Front Sight Focus

By Troy Eberling

Have you been at the range and had an instructor, friend, relative, or acquaintance tell you “focus on the front sight”? I know I have. I’m sure you, and others like you, have. It is a common phrase parroted by the experts and mimicked by the knowledgeable, as well as the uninformed. But what does it really mean? Sure, I can “focus” on my front sight so it is crystal clear. But how does that work when you are talking about overall sight picture? How does the eye track all of these things at the same time for that perfect shot? This applies to both rifle and pistol, but for today we will address this discussion as if we are concentrating on the pistol.

To understand the importance of focusing on the front sight, we must first learn about how the human eye works. The human eye is only capable of fixing on one thing at a time. This is where the trouble with focusing on the front sight post while getting a sight picture starts to develop. When you concentrate on the front sight while pointing at your target, your eye begins to wander from the sight to the target and back to your sight. The reason this happens is because the human eye wants to calculate the entire picture, but can’t because it can only truly pay attention to one object at a time.

Now imagine, if you will, how the eye takes in daily images. The object that the eye fixates on is sharp and clear. As your vision expands from that focal point, things start to be less clear. As you progress out to your far peripheral vision things at that point are more or less shadows and shapes. When the brain puts all of these individual visual perceptions together we get one big picture. This is what we see daily. Now take this understanding of how the human eyesight works and correlate it to sighting of a handgun. “To focus on the front sight” we must accurately look at our front sight. As we place the muzzle of the handgun over the target to get our sight picture, it must be like the peripheral vision. We know it is there to “complete” the picture, but our focal point has to be on the front sight itself. We have to train our eye to stay put and not constantly shift focal points while the brain trusts the big picture. Assuming that our other fundamental mechanics are correct, when we center our sharp, clear front sight over the midpoint of our “peripheral” target, our shot placement will be where we expect it.

If you follow this fundamental understanding of front sight focusing, and train your eye regularly, you should see a drastic improvement of both your shot placement and tightening of your groups. The most important factor is to not let your eye shift focal points. If you do, the eye has to start over calculating what it sees. Good shooting.