Understanding How to Manage the Sights and Trigger on Handguns

Understanding How to Manage the Sights and Trigger on Handguns

Often times with shooting, we think of certain skills as being all or nothing. Sight use, for example, you either use the sights, or you don’t. When in actuality, there are degrees of use from 0% to 100%. The same is true of trigger control. We can have minimal trigger control. Or we can have as much as our skill level will allow. What measure of each that we will need to use will be determined by the size or distance of the target in concert with our skill level? The trick, of course, is learning where the lines are. And being able to know what is actually required to get the hit that is needed.

For me, the eye-opening moment regarding sight alignment existing on this continuum was in 2010 while I was at a Mike Seeklander class. During the class, Mike demoed how much effect on target varying degrees of sight deviation actually had. I was amazed to actually see just how insignificant the effect can be, depending on what I needed to shoot and how far away it is. Here is an excellent video of Mike doing this demonstration.

Managing Your Handgun Sights

Full credit goes to Mike for opening my eyes to just what a person can get away with when managing the sights on a handgun. Now there is one caveat. There will be some variance in the effect based on the size of front sight relative to the notch in the rear sight, and how long the sight radius is on a specific handgun. Thinner front sights, wider notches, and shorter sight radius will contribute to a more significant effect on the target.

Trigger Manipulation

Manipulation of the trigger is much the same. There are guys who “slap” the trigger on one end of the continuum. And guys who use a more controlled prep and press on the other end of the continuum. If the target is wide open and close, then “slapping” the trigger may be appropriate. If the target is 6” in diameter and 30 yards away, then a more controlled press may be required. Again, some of this is dependent on the shooter’s skill level and how well they can execute an accelerated press of the trigger. The type of trigger and weight of the trigger press may also contribute to what a shooter can or cannot get away with in terms of trigger control.

The “3-Two-1” Drill

The trick is learning what we can get away with using whatever gun we typically carry and shoot. There are a couple of drills we can use to help us understand where the boundaries are. A good starting point is a drill called “3-Two-1”. The drill consists of shooting a 3”x5” target, a 2” circle, and a 1” square target in a single string.

You can apply the same concept to basically any targets of variable size, though. This drill is easy to set up and run. And you should be able to shoot it on most ranges, even indoor ranges. Another useful drill is to place one near target, one medium distance target, and one distant target and shoot them similarly to the 3-two-1 drill. This setup is a more accurate representation of what we are actually trying to practice with the 3-two-1 drill. But logistically is more difficult to pull off. It requires a range of at least 25 yards or so, multiple target stands and takes up more space. It would likely be a tough drill to pull off for people who are limited to using public access ranges.

Understanding how much sight reference and how much trigger control you actually need to get the required hit is a critical step in a shooter’s skill development journey. Understanding these concepts will allow the shooter to run the gun as fast as it can be up close, and as accurately as it needs to be further away. See what you need to see and no more, press the trigger smooth enough, but no smoother. See you on the range.