Sight picture

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Sight picture

Post by Bullseye » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:05 am

Here are some ideas on a variety of sight pictures.

A tangent 6 o'clock hold is very difficult for a beginning shooter to hold both mentally and physically. First, anyone can agree that newer shooters have less than steady aiming tendencies although they have a strong desire to hold a "perfect sight picture." The combination of these two factors leads to surges in adrenaline in the body and the overpowering need to jerk the trigger the instant the sight wavers into the perceived near perfect position. Jerking the trigger instantaneously destroys all prior sight alignment work in the last few precious milliseconds before cartridge detonation.

Here's how the Tangent sight picture appears.

Image


There are other problems with a tangential hold and these deal with the properties of light refraction. Light rays tend to bend around objects, so a tangent hold can be optically deceiving to the shooter. While the sight blade appears perfectly placed the light rays bending around it have really distorted where the target actually is positioned downrange. This effect is known as shooting a "flat tire." The black ball has distorted and now appears like it has a flat spot underneath it near the front sight. The resulting shots will be erratic on the target and can have a tendency to drift high in or above the aiming black.

Here's how a Flat Tire sight picture appears.

Image

A sub 6 o'clock hold is preferred because light will not refract around the top of front blade when the sight is held a little lower on the aiming black. Service Rifle shooters use this method all the time where long distance is another added factor to contend with in competition.

The sub 6 o'clock aiming technique is also known as holding a "line of white." Actually the shooter holds just below the black ball and has a thin white line just above the sight blade and below the black ball. The aiming black does not distort with this style and the shots tend to cluster in the appropriate area on the target. The new shooter isn't attempting to hold perfect sight placement and therefore has less of a tendency to jerk the trigger. A shooter must be consistent with his line of white but not obsessive about it, this is very important, because the shooter will sooner or later realize that sight placement is not as important as sight alignment. In other words, there's a lot of wiggle room on the target and where the sights are isn't all that important as long as they're close. However, making sure that the front and rear sights are in alignment is critical because any offset here and an angular error is induced into the shot. Any angular irregularities in sight alignment and shots will appear normal to the shooter optically but the hits will be way off of his calls. That kind of situation injects frustration and strong emotions into the shooter's performance and a rapid decline in mental attitude occurs, causing even more negative emotional responses. The shooter cannot figure out why the shots are errant because they appeared to him as having been aimed correctly.

Here's how the Line of White sight picture appears.

Image

The center hold can be an effective hold style for a new shooter. Here the front sight is held dead center of the aiming black. All a shooter has to do is maintain alignment, hold the blade in the black, and if the shot breaks correctly, the hits will be in the black. The problem is, as the shooter's skills progress, hits just being in the black won't be good enough for consistent scores, the hits will be all over the black and not consistent. But before I get into the negatives there are a few more positives to this style of hold. A shooter can mostly concentrate on his/her trigger techniques instead of sight placement - an area where most of the shooter's concentration should be focused. Remember, no matter how perfect the sight alignment or hold is, an improperly executed trigger technique negates it all in the last few moments before the shot breaks.

Here's how the Center Hold sight picture appears.

Image

The center hold can be a difficult technique for a new shooter too. Optically, it is a lot more difficult to keep the front and rear sights aligned when the white area of the target isn't showing though in between the two sights. In the heat of sustained fire, not having two clear white lines in between the sights can cause the shooter to lose sight focus or get the blade and notch out of alignment. When this situation happens, the calls are way off and the shooter can even start looking downrange at the target instead of the sights were he/she should be looking.

OK, now for the real deal. It doesn't matter much on which technique a shooter uses, just pick one and be consistent with it. Make only minor changes to your shooting style techniques and then very carefully evaluate the results. Build yourself into a set routine and don't stray from it. A shooter, who does one thing one day and another next, is not being consistent in anything except being inconsistent. These things develop over time, it won't happen overnight. As your shooting skills and physical abilities increase, the performance level results will ascend like a set of stairs. Scores will jump a little then level off, then improve another notch and level off again. And be prepared for some setbacks as one tends to regress back to old poor habits from time to time. Most importantly, don't ever get frustrated, because then you're not concentrating on your shooting techniques with 100% of your focus. Anything less than 100% mental focus and performance will decline significantly. Shooting is very much like a martial art, the results come from executing the techniques perfectly, the means cause the results and not the other way around. Oh, and never forget to go out and have some fun.

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Sight Picture

Post by arizona-hermit » Tue Aug 16, 2005 3:40 pm

I have found the easiest way to transition new shooters from 'live' targets to paper is to teach them the center hold while shooting balloons.

This works for several reasons (IMHO). The shooter gets instant feedback on hits. Watching balloons explode elevates their feelings of accomplishment and self worth. Cleaning up the pieces afterwards grants them the time to 'brag' about their skill, technique, etc.

Transitioning to paper is easier once the person has confidence in their ability to hit what they aim at. Some prefer to stick with the Shoot-N-See targets (visible feedback) and some enjoy regular X ring targets. I have every type target imaginable ( and some others to boot :wink: ) when I assist young ones, so the excitement level rarely ever wanes.

I truly enjoy introducing new shooters to this 'sport'. I pray my gratification never fades.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain. [1 COR 15:10a - NASB]

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Post by Bullseye » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:05 pm

I love shooting reactive targets and balloons are some of the more fun things to shoot. I like the fact that you can change the balloon's size by adding more or less air, making the targets fit the skill level of the shooter.

I also love teaching children to shoot. They get very excited by their performance. They also listen very well and quickly develop into skilled shooters. I guess they just haven't learned any bad habits that they'd have to unlearn yet. I've worked a lot over the years with 4-H Clubs and instructing smallbore rifle, pistol, air rifle and air pistol.

New shooters are the best.

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Post by Bud33 » Thu Aug 10, 2006 8:53 pm

Bullseye,
Excellent coverage of the different methods of holding the sights. I have just one thought.
I have always maintained that that the sight picture is the main thing and where you hold is secondary. If you maintain the necessary concentration on sight picture, and your focus remains constant, then the bull will only be a blur. I shoot for grouping and then when the groups become consistent, I adjust the sights to move the group into the center.
Bud

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HE PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO USE IT!!!

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Post by Bullseye » Thu Aug 10, 2006 11:31 pm

Thanks Bud, I totally agree with your observation. This was a reprint of a response to a question about different types of sight placement and did not really cover correct sight picture. Let me take the opportunity to discuss the sight picture based on your seguay.

SIGHT PICTURE

Your eye can only focus on one thing at a time. In sighting there's three points of reference for focusing: the rear sight blade, the front sight blade, and the target ball - also know as "the aiming black." The correct object of you concentration and focus is the front sight blade. All the other objects remain in your peripherial vision, that is they stay in your field of view they just remain out of focus. You need to align all three places. The difficult part is keeping only the front sight blade in sharp focus and using the other blurrier parts as references for sighting.

Here is an example of a properly sighted in pistol.

Image

Notice how the front sight blade is clear and sharp. Also notice how the rear sight notch and the target ball are not clearly defined. Both are visible but not sharply outlined. Both can be used as a sighting reference in this state. The trick is to not shift the point of focus back and forth between the sights and the target.

Here's where the beginning shooter usually goes wrong. :shock: The new shooter aligns the front and rear sights and then focuses on the target. Now the new shooter leaves the gun's sights blurry and concentrates on placing the sights under the target. Unfortunately, when the sights are out of focus so are any small changes in their relative position and alignment. Meaning the sights can be off and not be noticable. Any angular difference between the pistol's iron sights translates to a far greater margin downrange with the angular deflection of the barrel relative to the target.

Here is an example of an incorrect sight picture.

Image

Notice how the pistols sights are blurry but the aiming black (target ball) is sharply defined. Any minor variances in the pistol's sight alignment are likely to go unnoticed and therefore the shot can be errant. The shooter cannot call his shots because the sights may not be where the shooter thinks they are. The shooter is fooled into thinking if the sights are under the aiming black, then the shot will be in the center of the target - Not so!

NOTICE - in this picture the front sight is crowding the left side of the rear notch. It's barely noticable but it's there. This shot would end up on the target outside of the black ball in the white at 9 o'clock. Just think, it is hard to see that misalignment even when your looking for it in still life. Imagine trying to see that all while the sights are waving all around the target and empty shells are flying everywhere. Wouldn't happen.

Now I know there's some folks that say, "Not my eyes." "I can focus in two places without any difficulty." This is not humanly possible. Our bodies do not work that way. Here's a test. Look off in the distance at an object. Now extend your arm and hand straight out, as if you were holding a pistol in one hand. Raise the thumb of that hand, like giving the object your looking at the "thumbs-up." Now bring that extended thumb just underneath the distant object. Keep looking at the object. Notice how your thumbnail is out of focus. Now shift your concentration to the thumbnail and bring it into clear, sharp focus. See, the distant object is now blurry. If you try to get both in focus, by looking down range, what you end up with is neither one in focus. And, that is not a good situation to find one's self in precision target shooting.

When I get a new shooter who is cheating with the sight picture, I can easily tell when I look at the target. All the holes will be in, or below the black ball, usually at 6 o'clock clustered in the middle of the white area. I'll tell him he's looking at the target and he'll say, "How did you know?" I know because his body is unconsciously doing him a favor, and when he looks down range, his hands gently move that fuzzy object in the way downwards to give him a clearer picture. Subsequently the shots are at the bottom of the target precisely where the iron sights were aligned. But the shooter never notices because his attention was on the target. The same holds true for "Dummy-and-ball drills." I'll give the new shooter live and dummy rounds and ask them to call their shots. If when they drop the hammer on the dummy and can't tell if the sights jumped, I know they're looking down range at the target.

Hope this clears up how to aim the iron sights. Now, "GO OUT AND PRACTICE IT!"


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Post by allendavis » Mon Sep 18, 2006 8:53 pm

I printed out this entire thread for reinforcing what I've taught some kids over the summer, a couple of which have gotten good enough with the various .22 pistols (mostly Rugers in different guises) to transition to center-fire pistols.

These kids who shot my Hi-Power 9mm and my Chip McCormick .45 ACP Gov't. Model gave me angry glances after shooting them in succession. My .45 has Novak sights that give you a guaranteed bullseye with a 6 o'clock hold. However, my Hi-Power requires that you hold the white dot on its front sight "ON" the target, not below it. Both kids hit low with every shot with my Hi-Power.

Trying to explain why the two guns "hit" differently took some doing.

I don't shoot a lot of paper unless I've got the chronograph out, but I've always been aware of the difference in the way these two pistols shoot. Every handgun my wife and I own all are sighted for the classic American 6 o'clock hold except for my Hi-Power, and I have no interest in replacing those fixed sights with anything else. They're good sights. You just need to be mindful of the sight picture difference with this particular pistol.

Kudos to Bullseye for such a string of well-written messages on proper sighting with open sights.

By the way, most of the kids I've been instructing over the summer are really in love with my 50th Anniversary Mark II model with its short, slim tapered barrel and its fixed sights. Some even shoot this pistol better than they can an open-sighted .22 rifle. One kid said he was getting bored with it unless I'd move the target out beyond 25 yards! (He rarely misses at that range and can routinely topple 10 bowling pins with 10 shots in just under 10 seconds. He just turned 11 years old!!!)

Thanks again, Bullseye!

Allen

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Post by Bullseye » Tue Sep 19, 2006 6:10 am

I've found that the Ruger Standard 22 is a good pistol for the beginning shooter's mindset. They want to try the "big guns" but once they do many go back to the rimfire for fun. The tapered barrel Rugers are great for feel and balance of small framed individuals like women and children. The pistol is just more commensurate with their body size. If it feels right and they're not fighting the pistol's weight and balance, then their overall performance is better, stimulating the shooter's confidence and self esteem to greater levels. In other words, it makes the shooting session fun. A good successful first shooting session will guarantee a second one.

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Post by Hardball » Mon Nov 20, 2006 11:52 pm

Having the new shooter, or anyone for that matter shoot groups on blank target backs reinforces.

I suggest more blank targets than actual bulls in training and practice.

Great pix, except it should be (one) "eye on the sight".
Last edited by Hardball on Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by jaeger45 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:11 pm

Bullseye--

Referring to your post above with the sight pictures with the FRONT SIGHT CLEAREST before letting go at the at the trigger, I take it that goes for pistol shooting only?

For rifle shooting, the last I look at is the bull so that the last sight picture I retain before letting go is the BULL REMAINING CLEAREST with the front and rear sights kinda blurry. Is this right?
A bad shot is often caused by a loose nut behind the buttplate

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Post by Bullseye » Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:37 pm

Originally I was discussing a pistol sight picture but high power rifle shooting is not all that much different. You still focus on the front sight for rifle shooting but that focus is mainly directed to the top edge of the rifle's front post. As in pistol shooting, the target's image is secondary and the top of the front sight is the most important thing to focus on. If one looks downrange and focuses on the target, any minor changes in the rifle's aiming point will likely go unnoticed by the shooter. Subtle sighting changes can result in huge hit errors at normal rifle firing distances. Consistency is everything for successful shooting with a high power rifle.

Here is a link to the CMP's First Shot Magazine that has a good write up on sighting in with your rifle.

http://www.odcmp.org/1007/default.asp?p ... GHTPICTURE

Hope this helps.

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Sight picture

Post by kardar » Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:23 pm

Great thread Bullseye,

When I started shooting a few years ago, our coach made us shoot on blank white paper without any bull. I beleive it reinforced some good qualities in us, like proper stance, sight alignment & trigger release. In his words, Sight Alignment is more important than Sight picture.

Thanks for the post, I also have printed it for my refrence.

Regards,
Kardar

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Post by razzle » Wed Sep 10, 2008 9:48 pm

Had a conversation just today about this. A question came up on a 1911 with a fiber optic front sight and what type of picture should you be using with this?

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Post by Bullseye » Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:02 am

Generally a high visibility style (fiber optic) sight is aligned with the light tube centered in the rear sight blade, and the dot is positioned under the target in the six o'clock position.


Image

Basically the light pipe takes the place of the front sight blade.

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Post by tommyhaka » Sat Jan 17, 2009 8:52 pm

Here's where the beginning shooter usually goes wrong. Shocked The new shooter aligns the front and rear sights and then focuses on the target. Now the new shooter leaves the gun's sights blurry and concentrates on placing the sights under the target. Unfortunately, when the sights are out of focus so are any small changes in their relative position and alignment. Meaning the sights can be off and not be noticable.
I have just started to overcome this focusing error. When I focus on the "front sight", I hit the target where I want to. Negative results happen when I focus on the target. The problem was, I couldn't get the front sight into focus.... Until.......I purchased was the "Merit Optical Attachment". It is an aperature adjusting device that allows the shooter to be able to focus on both front and rear sights, and the target. Each are in excellent focus. It works, I can attest to it. This website explains the device well:
http://www.gunblast.com/MeritOptical.htm
thanks, tommy

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Post by Tigerbeetle » Wed May 27, 2009 5:00 pm

Bullseye, I learned from the seat of my pants I guess at the ripe old age of five when I got my first bb gun. My dad helped me early on with the rear sight and the front sight picture, basically with an on-target center hold. The front sight on the older rifles, like the Remington 24 I started carrying when I was 10 and later the Win 62A when I was 13 had small, narrow front blades with a tiny knob on top. I also started shooting a scope on the 62A and never went back to iron sights except in small bore competition. In college I shot the Rem 40X with Redfield double apertures and a Freeland tube sight. To me, the double aperture was the greatest thing going. As with a scope, the eye naturally centers the target. An even white halo around the black bull was a certain 10X. There was never any doubt in my mind where the shot hit. Unfortunately, I knew also that every one wasn't a dead center bull. But enough were in the 10 ring that I was on the ROTC and the university traveling team for several years and lettered at Mizzou in what was then a minor sport. I wished that they would have had trap and skeet at that time as they do now because I was a heck of a wing shot.

As to your very expert treatise, I guess I would have to agree with the center hold over the 6 o'clock hold. I never shot a real target until I was in college, but with the .22s, I put the top of the narrow, tapering front sight even with the top of the rear "v"where I wanted the bullet to hit and that is where it went. Gopher, rabbit, squirrel or pigeon, what ever, it wasn't often that I missed. Those were the days.
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