Sight Picture Fundamentals


As with all things you want to gain proficiency in, it all comes down to how good you are at the fundamentals. The fundamentals are always the most important; skip over the basics and you’re sure to never become quite as good as you would like to be. But if you take the time to practice and master these essentials, you are sure to excel where most will not.

In your firearms training, there are a few fundamentals you should have down cold — breath control, good stance, trigger control, and sight picture.

What is Sight Picture?

The proper sight picture - when it all lines up

In very simple terms, sight picture is how you line up the rear and front sights in relation to the target in order to hit the right spot. You want to make sure that your sights line up so the top of the front and rear sites are horizontally even.

(Click on the picture to the left to see an enlarged version of correct sight picture.)

You also want to make sure that the front sight lines up vertically, exactly in the middle of both posts of the rear sight. With all things being equal (not taking into account windage and other external forces) when your sights are lined up properly you will shoot accurately.

All it takes, however, is a small misalignment in your sight picture for your shots to go high or wide. The laws of physics dictate that even the smallest error will be exacerbated as the bullet travels farther.

For example:

If your front sight is even just a little bit higher horizontally from your rear sights, your shot will go high.

If your front sight is too high, horizontally, in relation to your rear sight, your shot will go high.

Too low, and your shot will go low.

Similarly, if your front sight is too far to the left or right, your shots will also be too far left or right.

In English? This means that improper sight alignment and being off by even just 1/2 of one degree to the left or right (or up or down) means you will miss the target by larger distances the farther away you are. Though at two yards you will probably still hit center mass if you’re not lined up perfectly, that same shot out at 50 yards could mean a miss of several feet.

The 6 O’Clock Hold

Ideally, for handguns at least, you want to line up your sight picture so your front sight is lined up at the bottom arc of your bulls eye. This is called the “6 O’Clock Hold” and will give you the best chance of hitting where you want. If your sights are lined up correctly and you are using the 6 O’Clock hold, everything on target should look like this:

Line up like this every time and you will be well on your way to becoming the envy of your shooting buddies. In future posts we’ll explore other fundamentals to improve your shooting. For now, however, you can work on one thing at a time and make sure that your sight picture is correct.