Self-Defense: How Much Sight Picture Do You Need?

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Given a sight picture varies with range and size of the target, how much is adequate in a self-defense situation?

Building a sight picture:

  • Arms in full extension.
  • Sights aligned properly.
  • Front sight at six o'clock or dead on the target.
  • Focus on the front sight.

Some shooters wonder how much sight picture they need. According to Gunsite Instructor Cory Trapp: “If you have the physical space to bring the handgun up to full extension, you should be looking for a sight picture. Some contend that’s simply too slow, or that at close range point-shooting works perfectly well.

In this diagram, the front sight is shown in four different positions. If you fire a single shot with a duty handgun, using each of the four sight pictures shown, you will still have a group of about 10 inches at 5 yards.
In this diagram, the front sight is shown in four different positions. If you fire a single shot with a duty handgun, using each of the four sight pictures shown, you will still have a group of about 10 inches at 5 yards.

My response is, ‘If you don’t think you have time to aim, I doubt you have time to miss.’ The only way to be certain of the alignment of the pistol is to look at the sights. The problem is when we say, ‘sight picture,’ most think we mean a perfect view of the sights.

“The reality is, the amount of sight picture you need to see varies with the range and size of the target. I run a drill where you hold center at 5 yards, then move the front sight out of the notch to the left, then right, then all the way down and all the way up, firing one shot with each change. With full-sized pistols, many are amazed to see all the shots are still in a 10-inch circle.

One can shoot quite well with no sights, just using the shape of the slide itself as an oversize set of sights. Learn what the limits are with your own handgun and your speed will increase when you simply see only what you need to see to get the hits.”

Get More Self-Defense Information:

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


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