By RenegadeDave

The goal of pretty much any practical application of a handgun is to be fast and accurate.  Engaging multiple targets accurately can slow anyone down and your .20 splits don’t look so cool when your cadence has a half second delay as you transition onto the next target.  We’re accountable for each hole down range.  At this point in history the hard front sight cult is pervasive, but what if I told you shooting with your front sight is less important than you probably believe?  Well stay tuned and I will explain . . .

This is a gun blog and you, dear reader, are no doubt well familiar with the fact there are gun channels on YouTube. Many of those gun channels will harp on the importance of the front sight with the whole “equal height, equal light” taking a back seat to the “the holes show up where the front sight is” school.  That’s unquestionably true.

But then there are more and more videos out there like the one above.

The front sight is important…IN THE CONTEXT OF THE REAR SIGHT. As long as that little post shows up inside the notch, good things are going to happen at handgun defensive ranges (10-15 yards and in). So they’re both important, right?  Right.

Well, what do you drive as you transition from one target to the next?

If you answered “put your front sight where you want the hole to show up”, then you’re likely to find that when the gun shows up on target, the sights are out of alignment. If you steered the front sight and not the rear to the target, the front sight may very well be on target…but the rear sight not so much. If Ron Avery taught us anything, it’s that the rear sight establishes the plane where shots will appear with “good enough” sight pictures. There’s a good chance you’ll miss by a greater margin than you would hope if you don’t establish a reference on the target with the rear sight.

Now think about the transition as framing the next target in your rear sight, then adjusting your front sight as required. You may have to minutely adjust your front sight, but there’s a strong chance the sight alignment will stay preserved as you’ll hold the front sight in the notch as you move to target. Think about your draw, you index the gun on target then adjust the front sight as required (generally), right? It’s no different in transition.

It’s a small shift in a way of thinking that lead to me improving accuracy and speed in transition, as well as settling in on sights faster when entering a shooting position. Give it a shot the next time you’re on the range and see what it does to your  times.

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19 Responses to Shooting Tip: Your Rear Sight Matters, Too [Content Contest]

  1. How do you see the front sight when you have a rear sight obscuring the view?

    How can you use the slingshot method instead of youtube costa overhand?

    How can you run an AK when the c clamp block the sights?

    How dare you say the rear sight matters, FLAME DELETED

    • I actually prefer something bright up front — it’s a fiber optic on my competition gun — and a completely black, serrated rear. I do have a gun that’s FO all around (a green fiber optic front sight and two orange fiber optics in the rear sight) and it’s fine, but I’m faster and more accurate with a blacked-out rear.

    • I don’t have a front sight mounted on my pistol. Instead, I keep a front sight post in my pocket. When a robber asks for money, I reach into my pocket and pull out the front sight and throw it at him. That’s how I get my front sight on target. Then I point shoot where the sight hit him. I can usually get the bullet to hit at the same time as the sight.

    • I bet that makes holster selection a bear. is the front rear sight mounted parallel or or perpendicular to the barrel, I wonder?

  2. Target shootin and killin at close range is awhole different thing. Front sight, front sight front sight. If your lucky to have the time. Thats why its so important to have a hand gun that you can point naturally. IMO you should be able to hit a 14 ln. target at 10 feet with your eyes closed. If u cant, your choosen firearm is not pointing for you.

  3. At really close distances, point shooting means that neither the front sight or the rear sight matters at all.

    Practice point shooting and prepare to be shocked at how accurate you can be without referencing your sights.

    • “point Shooting” is a definition that no one agrees on the meaning of.

      Your sight picture can just be “how your gun looks framed on the target” and not reading your sights, so is that “point shooting” or is pure, unsighted fire “point shooting”.

      The method I’m describing I look throught my sights at the target, focusing on the target, is that “point shooting”?

      • Point shooting to me means looking at the target with both eyes open. Drawing pistol with good presentation which means bringing the gun up to center of chest and pressing out at eye level but not necessarily achieving the classic sight picture. I stay focused on the target and I do line up the sights in front of my right eye (even though that is not my dominant eye) but I do not focus on the sights and I start shooting as I finish the press out. If I happen to notice the sights getting out of alignment during a typical five shot string, I adjust at each finish of recoil. This method currently gets 5 shots in a 5″ group at 5 yards in under three seconds from concealed draw and less than 0.9 seconds first to last shot. If you ask me if I used my sights then my honest answer would be “maybe, I’m not sure”.
        But generally, I agree with your article. I do not emphasize the front sight over the rear sight. The sights on my GLOCK are 6″ apart and at arm’s length, they are both practically in the same focal plane. Too much emphasis is given to the front sight focus with small defensive handguns. Iron sights on a rifle where your eye is inches from the rear sight and the front sight is 20″ away is a different story, and in that case the front sight needs to be the focus. Not to mention that you are trying to hit a target at 100 yards or more. But trying to hit a moving target, while moving, at across the room to arms length distance, focusing on the tiny dot through a narrow slot on a handgun is futile. Can it be done? Sure. Might it slow you down if you have trouble under stress or in a darkened environment finding the sight picture? Very likely. I would rather train not using sights so that I have one less part to fail. If I was spraying bullets all over the place then I would reconsider my technique. As it is, a miss is a miss of 4 to 6 inches usually low. File that one under “not a problem”.

        • What you are describing is a bill drill and I can see sights from concealment at 2-2.5 seconds with good hits that fast, you can too.

          Moving arrays, etc you can use different approaches to aiming that are not the classic, like using the rear sight to cut the target in half and just glimpsing to see if the front sight is in the notch. There’s strategies for aiming at speed, it’s not totally futile.

          And target focused shooting is a viable strategy, most high level competitors do it for targets closer than 12 yards. I look through the sights at the target on most shots I encounter that aren’t super precise.

        • Dave, good discussion. surprized at so few comments.

          “What you are describing is a bill drill and I can see sights from concealment at 2-2.5 seconds with good hits that fast, you can too.”

          That’s too slow for me. I want first shot center mass hit from concealment under 1.5 seconds. I’ve done it once and I beat 2 seconds consitently at 1.7 to 1.9. That’s without seeing the sights.

        • I may have misread, but your initial post I thought you said 5 shots on target in 3 seconds from concealment? A bill drill is 6 shots on target from the holster. At 7 yards I can do 6 from concealment sub 2.5. no concealment I can clear 2 seconds on a good day, all A/0 hits using a mid ride OWB holster. I physically cannot move the gun any faster, I can break the first shot sooner, but it becomes unaimed and prior to the gun indexing properly. The top competitive heat can do 1.6-1.7s 5-7 yard bill drills.

          A draw from true concealment to an acceptable first hit is 1-1.5 seconds, depending on range and what I want to hit seeing the front sight. At super close ranges, I just use the rear sight to cut the target in half and trust the front sight is close enough from practice (it usually is). Regardless the more attention I pay to the rear sight then confirming the position of the front sight the more successful I’ve become in my shooting as “good enough” usually does the job at pistol ranges.

  4. Fellas,

    Can we please put a moratorium or cut wayyyyy back on the term “run?”

    I run an 870
    I run XS big dots
    I run the gun well
    I’m running the term run into the ground

    I mean it’s way overused it’s starting to sound like people are going way out of their way to be tacticool. The word “use” is still alive and well.

  5. Good stuff and add that to the brain know.

    Now for an unsolicited old guy observation. The one odd ball thing I see at the range concerning sights is what folks are doing with their feet or hips. I’ll watch a tactical rat or bowling shirt just tearing it up, Able banging then shankin a Charlie. A heal pops up or a hip twist. Think about what that does to a sight picture in relation to what muscles move to realign sights on your spot.

    That is all carry on.

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