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 Firearms and Fundamentals: Sight Picture and Sight Alignment 
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Post Firearms and Fundamentals: Sight Picture and Sight Alignment
Firearms and Fundamentals: Sight Picture and Sight Alignment
by: Brendan McGloin

No matter which way you slice it, you’ll never get better at shooting of you don’t know and use the basic fundamentals. Whether it’s target shooting, self-defense, hunting, handguns, rifles or air guns there’s three “big daddy’s” to the basic marksman’s method. They can be broken down and defined much more than their basic premises, and even applied differently when it comes to things like the use of optics. However, they remain a staple for the shooter, a necessity - but not a crutch. A seasoned marksman never forgets these three basics, but over time, the need to harp on them dwindles as they become a natural process. Though, to see a very good shooter “throw” a shot off target will most often lead to a long dissertation of why it happened, always going back to fundamentals. In their briefest explanation, the three main pieces to the firearms fundamentals puzzle are:

* Sight Picture/Sight Alignment

* Trigger Control

* Breathing

Today we’ll be covering Sight Picture and Sight Alignment.

Plainly, this is how the sights on a shooter’s firearm look in relation to the target. There are two elements that make up sight alignment, the front sight and the rear sight - However, to get the whole picture there are three elements that make up the perfect sight picture, they are the front sight, the rear sight and the target itself. It would do a shooter no good, where fundamentals are concerned, to have a perfect sight alignment, but fail to attain the perfect sight picture by incorporating placement in relation to the target.

Firearms can differ greatly from sight to sight, but the basic premise is always the same: a fixture on the forward end of the weapon used to attain proper sight alignment. The front sight is probably the most important because it is in direct relation to where the projectile will exit the weapon - so, it would make sense that your focus remains there, wouldn’t it?

The same can be said for the rear sight; design and appearance can differ greatly from firearm to firearm, but the job of the rear sight is always the same: a fixture on the rear of the weapon used to attain proper sight alignment. Here, we'll assume that we're using a firearm that has a square, notched rear sight (you can read this article with images by following the link at the bottom).

The desires of the marksman, when attempting to adhere to fundamentals, is to align these two elements - the front and rear sight - perfectly. That is to say, the top of the front sight should be level with the top of the rear sight and the placement of the front sight, within the rear notch, should be in the middle. Most marksman use the premise of “daylight”, where they attempt to ensure that the same amount of ‘daylight’ exists on either side of the front sight when placed in the middle of the rear.

This alignment is absolutely crucial to precision and accuracy, but as mentioned above, it does nothing without the correct ’sight picture’. A marksman would do well to remember that the sight alignment is like a fixture in itself; no matter where the weapon moves, no matter what exists in the foreground, the alignment of the sights must be maintained. With that in mind, we welcome the target to our little lesson.

As the sight alignment is maintained, it’s placement on the target begins the evolution of the shooter’s sight picture. Fundamentals, good fundamentals, demand that alignment is maintained and then placed on the target to create the beginning of the best sight picture. Once that is attained, then the shooter must allow the focus of his vision to pickup ONLY the front sight, blurring the rear sight and the target. For some reason, this is the biggest problem for beginners where sight alignment and sight picture are concerned because most seem to feel that they need to “see” the target clearly - simply, that is WRONG.

The rear sight and target are not going anywhere just because they are not “in focus”, and failing to adhere to this divine principle of ‘focus on the front sight’ will undoubtedly result in poor marksmanship. Focusing on the target unconsciously lowers your shots as your body reacts to the ’sight alignment’ that is blocking your vision, causing your weapon to fall out of the picture slightly. Equally, focusing on the rear sight will elevate your shots as your body unconsciously tries to bring it up into your full line of sight focus. Of course, both of these facts are “initial” physical reactions and can result in far worse shot groups than merely being too high or too low.

So there you have it! Front sight level and in the middle of the rear sight. That alignment placed on the target to get a sight picture which requires the focus of your vision on the front sight. This will result in the “blurring” of the rear sight and the target - but that’s completely normal and necessary to this first piece of the firearms fundamentals puzzle. Next, we’ll cover Trigger Control. Until then - May your bullets fly straight!

About The Author
Brendan McGloin is a 14 year member of the United States Air Force, serving in the Combat Arms (CATM) career field.

To learn more about this topic, feel free to visit Firearms and Fundamentals

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This article was posted by permission.

Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:01 pm
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