Teaching front sight focus to a new shooter seems easy in theory, but often they don’t really see their front sight. Getting them to focus their vision on the front sight post is sometimes easier said than done.
Covering all the bases
We use the term sight management to define the relationship of our sights and the intended target, but what is sometimes left out this relationship is our brain. The first step in this process is aligning the front sight post within the rear sight notch so their is equal spacing left and right and they are flush against the top. I will explain, I will visually demonstrate and then I will ask the student to define this to me in their own manner. This process ensures I covered as many learning styles as possible, yet still some fail to grasp the concept. Understanding the sight/target relation is probably one of the most important elemental subjects on shooting. If you cannot master this relationship you stand a good chance of failing to hit the target at best and failing to neutralize a threat at worst.
The middle ground, no bueno…
As we introduce marksmanship theory we perform various isolated drills. When working with students on sight management I’m surprised how many are not “looking” at their sights. Usually if they are not looking at their sights someone would say they are looking at the target, but I have found the most likely focal point is someplace in between. I call this concept ghosting and the most common reason behind it is the student wanting to confirm their sights are on target. They will quickly look downrange to confirm, then back to their sights repeating several times to fire a single round. The student must have faith when they properly align their sights, the front sight post will be positioned on the target to generate a hit. It takes time to build this trust, but the bad habits in the meantime can haunt a student for years to come.
The good ole fashion trick question.
The next common sighting error is focusing on the top of the dot and not the top of the front sight post. While minuscule, the deviation can produce significant errors in shot placement. I will ask the student to describe in as much detail the image they see. I ask them to explain in detail how it looks, any blemishes or wear areas they see. Then whether they can see the base of the front sight post. This is kind of a trick question since most front sights if properly aligned hide the base from view. If I see them move the their head or muzzle their is a good chance they were focused on the front sight post at that moment. Once I have them looking at the base it gives them a good contrast point to ask the next question. Can they see the stop of the front sight post, their brain starts to process whether they are looking at the top of the sight post or the top of the dot. If they are looking at the top of the dot there should be a subtle shift and bam…now you know they got it! Lastly, I will take a spare magazine and lay it flush against the rear sight creating a “box”. I will ask if they can see the top of the sight post, then have them adjust their sights to see the bottom of the sight post. This drill helps them to manage their sights quickly and ensure it is the best sight picture possible for the required accuracy.
The brain is the regulator of this process, it should guide and confirm correct sight alignment. At some point the brain will become accustomed to verifying the sights and providing a quick go/no go that ultimately releases the trigger to break the shot.