Within arm’s reach, target focus might be your best bet to hit center mass.

What Is Target Focus Shooting:

  • Focusing on the target instead of the front sight.
  • Useful when an assilant is within arms reach out to 10 yards.
  • Useful when there’s no time to find the front sight.
  • It relies on your training to index a handgun on the treat.
  • Effective distant varies, depending on skill level.

If you’ve ever received any formal training on how to shoot a handgun, you’ve probably heard the expression, “front sight — press.” The purpose of this axiom is to instill in you the importance of focusing on the front sight … before you pull the trigger. It’s outstanding advice, particularly if you’re just learning how to shoot.

Left: This is what a target focus shooting sight picture looks like. You can see the target clearly, you did not have to shift your focus to the sight, and you can still see the sight on the target. Right: This is the typical sight picture we all strive to maintain. At close distance, and with practice, it’s not necessary to focus on the front sight.
Left: This is what a target focus shooting sight picture looks like. You can see the target clearly, you did not have to shift your focus to the sight, and you can still see the sight on the target. Right: This is the typical sight picture we all strive to maintain. At close distance, and with practice, it’s not necessary to focus on the front sight.

On the other hand, you might find it surprising that “front sight — press” is not always the best way.

Obviously, if you’re engaged in a contact fight where your assailant is at arms reach, there’s no time or need for finding the front sight. And, somewhere between arm’s length and about 10 yards, target focusing shooting can be applied. The distance or limit at which this technique can be effective will vary from individual to individual, based on shooting skill.

Target focus shooting is nothing more than you not shifting your focus from the target to the front sight. In reality, what you’re really doing is relying on your training and conditioning to properly index the handgun on the threat, without a visual confirmation that requires a focus shift. This may seem impossible, but I’ll bet if you’ve done much handgun shooting at all, you’re probably shooting with a target focus at very close range, and maybe not even realizing it.

Keep in mind that, in a defensive situation, your goal should not be to attempt to shoot the button off the bad guy’s jacket; it should be to deliver one or more rounds into the vital zone as quickly as possible. With practice, you can do this with a target focus, and you can do it very fast. Essentially, what you’re doing is using the silhouette of the handgun as aiming verification.


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With a target focus, I can generally keep all my shots, inside a 10-inch circle out to about 5 yards, as fast as I can hammer them into the target. Beyond that distance, I need to see a front sight to maintain respectable accuracy. However, with bold front sights, like the XS Big Dot or F8 sights, I can stretch my target focus out to about 7 yards and still keep my shots inside the vital triangle. This is because that big, bold sight is visible — even if I’m not focused on it.

Target focus shooting might also be described as point shooting, but point shooting — as the term has come to be generally accepted — means you’re shooting without aiming. With target focus shooting you’re aiming — you’re looking at the gun and maybe even the front sight — but you’re not focused on either. It’s not a skill for the novice or inexperienced, but it is something you should work toward because it can save you time. And in a fight, the one who makes the best use of the limited time available is usually the winner.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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