Don’t blame the front sight

I started noticing this in the 1990s, shortly after getting back into shooting, and it came as a flood after I got into the gun accessory business.

We’d get it over and over and over. People would call in, wanting a sight, or an optic sight dot reticle, that wouldn’t “cover the target”.

My first response soon became, and remains, “If you don’t want your sight covering the target, then stop covering the target with your sight.”

It’s as simple as that. I believe the problem is that it is SO simple, beginners can’t believe it, and expert shooters won’t allow themselves to believe it because important things take time to learn and are complicated.

Some of the most experienced shooters, for whom I otherwise have a great deal of respect, seem unable to grasp the simple concept; YOU choose your sight picture. It isn’t necessarily built-in by the manufacturer. Stop assuming.

Also, give me a front sight, or a reticle, shaped like my shoe, or a Ford F-350 with duals, or Bridget Bardot, and I’ll be able to shoot just as well with it after a little bit of practice, AND since I choose to not cover the target with it, the target won’t be covered.

People have gotten, and no doubt will continue to get, all kinds of pissed off at me for saying this, pleading their case that no, since the post, or reticle, is such and such an angular size, and the target smaller, then the target is covered. Wrong! Don’t make me draw you pictures.

Stop covering the target, and adjust your sights accordingly. Chances are you don’t need new sights, or a smaller dot reticle.

And don’t bother arguing; I very much doubt you can tell me anything I haven’t already heard hundreds of times. I spend a good part of every day talking to shooters from all disciplines ad of all levels of experience.


13 thoughts on “Don’t blame the front sight

  1. This may just be down to the quality of my teachers, but I never thought of this as a problem. I always adjusted my sights how I wanted them. POI is always just a smidge above the post. It is a super simple concept to teach, so I learned it the first time I was taught to sight in a gun.

  2. in pistols and revolvers, put the target (point of aim) on top of the front sight. and, forgetttaboutit. so, yes, i am in absolute agreement with the author. actually, i’d aim with my index finger if i didn’t have to pull the trigger with it. you really don’t need the front sight for very much, except to confirm what your hands have already told you.

  3. What about targets at widely varying distances? Neil Smith has a scenario in one of his stories involving metal silhouette shooting, with targets at 25, 50, 75, and 100 yards. Part of the point of that scenario is the subject’s struggle to see the 100 yard target. Would you adjust for the 100 yard target and hold lower for the other ones?

    • Well, for 223 zero for 50 yards, then use point blank aiming out to 250 (Of course assuming your sight offset is 2 inches above the bore). You will never be more than 2 inches above or below your POA. You can find similar long range point blank sightings for other calibers, especially if you are willing to play with sight risers.

    • Speaking of a pistol, I find very little difference in hold required from near contact distance to 100 yards. I don’t cover my target with the front sight, therefore my targets are never covered by the front sight. How hard is that to grasp?

      Now there are competitive shooters, according to some competitive shooters, who do cover the target, they choose to do that (are we beginning to understand that it’s purely a choice?) because they believe it is faster to center the dot on the front sight right over the POI. That hold is common enough that there’s a name for it.

      Whatever works. Just don’t complain that your target is covered after you’ve chosen to cover the target, is the point.

  4. YES!!! I’ve had to draw those pictures! That 1/16″ between the top of the post to the center of the front sight dot is inconsequential. It merely translates as 1/16″ off the target center at any distance.

    • Just stop covering the target. The rest is up to you, once you stop covering the target. I could draw a hundred different pictures, and I’m sure you can imagine them anyway. Lots of other people have drawn pictures. You can find them as easily as I. I’m not your mother. This isn’t anything new. Just stop covering the target, or at least don’t blame your sights when you do because you have total control of your sight picture, given the design of the sights, whatever they may be, assuming at least some rudimentary adjustability (as in you own a file or can swap out one sight for one of a different height).

      If you fully understand the differences between the “combat zero” (and it has other names besides – I looked it up) and the “bullseye zero” then you’re on the right path. Bridget Bardot’s left nipple would work every bit as well, or her right big toe, or the tail of the silhouette of an elephant, etc., etc., etc., as long as YOU aren’t covering the target with it. So don’t.

  5. Besides all of that, so long as you have two good eyes, there’s no possibility of actually covering the target anyway. The front sight on your pistol would need to be several inches wide before it could actually cover the target when held in your outstretched hands and looking with both eyes. Hold one thumb up and put in the way of your view of a light switch on the wall across the room, and with both eyes open it will never block the view of that light switch. See what I mean? So unless your front sight is at least several times wider than your thumb, whatever it blocks from one eye, the other eye still sees it. So there’s that too. Thus it is that you can use a reflex sight, for but one example, with the opaque front lens cover closed.

    So not only do you not have to ever cover your target with the front sight while sighting with one eye, if you have two eyes open there’s no possibility of actually covering the target anyway!

  6. It’s sometimes interesting to measure the width of the front sight and learn how much it covers at various yardages. For example, the front dot on my Winchester 94 covers about 8 inches at 100 yards, which tracks easily with the kill zone of the average whitetail deer. I’ve sighted my rifle to shoot “into” the area covered by the front sight. If I see target of worth, I can throw up the rifle, cover the kill zone with the front sight, and squeeze the trigger. If I’ve done my part, the bullet will fall into the area covered by the front sight.

    • This is similar to what I was told once at a range by a “range guru”.
      He said that the dark of the bull should be the same width as the front sight, so that, as Paw Paw said, just cover the kill zone and the bullet goes there. The peep sight uses this principle, too, so that the front sight is centered in the aperture, which the human eye is good at doing.

      The target table (for lack of a better term) for the Swiss GP-11 calls for the “six O’Clock hold out to 200 yards or so, and then a Center of Mass hold beyond that.

  7. Very good points, Lyle. I think it’s also noteworthy that many shooters – even those with a lot of supposed experience – are unfamiliar with the concept of shooting at longer distances with iron sights. They keep the same sight alignment as they would for shorter distance, then elevate that alignment at distance and hence, covering the target.

    These folks aren’t familiar with the notion that the relationship between the front sight and the target don’t change with distance, but your sight alignment – you just aim with the front sight sticking up above the rear sight notch. I’ve busted rocks with my Model 29 a few hundred yards away, with the entire front sight sticking above the rear sight – the rock neatly perched on top of and centered on the front sight.

    I always make a point of teaching this in NRA pistol courses – but I guess it’s becoming a lost art or something. I’ve shot in IPSC matches before where there was a longer distance target (maybe only 50 yards), and people expended entire mags on that because they didn’t know their bullet trajectory and didn’t know how to aim a pistol.

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