During my first trips to the pistol range, the number one question I would ask myself when aiming was “What should I be seeing here?”

One of the most widespread mistakes in handgun shooting is the misinterpretation of the “front sight” mantra. New shooters may hear this and, as a result, narrow their visual plane towards the front sight and nothing else. If a shooter constantly sees the same hard-focus sight picture on every target and at every range, they will unquestionably be accurate, but they’ll also lack a balance in accuracy and speed.

To learn what to see, try taking the same-sized target and engage it from ranges beginning at 3 to 5 yards for a close-range shot, 15 to 20 yards for an intermediate-range shot and 35 to 50 yards for a long shot. Learn to look at the target, then pick up the sights as you drive forward during the presentation. When up close, I barely use my sights. Intermediate ranges will require more attention, but not to the point where a target “blurs.” At long ranges, I see a refined sight picture with detail on the front sight blade. This general rule applies to a target size similar to a wide-open A-zone on an IPSC Metric target. However, if you change the target size, the sight detail changes, too.

Push Yourself

In my early days at the range, I rarely used bullseye targets for handgun shooting. Instead, I used a plain, 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of white office paper. At 21 feet, I would engage both plain white paper and some with hand-drawn, 2-by-4-inch rectangles. I would then try the same at 75 feet. After that, I would stagger several targets in 5- to 7-yard intervals and move the pistol in various engagement sequences. Drills like this taught me how to attain the right balance of accuracy and speed using my visual skills. Knowing when I need more or less sight to make a good hit soon became natural.

When shooting for accuracy and speed, avoid looking for the scoring perforations on paper targets. Know where the biggest part of the A-zone is and present to it. On 8-inch steel plates, which are usually further than 10 yards away, I always center the sight to give me the best chance to make a hit. I want the most area to float the sights before pulling the trigger. Increase the plate size to 10 or 12 inches and there is only a slight change in what I am seeing.

On the range, you should constantly test your limits to reach new heights. This is why I caution against setting par times that are too generous for a given ability. In terms of sight use, if you don’t challenge yourself as a shooter, you will not learn when enough is enough.

There are times when I experiment on the range with obtaining sight pictures—going from marginal to attentive, and sometimes those that are excessive. The difference between a sloppy attempt and one where you see everything is typically one-tenth of a second. Even knowing that, however, it is easy to get away from doing the right thing—being visual—when you get into “push modes” or begin taking chances to try and get ahead. I never lost a match because I was not quick enough on my feet or fast enough moving the gun from place to place, but I have lost plenty as a result of not seeing enough.

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  • Target Is Moving

    Great article particularly “On the range, you should constantly test your limits to reach new heights” http://www.targetismoving.com