How to aim correctly


The perfect target image for a match air pistol: Your eye is focused on the front sight, allowing it to have sharp contours, while the front sight is still in fairly good focus. The front sight and the top edge of the rear sight lie on a horizontal line, which is easy to check.

The width of the front sight roughly matches that of the black target center (bull’s eye), so that the two form a dotted letter i. The light spaces to the left and right of the front sight are narrow but wide enough to allow checking of the horizontal position. The light spaces can be widened or narrowed depending on lighting conditions at the range (guns offer different ways of adjusting the width and depth of the cutout). A well-trained shooter in good condition should be able to maintain a constant distance between the target center and the top edge of the front sight. The images shown here assume a distance of about two ring widths. The target center and sight will inevitably move, but to avoid aiming errors they should never be allowed to touch. For this reason, instead of having an aiming point, pistol shooters have an aiming area which varies in size depending on their skill.

In the following target images The sights are adjusted so that the top edge of the rear sight and the target center are separated by two ring widths. Those who prefer a separation of three ring widths will have to use their imagination.



A perfect target image with a hit by an excellent shooter. The SCATT trace shows the downward movement into the aiming area, the release of the shot and the hit.




Beginners will have traces like the one shown here. The circle shows the aiming area, which has a diameter roughly equal to that of the eight ring, revealing considerable horizontal and vertical movement. However, with practice the circle will grow smaller and the hits more accurate.




Expert shooters have aiming areas with a diameter about equal to that of the nine ring, with smooth and controlled movements. They approach the aiming area vertically from above while breathing out. At the end the trigger resistance is almost overcome and the release is quick.


Typical Aiming Errors

Wrong Focus



The front and rear sights are blurred because your eye is focused on the target. This prevents detection of aiming errors, and accurate shots are impossible. But of course you can see very well how widely you missed.


Front sight to high



Here the top edge of the rear sight is at the correct distance from the target center, but the front sight comes up too high and even touches the center. Because this thin separation is too hard to see (black sight against a black, out-of-focus background), the shots will group high if the sights remain at this adjustment.


Front sight to low



Here too, only the top edge of the rear sight is at the correct height. The front sight has receded into the cutout, and the aim can no longer be checked. This error occurs if the shooter has insufficient condition, the pistol is nose-heavy or too much time is taken for aiming.


Front sight squeezed to the left



Here the front and rear sights are at the correct height in relation to the target center, but the front sight has the wrong lateral adjustment, which misaligns the whole pistol. The two light spaces have different widths, throwing off the brain’s sense of symmetry. As a result, the shots all land at the height of the ten, but they are displaced to the left in the eight ring.


Target image too high



Another kind of error, which often goes undetected, can arise even when the two sights are in correct symmetry, with the front one centered and level with the edge of the rear one. Here the target area is in the wrong place. The front sight makes direct contact with the target center, as shown here. Owing to the lack of contrast (remember that the eye should always focus on the front sight instead of the target) the shots hit above the ten in the nine ring.


Shots which are a little too low



Here again, the target image is perfect except that it is too low. The shots group close together (assuming the shooter has a good aim), but they hit below the ten. This often happens when too much time is taken in aiming and the gun drops on account of fatigue. Lifting a gun that has dropped too far requires immense effort and rarely has successful results. Sometimes, if the shooter tries in desperation to compensate with his wrist, the shots will even land way too high. Better to back down!


Wide shots



This target image, otherwise perfect, is not in the aiming area (at least it wasn’t at the moment of trigger release). The height is correct, but the shots are displaced leftwards to the eight. In such cases, when the shots are tightly grouped they are a sign of a faulty zero position in relation to the target: the pistol was not deliberately pushed to the left, but the shooter’s body was incorrectly aligned with the target. This can be corrected by shifting the rear foot (for right-handers this is the left foot) about 1-2 cm in a clockwise direction.




As above, but here the zero position is 1-2 rings too far to the right. The solution is to make a small correction in the position of the rear foot (for right-handers the left foot). It should be moved 1-2 cm in a counterclockwise direction, making the outer stance slightly more "side-on".


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