Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

The Speed of Sight

ImageYou’re in a tight spot. You’ll probably have to shoot to solve the problem. Your visual focus is wide, taking in the info needed to make decisions. Once you decide to shoot, your focus shifts to the exact point on the target you want the bullet to go. The pistol comes up, the sights intersecting the line of vision between your eyes and target. At this point your focus shifts to the front sight. On a close, large target we use a “flash sight picture.” As soon as you see the front sight you’re pressing off shots. As the distance increases, or the target decreases in size, more accuracy is required. You focus more intently on the sights, making sure the front and the rear sight are in alignment. This is a “dedicated sight picture.”

During the trigger press your visual focus is on that front sight. After the shot you follow through. Recover from the recoil, reacquire the sights on target, and reset the trigger, preparing to fire again. Do not look at the target to see where your shot went. In real life you won’t be able to see the hit. Failing to following through also increases the chance you’ll come off target before the bullet exits the barrel. Plus, where that shot went, which is history, isn’t as important as where you put the next one. Looking at the target wastes time.

Studies by the U.S. military and other groups have shown it takes about 1/10 of a second for your eyes to shift focus from one distance to another. You’re looking at the front sight, fire, then shift your focus to the target – trying to see where you hit – then refocus back to the front sight for another shot. You’ve wasted almost one-quarter of a second. In a fight a lot can happen in that short period. You could have fired another shot; the threat can do a lot of things in a quarter of a second.

To discourage people from looking at the target we don’t tape up holes between drills. Eventually there are too many holes to tell even if you do look. Negative targets, a hole cut in the target where you want your shots to go, make it impossible to see bullet impact, unless it’s a bad shot.

So, how do you know where your bullet hit? Focusing on the front sight is the key. If you see the sight come off target as you’re pressing the trigger it’s not good. When you press the trigger smoothly and suddenly see the sight lift off target you know it’s a hit. You don’t need to see the target.

Developing these visual skills takes practice because almost all of it goes against our natural instincts. It also creates the confidence needed to know what’s a good shot. In a life and death confrontation confidence is mandatory.

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July 19, 2012 - Posted by | General Training

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