How many times have you been told to "FOCUS ON THE FRONT SIGHT"? I can tell you that this has rang against my ear drum for years, since I was in boot camp and on the range. Jeff Cooper even said "Blessed are those who, in the face of death, think only about the front sight." This is a bit radical and unreasonable in my mind. It is like saying you are perfect if you have zero fear in combat and you are completely cold and indifferent to killing or being killed. Instead I think a better and wiser quote would be " Blessed are those who can account for their sights, even in the face of death." This term is more rational in my mind.
FRONT SIGHT FOCUS
I know from past experience that there are some of you reading this and thinking l am automatically saying that focusing on the front sight is useless. In my opinion it is not useless, but it is impractical for me at too long of a range. I have never successfully been able to keep a center hold on my target while focusing on the front sight. Think about it for a second. The idea of focusing on the front sight is to concentrate on preventing it from moving by making you focus on it while pulling the trigger. This is supposed to make you ultra sensitive and aware of any movement outside of perfect alignment. This is a cute concept for new shooters, but for those who know how to pull the trigger without moving the sights out of alignment with the target are only hurting themselves.
This fetish with focusing on the front sight has zero to do with keeping perfectly aligned sights perfectly centered on the target. You can have perfectly aligned sights drift right off target if you don't have a split focus or transitional focus between your target and your sights. Add a moving target at range and this method is absolutely useless in my mind. You merely need to perform a slight focal shift to ensure that your finely aligned sights are finely aligned on the target. This means that you do not have full hardcore focus on the target or the sights. You merely bounce back and forth between the target and the sights. Imagine playing pol and only focusing on hitting the Q ball and not performing a focal shift between the pool Q, Q ball, and target ball to ensure proper alignment. Your chance of success is down in the dumps. It is the same principle with firearms, as far as I am concerned.
In Marine Corps Boot Camp, in the week prior to rifle qualification, I would concentrate only on the front sight on a far away target and I really suffered in accuracy outside of 300 meters. The black target was not even visible for me when I focused on the front sight. Once I would get my sights on target and focus on the front sight, my sights would slightly drift off. The sights were going to sway anyways but I was not able to account for the movement in any way. If I was going to pass qualification, I had to supersede a blurry front sight on my clear target. I would perform a slight focal shift back and forth to ensure proper sight alignment before firing. This had terrific results for me and has been my method of shooting with rifle sights ever since. If you can't account for where the centered sights are on the target, you may want to reconsider focusing on something that isn't going to help you in precision.
With pistol sights, you are going to be in an even bigger pickle at range. First issue is that a pistol is a close range tool. It can absolutely be used at range, but your skill needs to be on point and you need to have a terrific understanding of how the weather, ammunition, and barrel length are going to work together. You need to realize that you are going to have movement of your sights regardless of your attempts to remain still. This means you will have to time your shot most likely. My question to you is if you think that you can squeeze precision out of your shot by simply focusing on the front sight all the while. I highly doubt that would can only focus on the front sight when you are noticing that the clear front sight is bouncing all around. You may be wise enough to want to account for the movement and perform focal shifts back and forth to ensure proper alignment by the time you intend to fire.
FROM THE HOLSTER
One of the oddest things I heard someone say is to concentrate on the front sight regardless of the range from the target. I think this is one of the most fool-hardy things you can do. If pulling your pistol out of the holster on a close target, you may be shooting from a retention position where sights will play no part. This must frustrate the fudds who yap about front sight focus at all times.
Now let us suppose you have a target moving laterally when you draw your pistol. Focusing only on the front sight while trying to center on a close target in a manner where your bullets will hit the CNS(Central Nervous System) in the high center chest Is a bit optimistic and ridiculous. First off, you need to have a good focus on the layout of the targets body to understand where the high center chest starts and ends front to back and top to bottom. Focusing on the front sight will prevent that all together and result in you just hammering rounds at a blurry figure like someone with poor vision trying to hunt without corrective lenses.
In my mind, close and medium range targets can be handled using a target focus. I typically align my "ghost sights" on target and go from there. With big pistol sights, they are not only crude, but are easy to take accountability of with little strain on the eye to see if they are aligned enough to take a shot in confidence. With rifle red dots and holographic sights these days, it is easy to focus on the target and merely place the dot on the point of focus. For me, this is the case with blurry pistol sights as well since they are easy to see and it is easy to put these ghost sights on target where you want the round to hit. However, this is not something you will get too much good out of at longer ranges.
This is sometimes referred to by people who misunderstand it as a split focus, but a focal shift is where your eyes are shifting their focus from far to close and vice versa. A split focus is where both the sights and the target are fuzzy but not too blurry and you do not shift your focus either way. This is okay for medium range for getting ROUGH and CRUDE accuracy out of your pistol or rifle, but I would still say that using a focal shift is easier and more precise. Moving your focus quickly back and forth between the sights and the target can give great feedback as far as a good sight picture. Despite the classic and old school sight picture of a crisp front sight and crappy blurry target, I would prefer going with a focal shift where I know I am aligning my sights properly and in the proper area on my target.
SIGHT ACCOUNTABILITY IS KEY
Whatever method for sighting you choose, I would just say that the end goal should be absolute accountability of your sights. You should always have an idea of how your sights are aligned and where these aligned sights are centered. If you focus on the target, you should still be able to account for the sights and where they are going to send the round. On the other hand, if you are using the front sight to limit movement, you absolutely need to make sure you account for where these perfectly still sights are pointed. With all that said, the best way to see what works is to get on the range and practice.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.