Watch That Front Sight

Sheriff Jim gives some sage advice about the importance of the front sight.

posted on February 1, 2022
Sheriff Jim

Most violent criminal attacks occur at extremely close range. Avoidance is always the best option but when we can’t get away, a fast, first-shot hit is the best response. And, even at close range, it is important to be able to see the front sight in the micro-second when we break that shot.

The key is to practice for consistency in our grip and pistol presentation. When we practice properly, the pistol will be level in relationship to our eye and the target. Just as we are ready to break the shot, our eye focuses on the front sight to confirm that alignment. In close-range encounters, when the shooter has done his part, it is really unnecessary to pay any attention to the rear sight. 

And, that is the reason that I simply have no use for the 3-dot sights that are offered on many of today’s handguns. They not only cause the eye to focus on the rear sight, but they also can be confusing. Looking at the rear sight in a close-range gunfight wastes time during an occasion when time of the essence. 

While I have no use for any kind of attention getter on the rear sights, I do find it very useful to have something on the front sight that attracts the shooting eye. My preference is for a gold dot, however, I have no issue with those who prefer a white dot, a tritium dot or even some bright-colored paint. In short, the shooter benefits from having something on the front sight that can quickly be seen and will confirm sight alignment.

At some distance from the target, the shooter will benefit from aligning the sights in the manner of target shooters. Just what that distance is will depend upon how much practice the shooter has done. And, of course, with practice, that distance will increase over time. 

Of all the things that a defensive shooter can do to protect him- or herself, once the fight has started, a first shot hit to the vital zone is tops.  Getting a flash sight picture on the front sight will give a quick assurance of proper sight alignment. Oh, and those rear dots on the 3-dot system, don’t get rid of the gun just because it has them. The proper solution is to get a Sharpie and just black out the rear dots. Problem solved.


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Colonel Rex Applegate

For me, one of the many bonuses of this gunwriter business has been the opportunity to meet and become friends with a number of the firearm enthusiasts of an earlier generation; legendary figures such as Frank Hamer Jr., Bill Jordan, Bill Toney, Col Walter Walsh and the subject of this column: COL Rex Applegate.


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