    And finally, all you new AR 15 owners, before you trick out your new weapon, learn to zero your AR using your iron sights and spend some time mastering your iron sights. Optics are great but fundamentals stay with your when your optics fail.

    And PLEASE practice safety!




    God Save this Great Republic!

  2. Good advice from Ken and R.L. Question for the group. Does anyone know of any place where I can find aftermarket sights for a Mauser. I guess that means web sites for sights. I’m buying one of the Zastava Yugoslavian M48s that Big 5 is selling. The price is right and I can’t find anything more modern for the price that doesn’t come with a scope and no iron sites. I’d like a better rear site for it.

    1. Another piece of advice: Handguns are handguns and long guns are long guns. Many real life defensive uses of handguns do not involve steady deliberate aiming using front and rear sight alignment, time and close up danger just don’t allow it. After becoming proficient with using your sights then learn how to be a “point shooter”. Practice against targets at “bad breath range” of 3-5 feet where a lot of defensive handgun shooting takes place. Start with your dominant hand holding the firearm and your non-dominant hand clutching your shirt (to keep it out of the way of the fired rounds). While holding the gun at mid chest level point at the target by looking down the barrel and aiming for the mid section of the target. I suggest firing two rounds (double tap) in succession as most defensive gun fights require a minimum of two rounds to drop the suspect. You will find over time that you can put just about all your shots into the “kill zone” by training your hand, arm, eyes to shoot this way.

      1. Right on Sgt. Bill, Simply put: I say if you can see it less than 25 feet you can hit it. Ft. Polk La. 1968. They gave us a BB rifle and goggles for eye protection. At that time Vietnam was get as much lead out there toward your enemy as possible. We were not allowed to aim our BB guns. We held the BB gun under our arm and looked at what they threw up in front of us and eventually hit the small targets (which were about 4 or 5 feet up in the air). They started with throwing up quarters. When we could hit that they threw up nickels. Who ever hit their nickel then had a dime thrown up and some of the guys even hit their dimes. If you can see it you can hit it.

  3. Without sounding stupid,but I do not know much about guns-is it necessary to close one eye when aiming? I cannot close my left eye on its own,only closes with my right eye at the same time.My right eye is my dominant eye.Is this a problem for aiming?

    1. Handguns; keep both eyes open. Seeing as you can’t close your left eye Frank you got the jump on that one. nondominate eye blurs.

        1. Most close the non dominant eye. Particularly when using a scope. Use an eye patch on non dominant eye? Has an added plus of preserving night vision for the covered eye.

        2. Not from my prospective. I have scopes on all my rifles( old eyes). I’ve always closed the nondomanent eye, but I only shoot hunting rifles in hunting situations. Maybe someone could chime in on ARs at close range.

        3. @Frank
          I’m an old fart of 61, and have been shooting competition, hunting, fun at the range… for years. I tell people I close the scope eye and shoot with the left down the side of the scope… HAHAHA but seriously I shoot with both eyes open. You need to find what goes for you, and just practice.

    2. @Frank, No, it is not. In fact it may be better. I know two people that shoot circles around me, and both of them keep both eyes open while aiming. thanks

  4. For those who are not experienced shooters, if you are in a close combat situation you may not have time focus on a sight … then your instinct should serve you. Test your instincts by simply bringing your shooting hand up “quickly” and point at a spot across the room … then close your weak eye … if your instincts are serving you well then you should be spot on the target.

    With that said let offer another consideration for sights. Think Red Dot! A red dot site can be mounted on both hand guns and long guns at a cost anywhere from $39 to $500. These sights eliminate the need to align front and rear sights which equates to quicker and more accurate target accusation which then means getting rounds on target faster. If you’re not familiar with these sights then check out the many reviews for different ones on line.

  5. Since my eyes struggle with sights, I went with a .38 special with a laser. That way I can just focus on the target.

  6. I was taught WEAPON safety by my uncle, my dads younger brother who was fresh from the USMC. I was just a LITTLE boy, I was five. I was taught all the same stuff he was, just not as harshly. I still remember those lessons. I’m a 60 year old man now, those were the best lessons I had ever had. He taught me to NEVER point any weapon at ANYTHING unless your will shoot it, to ALWAYS assume that ANY weapon is loaded until YOU check it, how GENTLY squeeze the trigger and so on. I never did get a chance to thank him for all those lessons so long ago. I wish I could have.

  7. Here’s a tip:

    I use the two dot rear sight with the single dot front sight.

    I use some white vinyl fishing lure paint on the front sight, letting it dry for 15min. Then use some day-glo orange vinyl fishing lure paint over the previously applied white, letting it dry 20min. This make the orange brighter and stands out better, especially when the sun is at your back and low light conditions. Apply it with a wooden toothpick. It is impervious to solvents like Hoppe’s

    MEK will thin this vinyl paint or remove it from the sight. I also use it on rifle sights.

    1. Good tip, on my carry firearm I use two different color sights, florescent orange in front and florescent green on the rear, I also have a Crimson Laser mounted.

      A lot to deal with? no, not really, practice is the ONLY thing you really need on your sidearm. if your not doing 500+ rounds a month, you need to get yar azz out to the range.

  8. Ken,

    Good job on the update. It’s very important to have the correct information out there. Good luck on your continuing training and improvement.

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