Sights or No Sights - which is best??

Sights or No Sights - which is best??

This is a discussion on Sights or No Sights - which is best?? within the Defensive Carry & Tactical Training forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; There seems to be two different schools of thought when it comes to the use – or lack of use – of sights when it ...

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Thread: Sights or No Sights - which is best??

  1. #1
    Member Array tire iron's Avatar
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    Oct 2005

    Sights or No Sights - which is best??

    There seems to be two different schools of thought when it comes to the use – or lack of use – of sights when it comes to handguns. One group states that unless you use the sights – you won’t hit what you want to hit. This group is known as “Front Sight” shooters. Note that this term has nothing at all to do with the “school” in Nevada by the same name. The term predates the school by decades. The other group states the sights are not necessary – that one can hit “instinctively”. This group is known as “Point Shooters” – as they say you can shoot just like you can point your finger. Hmm…I wonder which side is right??

    At a shooting match recently – someone asked me if I see a clear sight picture for every shot. I answered that sometimes I do – and sometimes I don’t – it depends upon the distance to the target – cardboard – or real.

    He asked me to explain. It was going to be awhile before he shot – and so I started to explain to him when I see a clear sight picture – and when I don’t.

    A quarter of the way through he said “Wow! I am surprised! You are a Point Shooter!” (A “Point Shooter” is someone that doesn’t use their sights per se.) “I guess so” was my reply.

    Half way through he looked puzzled.

    Then three-quarters of the way through my explanation he exclaimed “Wait a second – now you sound like a Front Sight shooter” (meaning I use my front sight – the term Front Sight had no reference to a shooting school of that same name). “Yeah – I guess so” I answered.

    “How can that be??” he queried.

    “No where does it say that one has to be one or the other” I told him. “It totally depends upon the situation whether or not I see my sights at all. Sometimes it is as if they don’t even need to be on the gun – other times it would be nigh on impossible to make the shot without them.”

    So – below I will give the same explanation that I gave to him. Note that the below explanation is for ADVANCED shooters. This is not for beginners. These are ADVANCED shooting concepts. Just like one needs a SOLID foundation with map and compass before one should rely on a GPS – or just like one should master the use of iron sights on a rifle before one relies on a red dot scope – one should master Sight Picture, Sight Alignment and Trigger Control before one delves into the “black arts” that I will explain below. In other words – don’t try this at home boys and girls – I am a trained professional blah blah blah. Seriously – get the fundamentals down FIRST – then practice this stuff – OK?? By getting the fundamentals down first – I mean wait until you are scoring at least Sharpshooter on the IDPA Classifier – not at home – not by yourself – but at an actual IDPA match. Times are always different when it is a match. Only by shooting under match conditions will you know what you can do under stress. Remember - an amatuer practics something until he gets it right - a pro practices something until he can't do it wrong. Master the fundementals FIRST!!!

    OK – now lets get down to the meat and potatoes.

    I have broken down the “sighting distance” into 5 different levels or distances.

    The first level is what takes place from 0 to 3 yards/meters. This is IN YOUR FACE close. There is NO NEED to get a razor sharp front sight picture. What you want/need is HITS ON TARGET – and RIGHT STINKING NOW!!! Your body will be used as an “aimer” and you will not need sights at all. You would do just as well if your sights fell off your gun as you were drawing it. For shots this close sights are nothing more than extra weight on the gun. The gun may be up at eye level – or it may be lower and closer to your body if the target in within “bad breath” range. Trigger control here is “yanking on that trigger to get some dang shots off!” You may find yourself maneuvering while firing. Sight aligment is totally done with the body. TARGET. TARGET. TARGET. TARGET. Note how the sights are fuzzy – they happen to be in peripheral vison – your eyes see the whole gun superimposed on the target. Again - Focus in ON THE TARGET. Breathing control – NONE.
    Here is a picture of 0-3 meters:

    The second level is what takes place from 3-5 yards/meters. Here – you will be aware that there are some bumps on the top of the slide – but you really don’t see them as being “sights” per se – more of a rough aiming aid. You are still mostly relying on what you body “knows” for shots this close. You have trained thousands of hours – so your body knows what it needs to do to get hits at this range. The scientific term is “body index”. Trigger control here is still doing some “yanking” but with a little more finesse than that above. Focus in mostly on the TARGET. Target. Target. Target. Target. Target. Target. Sights. Target. Etc. You may be maneuvering – and if you are – you’ll probably slow down just a tad to make this shot. If you aren’t moving laterally or fore or aft – you should be moving “up and down” (getting small and then large). Breathing Control – yep – you are certainly breathing! HARD!

    Here is a picture of 3-5 yard/meter range:

    The next level is what takes place between 5 and 10 yards/meters. Now one starts seeing the front sight – and one’s trigger control is nice and smooth. No yanking here – cause it will result in a miss. If you are moving – you will slow way down to take this shot. At this range – focus is 50% on the target – and 50% on the sights – your vision is bouncing back and forth. Target. Sights. Target. Sights. Target. Sights. Minor breathing control.

    Here is a pic:

    Now we come to the next level – which is 10-25 yards/meters. At this range – you have a nice, SHARP focus on the front sight. Trigger control is nice and smooth. Focus is mostly on the front sight. Front Sight. Front Sight. Front Sight. Front Sight. Front Sight. Target. Front Sight. Front Sight. Etc. If you were maneuvering – you have STOPPED and are still. You may have even dropped to a braced knee position. Breathing is under control – you time the shots with your breath.

    The last range is 25 + meters/yards. Focus is almost TOTALLY on the front sight. Trigger control is perfect – a clean, surprise break. You are either prone or using a support or rest of some kind. Sight alignment is perfect. Focus is on the front sight. Target is fuzzy. Breathing is under control. The shot is made during a pause in the breathing.

    So – as you can tell – I am both a “Front Sight” user – AND a “Point Shooter”!

    Anyhow – I hope this helps.

    Any questions??


    tire iron

  2. #2
    VIP Member (Retired Staff) Array P95Carry's Avatar
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    I think tire, many of us are indeed both - and tho for descriptive purposes it is useful to separate them, I think with enough practice and experience, they roll into one - useage determined by circumstance - a fluid transition.

    I certainly try to get folks to never place sole dependence on sights - even foresight - reminding them that where the barrel points what matters. My R9 has sights but for some while it was offered without - and for a small BUG I doubt the sights really matter much - certainly not at bad breath distances and a bit more.

    For beginners, sight useage and control are essentials IMO to gaining proper accuracy and gun control - and weeding out the often found vices. That stage done then the desirable progression is to gain the muscle memory involved with all the gun's positions without actual sighting.

    This starts from immediate post draw which we might say is close retention - and on upwards and thru until (if time allows) a sight aquisition might be made.

    All the way up this progression ladder we should be able to gain adequate hits, including of course as would the case for early stages, one handed control.

    So - I think you describe what many of us promulgate and hopefully can do - tho probably at different levels of skill depending on our background and training regimes.

    Incidentally - IMO neither is ''best'' - partly because I feel they are mutually inclusive and also because there is a need to be proficient right thru from the draw to firing - whenever that stage might be - immediate or delayed.
    Chris - P95
    NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.

    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
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  3. #3
    Member Array Dave James's Avatar
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    Well said P95.

    Both are tools, learn them and use them as needed

  4. #4
    Distinguished Member Array SixBravo's Avatar
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    In every simunition gunfight I was ever in, I'd have to say that I never totally realied on one. It all depends on distance and circumstance. I've done everything from aim at 5ft distance to point shoot at 30ft (supressive fire). That was an EXCELLENT post Tire Iron. +1 for everything you just said.

  5. #5
    Member Array msg usa's Avatar
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    This is by far one of the best graphical demonstrations of the sight/distance function that I have ever seen. Kudos on the work. I agree that all of us must remain fluid and in transition when effectively hoping to get bullets on target, every time!
    God Bless the USA

  6. #6
    Distinguished Member Array dimmak's Avatar
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    Very nice post Mr. Tire.....
    that bottom pic looks very familiar to me, must be a "front sight" dominant shooter....
    I try to perform all manner of drills, though so that i can perform in the dark as well as in the light though....
    "Ray Nagin is a colossal disappointment" - NRA/ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox.

    " water, my friend."

  7. #7
    Senior Member Array hsuCowboy98's Avatar
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    Thanks for those nice pics.

    I am primarily front sight shooter, but will do point shooting drills every time I go shoot. I believe that it is better to be accustomed to both types of shooting, as you never know when the situation will demand either/or, or both instantly.

    Good post TireIron
    Fear No Evil.

  8. #8
    Array AzQkr's Avatar
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    Knowing both sighted fire and threat focused skills with a handgun is good. It's being well rounded in your skills.

    Knowing when one needs to verify some sort of sight picture or doesn't have to, to solve the problem at hand, is paramount.

    The distances either are used are unimportant in reality as to when you use one system or the other. Each shooter who has both skills will determine that for themselves based on their level of experience and training.

    Good post.

    Last edited by AzQkr; July 14th, 2006 at 02:25 AM.
    The mind is the limiting factor

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Array Sweatnbullets's Avatar
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    Open minded, well rounded, fluid situational response!

    I remember when this topic would quickly turn into nothing more than this.

    Boy, have things changed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Array Sweatnbullets's Avatar
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    The best shooters in the world use something very close to this. Check out Enos's work here, darn good aricle.

    Yes, the very best handgunners in the world use target focus and sight focus fluidly, when the situation dictates the response.

  11. #11
    Member Array Blackhawk6's Avatar
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    My impression was that it seemed very similar to Brian Enos' five types of focus as well. I prefer Brian's explanation as it does not ascribe a sighting method to a particular range.

    Nice pictures! They definitely enhance your explanation, Tire Iron.

  12. #12
    Member Array tire iron's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the posts and the kind words!


    tire iron

  13. #13
    Distinguished Member Array randytulsa2's Avatar
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    I was originally going to post that I would go with the sights.

    While that may be true, there is a lot more going on here than that particular simple, yes-no question.

    It's going to depend on the range and circumstancs.

    Thought provoking.

    Great post, Tire Iron!

  14. #14
    Member Array kilogulf59's Avatar
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    Sights or no-sights...both, in my opinion, make sense.

    My formal handgun training is limited to some classes taught by a former Chicago PD instructor and FAS style combat shooting that I have learned on my own.

    For those who may not know, FSA is Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate and, yes, I am a Point-Shooter. Now before you all draw any conclusions let me state what PS’ing is:
    • Point shooting is an adjunct to, not substitute for, sighted fire.
    • Point shooting IS aimed fire.
    • One can quickly gain knowledge of Point-Shooting and the time and money invested in maintaining these skills are much lower. Let us face it; even police do not train for a living only professional instructors do.
    • It is all-inclusive and depends mainly on the distance involved. Therefore, it is not “hip shooting” as some would believe.

    Point Shooting is a very misleading term. To the best on my knowledge, sighted fire and two-handed shooting was always taught in PS'ing. It all depends on the distance involved.

    For an first-rate explanation of this read 7677’s The Sight Continuum
    Take Care and Stay Safe,

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