Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

In modern day pistol craft, the student is taught proper sight alignment then sight picture. The subject of your focus is the front sight, seeing both the rear sight and target a bit blurry.

Laying down some heavy stuff

Wow…earth shattering I know. I’ll bet you’ve never heard that before. So, then riddle me this, why do we have so many students who “chase their sights”. Chasing the sight is what  I reference when a shooter who may start out by seeing his front sight, but then quickly advances down range to the target and then tries to return to the front sight. The problem is they general squeeze the trigger somewhere in the middle without any sight verification.

The myth of multi-tasking

Whether you subscribe to sight or target focus style shooting, you will have to choose one or the other because you cannot do both. That is exactly what is happening when a student chases their sights and it is very frustrating because they literally have a hard time “seeing” what they are actually doing. To help get back on the right path I strongly encourage the shooter to have a hyper-focus on their front sight. Start by observing the target, then zoom in on the exact point you want to strike. Once you have your strike point identified, drive the front sight to that point. As the sights come into focus, transition from target to your front sight and STAY there through the firing sequence.

Root problem

I know this seems basic, but yet we still see several students during diagnostics that struggle with this issue. So, what is causing the problem in the first place. Ironically it is the student’s desire to be accurate, so the intention is good, but the execution not so much. Because they are so concerned with accuracy they are constantly shifting their focus. This shifting of their focus will invariably mean they break the shot while either focused on their front sight, the target or the transition. The other issue has to do with confidence, it’s not they are not confident of their skills it’s more they are trying to be too perfect so they keep “checking” to make sure everything is lined up correctly only they break the shot at an inopportune moment.

Fixed front sight focus

The remedy for this issue, which again we see a lot is to just focus on the front sight. See it so clearly there is no doubt and then trust your ability to place the sights on the strike point. That trust is the tough part, you have to trust your ability to see the strike point with your mind’s eye. It’s as if you know where that strike point is on the target without really seeing it at that instant. Your mind will properly line those two objects in space, but you have to trust your sight will be on the strike point.

Another can of worms

Now, those who use more of a target focus the real question is do you know you are doing it in the first place. Surprising there are more folks who think they are seeing their front sight, but actually see their front sight blurry while seeing their target in sharp focus. I believe their is a time and place for target focused techniques, but success stems from being down right awesome with sight focus first. So, before you go down that road ask yourself how good you are with your sights right now.

There are a lot of things coming at you in a gunfight, keeping focused on what is relative to being successful is the key. Stay focused, literally.

13 thoughts on “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

  1. flashback says:

    I think this is an area that I struggle with…my first shot at the target is generally right where I wanted it to hit and then in “trying to hard” to duplicate it I am all over the place. If, if, I stop and sloooow down and really bear down on the front sight I have hit some nice tight groups…on the plus side all of my hits regardless were what I would consider to be “combat effective”. But, just standing there shooting at piece of paper I am not satisfied with my hits in general…I feel that they should all be tight groups in that situation. It’s got to be a ‘focus’ thing and I need to do just that.

  2. Marty says:

    This is a great tip and I want to use it at the range. Just so I’m clear … Let say my drill is one shot in the Q at target #1 from the 25 yards; then sprint to a position to fire one shot in the Q from 10 yards at target #2. Are you saying that after I break that first shot at target one and I am on the move that I should run to target two with a general focus on the target, then on hyper-focus on the Q, and then bring the front sight onto the Q? Or am I running while maintaining front sight focus with the target in the background? Sorry if I am confused.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      I don’t think you would actually be running if you maintained focus on your front sight. Again, you can only do one thing at a time so if you need to run, then run. If you need to shoot; stop, plant and shoot. Hope that helps.

  3. TMOUL1 says:

    One of the most difficult skills for a shooter to develop is the consistent alignment of the eye, the sights, and the target. The order this activity occurs (as you point out) is critical. that I am always looking for a better / improved way to present this to my students so that they experience the aha moment that transitions into center-mass shot placement on demand.Joan Vickers and Bill Lewinski coauthored an excellent article in the July 2011 issue of Movement Science that supports your methodology for teaching shooters this skill. I currently use the following:

    – first identify the target (center-mass of what can be seen);

    – maintain visual attention / focus on that point (center-mass);

    – without breaking your focus on the selected target, bring the weapon’s sights into your visual sight plane;

    – transition your focus from the target to the weapon’ sights;

    – press the trigger / the shot breaks;

    – and follow through (through the sights and not over the top of weapon).

    The shooter has to trust his / her ability to accomplish this task (again, as you indicated). This belief in self is a naturally occurring byproduct of sound practice habits and experience. The problem I often experience as a trainer of police officers is a lack of intrinsic motivation that most officers have when it comes to shooting skills maintenance. When an officer does not find value in practicing a skill (like shooting, physical exercise, etc.) practice (and thus improvement) will not occur.

    Great post Jeff.

  4. g23 says:

    Another great article Jeff! Thanks!

    The USAMU recommends a dry fire rifle drill, which would work for pistols and carbine too (with appropriate targets and distance), for those who need to work on fundamentals:

    If no range is available, then indoor dry fire training is recommended. Mark a 3×5 index card with a 3/8 inch dot and place it at a distance of approximately 18 feet. Make sure the card is well lit to give a realistic sight picture. The workout consists of holding the rifle for one minute then resting for one minute. Continue this sequence for at least 20-30 minutes. Once endurance starts to build, a little weight may be added to the rifle. Also, increase hold time and/or reduce rest time to 30-45 seconds, but no less. An extra section of lead can be added into the hand guard just for this exercise and then removed when firing.

    from here http://www.odcmp.org/1107/default.asp?page=USAMU_CONDITIONING

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  6. Joe says:

    Great perspective on the process – once I read the word “multitasking” the light went on. All along I have thought i was maintaining focus on front site. But the frustrating thing was that tightness of the rounds deteriorated more and more as I got out to 25 yards (more than expected). When you described problem as an attempt to multi-task I immediately realized what I was doing wrong.

    Next time at the range I tested your theory. After three mags (10 rds in CA 😉 at 25 yds, all rounds were in the black (6″ circle). In addition, at 5-10 yds, rate of fire went up with no loss in accuracy.

    Thanks for a great insight!

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      That is great feedback Joe, thanks for the follow up. Wish we heard more positive feedback such as yours, or those who actually put the effort in is what we should say. Keep up the great work!

  7. jkr says:

    Thanks for that great write up. I had been one of those shifting back and forth. Next time out I will begin to practice this!
    Should I switch to front sight focus before my weapon is fully presented and arms locked, or do I wait until I am at full extension?

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Thanks for the note and reference your question; we would recommend you work at picking up the sight as early as possible. So, transitioning to your front sight post just prior to being at full extension is optimal. Your results may vary, good luck.

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