Team FN champion shooter Dave Sevigny disagrees with trainers who insist that focusing on your front sight (i.e. putting it on the target) is the be-all, end-all for accurate shooting. Dave reckons that shooters should vary both the speed at which they shoot and their sight picture depending on the distance to the target. Close-in quick shots? Blurry sight picture. Distance shot? Look for the gap on either side of the front sight. Practice both sight pictures so you have both available. (There is a third picture but if he told you he’d have to kill you.) The trick . . .

don’t let adrenalin dictate your sight picture when ballistic push comes to shove. ‘Cause if you do, you will point shoot. Which isn’t terrible, but can lead to stray bullets (all of which have a lawyer attached). The trick to mastering that: square range training, competitive shooting and/or force-on-force training.

Oh, and Dave’s FN’s sights have a huge gap between the rear sights – so he can see air on either side of the front sight when he’s on target. I wonder why all sights aren’t like that . . .

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39 Responses to FN Shooter Dave Sevigny: Your Front Sight Isn’t Everything

  1. I have been teaching – in and out of the Corps and throughout my years as a competitive shooter for about forty years and never taught “front sight only”. I have no idea when that got started but it is not a panacea – for any kind of shooting.

    While certain “action shooters” may have gotten to the point where they can use the settling of the pistol and acquisition of the front sight as a faster way to engage a target, teaching it as a “remedy” or a “method” to a new or marginal shooter is a recipe for frustration and a lot of wasted ammunition.

    • Agreed.

      I don’t understand where ANY idea of a ‘panacea’ gets started, but there you go. It happens, people latch onto it, repeat it without thinking it through and it becomes…’the one true way.’

      I, too, was taught decades ago that ‘technique’ varies (or should) with range and with the speed at which you need to acquire target / deliver fire. What is ‘good’ (or ‘good enough’) for 3 yd is different than what is best for 25+ yards, for example.

      Good on Dave for taking this particular bull by the horns.

    • Never understood it either. I focus on both, first I focus on the sights to line them up and while they are lined up I focus on the target.

      Though that may not work for everyone, just find something that works for you.

    • lol my range time is like that guy that sharon stone is teaching in that movie 1000 ways to die in the west. where theres line of bottles he keeps stepping closer each time then ends up nocking bottles over with his hands LMAO

  2. Since I’m old and can’t actually focus on my front sight without reading glasses, I tried an experiment last weekend. I put my glasses on, which allowed me to focus on the front sight while the target went blurry. Results were rather pathetic.

    Then I took the glasses off and focused on the target, while the sights went blurry (my usual tactic at the range). Results were much better.

    It dawned on me that in a self-defense scenario, I would never have the chance to find my glasses, much less put them on. And if you’re in the 50+ age bracket, trying to focus on a front pistol sight without corrective lenses is a lesson in futility.

    • I think nearly all of us run into that same kind of problem as we get older. I practice with clear safety glasses for self-defense. For competition, I had a pair of custom glasses made specially designed for the sport. If I look down the sights in my normal stance, I can see both the front and back sights clearly. If I look through any other part of the glasses, I can see distance clearly.

    • Being over 50 myself, I know exactly what you mean, and I found it difficult to even see black sights much less align them correctly. Meprolights on my Kimber helped, and white dots also help. My other problem is progressive lenses (bifocals would be the same), since you look out of the top half of the lens when shooting, leaving the sights unfocused. Tilting the head back is impossible. Add to the fact that as the eye ages, it gets harder for it to change focus, making it difficult to transition from the front sight to the target and back again, at least not with any speed.

      • Gentlemen there is an answer!

        Have your glasses made up with one lens for distant vision, one focused on the distance to your front sight (optometrist will have to measure). You will be able to see both your sights and the target.

        For closer close-up work you’ll either need a pari or reading glasses or no glasses.

        [Note: some people get headaches with this set-up. Not me. It’s how all my glasses are set up.]

        • I read about that. Maybe it was your article. From day one, which was February 15, 2013, I have been shooting with both eyes open and using my right (non dominent) eye on the sights and target and my left eye only on the target. When I switch to shoot left handed, I use my left eye on the sight picture and right eye on the target. I do this because when I bring the gun up, the nearest eye automatically picks up the sight picture. I have tried to close the off eye when trying to hit a small or long range target but I am more accurate with both eyes open even though everything sometimes looks blurry. My sighting eye changes focal points rapidly and as long as I hold the gun steady, I hit what I aim at. For me the one problem I had to overcome was recoil anticipation causing my shots to hit 3″ low from 7 to 10 yards. Snap caps have cleared that up and now I am able to score perfect on the Dot Torture Drill. Working on speed now. May take a few years but by the time I am Miculek’s age I might be half as good as him, which aint too shabby.
          BTW, I am still using the stock Glock sights. The rear bracket shows a lot of spacing around the front sight.

        • RF – I’m sure there are a variety of optical approaches for competitive shooting. But when TSHTF, my eyes will most likely be naked. Doesn’t it make sense to train that way?

        • I did this after Robert’s original post. It’s called “mono vision”, and is a lot less expensive than progressive lenses. However, you do have one lens dramatically thicker than the other (at least I do). Haven’t used them for everyday use, but after about 10 minutes of wearing them, they are great for handgun shooting. Everything is in focus at once!
          It was pointed out to me that you should wear them all the time if you are training for defensive use–it does you no good if you aren’t wearing them when a bad guy confronts you!
          Just a quick follow up–this can be done with contacts as well.

        • Did that to one pair of glasses many years ago. Had the focal point set to the tip of my extended index finger (down range). Use the same distance to my computer screens – works for me. Hard part is – I am left-handed and can’t focus my left eye, so shoot left-handed, look right-eyed.

        • Robert, please post more particulars: I am right handed, but left-eye dominant, so which eye gets the front sight, and which gets the target?

          Thanks!

        • My problem with glasses is that my POI changes from my POA depending on my stance. If I zero for prone shooting then I hit much lower(or was it higher? Can’t remember now) if I shoot from kneeling position.

          Any solutions to that (that aren’t contact lenses)?

      • for all you guys who wear reading glasses try this, get fitted for a single contact lens for your master eye I found out about eight years ago and threw the stupid reading glasses away.

  3. My biggest complaint against the gun industry as a whole for years has been crappy sights. Especially handgun sights. I don’t know how many handguns I’ve bought, used, then sold because the sights were for crap. (Well, okay, maybe it was my eyes that were for crap.) And the hoops I’ve had to jump through to get my lever action carbine usable, ugh! Really, how about the gun industry test their products for use by real people?

  4. Would it have killed to show the sight pictures he’s referring to?

    I’m a 50 year old shooter who focuses a lot on the front sight and shoot better than the average bear but I’m open to new techniques and regularly try different approaches to find out what works for me and evolve my strategies in response.

    Would not have minded an actual explanation of his differing sight pictures…

    • Pretty sure he’s contrasting “front sight focus” sight picture with “target focus” sight picture, which is more akin to “point shooting.”

      I think of it in three layers:

      (1) No sighting at all, a la “Speed Rock” and similar techniques, which is only used for extreme speed at VERY close (say 3 yd and less).

      (2) Point shooting, roughly 3-7 or so yards, eyes focused on target and “sighting” is some combination of “natural point of aim” and “eyeballing along the top of the slide,” etc.

      (3) Actual sight alignment, say 7+ yards. Ish. The range that each individual needs to switch will vary, as will the circumstances.

      If you’ve got time and need accuracy at distance, (3) is generally preferred. In SD scenarios, we usually won’t have “time.”

      I think Dave is essentially saying that in a stressful ‘speed shooting’ SD situation, most of us will default to “point shooting,” so it merits practice….he’s saying BOTH sighting techniques merit practice, not one vs the other.

      Unfortunately, that’s what some advocate. “One is better, use it” is often taught. Both are useful, so those that say that are not necessarily giving the best advice.

      • I doubt that is what Dave is saying at all. I can’t speak for Dave, but what it sounds like he is is talking about is more defined at acceptable sight picture or sight focus.

        For the short range body shots the sight picture a shooter might be willing to acceptable is just a brief glimpse of the front sight in the notch on target. While for the head shot he is going to check that it is fairly well centered in the notch in side the head area.

        Anyways there are numerous books on the competition side that go over it, like Enos’ Practical Shooting.

        • Kinda the same thing. I was just stating the ‘extremes.’ Every other ‘system’ or method is somewhere within the triangle defined by ‘no sights,’ ‘point shoot,’ and ‘true sight alignment.’

        • Enos advocates five levels they ranging from type I which is reference shooting off the gun (similar to your level 2), to type V which is a hard bullseye type focus making sure everything is perfect. No one in the competition community would serious advocate any sort of unsighted point shooting.

          If I were to guess what Dave is talking for the first string is what Enos would call a type II focus, where you see your sights in your peripheral vision, but you are focused on the target. While during the second string would be closer type III where you transition to fully focusing on your sights.

          Anyways I am going on memory about the details of Enos’ focus types. As my copy of his book is packed away at the moment.

        • “No one in the competition community would serious advocate any sort of unsighted point shooting.”

          Speaking as one trained for combat/self defense and not competition, I can say that I DO utilize “unsighted point shooting” in IDPA.

          Last match I shot (two weeks ago), I hit two -0’s on each of two moving targets shooting SHO while moving…and I never saw the sights on a single one of those shots. Was -1 on the entire stage.

          We used to train “Speed Rock” from Interview Stance all the time back in the day…not sure if they still do that in LE or not. That was “from the hip” so to speak, though not quite as haphazard as that sounds.

          Point being…there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to be effective in shooting. Call the different stages what you want, but everything is (has to be) some combination or intermediate point between no sights at all, point shooting and careful aim with sights.

          The larger point being, of course, that getting too wrapped up one technique limits flexibility and adaptability. Getting too wrapped up in what we call things or how we define them is fun for Internet discussions, but does nothing really to increase survivability.

          And again…this discussion reminds me…I need to target some work on Weak Hand Supported and Weak Hand Only.

        • Oh yes IDPA, yeah I think I will just avoid that topic as it isn’t worth getting banned over. But lets just say that IDPA advocates stuff that isn’t always in line with either the competition or tactical shooting communities.

          Anyways as far as point shooting, either you are very lucky, or you haven’t reached the level that you reached the awareness of what you are doing on the stage. I used to think that I point shot a lot, but after I started video taping, and got good enough that I could spend less time thinking about the stage and just doing. I realized I very much used my sights on every shot.

          Speed rock is still taught, just like weaver is. Most have moved to some retention position that references off your body.

          I use Enos’ Focus levels simply as a way to describe the concept and have some frame of reference. Heck I am pretty sure he is doing the same based on the philosophy he practices throughout the book. And that in practice your focus levels will be somewhere in between the types. In fact one of the most important skills is being able to determine what type of shot it is, and using the necessary amount of focus. A good example is steel challenge, on smoke and hope I would use a type I focus on the big plates and switch to a type II or type III for the stop plates.

  5. “Oh, and Dave’s FN’s sights have a huge gap between the rear sights – so he can see air on either side of the front sight when he’s on target. I wonder why all sights aren’t like that”

    Because most people that design sights go with what people consider the norm, with is real tight sight pictures. You should tailor the size of your light bars, with your desired purpose of the gun. For accuracy you want real small light bars (but they still need to be present), for speed shooting you want real large light bars.

    Also another thing forgotten is that sights designed for one sight radius, will change when moved to a different gun that has a different sight radius. For example if I take a set of sights designed for XDM 5.25″, and move then to a XDS 3.8″ it will be a tighter sight picture since the front sight has gotten closer. Anyways that was just an example since I know that the XDM 5.25″ uses a different rear sight than the XDS.

  6. “Oh, and Dave’s FN’s sights have a huge gap between the rear sights – so he can see air on either side of the front sight when he’s on target. I wonder why all sights aren’t like that . . .”

    All sights are not made like that because the tighter sight picture is much more accurate if you are shooting metallic sillouette, or bulls eye, or long range hunting. Not all of us are trying to blast 10 shot pie-plate groups at 7 yards in 4 seconds. Having a narrow rear sight is good in that you can always file it wider, much harder to add material to make it narrower.

    • The size of the light bars enough the front sight don’t determine the sight’s accuracy. The accuracy of the sights is with the user, and the time they are willing to put on the sight picture. With sights with larger light bars you will typically to spend more time concentrating on the sight picture to get the same accuracy as you are capable of with sights with smaller light bars.

    • There is an intuitively sensible belief that there is a direct and necessary relationship between the “tightness” of a sight picture and accurate shooting at normal handgun distances. I thought that, too, until I took up Olympic-style competition for a while, and saw the quite “open” sight pictures most of my fellow precision shooters ran on their air, rapid and 50m pistols. Trigger control errors are just about always the cause of a missed shot in any handgun discipline; the only reason I still run a tight / small notch and post on my NRA Action pistol is due to the unique demands of shooting prone in bad light where keeping the entire sight picture on the target area is important. Otherwise I shoot that game better with a more open alignment; like everyone else, I tend to grab at the trigger when the sights look “perfect”.

  7. Jim Cirillo used to advocate just profiling the gun against your target, as well as muscle memory and basic “he’s X tall, you’re X tall, hold it center-chest on you aimed at him and you’ll probably put them into the center of his chest” sort of aiming.

    He also used to tape over (with electrical tape) people’s rear sights and watch their groups shrink at 7 to 25 yards – almost as if it was magic. At 100 yards? Then he was using his front sight.

    I figured if it worked well enough for a guy who had been through more than a dozen actual gunfights, it was probably pretty good advice. He didn’t have any holes in him, his opponents did, so the math seems to justify his position.

    When I’m shooting bullseye, I use the front sight. When I’m shooting against B-27 targets or IPSC-style targets, I don’t see the sights. At all.

    When I’m shooting trap (or other clay sports), I don’t see the front bead – at all. Doesn’t stop me from breaking clays.

    • You can’t really compare clay sports to other shooting sports. As gun fit and consistent mount are absolutely critical for clay sports. And on top of that you are talking about a spread of shot compared to a single bullet. You certainly wouldn’t advocate the same shooting style for slugs.

      While with a pistol I can hold the gun upside down, as long as I don’t disturb the sight picture with my trigger pull, it will hit where the sights are aimed at.

      Anyways that difference is why it is so hard for pistol and rifle shooters to transition to clay sports at first.

      • At first, yes, shotgun shooting is all about “follow the bird and allow the cloud of shot to do it.”

        When you watch the very best clay shooters, however, you see something: They powder targets. Not chip them, or break them in a couple of large pieces. I mean the clay gets turned into a smudge in the sky, meaning they hit it with the center of the shot string. What’s more, they can do it with a 12 gauge with 1 1/8th load, or a .410 with a half-oz load, and then they can do it with a full or X-full choke. They’re at a point where the radial dispersion of shot where the shot hits the bird might be all of a foot at 35 to 40 yards. And when they pull the trigger, they’re not even aware of the beads on their ribs. Some of them aren’t even swinging onto the clay – they just see the target, and they mount the gun into the target and pull the trigger all at once.

        Likewise, there are some pistol shooters I’ve observed who are able to clean off pistol targets without seeming to even look at the sights. Ask ’em: “What did your sight picture look like?” and some of the faster pistol shots will tell you “Hmmm. I don’t really remember the sights.” I’ve seen rifle shooters shoot deer on the run with iron sights. “What did your sight picture look like?” “No idea. I just swung and pulled the trigger when it seemed right.” The deer that’s dead 100+ yards away didn’t seem to have much to say about this appalling lack of technique. I have a buddy who used to snap-shoot jackrabbits in in the sagebrush with a Garand – and hit them 5 of 6 times. He “sorta” used the sights, he said. This is a guy who was a 3-position and DCM competitor, so he surely knows how to use the sights on a Garand for real scores at distances out to 600 yards. When shooting at jacks? “Well… I swing and just put it out there… and it’s trigger control and experience… ” and you can tell he’s trying to sound like he’s not going against orthodoxy, but in fact he’s not really using the sights.

        Do you use sights for throwing a rock or a baseball? Nope. Chucking a spear or javelin? Nope. I used to hit beer cans with a ball bearings out of a slingshot as a kid at 25+ yards 10 out of 10 times, and there were no sights on a slingshot, I can assure you.

        The older and more experienced I become, the more I’m tending towards the idea that at some point, with enough practice and work, shooting becomes a physical+mental co-ordination skill, just like pitching a baseball. It goes where you want it, when you want, without having to “think” much about it. You just do it. Bob Munden sure as heck wasn’t using the sights when he’d speed-shoot out of a holster.

        The problem referenced above is this issue in the shooting sports of a dogmatic insistence on ONE way to do things. Well, that’s good for beginners, certainly, because everyone needs to start somewhere and starting with the fundamentals we know to work gives beginners a sense of accomplishment and success that keeps them in the shooting sports. Safety is something to be dogmatic about. How to put the shot on target? Why be dogmatic? If the projectile or shot string arrives on target reliably and repeatably, why argue for dogma when results matter more?

        As people gain experience, it might be quite useful to branch out and try new techniques. As my eyesight is changing with age, I’m changing how I shoot – especially how I shoot handguns. At self-defense distances, if anything, my speed to put a fist-sized group onto paper at 25 yards has increased, and I’m no longer paying any attention to the front sight – mostly because I’m increasingly not having a choice in the matter unless I have on an iris on my safety glasses. I just sight down the side of a semi-auto or hold a revolver “like so” (looking for a particular profile along the cylinder) and pull the trigger smoothly. It works – for me. Then again, I’ve done a lot of shooting in the last 35+ years, and if anything, I’m increasing the rate at which I burn up ammo.

        • “…some of the faster pistol shots will tell you…”

          You do realize that Dave is one of the fastest pistol shooters in the United States if not the world? Go across some of the greats in pistol shooting, and you will find one consistent factor, they all use their sights. There aren’t any national champion level shooters that don’t use their sights.

          There is little dogma in practical shooting, it evolves as new techniques and methods come out. And there is no single way of doing things, across all the skills levels you will see a broad variety of techniques, OTOH the winners typically all similar techniques with only small changes to suit their particular temperaments and bodies.

    • There may be two fundamental training methods for developing a strong and dependable skill in unsighted shooting: The first is to fire hundreds of thousands of rounds without use of sights while getting indirect feedback, and get pretty good. The second is to fire hundreds of thousands of rounds using sights while getting direct and relevant feedback as Jim Cirillo certainly did, and become very good indeed. Neither method is available to the cops I train. Teaching unsighted fore as a primary technique to people who do not have the time and resources to train up on it is criminal. I’ve seen what there is to see, and it does not work for those who otherwise shoot marginally better when afforded the clear advantage of aiming. I’ve recently stated that point shooting as a primary defensive technique is the homeopathic medicine of pistol marksmanship: the less of a proven remedy you use, the better it supposedly works. No, we train with the sights to develop the crucial skill to direct the pistol on the threat when the sights aren’t available. Everyone who learns to aim and run the trigger precisely can index shoot when they have to. Few who train to point the thing only can hit shit when they must. There need not be a balance; just train to see what you have time to see and they hits take care of themselves.

  8. Disclaimer: I have no economic interest in the product.
    Suggest trying OPTX 20/20. It is a plastic lens you stick on your glasses to give up-close focus. It can be trimmed as necessary and located wherever you want on the base glasses and removed as many times as you want – perfect for the one-eye technique, and cheap enough that you aren’t out much if you don’t like it.

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