Human are visual creatures. We rely heavily on our ability to see to do most of what we do every day. But there’s looking and there’s seeing. How does stress interfere with your ability to “see” and should you be worried about it?
The object of your affection
Over the years, I’ve met students who confuse seeing their sights with seeing through their sights. Mechanically, it seems the same. The difference is the focus of your attention. It’s the difference between awareness and focus.
When bringing your firearm to bear, your mind focuses on the sights and specifically the front sight post. This is a result of correct training that focuses on marksmanship fundamentals.
I can still recall the face of my long-time swim buddy when I asked, “Do you see your sights when you pull the trigger?” He looked at me like I had a third eye on my forehead. “I focus on the sights of course,” he said, simply. It was at that point I discovered I was looking “through “ my sights and not at the front sight post.
I was already shooting in the top percentile of an already ridiculously talented gene pool. Was I wrong for getting my hits by looking through my sights?
If the results were what mattered, who cares?
There are some times when the need to track your target is more important than perfect sight alignment. Given good technique and practice, the gun will naturally follow the target.
There are other times when a precision shot — perhaps on a more-or-less stationary target — is all-important. At that point, you want to make sure your sights are in perfect alignment.
Generally, I fell back on the old expression of “let the situation dictate” — my central thought process for so many activities. Rather than try to force something, let the situation unfold and guide you towards what you need to do. Another way to look at this is see what you need to see to guarantee the shot.
The middle ground
For me to completely trust this process I expended countless hours and thousands of rounds of ammunition perfecting a hard focus on my sight system. It was challenging because there were times my brain didn’t want to focus on the sights.
Through discipline I eventually found a middle ground. No matter the situation my intention was to draw to the target with the expectation I would visually align my sights. The hard work and practice would pay off with a near perfect alignment of my sights even when my vision would look through the sights.
The mechanical superiority of presenting the gun with the intention of aligning the sights was fluid and accurate enough. Sometimes I saw the sights clearly. Other times I looked “through” them.
A word of caution on the subject. A big mistake some folks make is convincing themselves they don’t need to put in the work on sight alignment. Somehow this gives them permission to by-pass marksmanship principles. Don’t make that mistake.
Regarding the technique, the next mistake is looking over their sights, causing point-of-impact issues. You failed to completely mount the pistol on target, stopping short a tad. You need to be disciplined enough that every time you mount the pistol, you’re going for the sights. Let everything else work itself out from there.
Embrace the new reality
As my vision deteriorates with age I’m starting to see some new challenges. For one thing, I do a large majority of my shooting at an indoor range with artificial lighting.
Indoors, I typically see through my sights; the lighting conditions coupled with my eyesight make it difficult to precisely focus on the front sight. I have had to settle for this technique — as much as I hate the idea.
Fortunately, the distance to target is such there is room for error. When I’m outside under natural light, the front sight looks as big as a fence post. I find solace knowing my skills are not the issue.
Bottom line: create and maintain a presentation skill level that allows you to instinctively and flawlessly align the sights, then let the situation dictate where you focus your attention.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.