We miss because we don’t properly sight. Sighting is everything in marksmanship. You may talk about grip and stance until your lips fall off but you will not shoot any better if sighting is not your marksmanship priority. Proper sighting controls grip, stance, breathing, and even the effect of wind on the body because fanatical sighting allows the shooter to see errors before they occur. Good grip can be practiced while wearing a blindfold which means it cannot be the primary source of accuracy. Proper grip is extraordinarily important. Bedrock stuff. Even so, grip is nowhere near as important as proper sighting skills. You may say, “we’ve heard all this before.” And there’s part of the training problem.

Most instructors mention sighting in some manner similar to this: Line up your front sight inside of your rear sight and place the front sight on your aiming point. Watch the front sight and squeeze the trigger. So what’s wrong with that? I can explain with a parallel example if the reader will bear with me for a moment or two. If I were teaching someone to steer a car I might tell them to steer the car in the direction they wish to travel by rotating the steering wheel to align the front wheels with the intended direction of travel. That would be technically correct, or at least it would not be specifically wrong. It would, however, be so insufficient as to create driver incompetence. What the student driver needs to know is that manipulation of the steering wheel is only necessary when direction must be changed–you don’t pester the wheel. Drivers also need to know that while we intend to follow turns in the roadway we must select actual lines of approach when altering the direction of travel because momentum and inertia may overpower the tracking of the car. In fact, steering a car is about shifting the weight of the vehicle much more than it is about “picking where I want go.”

Marksmanship is a study. Sighting is the core skill needed for mastery. Fanaticism is required for accuracy. Fortunately, the average shooter can be a marksman but it requires a willingness to re-approach shooting as science rather than art. Think of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you must align sights within hundredths of an inch to hit your mark, how can you possibly accomplish that with a casual glance? Friends, if you fire rounds and have to look at the target to know where your rounds struck, you are not properly sighting. We can’t argue over this. Firearm manufacturers place precise sights on handguns for our use. If modern shooter training is to be believed, gun makers should have saved themselves the trouble and simply painted directional arrows on the top of slides and barrels. Think about it.

The Author
Albert League is a former Marine and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics.