This article’s purpose is to help you to believe your trainers when they tell you not to focus on the target in precision shooting. We realize that you are supposed to hit the target, and that the front sight is not the target, and that at least part of you really wants to look at the target. So we get it when you focus on the target. We even get it when you are sure you are looking at the front sight, but are, in fact, looking at the target.
I have a couple of stories to demonstrate. I was standing to the left of an M1911A1 trainee, trying to determine why he wasn’t getting on the target. I walked him though grip and stance, reminded him of sight alignment and sight picture, and had him fire when ready. Everything looked good except the bullet strike, which wasn’t there. I put him through the ball and dummy drill, and he was steady all the time. So I went back to sight picture, and asked him if he was looking at the front sight. He swore he was, but his next round missed. I told him to prepare to fire again, then asked, “Which side of the front sight has the bluing rubbed off?” Immediately his eyes moved to the front sight...and you can guess the rest. I know that he “knew” he had been looking at the front sight, but once he did it for real he became a fine shooter.
Now follows a secondhand, “sanitized” war story. I have no reason to believe that it isn’t true, and every reason to believe it is true. Of greater importance, it stresses one of the most important lessons of shooting with iron sights.
Somewhere and sometime in the world, some decades ago, a group of U.S. Army soldiers on a foreign service mission were accompanying their counterpart military hosts on an armed operation in the lawless hinterlands of their country. The party was driving on a rural paved road when traffic came to a stop. The string of backed-up cars disappeared around a curve few hundred yards ahead, so they dismounted and climbed a nearby hill to see what was up.
From a concealed overwatch point they observed armed bandits stopping cars and shaking down the occupants. The U.S. leader ordered one of his men to take up a shooting position with his carbine, while the leader “glassed” the situation and reported to the men around him what he was seeing.
At one moment he saw that the bandits were threatening to shoot the occupants of a stopped vehicle, and they could all hear the angry shouting. As things got hotter, the leader told his firer to acquire the bandit who was pointing a weapon at innocent civilian noncombatants. When the situation looked desperate, he gave the command to fire. The soldier said quietly, “front sight, front sight, front sight,” and eliminated the threat with one round. The bandits dispersed and the soldiers continued their mission.
I know that these soldiers were all highly proficient shooters, but the one given the privilege to save a life still wanted to make sure...and he did it by focusing on the front sight.
Editor's note: For a little simple science behind why front-sight focus works so well, click here!