Match directors for 3-gun competitions are always trying to dream up ways to exploit the weaknesses of the shooters. For shotguns, stages will force the shooter to reload over and over again since keeping the scattergun full is the hardest part about shooting it. For handguns, long-distance targets and one-handed shooting are the bane of a competitor’s existence. But for the rifle, there isn’t much that the gun can’t do. The scope, however, is another story altogether. . .

Especially in the Tactical Optics division, the toughest part of rifle shooting is the transition. Some stages will have you start with some extreme close-range targets (like, 5 yards) and then immediately transition to targets at 200+ yards. The point of the exercise isn’t only to heat up your barrel (quickly shooting close range targets and then needing accuracy at distance, which is more difficult with a hot barrel) but to force the shooter to have to adjust their optic. The recent explosion of 1-4x scopes allow shooters to accurately shoot both close and long range targets with different magnifications, but switching from one to the other can be tough under pressure.

My recommendation: don’t.

In general when a match director does the whole “close range to long range transition” schtick, the close range targets are absurdly close. As in, if I could fit my rifle with a bayonet I could probably get them. It’s damn near impossible to miss the targets, even just aiming along the top of the rail and not using the scope at all. When I first started seriously competing, I thought offset iron sights were the way to go — they didn’t count as a second optic, and gave me an aiming point for those close range targets. Those offset iron sights allowed me to set my scope for the long range targets and still engage the short range ones with ease.

The problem: offset iron sights are bulky and annoying. They add weight and width to the rifle, and can make sticking it in a dump barrel or on a drop table tough. They also take a couple of seconds to use, lining them up on target before pulling the trigger. There had to be a better way.

Over the last year I’ve been trying something new. I removed the offset iron sights, but I’ve still been rolling the gun over to the side for the close range targets. Instead of using sights, I’ve been using the handguard rail like a shotgun rib and aiming along it to find my target. It works surprisingly well, allowing me to very quickly pick up the target and hit it with surprising accuracy and speed. It’s faster than adjusting the optic, and faster still than using offset iron sights. It’s so fast, in fact, that I’ve removed all offset iron sights from my guns and exclusively use this method for close range to long range transitions.

It works for me. It might work for you, too.

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42 Responses to 3-Gun Tip: Don’t Use Your Sights

  1. Good tip for competition. I wasn’t planning on anything besides the single optic on my rifle as i didn’t want to mess with offset irons and add weight.

  2. Nick,

    I really enjoy your videos on 3 gun. I didn’t watch all of the above video, but it looks like you’re getting a LOT of barrel rise from what I’m presuming is a 9mm, likely to the point where you could stand to improve your split times significantly. Check out Frank Proctor with http://www.wayofthegun.us. He is a beast in USPSA and an excellent teacher, he does classes all over on performance pistol but also has a DVD for sale.

    If you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket, I recommend the DVD, it helped me tame muzzle flip and improve my split times in IDPA with factory remanufactured ammo. You might check it out. Hell, do a review on TTAG.

      • Tom I can think of a way to cut 220lbs off the website immediately….(I’m assuming your obese, based on the judgemental comment)

      • Sorry I hate to jump on the wagon here but Nick has the face of a skinny dude, and although I don’t know his family personally, I doubt that’s what it is just by looking at him.

        I was pushing 240lbs about seven years ago and lost 50 of that.. I lost it so quickly that people were asking me if I was sick. Ditching a lot of meat & sweets, quitting smoking, and taking up a good jogging, pushup & crunches regimen did the trick.

        What blew me away the most was how much my reflexes, muscle stamina, and general sense of well-being improved. By extension, I found that I even shot a lot better with the increase forearm & upper body strength.

        • That’s the point. Everyone always looks at what gizmo they can add or remove, but neglect the most important piece of gear, their body.

  3. What happens to shotgun stages when belt fed shotguns become mainstream?

    Though I usually don’t have a problem with engaging close targets then far away targets (scope is above iron sights, iron sights are pretty low so is scope).

  4. Oh man, I’ve been doing this technique for the last 2 years with close range targets while out shooting randomly XD I never actually thought it would work for anything other than being silly!

  5. Agree on the point shooting – shouldn’t be too hard with an AR inside 10 yards. My point aim to / sight aim transition for rapid fire on a handgun is between 7 and 10 yards. At 7 yards I just shoot away and at 10 I use the sights. YMMV. All my precision shots use sights – I’m not KJW.

  6. This is nothing new, this was doctrine that we were taught during MOUT back in the early 90s. Flip rifle 90 degrees, sight along the barrel. It’s good for snap shots too.

  7. I’ve been playing with various riffs off of the ACOG backup iron sights that are mounted to their optic- I took a few zip ties, fabricated front/rear sights that would accept the zip tie through a channel in the bottom and then fixed them to the front/rear of my scope. Different scopes with different objective and ocular end bells need varying sizes of zip ties and sight height, but you get the idea.

    There’s plenty of options for red dot sights to be mounted on the tops of scope mounts etc. but this means going up a class. The advantage of having sights mounted to the scope itself is that it allows for a radically increased sight radius over mounting iron sights to the tops of the scope rings. It also allows for lower sight/bore height, as long as the sights clear the adjustment turrets.

    Hmm.. maybe I should be patenting this instead of telling you yahoos about it…

  8. The lost art of point shooting is not so lost after all!

    Out of necessity, I learned point shooting when I was a kid because the sights on the rifles I was shooting were completely off.

    • I learned point shooting because I can’t see the sights without my glasses. This becomes a problem when you realize that competition shooting causes you many times to cock your head forward to get cheek weld when aiming, conveniently causing your eyes to look over your glasses. Later on I corrected this but still use point shooting for fast/lazy shots.

      While there is a lot of cool stuff from old times regarding tactics, please don’t do everything Fairbarn and Sykes taught. Stuff like cutting off your trigger guard and disabling any safeties on semi-auto pistols to get them faster in action (though they recommended keeping an empty chamber, counts for something I guess). I am specifically talking about the book “Shooting to Live”, also the Belgian Takedown is downright nasty if you are a man.

      Don’t worry, you are not alone when it comes to wierd tactics.

  9. I use my offset irons for all targets within 25 meters. Anything past that, I switch to my Vortex 1-4 (usually set around 3x). This seems to work for me pretty well and lining up the irons doesn’t take much longer.

    I don’t do 3-gun; this is specifically for tactical drills with my AR.

    • I use a Leupold 1-4x, and when it’s set on 1x, it allows me to see the entire width of a standard doorway (and any target within it) at 5 paces.

      When a target gets too far away to successfully engage it with a 1x scope (100+ yards), you’ll have time to crank up the power before engaging. A good 1-4x (maybe with an illuminated reticle option) is all a person really needs, in my opinion and experience.

      If I had the cash, I’d try one of the new 1-6x variables; with the higher top end magnification, they would cover the occasional long shot even better. For only about the cost of a new gun…

        • Nathan, I went through two of those scopes (back when they had their original run). The reticle’s really nice, but both scopes had failures. The first time, it wouldn’t hold zero; the second time, the reticle actually shifted inside the glass so that it was about 10 degrees off center. I sent it back the second time and got the Vortex 1-4. The folks at Primary Arms are awesome at customer service; the glass itself was the problem.

        • Kurt, does that scope HAVE to have battery power to see/use the entire reticle, or does the reticle revert to black when turned off (or if the battery dies)?

  10. Just use an aimpoint with 2 MOA dot. 200 yards? No problem. Close range? No problem. The Comp M4 can do 300 yards minute of man. I do it routinely. You just need to know where to hold for you load. Does a 3x magnifier count as a second optic? You could go that way. If that is counted as a secondary optic then that’s horse shit.

    • I’m a dummy and should have said mentioned this also: ever thought of investing in a TA11? Using BAC I have no problem with CQC shooting. Utilizing two eyes open, target focused shooting pretty much any ACOG (TA 11 and TA44 are my favs) is fast up close. Not quite as precise as an aimpoint up close, but I can’t imagine you need a 1″ group for the close targets.

    • I have a TA33-8R, and personally, I haven’t had good results trying to use it with the Bindon Aiming Concept. It may have to do with a major disparity between the visual acuity in my left eye vs. my right eye. I spent a whole summer and a bunch of ammo trying to get good at it, with very little success. YMMV.

      • I’m sorry to hear that. I suppose it isn’t for everyone, especially those with certain eye problems. For those that do make it work though, it works great. That having been said I still end up preferring the aimpoint. I know I sound like a fan boy. Actually I am. But it’s not unfounded. Used one in Iraq; worked great. I use them on my LMTs and have the same experience. Efforless aim and I can keep my fixed iron sights. The TA11 and TA44 are in their nice trijicon cases, awaiting the mushroom cloud.

  11. I would forgo even rolling the rifle, I understand that is likely muscle memory for you though.

    Some of the 20th SFG guys taught us in 2009 for our premob training, was to use the same cheek weld, but just focus on the target. Aim using our support hand thumb, thumb-over-bore, controlled pairs instead of double taps, et cetera.

    It was really tough on guys like myself who had ACOGs on our M4s, I personally did my best to shoot fast with it. I’d try to use my left eye to grossly sight in, and the ACOG would provide a (blurry) confirmation that I was on target as I let loose the round downrange. That however, transitioned to me just using the tip of the fiber optic tube to line things up.

    Kept us consistent, I’ll tell ya that.

  12. Within 10 yards I thought it was a given that the sights weren’t used on a rifle. Even with sights intended for fast, close in work at that range it’s faster to point shoot. It doesn’t really take that much practice either. You can see where it’s pointed, point it at the target and you start to get hits.

  13. With 20 years of service rifle shooting, I am definitely old-school to the point I don’t shoot well with optics.

    I found that in walkdown matches where we would engage targets from 300 to 25 metres, I never bothered to adjust the sights after the 200 line (actually I would set the sights to 200 at the 250 metre mark) because the 2-3 inches of trajectory drop over the distance wasn’t worth worrying about.

    The No4 Lee-Enfield’s battle sight was pretty good for 100 metres in the field but I would use the standard Mark1 Singer sight out of habit. I had a SMLE 7.62×39 conversion at one time that had no back sight so I would line the front sight with the bolt-body and could hit a Figure 12 target easily at 100 metres. The rifle had the mounting plate for a target back sight but none was fitted because of no spare sights available.

  14. Good advice. A few years ago at Ft. Benning 3 Gun a guy showed me how to use my knuckle in a shoot house with full auto. Just rotating the gun a little. Worked great. I think offset sights are good as a backup to a scope in cold or humid areas where your sight can fog up inside. I used to use a TA01 ACOG with the iron sight on top. Might go back to that. Matches change all the time. At a lot of matches you can just put one in the A zone at close targets.

  15. I never used sights while trapshooting. You train to look at the target and move the gun with your view

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