SIGHTING IN — 21 Comments

  1. Here’s something I’ve noticed over the years, since both my wife and I like to shoot a lot of the same guns, and we’ve shared each other’s guns for over 3 decades. Any gun we know is likely to be shared gets sighted for her. She is 5-foot-2, and has child-sized hands. I’m 5-foot-10 with short, square hands. Obviously, her grip is much weaker than mine. If the pistol is spot on for her, it will be a little bit off for me; half an inch at 15 yards is typical. If it’s perfect for me, it’s going to be off by 2-3 inches or more at 15 yards for her. Greater recoil exaggerates this effect, but we see it even with dot-sighted .22’s.

    Another factor for her is a recent rash of broken joints (left elbow and left index finger) over the past year that has required changes to her grip. Though her first gun love was DA revolvers, she’s had to drop everything but her 1911’s now – and they all need to be re-sighted. Injuries later in life take more of a toll than when we’re young!

  2. If one is a lefty (as I am) there will almost always be a difference in how the gun is sighted in. Since I use my left index finger to pull the trigger, the very act of squeezing the trigger (no matter how carefully and gently I “squeeze” it) will tend to push my hits slightly low and to the right. So, a handgun that I sight it will tend to hit slightly high and to the right to compensate for my natural pull.

    I have noticed that guns sighted in for a right-handed shooter tend to pull to the low / right.

    For a scope-sighted rifle, the shift is often so minor as to not matter. A rifle is usually heavy enough to resist a pull to one side or the other as the trigger is squeezed (unless it has an unusually heavy trigger pull).

    However, for handguns (with their light-weight and reduced sight radius) the shift between a right-hand sighted gun and a left-hand sighted gun is usually significant.

  3. Mas, my MAG-40 target (last spring, Wichita, KS) was a shining example of how, even with a handgun the shooter is intimately familiar with and that has accurate FIXED sights, things can be “off”. Just the range environment can make things go awry with shot placement. When looking at my target, I had a reasonable grouping at around 3.5 inches diameter (with a few flyers that were totally on me) but the main group was centered about 2″ low and 3″ right.

    I was shooting a S&W Model 681, 4″ that day. The Model 681 sights are small but fixed and the front blade is serrated Stainless Steel, out of the same material as the barrel. The gun has always been very accurate for me and the sights dead-on. Our range for the class was set up so we were shooting to the south and it was a crystal clear morning with a bright sun at our 10:00 (average) when shooting the qualifier. In my sight picture, I was seeing a very bright glare off of that front sight blade all morning. The glare was coming off the top left “corner” of the blade.

    Now considering the glare while analyzing my target, I can see that I was lining up the “glare” in the middle of the notch, not centering the blade in the notch like I was supposed to. In turn, that pushed my group down and right on that day.

    Thank you so very much for the information and wisdom shared in your MAG-40 class! As you say in the course description, it is total immersion training on the judicious use of force in defense of self or others. Many times it was like drinking from a fire hose, but well worth the price paid! And thank you for the wisdom shared in this BLOG.

  4. What I’ve noticed in how one’s grip can change POI. If I’m not careful to grip my G23 and HK P30 .40 tightly, off-hand shots tend to go right. With the same guns, groups from the 25 yd bench tend to go left, most likely due to flinching and me pushing the guns left. What’s frustrating for me is I know my P30 will group under 2″ at 25 yds, I just can do it…yet. The LEM trigger is tough for me to control off the bench.

  5. Or you could do what I saw a man doing at the range a couple of weeks ago: Just close your eyes right before each shot and hope for the best. At least he didn’t shoot anyone accidentally that day.

  6. Past few months it seem like all I have been doing is sighting in handguns and rifles. My wife of 33 years this June finally got her carry permit and I lost my Ruger SR9c to her. She is very recoil sensitive and I had to work up loads for her that she liked and functioned 100%. She settled on the 90gr Sierra V Crown with 6grs of Hodogon LongShot it was that or a 22lr. My son who is 12 took my truck AR for his HD gun. It has a Vortex SPARC and backup iron sights that had to be set for him. Now he is after my S&W M&P 9mm, looks like he will be getting a M&P for Christmas. I bought a Rock Island Rock Ultra Tac 2 in 10mm for me and after running a few hundred rounds through it I replaced the trigger with a STI long polymer and Wilson Combat bullet proof A2 sear,firing pin, disconnector, extractor, and 3 finger spring. I have been reloading on a single stage RCBS for 30 year and I believe I need to go a progressive press just to stay caught up in ammo just for practice.

    I have a question for you Mas, what do you think of the LeHigh Defense Extreme Defender bullet? The Extreme Penetrator I just could not see carrying as a SD round just the name says law suite unless you can line up 2-3 BGs one behind the other.But the ED in 10mm is penetrating about the same as a 155gr JHP or Barnes SCHP but the PWC is twice that of a hollow point in gel. A 115gr ED bullet going 1500 to 1600fps out of a 10mm looks very promising with reduced recoil and the damage it does. I know ballistic gel is just apple to apple medium to test how a bullet will preform and not that it will do the same in tissue. Do you know anyone that has used this bullet in a actual SD shooting? The 9mm ED 90gr +p also looks promising. Could this be the next step in a better bullet? I know only time will tell for sure but I would like to know your opinion on this one. I have some of the ED 115gr for my 10mm bullets coming and I have the recipe that Lehigh uses and also Underwood Ammo recipe so I want to try these for myself.

  7. Many years ago, when I shot NRA bullseye, I used a High Standard Victor for the .22rf portion with a pistol scope mounted.
    For the centerfire and .45acp portions I used a Colt Gold Cup. Standard sights. Nothing brought out the sights on that Cup like smoking them. I had a small carbide lamp in my kit. You would squirt a little water onto the nugget of carbide, replace the cap and the acetylene gas would squirt out and a flint wheel would light the gas, which is very heavy with carbon smoke. Wafting the flame across the sights would really cause them to stand out. Always worth a few extra points.

  8. Tony, while the ED round certainly LOOKS promising, I’ve learned not to trust anything that hasn’t yet been well-tested in the field.

  9. I have been Gunsmithing (retired now– sort of) for 45+ years and you are so right. What hits for me may be off for someone else. I sent out every gun I worked on “sighted” Even got to the point of using a bore laser so I knew beyond a doubt where the bullet should be hitting. But there are so many things that affect where the bullet really will be hitting. I have found that Consistency through practice will help. A consistent hold…a consistent stance… etc. If every time you shoot it’s just sort of a “whatever” attitude….. you will be getting “whatever” hits.

  10. Randy-PRI,

    My Dad had one of those lamps (all copper, reflector around the flame, I suspect it started life as a miner’s headlamp) that he used to run his trot-lines at night. I lost track of it after he passed, but I bet my brother has it and won’t share.

    +1 on the smoked (smutted?) front sight, especially in bright sunlight.

    TN_MAN, I won’t ask why the index finger, but most folks (myself included) who have smaller hands, experienced the same problems. I traced it back to my grip and my failure to grip tightly enough to compensate for the pressure on the left side of the trigger (still there, no matter how hard I worked on my trigger pull). Grip is, at least for me), still hard to maintain shooting plates, probably because when you start with a series of hits, your mind tells you that you that you’re in the groove and can’t miss, you relax, and sure enough, you start pushing to the right (I’m a lefty, too). When I talk about the grip, I’m not talking about a firm grip most folks can get by with, I’ m talking about a grip where you are trying to crush the gun. Works for me.

    P.S.- Compensating through grip more easily translates when transitioning to sub compact handguns that tend to eliminate the short finger handicap.

  11. Regarding the Glock 17 you provided for your Grandson, I cannot understand why the gun would have a point of impact to the right of where aimed when aimed with a conventional post in notch sight picture, if the gun had been dialed in with the three Trijicon dots in alignment – unless one or more of the dots themselves were not centered on their respective parts of the front and rear sight modules. What am I missing here?

  12. John, as you surmised, sometimes the dots are not exactly centered within the silhouettes of the front post and the rear notch.

  13. Has anyone tried the XS small or large, I have a large dot set up for my G23 gem4.

  14. Mas I have never been the first one on the bandwagon. I am just looking for evidence to prove or disprove. I am 54 and have seen a lot of new bullet designs that didn’t make the cut. Things are a little different now with the help of everyone sharing what they have experienced. Thanks for your answer. To me it just like every other round out there only time will tell.

  15. I once had a lengthy “discussion” with someone about this subject. His contention was that a scope sighted rifle will shoot to a different point of impact for different shooters. His original reasoning came from shooting iron sighted rifles and he assumed the same thing would hold true for either type of sight.

    My contention was that a scope reticle will put the bullet into the same point of impact (assuming the shooter holds the rifle in a conventional manner and looks into the scope in a manner somewhat consistent with whomever sighted it in) no matter who pulls the trigger.

    I could not convince him otherwise and eventually gave up the effort recognizing it was somewhat like arguing with my wife. I sight in the rifles for my three sons and one daughter and everything they shoot at falls down (or at least enough of the time to convince me the rifle is right for them).

    I have heard, and been asked by others, when shooting iron sighted firearms, “How much of the front sight do you take?”
    This I interpret as someone who does not really understand how to use iron sights and has developed a somewhat useful, for them, method. Experience has taught me to not offer advice when not asked as the person you are trying to help really isn’t interested or will follow your unsolicited advice.

    As an aside, what taught me an immense amount about grip and trigger control was shooting indoor target archery in the unlimited class. This class allows optical glass sights, releases, counterweights of all shapes and sizes, etc. If you get good enough you can make a nickle sized adhesive backed sticker disappear with three arrows at 60 feet. Shooting nocks off arrows already in the target and even a “Robin Hood,” one arrow that hits and slides inside another in the target are not at all uncommon.

    Any variation in grip, anchor point or jerking the release trigger are immediately apparent and will send an arrow far off course. Same holds true for firearms.

  16. Dennis – so good to hear another old timer describe his grip using the word “crush!” It has always worked for me, too. The issue I see on the horizon for me will be the need to downsize my caliber because the ability to shoot any kind of acceptable tactical groups with my advancing arthritis will not be possible. I can always find a silver lining and here, mine is the 9mm ammo we’re seeing now is far superior to anything I’ve seen before. Looking ahead, my beloved .45 ACP will probably become my nightstand-only load.

  17. Don-Pa,- I hear you man, things I used to do without a thought, are not worth the pain now. Seems like the older I get, the less likely I am to intentionally inflict discomfort on myself. I still enjoy shooting the big boys, it’s the aftermath that causes regret.

  18. Mas, I’m still waiting for the LESSON about why Glocks and not 1911s are given away at matches!

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!


  19. Question.

    Mas. How many guns do you have? I’m dying to know.

    Last time I visited you at the house in Concord, I thought Riley’s opened a branch store further north.