Good Shooting Requires Best-Possible Sight Alignment - For You

'When it comes to sights, there is an unbelievable variety.'


October 1, 2016

Army Photographer

IN SIGHT - Pvt. Kelsee Haws sights her target during Army basic training.

The two most important aspects of good shooting are sight alignment and trigger control. Master both of these, and you'll be an awesome shot.

The importance of sight alignment is reflected in the number of different kinds of sights that are available. You are not limited to the sights that come on your gun when you buy it - you have almost limitless choices when it comes to picking your perfect sights.

The gunsmith at Shooters World told me that putting on new sights is one of the only things they will do while you wait. It's that quick and easy. In fact, you can actually do it yourself if you have the right tools, and we'll cover that later. The most important thing is to know what's out there so you can make an informed choice when it comes to putting sights on your handgun.

Most Handguns Come With Serviceable Sights

For starters, most handguns come with perfectly serviceable sights. The problem comes when you have to start dealing with things like older eyes (trifocals, anyone?), low light conditions, competitive shooting, etc. Once you've been shooting for a while, you may decide that you'd find life easier with sights that worked a little better for you. Even at indoor ranges the lights can be pretty dim, and that makes it very hard to get good sight alignment.

Let's start with that phrase "sight alignment". When I was a kid, my dad drew a picture in the dirt to show me how this works. He drew a rough sketch of a back sight, drew the front sight right smack in the middle with the same amount of space on either side, and lined them up right across the top. Then he drew a small circle above that to show me where to put the target.

That is still the exact same thing to do - most of the time, with most sights, anyway. The trouble comes when you can't see the sights clearly, so you can't get them lined up. A word to the wise here: Most handguns are designed to shoot right on the target at 25 yards. That means that if you shoot at shorter ranges, you probably won't hit the bullseye without compensating.

For Low-Light Conditions

For low-light conditions, there are many different sights that have either glow paint or use fiber optics to gather light. Many of them are three-dot sights - there is a dot on either side of the back sight, and another on the front sight. For older eyes, our gunsmith recommends the front sight be orange.

Often these sights come with a selection of different-colored tubes you can insert into the sights until you find the ones that work best for you. I use these on my shotguns - even though I'm shooting in broad daylight; those glowing orange tubes are incredibly easy to pick up with your eyes.

Many Glocks come with sights that my son calls "field goals". They have a bright white outline like a sharp U on the back sight. He loves them. I don't. But lots of people do, and you just have to try them out and see what works for you.

Glow-In-The-Dark Enamel

The old-fashioned plain black post sights are darn hard to see, especially in dim light. If you have an older weapon and aren't quite sure you want to fork over the money to have new sights put on it, head over to the nearest sporting goods store and buy a small bottle of glow-in-the-dark enamel – you'll find it by the gun-cleaning supplies or near them.

Paint a dot of that on each post and see if it doesn't help. That may inspire you to change them out. A lot of guys will tell you to skip the three dots and just do the front sight, so you may want to start out just doing that.

The main thing you need is something that you can align quickly and easily. What works for me may not be the thing that works the best for you. You can try sights that form a triangle when you have them lined up. There are also sights that actually have a full circle in the back and a dot in the front, and you place the dot in the center of the circle. I haven't tried those so I'm not sure if that ring would get in the way or not.

There are sights that have a vertical bar and a dot, so that you "dot the i", and others that have a horizontal bar and a dot, so you place the dot over the bar. It all depends on you. One that really looks interesting to me has three diamonds that you line up - seems to me that those sharp angles would be quick to work with.

How Not To Spend A Fortune

How do you manage to try all these sights without spending a fortune? For starters, go to a good gun store with an indoor range and see if they have guns with different kinds of sights for rent. If you go to the outdoor range a lot, you'll find that people there are really friendly and often offer to let you try out their guns if you express interest.

Just notice other people's sights and ask about them. Odds are, they'll let you fire a few rounds - hopefully enough to give you a feel for how they work for you.

These are TruGlo sights. Many of these types of sights come with interchangeable fiber optic tubes so you can try out different colors.

Some more about prices: You can literally spend anywhere from $30 to well over $200 for handgun sights. Some gun shops will install new sights for free if you buy them there, and some charge.

Also, some gunsmiths charge a bit more for certain kinds of guns, but fees usually run in the range of $40 or so. If you think you may be wanting to change sights often, or for many people in your family, you might be better off buying a sight-pushing tool and doing it yourself. It's really not that hard - I've done it myself and it takes just a bit of time.

Shop Around

The push tool cost me just $70, which is less than having a gunsmith change the sights on two pistols. There is a learning curve, but after the first one, you'll feel pretty confident.

When it comes to sights, there is an unbelievable variety. Shop around, try a few out, and you can make a decision you'll be happy with. And if you're not happy with it, you can always change them out again!


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