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Some thoughts on sight picture and focus

This is a discussion on Some thoughts on sight picture and focus within the Rifle Competition forums, part of the Rifle Forum category; I've always been a 6 o'clock hold man and it's served me pretty well in the 6 years I've been shooting highpower. But the past ...

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Old July 18th, 2006, 09:44 AM   #1
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Some thoughts on sight picture and focus

I've always been a 6 o'clock hold man and it's served me pretty well in the 6 years I've been shooting highpower. But the past two months, at the advice of one of the hard holders at our club (two time winner of the NTI at Camp Perry), I've switched to a center hold and have been pretty enthralled with the results. We spoke for a bit on the subject and I've come to the conclusion that the center hold has a big advantage that may not be intuitively obvious.

First lets review the concept of focus. We all know that we have to focus on the front sight, but I'm not sure that many people know exactly why that works better than focussing on the target. When you focus on the sight, you can more precisely align the sights (easy enough to believe). Obviously, it's easier to put the bullets where you want them when the sights are aligned.

But what happens to the target? It get's blurry, and that bugs a lot of people. How are you supposed to shoot accurately if the target isn't clear? Ahhhh.... It actually works in our favor if the target is out of focus! What happens when you focus on the front sight is that the edge of the aiming black washes out, making the black appear smaller than it really is. When you focus on the front sight, you're aiming at the center rings rather than the entire black area of the target. Smaller aiming point and more precise alignment--those are the advantages that a front sight focus bring to the table and help us bring shots closer together and closer to the center.

What advantages does the center hold carry? Well, none in theory. But with a 6 o'clock hold, there is a lot of black sitting above the sight and this will tempt your eye to focus on it. I think with a center hold, it is easier to maintain the proper focus.

Another trick I learned this week--for the prone stages, try taking the shot when you see just a smidge of black above the sight (crowd the top end of the target). It might feel like you're far above what is a normal center hold, but on the actual target it's only about a half-minute between the two. Remember, the outer rings are washed out and the sight is actually deep into black territory even if it doesn't look that way. In the past two months I've really tightened up my elevation with this technique, and it's worth checking out.

Regardless of what hold you use, FOCUS ON THE FRONT SIGHT!


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Old August 7th, 2006, 09:17 AM   #2
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Good advice! I switched to the COM hold last year while still shooting the AR and it helped me considerably. In the offhand, it allowed me to accept my wobble more and focus on the trigger. Before, when using 6 o'clock, I always wanted to hold for that perfect sight position that never came. I found my offhand scores improved with the COM hold.

For the other positions, I just found it easier to focus my front sight with the COM hold. I feel that it was because with the COM hold, I was able to center the front of the sight on the center of the target rather than trying to determine where the true 6 o'clock position was.

I shot my M1A at Perry last week. Because of the timing, I wasn't able to get in any matches with it prior to Perry so I went with the attitude that I was going to "learn" from the matches rather than "win". It turned out that although I completely tanked on the P-100, I did start improving with the NTI. I shot one of my best offhand scores (92) and managed a 99-4x on the 200 yd rapid. An elevation error caught me on the 300 yd string and I seem to have multiple issues on the 600 (still working on them).

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Old August 7th, 2006, 07:24 PM   #3
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Old August 8th, 2006, 04:02 PM   #4
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I was told the same thing by the Marine armourer that built my rifle just a couple weeks before leaving for Perry.

I didnt want to make any major changes at the nationals so I stayed at 6 o'clock but I WILL be switching and see if it helps (looking back at how I shot it would'nt have made much differance)

Sorry I missed meeting you at Perry 30cal. Met one of the guys with your team one morning at breakfast.

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Old August 8th, 2006, 05:46 PM   #5
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Ty, may I assume your using COM all the way across the course at all distances? I've heard guys say they use COM in offhand with good results but I've never heard of anyone shooting all the way across with COM.

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Old August 14th, 2006, 04:09 PM   #6
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old dogs and new tricks

have considered trying to change aimpoint, but after nearly forty four years of six o clock feel that i would blow it mid magazine and shoot group at 12 o clock high

kinda scares me to change

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Old August 15th, 2006, 08:48 PM   #7
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Cool "6 O'clock hold and take a little black"

Originally Posted by Pelago
have considered trying to change aimpoint, but after nearly forty four years of six o clock feel that i would blow it mid magazine and shoot group at 12 o clock high

kinda scares me to change

I feel the same way. But what 30 Cal is saying makes sense so I will try that as I embark this season shooting JC Garand Matches for the first time. I can still hear my PMI (Primary Marksmanship Instructor) in Boot Camp "6 O'clock hold and take a little black". So it will take a little getting used to but it is definately worth a try.

Thanks for the post 30 Caliber.


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Old August 15th, 2006, 08:50 PM   #8
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"Sight, acquire, fire"

Good advice, and a good post!

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Old August 26th, 2006, 10:56 AM   #9
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I keep losing the sight in the bull. It's apparently not a problem at 200 and 300, but at 600 with the sun washing it all out I can't focus on anything. I've been a COM shooter since Marine boot camp, but my best score came on a reduced course with an AR when I replaced the sights and couldn't lower them any further to hit the bull. I didn't have a tool to move the front and it's one of those tapered jobs that you have to spin all the way around. I raised the rear and shot 6 o'clock for the match. I think I may have to switch. I suspect that will make me more vulnerable to light changes, but if I can't tell the difference between the bull and the front sight I'm just wasting ammo. Is there anything I need to look out for when making the change?

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Old August 28th, 2006, 11:23 AM   #10
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I may have to give this a try. My biggest problem in the slow prone is verticle allignment and Ty's advice seems like it might help with that.

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Old September 8th, 2006, 10:24 AM   #11
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As I get older, it seems hard to focus anything . A little trick I learned while in our beloved Corps is to use a lead pencil and put a diagonal line (either way) on the front sight after blackening with the smudge pot. This for some reason makes you focus on the front sight. I have never shot anything less than expert. Try it and you will like!


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