On Aim

John Milewski sug­gests tech­nique for aim­ing your pis­tol at a tar­get

Airgun World - - Contents -

Ac­cu­rate air pis­tol shoot­ing is the sum of sev­eral parts. We have looked at the stance, along with how to hold a pis­tol, and this month we move on to the aim. So firstly, what do we mean by aim?

In prin­ci­ple, aim­ing with a pis­tol over open sights is the same as do­ing so with an open-sighted ri­fle. We need to line up the sights and then su­per­im­pose them on to the tar­get. This is not as sim­ple as it sounds, es­pe­cially as eyes be­come older, or you need cor­rec­tive glasses to aid your vi­sion. Us­ing a scope or red dot is sim­pler. The sight can be fo­cused to suit your eyes, and you can see the ret­i­cle or dot su­per­im­posed upon the in­tended point of aim.


This is not so with open sights. The hu­man eye is in­ca­pable of fo­cus­ing on ob­jects at dif­fer­ent dis­tances. When aim­ing a pis­tol, you are lin­ing up the tip of the fore sight level with the two ears of the rear-sight blade, which will be a cer­tain dis­tance apart, usu­ally the length of the bar­rel. You then line up the tip of the fore sight against the in­tended point of im­pact. Younger eyes may fool you be­cause they can be elas­tic enough to switch fo­cus from the rear sight to the fore sight, to the tar­get and back again, so rapidly that you end up not notic­ing. I could do this once, but now my eye mus­cles are not so elas­tic. So, which do you fo­cus on: rear sight, fore sight or tar­get?

Author­i­ties can dif­fer, but I will al­ways line up the fore sight within the rear sight notch first. I will then bal­ance the tar­get on top of the fore sight, whilst con­cen­trat­ing my fo­cus on the fore sight dur­ing trig­ger re­lease. My logic for this is, if you do not line up your sights cor­rectly, there is a huge po­ten­tial for er­rors and any­thing else you do will be wasted. Choose a tar­get that is big enough to see, even if it is slightly out of fo­cus. Con­cen­trat­ing on the fore sight is a happy medium be­cause you should be able to no­tice if the rear sight gets

mis­aligned, and you will also see the tar­get, al­beit slightly blurred.


So where is the best place to aim? Even match shoot­ers dis­agree, so there is no hard and fast rule, other than to aim con­sis­tently in the same place for ev­ery shot. Per­son­ally, I like to see a small gap be­tween the tip of the fore sight and the tar­get. This stems from the ‘6 o’clock hold’ I used for 10-me­tre com­pe­ti­tion, which gets its name from where the sight is held in re­la­tion to a clock face. Open sights tend to be black, and plac­ing a black set of sights against the cen­tre of a dark tar­get is go­ing to lead to aim­ing er­rors. That is why match shoot­ers zero their sights to hit the cen­tre of the black aim­ing mark, whilst they place their sights be­low the mark, upon a con­trast­ing white back­ground. Some like to have a larger gap than oth­ers, but for me, a min­i­mum area of light is what I am look­ing for be­cause that small gap in­stantly tells me that my sights are aligned be­low the aim­ing mark and not within it. Ad­justable sights will al­low you to zero your pis­tol, so that you can aim where you think best.


So, what hap­pens if your pis­tol only has fixed sights? This is the case with many CO2 pis­tols, such as the Colt Sin­gle Ac­tion Army, or some vin­tage air pis­tols such as the We­b­ley Ju­nior. If you line up your sights us­ing a 6 o’clock hold, and the shots con­sis­tently group to one side or too high, the only an­swer is to aim off. De­pend­ing on where shots land, you will need to for­get the 6 o’clock aim and place your sights op­po­site to where the shots are land­ing when us­ing the 6 o’olock hold. For ex­am­ple, I have a very con­sis­tent We­b­ley Ju­nior with fixed sights that shoots high. When I use this pis­tol, I aim lower than I usu­ally would, to hit the mark.

I ad­mit to find­ing aim­ing off dif­fi­cult. That is prob­a­bly down to my mus­cle mem­ory burn­ing a pic­ture of the 6 o’clock hold into my psy­che. That sight pic­ture is what I ex­pect to see, and when I try to aim off, I re­ally have to con­cen­trate to re­tain my sights in what seems to me, an un­nat­u­ral place. It can

“For me, a min­i­mum area of light is what I am look­ing for”

be done, though, and like all tech­niques, takes prac­tice.


I like noth­ing bet­ter than los­ing my­self in a shoot­ing ses­sion. I can be­come obliv­i­ous to all that is around me as I con­cen­trate on the var­i­ous el­e­ments that equal good pis­tol tech­nique. I’ll empty my mind of the daily wor­ries life brings, and fire shot af­ter shot in the same con­sis­tent man­ner down­range. I’ll load my pel­lets in the same man­ner, us­ing the same tech­nique, I’ll present the pis­tol into the aim and fire the shot in the same way – ev­ery time. This is con­sign­ing tech­nique to mus­cle mem­ory, and af­ter a few prac­tice ses­sions you will be re­warded with good re­sults down­range.

Next time, we’ll look at trig­ger tech­nique. This is prob­a­bly the hard­est el­e­ment of pis­tol shoot­ing to learn and brings the whole shot cy­cle to­gether. Un­til next time, keep up with that prac­tice!

The greater the dis­tance be­tween fore and rear sights, the eas­ier they are to line up.

The Hur­ri­cane is prob­a­bly one of the most un­der­rated We­b­ley pis­tols. I de­vel­oped my shoot­ing tech­nique with one of these. Fully ad­justable sights on the Hur­ri­cane en­able the pis­tol to be prop­erly ze­roed.

Aim­ing is the art of lin­ing up your pis­tol’s sights with the aim­ing mark.

If your pis­tol has fixed sights and shoots to one side, you sim­ply aim in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

The Walther LP53 came with a choice of rear- and fore-sight el­e­ments to help the owner to choose their pre­ferred sight pic­ture.

The ideal sight pic­ture: fore sight bal­anced be­tween the ears of the rear sight and aligned just un­der the aim­ing mark.

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