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Front sight focus - I don't get it?


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Hi all, I’m new to this forum, but not new to shooting. I’ve been shooting for about 15 years and the past few years have gotten more into competition shooting. I’m a fairly decent shot, but not great; certainly have much room for improvement. And I think one of the things that’s holding me back is I don’t know how to focus on the front sight.

I prefer to shoot with both eyes open, especially when doing competitions, and I always shoot with a target focus where I’m basically looking through the sights which are a bit blurry. If I try to focus on the front sight I don’t see two targets like I sometimes see it described where you then know which one to aim at. Instead I just see a huge blur and can’t make out the target at all. I also can’t make out the rear sight. It also looks like a blur and I can’t line up the sights.

If I close one eye or even just squint my weak eye I can then focus on the front sight and still see the rear sight and target. But when I fully open both eyes and focus on the front sight everything else is a complete blur. And no, I’m not cross eye dominant.

The target focus works ok for me, but I’m very dependent on what sights I use. I need to use sights with paint or fiber optic on the front and rear sight such as 3 dot sights. If I’m using all black sights or even a fiber optic front with an all black rear then I have trouble aligning the sights with a target focus. Since the sights aren’t in focus I need the dots to see the sights. With all black sights I feel the desire to close one eye to align the sights.

The other day I was shooting in a dimly lit indoor range where the sights weren’t very bright and the only way I could shoot there was to close one eye. So I’d love to be able to figure out how to focus on the front sight, I just don’t know how to teach my brain how to do it. I feel like I need someone to control my eyes while showing me what it should look like so I can finally “get it”, like when an IT guy remotely takes over your computer to fix a problem with it.

Thanks in advance for all help!

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Have you ever heard of the "The Wall drill"?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7YdjrvB718

Sorry, one of these days I need to understand how to post videos. They never work for me.

Here's a description from pistol training.com

Wall Drill

developed by George Harris, SIGARMS Academy

Range: 0yd

Target: blank wall

Start position: any

Rounds fired: 0 (dry fire)

This is a dry-fire drill; all weapons must be completely unloaded and double-checked before the start of this drill.

Shooter stands with muzzle at eye level less than one inch from a blank wall. There should be no aiming points (targets, holes, light switches, etc.) to distract the shooter.

Shooter practices proper sight alignment, front sight focus, and trigger manipulation without the distraction of a target. Two-handed, strong-hand, and weak-hand shooting should be practiced. For TDA (traditional double action) pistols, both the double- and single-action trigger pulls should be practiced.

The goal is to maintain focus on the front sight, pulling the trigger without upsetting sight alignment.

Edited by stick
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Do you wear glasses? A big hinderance for front sight focus is glasses that are designed to make the focal length longer than the front sight. I have shooting glasses that put the front sight in razor sharp focus and it help substantially.

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You should be focusing on the front sight. Targets should be blurry. Relax and shoot more. It will come.

Not necessarily, I think a pretty big named GM has blown some minds by saying that he places a lot of attention on the target when shooting iron sights. Basically a target focus. Looking through the sights right to the target.

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You should be focusing on the front sight. Targets should be blurry. Relax and shoot more. It will come.

Not necessarily, I think a pretty big named GM has blown some minds by saying that he places a lot of attention on the target when shooting iron sights. Basically a target focus. Looking through the sights right to the target.

I think it depends on your skill level and amount of rounds down range. We have an older GM around here (Mick Nelson) who can shoot just about as accurately and fast firing from chest level as he can when he (pretends) to be using his front sight!!

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I have a similar problem with target focusing and also rear vs front sight focus. My eyes sometimes have a hard time picking up and staying on the front sight. Fiber front and plain black rear helps this for me.

I wear contacts for distance. I told my doctor I have trouble focusing quickly after near and far transitions (didn't specify shooting related). The doctor said eyes are a muscle that need to be worked out. He said hold a pencil up in front of you and practice focusing on the tip of the pencil and then the wall behind it and vice versa.

Seth, did you get shooting glasses from a standard eye doctor?

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Thanks all for the replies! Please keep them coming! :)

Have you ever heard of the "The Wall drill"?

I was actually going to mention this in my first post, but it was getting too long. I've tried this drill a few times recently and it doesn't seem to work for me. Since this forces me to focus on the front sight, the rear sight is a complete blur and I can't line up the sights. I try to get the front sight into the rear notch, but I can't really tell when the sights are correctly aligned. It actually started to give me a headache when I was trying it because I kept trying to get the sights aligned and my eyes couldn't do it. It becomes easy to do once I squint or close my weak eye.

Do you wear glasses? A big hinderance for front sight focus is glasses that are designed to make the focal length longer than the front sight. I have shooting glasses that put the front sight in razor sharp focus and it help substantially.

I'm near sighted and wear contacts. I have pretty bad vision, but with contacts I'm 20/20 and can see well up close and at distance.

To try to explain better: It's not that I can't get my eyes to focus on the front sight, it's just that if I do focus on the front sight everything else is a complete blur so I can't align the sights or see the target well enough to know where to aim.

You should be focusing on the front sight. Targets should be blurry. Relax and shoot more. It will come.

I certainly know that's what I should be doing and what I'd like to be able to do. I just can't get my eyes/brain to cooperate. I've been shooting for quite a few years and keep waiting for that "a ha" moment where everything clicks and I finally figure it out...but it hasn't happened yet.


Not necessarily, I think a pretty big named GM has blown some minds by saying that he places a lot of attention on the target when shooting iron sights. Basically a target focus. Looking through the sights right to the target.

Interesting, that sounds like what I'm doing, but I'm certainly no GM! :) The target focus works pretty well for me; however, it has some drawbacks. Like I said I'm very dependent on what kind of sights I use and also certain lighting conditions cause problems with my target focus. I then need to close one eye to shoot. I also don't know how to call shots with the target focus. Since the front sight isn't in focus I'm not sure if I'd be able to know precisely where it is when the shot breaks and accurately call my shots...although this might be a different problem I have altogether.

Edited by Russell92
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Do you wear glasses? A big hinderance for front sight focus is glasses that are designed to make the focal length longer than the front sight. I have shooting glasses that put the front sight in razor sharp focus and it help substantially.

If you are nearsighted, you can have glasses made that focus the right eye at front sight distance while the left eye is focused at target. You can use both target focus and sight focus at the same time. You look through the sights with both eyes open and the front sight image is seen as well as the clear target.
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There is nothing necessarily wrong with target focus shooting. I believe that more top level shooters use this than will admit it. You are correct that it requires some form of front sight enhancement such as fiber optic. I prefer green because I see it better in lower light than I do red. Just make sure you don't use it like a dot. Make sure you see it in the rear sight window. See what you need to see and break the shot.

Good luck and good shooting

Dwight

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This may sound strange, but it helped me a great deal.

Instead of focusing ON the front sight, focus on the point in space it is inhabiting. I like to visualize an area of focus that encompasses the front sight, rear sight, and target when aligned in front of my eyes. The focal length is at the distance of the front sight, but view the area at that distance in the relaxed way you would view one of those 3D pictures.

Fire your gun some like this without really trying to stare at the front sight. The point here is to learn to see everything that is going on. Once you can see everything to a certain extent(front sight lifting, brass ejecting, muzzle flash, etc) you can start shifting your awareness around on the things that you see. The goal is to be able to see the front sight and it's relationship to the target and rear sight without having such a hard front sight focus that it drowns out the other inputs that allow you to successfully call the shot.

You can also try this. Find your focal length with your gun drawn pointed at the berm, then lower the gun a little so you are looking at a point in space over the top of the front sight a few inches. Start to fire in 1 second intervals without "looking" at the gun and begin raising the gun slowly back into your line of sight again while continuing to fire. Just observe what you see.

I hope this helps!

If you like this, then try to learn to remember how it feels in your eyes to focus at this length and intensity. It helps make your draw and first shot faster and more accurate.

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Thanks all. DoubleA thank you very much for the tips! I'll definitely try that next time at the range.

I'd prefer not to get glasses with different focal points. This is certainly a software problem for me so I'd rather not just get a hardware solution that masks the real problem. Plus I train for both competitions and defense. If I ever needed a firearm for self defense I'm not going to have those special glasses on me.

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There's more to it than this. It's about seeing what you need to see to break the shot.

You cannot expect to be making 50 yard shots without razor crisp sight focus. It just isn't going to happen. But at 7 yards you may be able to get away with not looking at all. You need to learn what it takes to get an alpha each and every time you pull the trigger at every distance.

I don't care if you're training for the Olympics. The point is the same. You need to know exactly what you need to see in order to be successful. The only way to get that information is to practice it every distance. Find out what it takes to get the 7 yard alpha every time. Then see what it takes to get that same Alpha at 15 yards. Then 20.

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A shooters natural tendency is to look at the target, only with training can you override it. If you only train using a target focus that will be your default position and you will limit your self to acceptable accuracy on close targets. I would make sure that if the situation required it you can use a sharp front sight focus with good follow through. Sometimes there are no short cuts to shooting tight groups and calling your shots. It's not always required but you want to be able to make stage decisions on what you think at the time will be faster not on the limits of your ability.

Dwight,

I think a good example is the 1st stage of the ICORE match yesterday. I think there was a target at the start about 5 yrds and you could see the last target of the stage at about 25yrds or so. If you could shoot two A's from the start it saved lots running time at the end. In that situation it was pretty easy to point shoot the low close target lifting the gun up to call two A's on the far target. On the last steel stage I was using a sharp front sight focus on the first plate and slipped into a target focus on the remaining plates. Since the plates were all at the same close distance it was faster to not transition my eye back and forth. I noticed that I had a tight group on the first plate that opened up on the remaining plates. I'm guessing that the plates were about 8 inches so a 1 inch group wasn't required and I could have shaved off some time using a target focus for all the plates.

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If I can figure out how to post videos I have one from today's IDPA match. Raining, damp, etc.. My glasses fog up on the third target. I couldn't see the targets and I had to really focus on the front sight. My time was slower than I wanted , but the scores were very good.

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A shooters natural tendency is to look at the target, only with training can you override it. If you only train using a target focus that will be your default position and you will limit your self to acceptable accuracy on close targets. I would make sure that if the situation required it you can use a sharp front sight focus with good follow through. Sometimes there are no short cuts to shooting tight groups and calling your shots. It's not always required but you want to be able to make stage decisions on what you think at the time will be faster not on the limits of your ability.

I think this is my problem. Since I haven't figured out how to focus on the front sight I always shoot with a target focus when shooting with both eyes open.

I went to the range today and tried some of the suggestions here. Before going to the range at home I tried DoubleA's suggestion of relaxing my eyes like when you're looking at one of those 3D pictures. I was sort of able to get it to work at least to the extend that I could see the rear sight and align the sights while focusing on the front sight. But it took a few seconds each time to get it to work and when I tried it at the range I couldn't get it to work.

At the range today I was first zeroing some new sights at 25 yards and to get a really crisp sight picture I closed one eye. After that when running drills and shooting multiple targets I did everything with both eyes open, but had to use a target focus.

Also, possibly related, or maybe just another completely different problem I have is that I don't really have any followthrough. I guess since I'm not focusing on the front sight I don't really know how to follow through/what I should be doing after the shot breaks. After each shot breaks I don't really think about anything and just move onto the next shot...I'm guessing this is probably bad :)

Here's a video of me from a local steel match. Obviously none of you will be impressed by this, just to show I'm not completely terrible as I can only imagine what everyone's thinking after reading my posts so far. This was all shot with both eyes open and a target focus. (It's not letting me include a link in my post so I put a "_" beteween the "htt" and "p", it should work if you delete the "_")

htt_p://youtu.be/CxieHLkfE7Q

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It seems like in your post about the wall you say you cant fpcus on the front sight and the rear sight to make it line up and it gives you a headache. The reason you get the headache is because you are thinking about the sights wrong. The rear aight is not for looking at, the rear sight is a conveniant way to create a light bar on either side of your front sight where your eyes are focused. Your eyes are much quicker and better at telling if two light bars are equal then they ever will be at telling if the front sight is in the center of the notch.

Its a shift in thinking but really when aiming you only use the top of the rear sight to tell if your elevation is lined up and then you forget about it altogether..

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So..

This is what i think..

There is nothing wrong with target focus..

Figure out just how far you can shoot accurately with target focus... Once you figure out what your limit is.. Use front sight focus with one eye closed or squinted for those targets that require more accuracy..

Almost all good shooters close or squint one eye to make shots that require perfect sight picture/alignment and front sight focus.,

Regardless of what most people here might say, there is a place and a time where shooting both eyes open is not the best tool for the job..

Being able to go back and fourth will greatly improve your game :)

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It seems like in your post about the wall you say you cant fpcus on the front sight and the rear sight to make it line up and it gives you a headache. The reason you get the headache is because you are thinking about the sights wrong. The rear aight is not for looking at, the rear sight is a conveniant way to create a light bar on either side of your front sight where your eyes are focused. Your eyes are much quicker and better at telling if two light bars are equal then they ever will be at telling if the front sight is in the center of the notch.

Its a shift in thinking but really when aiming you only use the top of the rear sight to tell if your elevation is lined up and then you forget about it altogether..

This! This is what I mean when I say focus on the area in space where your front sight is. The front sight has got a crisp focus because that is the length that your focal point is at, but it's the change in the light that tells you where the shot went. If you think about it, when you fire, the sight moves back however long the cycle length is, so if you are trying so hard to see the fine details on the front sight and then fire, it will pull the sight abruptly out of your focal length making more difficult to track. This explains why many people have their "aha!" moment when shooting at dusk. The muzzle blast enhances the sight picture and they can see the actual position of the sights as the bullet exits the barrel. It's also why I like shooting light colored plates a whole lot better than black plates

It is true that depending on distance and difficulty of the shot, different sight pictures are required for maximum efficiency.

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All great stuff:

A shooters natural tendency is to look at the target, only with training can you override it. If you only train using a target focus that will be your default position and you will limit your self to acceptable accuracy on close targets. I would make sure that if the situation required it you can use a sharp front sight focus with good follow through. Sometimes there are no short cuts to shooting tight groups and calling your shots. It's not always required but you want to be able to make stage decisions on what you think at the time will be faster not on the limits of your ability.

Hang for or five dry fire targets on a wall in your house. Draw on the first target, with the only goal of having a RAZOR sharp front sight focus, before you drop the hammer. Then locate and move to the next target, and while the gun is on its way, bring your focus back to the front sight, so that when the sights are on the next target, you again have a razor sharp fron sight focus, before you find and move toward the next target. Repeat for the rest of the targets.

You just have to train yourself to be focused hard on the front sight, as it arrives on the target. Keep your eyes (focus) moving, my friend Rondy often said.

be

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Thank you all for the replies! Lots of really helpful info!!

Why are you dead set against just closing one eye?

Mabey it is not the purest thing to do but some amazing shooters out there make it work.

I also train for self defense so want to be able to shoot well with both eyes open for that. Also when shooting at a match I feel like it's faster to align the sights and transition between targets with both eyes open. I've tried a few strings with one eye closed and am usually slower. And when the buzzer goes off I always have the desire to keep both eyes open. Although I'm sure I'd improve with one eye closed if I practiced that way more.

It seems like in your post about the wall you say you cant fpcus on the front sight and the rear sight to make it line up and it gives you a headache. The reason you get the headache is because you are thinking about the sights wrong. The rear aight is not for looking at, the rear sight is a conveniant way to create a light bar on either side of your front sight where your eyes are focused. Your eyes are much quicker and better at telling if two light bars are equal then they ever will be at telling if the front sight is in the center of the notch.

Its a shift in thinking but really when aiming you only use the top of the rear sight to tell if your elevation is lined up and then you forget about it altogether..

When I try the wall drill I can't align the sights at all. Since the wall drill forces me to focus on the front sight, I can't even detect the rear sight notch or know if the front sight is in the notch. The sights could be completely off and I can't tell. This probably sounds weird, but if I just barely squint my weak eye, I can easily align the sights. Once I fully open both eyes the rear sight completely disappears and I no longer can tell if the sights are still aligned. This must sound really strange to everyone. I really want to "get it", but not sure how to convince my eyes to work the way everyone's describing it.

So..
This is what i think..
There is nothing wrong with target focus..
Figure out just how far you can shoot accurately with target focus... Once you figure out what your limit is.. Use front sight focus with one eye closed or squinted for those targets that require more accuracy..
Almost all good shooters close or squint one eye to make shots that require perfect sight picture/alignment and front sight focus.,
Regardless of what most people here might say, there is a place and a time where shooting both eyes open is not the best tool for the job..
Being able to go back and fourth will greatly improve your game :)

The target focus does seem to work pretty well for me...as long as I have good lighting and high visibility sights. Once I move into dimmer lighting or black sights (even just a black rear) I have trouble with both eyes open. Then I have to close one eye to shoot at pretty much any distance. I don't like being so dependent on having good sights which is why I want to figure out this whole front sight focus thing.

Most of my competition guns are set up with 3 dot fiber optic sights, which with my current shooting style is basically a requirement for me. I recently picked up an STI Trojan and had to spend another $100 on a Dawson fiber optic rear sight just so I could shoot it with both eyes open. And I'm not in love with this rear sight because the notch is so shallow, but I couldn't find any other option (I do love the Dawson rear on my Glock which as a deeper notch).

Hang for or five dry fire targets on a wall in your house. Draw on the first target, with the only goal of having a RAZOR sharp front sight focus, before you drop the hammer. Then locate and move to the next target, and while the gun is on its way, bring your focus back to the front sight, so that when the sights are on the next target, you again have a razor sharp fron sight focus, before you find and move toward the next target. Repeat for the rest of the targets.

You just have to train yourself to be focused hard on the front sight, as it arrives on the target. Keep your eyes (focus) moving, my friend Rondy often said.

be

So when transitioning to the next target your focus should be on the target? And then as the sights arrive at the target you transition your focus to the front sight, align the sights and break the shot? Or do you start to align the sights while still focused on the target and just transition your focus to the front sight right before the shot breaks? And then immediately after the shot breaks your eyes move right to the next target? I feel stupid even asking these questions because it seems so basic. I've just never shot like this before (i.e., correctly :)) and it seems so foreign to be constantly shifting my focus like that.

Maybe I should try taping up my shooting glasses on the weak side for a while and see how that goes. Last time I tried this I could focus on the front sight with the tape on, but once I took the tape off it went back to not working. Maybe I just need to stick with the tape for longer to see if it helps ingrain something in my brain.

Edited by Russell92
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