Are My Sights Off?

If you play with firearms long enough you will eventually come across one that just doesn’t want to perform to your expectations. At the same time, you have this nagging questions in the back of your head; is it me?

Trust the arrow

When I’m working with beginner students who claim their sights are off, I will do a quick visual inspection. I’m looking to see anything grossly out of place. I have seen loose, missing and visibly misaligned sights so I need to eliminate those from the possible culprits. After they have been eliminated it invariably points to the shooter and mistakes they are unaware of causing their rounds to miss the target. I know it is frustrating, imagine if you had solid skills and yet still see something off. It is beyond frustrating at that point, but there is still a process you need to perform before you can conclude it is a mechanical and not technical error.

Consistency equals accuracy 

After you do a quick inspection, the next thing consideration is shooter errors. There are so many it is hard to expect the average shooter to process them all. However, the key to this type of process is consistency. If you are consistently hitting in the same spot as you move through this type of diagnostic work you greatly increase the possibility of the issue being mechanical. The hard part is many of these techniques are not practiced enough by the average shooter to generate the accuracy needed to be objective, but that is for another time. 

Safety is free

When conducting slow fire drills off hand you can go through the litany of shooter errors and their associated remedies. Many times with a good instructor you can at the very least identify the problem, the easy part. The hard part is working to correct the problem, something we call corrective strategies. As you progress through these diagnostics safety concerns will surface. Some may not have the skill level, familiarity or safe practices so make sure you exercise all these drills with safety in mind. I will identify an issue by shooting at 25 yards versus an 8” target then once I hone in on the culprit I will do a lot of the corrective strategies at the 10 yard line versus a 3” target. 

Trust the process

Once at the 10 yard line, perform the same course of fire using your strong hand only. A lot of times a common culprit is the weak hand overpowering the strong hand and pulling the gun to the weak side. Shooting a course of fire strong hand only will remove the weak hand entirely. If the group shifted to center you know it was your weak hand. If it is still off target in the same location move on to the next stage. This stage is shooting the course of fire from their weak side using both hands. Typically folks will be challenged with this portion of the drill and you have to recognize your shot group will more than likely expand. Look for the mean of your group and whether it is still consistently off target in the same location. If so, the last diagnostic to perform is weak hand only. Shoot the same course of fire with only your weak hand and if at this point you have seen your shot group consistently in the same location that is about as definitive as I need to make the choice to adjust my sights. 

Moving sights, wham!

Recently I took possession of a new pistol and I struggled with the shot group not being on target. I worked to create hyper focus on the fundamentals and while it helped to shrink my group size, the location remained the same. As I processed through this diagnostic work I continued to see shots impacting in the same location. I try to set the example so rather than assuming it was my sights I went through this process and I’m glad I did as I got definitive proof the sights were off. Granted when I performed my visual inspection I saw nothing awry, but that was to the naked eye. My gunsmith pushed the sights ever so minimally and wham; now they groups are printing where I want them. 

I’m still getting use to this new pistol, but I am relieved I could apply some troubleshooting to my groups in order to make the choice to adjust my sights, something you should not do recklessly. 

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