You’ve got your stance and grip down, now we look at eye dominance, sight picture, & trigger pull to finish off shooting fundamentals.
Eyes can be dominant just as with hands and legs and an important part of shooting accurately is knowing which eye is dominant. The vast majority of people have dominant eyes that match their dominant hands, but a few (myself included) are cross-dominant. Here is one easy test to see which of your eyes is dominant:
It will be easier for beginners to start with closing one eye and using their dominant eye. However, as you progress, you will likely find yourself shooting better with both eyes open. It will take a while to train your brain but you’ll see benefits such as increased depth perception and orientation.
Your eye-dominance can often dictate which stance you like better. For me, since I’m left-eye dominant and right hand dominant, I prefer the Modified Weaver/Chapman stance since it puts my left-eye more behind the sights.
Aim a gun: Just point and shoot, right? Line up the three dots, pull the trigger and call it a day. In the grand scheme of things, yes, that’s pretty much it. But proper sight picture is one of those fundamental things that makes the difference between a shooter and someone that just plays with guns.
The sight picture is everything you see with your sights and your target. There’s several different types of sights but most firearms will have a notch or circular rear sight with a post or bead as the front sight. Also very common is the three dot sight. All of them, no matter what their setup, work on the same principle. The front sight can be many things but usually are more contrasting than the rear sight to draw in the eyes.
What’s the Over/Under?
You’ll then want to make sure you have proper sight alignment. This will vary on your sights but mostly will require you to line up your sights. Where you’ll be hitting also depends on personal preference or more likely…how your gun is set up from the factory.
Some people like the first one which is called the “6 o’clock hold” where you line up the bottom of the target with the top of the front sight so you can hit the middle of the target. The second image is the most traditional and called “point of aim, point of impact” where you line up the top of the front sight with where you want to hit. The last image is where you cover where you want to hit with the center of your front sight dot.
Where to Focus
The final question is where to focus with your eyes. There’s three choices—the rear sight, the front sight, or the target. The correct plane to focus on is the front sight, since the bullet will go where the front sight is pointing. Every expert in the world will tell you that you will get the best results by keeping the front sight in focus while pulling the trigger as it will really help you to keep the gun steady.
This is the main reason why a lot of front sights are distinctly colored. When you’re correctly focusing on the front sight, the rear sight and target will appear blurry.
The best flow is to first focus on the target and loosely line up the dots on to it. At this point change your focus to that front sight and line it up with the rear sights as well as the blurred out target. As you slowly squeeze the trigger, focus on keeping that front sight as stationary as humanly possible. With that front sight in focus and stationary and your shots will improve greatly.
There are also electronic sights that allow for both eyes to be open and focus only on one object. Here is an example of a typical “red dot” sight made by Aimpoint.
In the end, it’s all about keeping your sights lined up perfectly. You should consider perfection a minimal standard in this case. Why? Because of an old dude named Pythagoras.
WARNING: MATH LESSON INCOMING! TAKE COVER NOW!
In a perfect world, the gun would form a straight line between the barrel and the desired target. In reality, you’re forming a right angled triangle between the desired target, the actual target and the barrel. The goal is to make the angle by the barrel as close to 0º as possible. Even though, at 10 yards, even a 0.5º angle can throw the bullet 3 inches off target. You can calculate that yourself with: Tan(Barrel Angle) x Distance to Target = Bullet Deflection
In this example: Tan(0.5º) x 30 feet = .26 feet or just a bit over 3 inches.
If you increase the distance but keep the angle the same, you can see just how important keeping your sights lined up actually is.
Beginner’s Guide to Guns
Additional Learning Resources