Some thoughts on sights (and sighting) for ISSF Pistol Events…

 

Effect of arm lengthread this bit first!

Effect of sight radiusread this bit next!

Data

Where to Focus

 

How wide should the front sight blade be?

What shape should the front sight be?

What shape should the rear sight notch be?

How wide should the rear sight be?

What colour should the sights be?

Aligning the sights

Where to aim on the target (a) for precision targets

Where to aim on the target (b) for rapid fire targets

Accepting your ‘wobble

Your sights – and follow-through

 

Effect of arm length

READ THIS BIT FIRST!  It is essential to understand the other bits

 

All the following discussion will depend on the distances from YOUR eye to:

·         The rear sight (this will depend on your build and arm length, and the individual pistol’s configuration)

·         The front sight (this will depend on the individual pistol’s configuration>>)

·         The target – for all intent and purposes, while there will be a difference between shooters  (depending on their stance, build and where they stand in the firing point) it is so slight that it can be ignored.  I.e. a 10M target is ≈ 10M, 25M target is ≈ 25M, etc.

 

For the same pistol and sights:

·         the closer the pistol to your eye, the wider the rear sight notch appears

·         the closer the pistol to your eye, the wider the rear sight notch appears to be in relation to the apparent width of the front sight

·         the closer the pistol to your eye, the wider the rear sight notch and front sight appears to be in relation to the apparent width of the target aiming mark

·         the target will  remain at the same apparent size (subtend the same angle)

And, of course, the reverse applies depending on the further away the pistol is from your eye.

 

What it all means…

 

For the same pistol and sights:

·         The ‘apparent’ width of the rear notch, width of the front sight, ratio between the sight widths, and ratio to the aiming mark diameter will vary from shooter to shooter!

·         The difference will be very apparent if a pistol set up for a shooter with shorter reach is used by another shooter with long arms

 

 

Effect of sight radius

READ THIS BIT NEXT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


While most ISSF pistols have sights that are fixed (while adjustable for elevation and windage) in position on the pistol:

·         Some have sights that can be adjusted for sight radius (length between the front and rear sight) – usually this will be the front sight.

·         If you are determined, a good pistolsmith can reposition the sights on any pistol to change the sight radius

 

The longer the sight radius (remembering that 25M pistols must fit in the ‘box’), the greater any misalignment of the sights will appear.

If your hold is ‘steady’, a longer sight radius might be an advantage – if (like most of us) your hold is not steady the additional apparent wobble of the sights is probably not of any advantage.

There is a theoretical advantage in having the longest sight radius you can cope with as this will theoretically allow you to aim more accurately/finely – in fact, for most shooters there is no real advantage in having a sight radius greater than 200mm for 25M; for a 10M or 50M shooter this would be maybe 250mm.

 

The shorter the sight radius, the lesser any misalignment will appear.

 

The shorter the sight radius:

·         The larger the front sight width will appear in relation to the rear sight notch, and

·         Depending on the position of the sight combination on the pistol, can increase the apparent width of the front sight in relation to the aiming mark

 

 

Data

 

1.       The further away an item (in this case, the rear sight, the front sight, and the target) the smaller they appear.

 

2.       The reality is that you can only focus on one of the sighting components (i.e. target, front sight and rear sight) at any one time.
Not only can you not focus on two (or three) of these at the same time, you never could!
When younger you may have been able to quickly change the eye’s focus to give the impression that you could – but you couldn’t!

 

3.       There are two ‘natural’ shapes for the human eye:

a.       The golden rectangle (sides in the ratio of approximately 1:1.618), and

b.      Square

 

4.       Your eyes change with age – this will affect your ability to use ‘fine’ sights (both the width of the front sight and the apparent gap width of the rear sight).

 

5.       Nobody can hold a pistol perfectly still while shooting in an ISSF pistol event – there will always be some wobble, shake, or whatever!

 

 

Where to Focus

 

There is a good reason why all coaches agree on where you should focus – i.e. at (and on) the front sight – it works!

 

 

Where to look

 

The answer to this is just as simple – look at the front sight!

 

In practice, this is not simple to explain; but it is simple to do!  It is probably easiest explained by first explaining what look at the front sight does NOT mean:

·         It does not mean look at the top of the front sight – you will probably let your focus drift to the target

·         It does not mean look at the sides of the front sight – if you look at the sides of the front sight you will be looking at edges rather than the sight itself

·         It does not mean look at the light gaps either side of the front sight – you don’t need to (this will be explained in Aligning the sights)

 

Looking at the front sight means what it says – focus on, and look AT the front sight

 

 

How wide should the front sight blade be?

 

For the ISSF precision targets, the best apparent width of the front sight is the same as the apparent width of the target aiming mark.

 

For ISSF rapid fire targets:

a.       For 25M Womens, Junior and Center Fire events, use the same width as for the precision stage (it works)

b.      For 25M Rapid Fire Pistol, a front sight width of 5 to 7mm seems to be best (i.e. it is not all that critical)

 

 

What shape should the front sight be?

 

For ISSF pistol, forget about any shape for the front sight other than a rectangle or square – if not a square, then a golden rectangle.  See 3 above.  I.e. either one of the options for 3.a above or 3.b

 

Note that here I am discussing the apparent sight shape – i.e. the shape it appears to be when framed in the rear sight notch when the sights are properly aligned.  This will differ from the shape of the front sight blade if viewed in isolation – the notch of the rear sight will or it should) obscure the base of the front sight blade.  It is the apparent height and width of the front sight when viewed in the rear sight notch that we are discussing. 

 

 

For an apparent sight shape based on the golden rectangle (3.a) the apparent sight shape can be either:

 

Apparent ‘elongated’ golden rectangle, or

 

 

Apparent ‘flat’ golden rectangle

 

 

  Both are in the ratio of the golden rectangle.  Of the two, the ‘flatter’ first example is probably the more suitable; particularly for the ISSF Rapid Fire Pistol event.

 

For an apparent sight shape based a square (3.b)

 

 

 

 

 

 


What shape should the rear sight notch be?

 

Realistically, there are only two options: either rectangular or ‘dished’:

Rectangular.  Invariably, most of the world’s top shooters use the rectangular option – because it works!

 

 

 

Dished (rarely encountered these days)

 

 

 

Shallow dished (was used for RFP – now out of favour)

 

 

 

How wide should the rear sight be?

 

Approximately 1:1:1 (enables rapid acquisition of sight picture – not really suitable for any other than the Rapid Fire Pistol event, and even then probably too much for most shooters)

 

 

Approximately 1:2:1 (a good compromise for 25M events)

 

 

Approximately 1:4:1 (a good compromise for ISSF 10M and 50M events; OK for 25M events for shooters with good eyesight)

 

 

Approximately 1:5:1 (for ISSF 10M and 50M events only if you have exceptional, young eyes; too fine for most shooters for use in 25M events)

 

 

 

 

What colour should the sights be?

 

You have a choice: either flat black, or flat black.

 

Coloured sights, sights with ‘luminous’ lines, sights with light gathering inserts, etc. may have their place; but not for ISSF pistol events!

 

 

Aligning the sights

 

Most shooters do not make use of one of their greatest assets; their inherent hand/eye coordination and the related ability to:

·         “Line things up”, and

·         Find the centre of shapes.

 

Together these two assets (developed when you were a toddler, and reinforced every day since) will:

·         Enable you to detect any misalignment of the sights, and

·         Automatically correct any misalignment, both:

o   For misalignment sideways, and

o   For misalignment vertically, and

o   Any combination of these two!

The acceptance that this will happen if you let it (as opposed to you trying to align them) is one of the four great revelations of ISSF pistol shooting.  All you have to do is focus and look at, and on the front sight and the alignment with the rear sight notch is automatic if you let it happen!

 

Revelation #1

All you have to do is focus and look at, and on the front sight and the alignment with the rear sight notch is automatic

 

 

Not only will it happen, it will happen so accurately that you can align the sights accurately to group smaller than the inner-10 on the target.

 

Looks well aligned – AND what your inherent hand/eye coordination will do automatically

 

 

 


                                         Looks badly aligned – AND what your inherent hand/eye coordination try to correct automatically

 

 

Looks badly aligned – AND what your inherent hand/eye coordination try to correct automatically

 

 

If your sights consistently drift out of alignment with each other in any one given direction

 

If your sights consistent drift out of alignment in any one given direction, it is almost certainly a problem with your grip design – see a good gripmaker and get this problem fixed.

 

Sometimes this problem becomes more pronounced as you get further into an event (i.e. you are starting to tire) – the advice is the same; see a good gripmaker and get this problem fixed.

 

If your sight combination consistently drift out of alignment with the target in any one given direction

 

If your sight combination consistently drifts out of alignment with the target in any one given direction, it is almost certainly a problem with your stance – see a coach and fix this problem.

 

 

Where to aim on the target (a) for precision targets

 

Another of the four great revelations of ISSF pistol shooting is that the bit that does not move is the target!

 

Additionally:

·         Wherever you opt to aim on the target is immaterial – if you aim at the same part (note that I do not say point) every time, getting the shots to hit the desired part of the target is merely a matter of adjusting the sights

·         It is easier to see black sights (particularly the front sight) against the white of the target

 

 

 

Revelation #2

The bit that does not move is the target!

You don’t have to look/focus on the target!

 

Again, most shooters do not make use of one of their greatest assets; their inherent hand/eye coordination and the related ability to:

·         “Line things up”, and

·         Find the centre of shapes.

If you aim ‘somewhere’ below the black aiming mark, your inherent hand/eye coordination will place the sight alignment about halfway between the bottom edge of the target and about half way across the target - it is automatic if you let it happen!

 

 

Where to aim on the target (b) for rapid fire targets

 

 

 

 

Accepting your ‘wobble

 

Nobody can hold a pistol perfectly still while shooting in an ISSF pistol event – there will always be some wobble, shake, or whatever!

Some shooters can hold the pistol without any apparent movement, but there will be some

Being in good condition will reduce the amount of wobble/shake – Note that this refers to physical conditioning, not physical strength: strenuous weight training will be counter-productive.

 

Revelation #3

Your wobble will not prevent you from shooting 10s!

Learn to live with your wobble!

 

 

 

 

The trace from an electronic trainer such as Rika or Scatt reveals that even the world’s best ISSF pistol shooters do not always have the pistol aligned to get a shot in the 10-ring while in the process of releasing a shot – however, a lot of the time if the shot was released the result would be a ’9’ or better. 

 

 

Your sights – and follow-through

 

I teach shooters when coaching that there are four follow-through components:

·         Where the sights were when the shot released

·         Adding pressure to the trigger even after the shot has been released (not part of this particular section on sights/sighting)

·         Where the sights were after the recoil has finished (Then you can take the pressure off the trigger – Yes! Even for 4-seconds series of Rapid Fire Pistol)

·         Analysing what happened

 

Revelation #4

A proper follow-through includes the sight pictures

 

 

 

© 2009, Spencer Tweedie