Sight Alignment vs. Sight Picture

Sight Alignment

Sight Alignment is the process of lining your sights up for both vertical and horizontal equilibrium. Looking at the picture below, we see that the front sight post is lined up perfectly vertical with the rear sight, which indicates that the muzzle is pointed straight ahead. This ensures that the elevation (the "up and down" motion) of our Point of Impact will be correct.

Next, you will note that the distance on both sides of the front sides is equally spaced in correlation to the rear sight. This is how we can ensure that the Point of Impact will not miss to the left or right of where we intend.

In short, the red lines in the image below should be the "mental test" that the shooter takes before each shot. The top of the front sight post should line up in a perfectly straight line with the top of the rear sight post, and the space on the sides of the front post should be equally spaced on the left and right. This will ensure that the Point of Impact from our bullet can be reasonably controlled and predicted when accompanied by proper Sight Picture.


Sight Picture

Sight Picture is the joining of the Sight Alignment with the target in the intended area that we are trying to hit. In other words, it's how we join together our "Point of Aim" with our "Point of Impact" with consistent, repeatable results. The picture below demonstrates how the proper sight alignment should be placed over the target, thus giving us a good Shot Picture.

SightPicture Demonstrated


Assuming that our firearm is properly zeroed, our hits on target should be directly in the center of the bull's eye.

Once the proper Sight Alignment and Sight Picture are acquired, a smooth and steady trigger pull will allow us to break the shot without a disturbance in our Sight Picture. This will allow us to consistently control the relationship between our Point of Aim and Point of Impact.

Why Am I Missing So Much? Trigger Control!

Imporance of Trigger ControlIn virtually any of the Handgun Fundamentals & Safety classes that I teach, I will get a student who pays close attention to all of the 7 fundamentals of shooting and begins scoring hits on target. However through the course of their live-fire exercises, they actually start to degrade with their hits. They start racking up misses, and so they try to overcompensate and get some more hits on target. By doing so, they compound their misses exponentially. So what's going wrong?

There are multiple answers as to why you might be missing the target, but I've found one key culprit that is almost always at fault... If not the direct cause, I assue you it is likely among the causes of the problem for missing. That crucial fundamental is trigger control. Usually, students will become slightly less conscious of their trigger control and then will see more and more misses from the same distances where they were previously scoring hits consistently. Why? Because they step up to the line, get their grip and stance perfect, acquire proper sight alignment/sight picture, and then pull the trigger. I hate that term... "Pull the trigger..." Students have that engrained in their mind and they do exactly that- they pull the trigger instead of slowly/consistently pressing it to the rear. The result? They rush through the 4 steps of trigger control and they miss the shot. These shots almost always miss low, and often times they miss to one side or the other. I see this a lot when students are growing slightly tired after a fair amount of shooting, and they begin anticipating the recoil of the firearm.

How to Grip a Semi-Automatic Handgun

5 Shooting Thumb Rests Handgun GripSince I began shooting, I have tried to find the right combination of instructions which would help simplify and clarify the most efficient ways to perform each task. It's not enough for me to just know how to perform a task. I also have an insatiable need to know why we perform that task in that manner. As I continued to search for the best way for me to control a semi-automatic handgun utilizing a proper grip, I began to look at how some of the other master shooters explained their preferences. While no two instructors explain their grip the same way, there were quite a few common threads of instruction that I tried to hone in on. Therefore, my grip (and thus my explanation of grip) contains a blend of styles from people such as Ken Park, Claude Werner, DR Middlebrooks, Travis Haley, Bob Vogel, and others. As I explain the way that I prefer to grip a handgun, please keep in mind that many of these concepts were first explained by one (or more) of these sources.

When considering how we should grip a semi-automatic handgun, we must first identify the goals of our grip and understand why we are gripping the pistol the way that we are. What is it that a correct handgun grip should accomplish?

  • Control lateral movement (minimize the amount of travel the gun experiences laterally)
  • Control rotational movement (minimize the amount muzzle rise/flip that we experience during recoil)
  • Minimize and mitigate recoil for faster follow-up shots (efficiently acquiring our front sight after each shot)

Low Light Flashlight Techniques

Weapon Mounted LightsHow often have you prepared to fight with your firearm at night? If you were attacked at night, would you have a way to illuminate and identify your attacker(s) so that you could engage them? If you did have a means of doing so, would you know how to operate your handgun and the light at the same time? As you have probably concluded from our previous rant, we believe that All Handguns Should Come with Lights as a weapon mounted light is by far more manageable than any off-hand lighting technique. With that said, sometimes you will need to be able to implement off-hand lighting techniques no matter how well prepared you were. Whether your weapon mounted light failed or you just weren't carrying one, you should be well-versed in how to utilize a flashlight with your other hand to be able to effectively identify threats and engage them at night.

There are a number of common flashlight techniques that can be utilized in combination with a handgun. The technique(s) that you utilize will depend largely on a number of variables such as:

  • Size of the flashlight / handgun / shooters hands
  • Operation of flashlight (is the button on the side of the light, or is it activated at the tail-cap?)
  • Environmental limitations
  • Direction of travel / navigation around barricades

With that being said, let's take a look at some of the common techniques and try to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

One Handed Manipulations

Hard Edge 1There are times where we might find it necessary to manipulate our handgun while utilizing one hand instead of two. While this is not an ideal situation, we should be aware of how to get our gun back in the fight should we use all of our ammunition or experience a malfunction. We might need to perform these tasks when we have one arm that is injured but there is still a threat present, or when we are carrying something we can't put down (such as a baby or small child). In such a scenario, we would need to be able to continue fighting with only one hand and therefore should know how to keep our gun in the fight if we only have one hand with which to manipulate it.

In order to do so, we need to understand the functions of the firearm that require two hands, and come up with a solution for simulating that second hand during the required task. For instance, racking the slide is something that would generally require two hands. Likewise, locking the slide to the rear during malfunction correction is much easier done with two hands. Retrieving a magazine during a reload is generally done with your weak hand while your strong hand holds the handgun (opposite with revolvers). In order to accomplish these tasks using only our strong or weak hand, we will need two things: a stow point to place the firearm, and a ledge to rack the slide. Let's take a look at how we can utilize the resources at hand to achieve our goals.

Why Am I Missing So Much? - Anticipation of Recoil

Anticipating RecoilOn January 3rd, 2016- I was teaching a group of new shooters a Handgun Fundamentals & Safety course. During the course, one particular female was anticipating the recoil so much that she was dipping the muzzle just before each shot, resulting in misses low. Even at fairly close distances, she was having trouble because of the recoil. There were a few techniques that we used to overcome this issue, including switching between calibers of the same model handgun (.22 and 9mm). However, in this video, I wanted to show what the symptom looked like so that others might be able to identify this as a potential issue in their shooting. See the video below:

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