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Sight Picture: Target Shooting vs. Self Defense

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If this is in the wrong forum please feel free to move.

I think we have all heard that part of proper sight alignment is focusing on the front sight. For pistol target shooting, I close one eye, align my sights with a focus on the front sight, and aim at the target which tends to "narrow and shrink" what I can see. However, it seems to me that in a self-defense situation, I would want to keep my eyes on the person for better situational awareness. However, this means changing how I align my sight picture and focus. What are your thoughts on this? What would you do? How would you practice for this situation for accuracy? Any ideas, thoughts, and tips are appreciated.
 
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Get a red dot. You can keep target focus while seeing your sights. It is much faster and more accurate. Also statistically your gun fight will be 3 yards and less than 5 shots. In that space and time you need to have a very good idea about where you muzzle is without using the sights. Dryfire practice is a good way to learn this. Also using an old shot up target, place a new target behind it. Fire a string of shots. Call your shot then confirm by looking at the new target behind.
 

Alexx1401

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If this is in the wrong forum please feel free to move.

I think we have all heard that part of proper sight alignment is focusing on the front sight. For pistol target shooting, I close one eye, align my sights with a focus on the front sight, and aim at the target which tends to "narrow and shrink" what I can see. However, it seems to me that in a self-defense situation, I would want to keep my eyes on the person for better situational awareness. However, this means changing how I align my sight picture and focus. What are your thoughts on this? What would you do? How would you practice for this situation for accuracy? Any ideas, thoughts, and tips are appreciated.
When I practice for defensive shooting I do keep both eyes open for just this reason. I am focusing on the front sight and target.
 
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I agree with Alex. I also keep both eyes open when shooting most any firearm. This is especially true when quick target acquisition is needed. It was a necessity when I was shooting trap competitively. It has also worked exceeding well when rifle shooting running game and also fast paced pistol shooting. Speaking of that, we are having a bowling pin shoot at our club today. If I go, I'll be shooting with both eyes open...;)
 
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When I practice for defensive shooting I do keep both eyes open for just this reason. I am focusing on the front sight and target.
^^^This

It takes time and practice to transition to both eyes open, but well worth the effort, helps eliminate a blind side, so to speak, gives you a more complete field of view.

For me personally, it enhances my shooting enjoyment :D
 

AndyinEverson

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I shoot with both eyes open , no matter it be target work , hunting or practice for self defense.

To be a bit grim , when I last was in a firefight , I do not recall even "aiming"...I shot , hit , moved on to the next.

This is not to say that I did not aim...just that I practiced enough to having my aiming become "second nature" ...
When shooting for real , I found that I was focused on many different things at once...
Sight alignment and trigger squeeze , were not among those things...they just happened...At least in my experience.
Andy
 
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I shoot with both eyes open , no matter it be target work , hunting or practice for self defense.

To be a bit grim , when I last was in a firefight , I do not recall even "aiming"...I shot , hit , moved on to the next.

This is not to say that I did not aim...just that I practiced enough to having my aiming become "second nature" ...
When shooting for real , I found that I was focused on many different things at once...Sight alignment and trigger squeeze , were not among those things...they just happened...At least in my experience.
Andy
I will second this as it is exactly my experience as well.
 
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Precision pistol shooting and defensive tactics shooting are very different.

Precision pistol does prepare you for defensive shooting when re-enforcing the basics of grip, stance, sight alignment and trigger press.

Most defensive pistol instructors encourage keeping both eyes open but there are exceptions especially for those with cross dominant (eye) shooters. Precision pistol allows some shooters to effectively use the "wrong" eye!

1) Defensive shooting is "area" shooting with a "flash" sight picture!

2) Statistically defensive shooting occurs at close range in parts of a second!

3) Choose your equipment carefully and practice, practice, practice!

4) Understand the "use of deadly force" in your geographic/political environment!

Understand these concepts and find an instructor that teaches this stuff and you too will become confident in carrying a firearm that you can use effectively to protect yourself, family and other persons!

All the best,

John, Retired LEO, POST Certified Firearms Instructor, NRA instructor, Multiple discipline competitor and reloader
 
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Marine Airedale

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I shoot with both eyes open , no matter it be target work , hunting or practice for self defense.

To be a bit grim , when I last was in a firefight , I do not recall even "aiming"...I shot , hit , moved on to the next.

This is not to say that I did not aim...just that I practiced enough to having my aiming become "second nature" ...
When shooting for real , I found that I was focused on many different things at once...
Sight alignment and trigger squeeze , were not among those things...they just happened...At least in my experience.
Andy
When instructing I used the term 'flash sight picture' for doing that. And progress to the point if one of my shooters had fired a lot of rounds through a weapon I would have 'em just look at the target where he wants the rounds to land and strangely enough they would. The danger of this, or the hard part is not to look at the individual item that is the threat and look where you want to increase air circulation.
 

bbbass

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IMO there is a lot of contradicting info out there on "sight picture" or use of pistol sights in a self-defense situation. The OP might want to get some training from instructors that use different techniques and see what works for him... practice, practice, practice is sooooo right on!!

I don't do much precision pistol shooting. However, I was taught to always shoot with both eyes open for pistol, and shotgun. Depth perception is important. For self-defense, one finds that the eye can change focus rapidly, allowing the shooter to keep an eye on the subject and yet still see the sights... transitioning to front sight very quickly.

While some instructors will say front sight, front sight, front sight, I agree with those that have expressed less focus on front sight in a gunfight. In IDPA what works for me is instinctive shooting at close range, 0-7ft, looking along the top of the slide from 7'-15', and using sights from 15' on out. Even at distances exceeding 15', I find that I don't really concentrate on the front sight, I just place the front sight where I want, align the sights, and perform a trigger press (I think the concept of flash sight picture fits best for this).

A bit of advice, when a subject is in close, say 3' or less, worrying about sight picture can get you killed. Shoot instinctively, just draw and point shoot. That said, extending the pistol/arm when a subject is within an arm's range can get your firearm taken away. IMO self-defenders need to practice shooting from a compressed chest/arms position and also from retention (retention position can be thought of as shooting from the hip). Also practice your draw/extend/shoot, and practice raising the arms and shooting from low ready. Practice, practice, practice!!!
 
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tac

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Point the finger - point the gun. Self defence? You are NOT looking to put ten shots in under an inch at 25m - you are looking at ten shots in the central body-mass at ten feet - or less - as fast as you are able to do so with a degree of accuracy.

If you have the time and confidence - and you'll be short of both in a self-defence situation - put them all in the head - anywhere in the head. It's hard to ignore a few bullets in the eye.

If the 'opposition' is still standing and still constitutes a threat to you - and you are STILL in fear for your life and that of your loved ones - use all the ammunition you have, like Soldier B in the Iranian Embassy siege, or Mel Gibson in the famous 'Mr Sniper, Sir' scene. Continue to expend ammunition until he goes down. If you can, separate him from his weapon without getting into his reach - arms OR legs. Then stand back, do another reload and watch.

What comes next is decided by whatever defence training and advice you may have had.
 
OP
J
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Everyone, thank you so much for the information and thoughts. I can generally shoot both eyes open with a shotgun and rifle using a red dot. However, with pistol, maybe due to shorter distance between front and rear sights, I struggle with the alignment. If watching the target with both eyes open, the sights are blurred and doubled making it difficult to align properly. Second, I can put the front sight on the target, but this does not mean it is aligned properly (could be high, low, left, or right). Granted, in a self defense situation, the person may be a lot closer and thus, easier to "point and shoot".

As an aside, my "go to" pistol, which I have had since introduced and am competent with, is a 9mm Ruger P89. Again, i can do decently with "one eye target shooting", but need to practice all your suggestions. Although I have a laser on it, I can't add a red dot. At the same time, I do not want to solely rely on the laser.
 

Marine Airedale

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This is where I focus when shooting..be it a rifle , shotgun , pistol , bow...
All I really know is that whatever I do ...it tends to work ...So I don't want to "overthink" and cause a miss , when needed...
Andy
It is funny, the other instructor for my agency back in the day who I had trained used to love to screw with me. Would require successive long shots on a course of fire where you needed to use the sights. Would screw me up every darned time. He would just be standing there laughing his tail off.

Of course I deserved it. When he was first hired I needed to get him qualified. Before shooting any course of fire I would just have them fire rounds at a single target, just to see where their skill level was. When I asked him to do so he said "where should I put my feet" ... meaning what kind of stance. My answer was simply "on the ground". He never forgave me for that one.
 

bbbass

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If watching the target with both eyes open, the sights are blurred and doubled making it difficult to align properly. Second, I can put the front sight on the target, but this does not mean it is aligned properly (could be high, low, left, or right).
Yes, when watching the target the sights will be doubled... However, your dominant eye "should" take over, move the pistol to the dominant side, and align the sights properly (whereby your mind learns to ignore the other picture). Try throwing the pistol up quickly and see if that works better. But, have you checked to see if you are cross-dominant?... that can really mess with you until you adapt.


If it turns out that you are cross-dominant, there are other Youtube vids that can help. If not, just practice throwing up the sights with both eyes open. Do it over and over, don't leave the pistol up, just keep putting up the sights very quickly until your brain becomes adjusted to the new habit.

Best wishes - bb
 
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OP
J
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I am starting to think that perhaps I am trying to do too much. That is, using the skills I learned for accuracy in target practice and attempting to translate that into a defensive situation. With rifle, I can target shoot accurately with one eye closed, sights lined up, etc. Then, when using a rifle with a red dot for defensive practice, I can shoot with both eyes open, focusing "through the sight" to the target, and ignoring the "false/phantom double image". I think with the pistol, I might be trying to do too much "target practice focusing" for defensive purposes.
 

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