Tactical World - - Contents - Story by Shoji Hat­tori, Photo by Jaimee Ita­gaki

Let’s talk about sights—in a tra­di­tional sense— iron sights. De­pend­ing on the dif­fi­culty of the shot, the shooter’s fo­cal points should shift. Fo­cal point can be de­scribed as vis­ual, men­tal, sen­sual, or a mix­ture of all. For our pur­poses, I'll nar­row this down to only the vis­ual.

Sighted shoot­ing is a fun­da­men­tal of marks­man­ship. We were all taught first to have front sight fo­cus when shoot­ing. We all need to start some­where and us­ing this method is proven where it en­sures that the weapon is aligned upon the tar­get pre­cisely.

I know, I know … that’s what I teach at the po­lice academy where I work and at TAC-1 weapons train­ing school on the week­ends. How­ever, we must not ne­glect to teach other types of fo­cused shoot­ing.

As you be­come more ad­vanced and adept at shoot­ing (tac­ti­cal or com­pet­i­tive), you must also evolve in un­der­stand­ing the avail­abil­ity of other vis­ual fo­cal points while shoot­ing. To do so, we must un­der­stand the na­ture of gun fight­ing. If you have ever ex­pe­ri­enced any force-on-force sce­nario-based train­ing, you will quickly re­al­ize that the sights were of­ten left out of the equa­tion when re­turn­ing fire at close range, re­gard­less of the amount of train­ing the shooter had. Let’s take a closer look.


If you are not the ag­gres­sor, you will mostly likely be re­act­ing to a vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tion. Ac­tion causes re­ac­tion, and re­ac­tions are much slower than ac­tion. We of­ten can’t wait for our fo­cus to go to the front sight when aim­ing—the trig­ger must be pressed.

Gen­er­ally, when aim­ing, the front sight fo­cus is the stan­dard. This is the only way to learn and cog­ni­tively know what the sights should look like, in re­la­tion to the tar­get. But the process of front sight fo­cused shoot­ing is slow. Slow in a sense that it would de­lay you from get­ting your shots out be­fore the bad guy does in close quar­ters.

Front sight fo­cused shoot­ing is re­served for dif­fi­cult shots in com­bat—long dis­tance, mov­ing tar­gets, al­ter­na­tive shoot­ing po­si­tions and small tar­get ar­eas. The shooter usu­ally has some sort of cover … dis­tance, cover fire or some other re­sources to in­crease sur­viv­abil­ity. How­ever, the slow na­ture of this sight­ing sys­tem makes it im­prac­ti­cal for close-range shoot­ing when speed be­comes a dom­i­nant fac­tor.


Con­sider that the av­er­age dis­tance of po­lice of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings in the United States is a mere 3 to 5 feet. That’s within hand­shak­ing dis­tance, and it will be blaz­ing fast. Where do you think your fo­cal point would be? Sights? No. The fo­cal point is in the mo­tor skill— get­ting the gun up fast and press­ing fast. So, it’s not vis­ual. In this case, the vis­ual fo­cal point will usu­ally be on tar­get and will likely stay on tar­get.

Of­fi­cers of­ten tell me that they did not see their sights, or they were not aware of the sights; they just aimed and shot. In other words, they had to rely on their body po­si­tion to shoot.

This body po­si­tion is ac­quired through proper body me­chan­ics, such as stance. I of­ten hear in­struc­tors negate the im­por­tance of stance in shoot­ing, stat­ing that the stance is only tran­si­tory and that strict stances are taught only for square range train­ing. True, but they are miss­ing the point here. Proper stance must be taught to teach the con­cept of proper body po­si­tion when sight­ing.

Shoot­ers should learn to use the body to prop­erly aim and use the sights to ver­ify that the weapon is aligned. This can only be de­vel­oped through lots of train­ing.


The con­cept of sights is very com­plex. Sight align­ment can cause you un­wanted anx­i­ety when it does not go your way. Know that front sight fo­cus is just one way to en­sure sight align­ment, but to per­form at peak level dur­ing all types of shoot­ing con­di­tions, you should con­sider (and train) al­ter­na­tive vis­ual fo­cal points. TW

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