How to Choose the Right Handgun Sight Height

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posted on August 2, 2021
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Getting a Mossberg pistol to shoot on target while using a 6-o’clock hold can be accomplished by replacing the original sights with another set of SIG Sauer-type sights that have a higher number designation.

In the past few months, I have had the good fortune to acquire two new Mossberg pistols. One is an MC1sc to carry in my pocket and the other is an MC2c I carry concealed in a belt holster. Both are as accurate and reliable as any handgun I’ve shot. I have put several hundred rounds of different types and weights of 9 mm ammunition through each pistol trying to find something that hits where I want it to.

So far, both guns shoot a few inches low for me, using the sight picture that I like to use. Both guns hit dead-on with Speer 124-grain hollowpoints, which may be fine for some people, but I like to see my target above the front sight so I’m sure of where my bullets are going to go. Aside from trying to convince me of changing my sight picture, which will not happen, what kind of sights can I change to in order to make both guns shoot where I want them to?

Roy D., Remlap, AL

In all fairness, the Mossberg people canvassed a number of experienced experts to get their opinion on where a pistol for personal defense should be regulated to hit with typical, everyday-carry ammunition. The overwhelming response turned out to be point-of-aim, point-of-impact.

That is to say, with proper sight alignment, the bullet would impact where the top of the front sight was located on the target when the bullet left the muzzle. It stands to reason that the pistols shoot a bit low for you with your preferred sight picture since the pistols were engineered to shoot point-of-aim, point-of-impact.

Mossberg engineers hedged their bets, however, by utilizing a previously proven sight system employed by SIG Sauer. The sights are dovetailed in the slide and may be drifted left or right to change windage. Elevation adjustments are made by changing the front or rear sight—or both—to get the point-of-impact desired by the shooter using their preferred shooting technique.

The sights are numbered 5 through 9 for the front and 5 through 10 for the rear sights. The higher the numerical value of the number, the higher the impact of the bullet on the target. According to SIG Sauer, each front-sight increment will move the impact of the bullet approximately 1 inch vertically at 25 yards. Each rear-sight increment moves the strike of the round approximately 2 inches vertically at 25 yards.

Mossberg chose the number 8 front and number 8 rear sights as standard fare for its pistols, much like the numbered sights found on SIG Sauer products. To raise the strike of the bullet on your target, depending on how far you need to go, replace the number 8 sights you have with higher-numbered sights that will give you the additional elevation to meet your criterion.

As another option, there are many aftermarket sight makers that manufacture their products with the SIG Sauer dovetail. The downside, unfortunately, is few use the incremental-numbering system.

There is a method other than trial and error to get the appropriate sight heights for your pistols to achieve the desired hits on target with your sight picture, however. The first step is to shoot a group or two using your preferred sight picture. Then measure the distance on the target from where you were aiming to the center of the group in inches. The second step is to measure the sight radius of your pistol in inches.

Multiply step one by step two and then divide the result by the distance to the target in inches—remember to use inches, not feet or yards—and you will have the figure necessary to increase or decrease the existing sight height to make the change in bullet impact on the target.

Do keep in mind that the rear-sight height (value) is increased to cause the bullet to strike higher on the target. Adjusting the front sight is just the opposite. Decreasing the height (value) of the front sight will raise the strike of the bullet on the target.

As long as the sights you use have a SIG Sauer-style dovetail, you can interchange with the factory sights to your heart’s content and to please your eye with the sight picture best-suited for you to hit where you want on the target.

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