How to Connect: Front Sight Wobble Is Your Friend

I was training with a friend last week. I hadn’t shot with him before, so I didn’t have any idea of his level of skill with a pistol. After placing some targets at about 10 yards and starting to plink, he proceeded to drill the center box out of one of those miniature silhouette targets from Birchwood Casey. I quickly figured out that he’s shot a handgun more than a couple of times in the past.

But back to the point. We proceeded to shoot for a couple of hours, doing all sorts of stuff like draws, multiple shots, on target, malfunction drills with magazine swaps, and simple “reload” magazine changes. While the hottest of our Lowcountry days are (hopefully) behind us, we were outside for quite a while, getting a little tired, and probably more than a bit dehydrated in the process.

Finishing the day with a bit more informal plinking, my buddy was starting to spread shots in a much larger group than those from the beginning of the day. He asked me to watch and see if I could tell what was going awry. While hard to see, it suddenly occurred to me to ask if he was trying to “time” the shot with a perfect sight picture. What I mean by that is quickly pressing the trigger at the exact instant the sights cross over the precise center of your desired aiming point. He responded that he was, in fact, doing exactly that.

Rather than trying to time the shot when that front sight is dead center, focus on a smooth trigger press.
Rather than trying to time the shot when that front sight is dead center, focus on a smooth trigger press.

Timing the shot is a natural tendency. It’s one of those things that seems to make perfect sense, at least until you start missing. Here’s why it doesn’t work.

A handgun weighs anywhere from a pound to three pounds, or more. Most service handguns have trigger pull weights that range between four and 12 pounds. When you try to exert four to 12 pounds of force on an object weighing just a couple, it’s going to want to move. That’s why a perfect trigger press is so important. A perfect press simply means moving the trigger without moving the gun. It’s that simple.

When you try to time a shot at a precise instant, you have to, by definition, do a fast and sudden press of the trigger to fire within the fraction of a second window where your sights are perfectly on target. That’s asking for trouble as “fast and sudden” doesn’t play well with “smooth and motion free.” The bottom line is that you’re going to jerk the trigger, move the gun, and see an errant shot. Sometimes, when you’re fresh, you can manage to time that shot. That’s why my buddy was knocking the center out of the bullseye for the first few shots. However, it’s far too easy to degrade into a series of misses.

Instead, embrace the sight wobble. Forget about those small movements of the sight. Focus on a smooth trigger press and don’t worry about small sight movements. You’ll be surprised at how easily your groups shrink. Even better, as you practice more, your wobble zone will continue to shrink as you are able to hold your gun more steady – and your groups will shrink even more.

Tom McHale is a committed learning junkie always seeking a new subject victim. As a lifelong student of whatever grabs his attention on any particular day, he thrives on beating rabbit trails into submission. In between his time as a high-tech marketing executive, restaurant owner, and hamster cosmetology practitioner, he's published seven books and nearly 1,500 articles about guns, shooting, and the American way.

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