Shoot Gooder: Balancing Front Sight Acquisition and Precision

Recently I hosted Massad Ayoob, Gail Pepin, and David Maglio for a Massad Ayoob Group MAG-40 Course.  The MAG-40 is a 40-hour course that is divided into two 20-hour sections.  20 hours of live-fire training on the range and 20 hours of classroom training on the Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement.

I have hosted each of these classes in the past, but for the first time, I was able to participate in the MAG-20 Live-Fire as a shooter on the line.

Any time you have the chance to take a training course there is the potential for learning, and this class wasn’t any different. David Maglio led the class through the curriculum that is designed to teach and reinforce solid fundamentals in various shooting techniques in distances ranging from four to 15 yards.

Safety Solutions Academy MAG40 Range live-fire class

15 yards was where I found the most to learn. That probably isn’t a surprise to folks that take the time to shoot at moderate distances. You see, distance magnifies your errors and really helps to show you what areas you need to improve.

What was a surprise to me was the problem I was having at 15 yards and what resolved the problem easily. 

Let me explain. 

My carry gun is a modified Gen 2 Glock 17. The gun has a grip that has been cut to the length of a Glock 19 so that a 15 round GLOCK 19 mag fits flush.  In addition, I have swapped out the sights with a set of Amerlglo CAP sights with a green front sight. The CAP sights are designed for fast acquisition of the front sight which makes sense considering that CAP stands for Combat Application.  The front sight blade is bright and wide at .140” which helps my eyes find the sight very quickly when presenting to the target.

But all that width comes at a cost, as I was reminded. At 15 yards that front sight width of .140” was wider than the a-zone of the USPSA target we were using throughout the course. When it came time to make consistent hits at distance, my group consistently opened up beyond the a-zone. I was displeased, to say the least. One of the goals I had set for myself was to score a 300 on the final qualification. A 300 would require all a-zone hits.

I made a quick decision just before the qualification to ditch the carry gun I was familiar with in favor of a gun with a narrower front sight blade. I swapped out my standard gun, holster, and mag pouches for a Sig P320 and its related gear. My Sig is set up in a very similar manner to my Glock in that the slide is full-size with a small compact grip providing the same long slide with a flush fit 15 round Sig P320 magazine capacity. I didn’t know at the time the exact width measurement of the Sig’s front sight, but I knew it was a touch narrower.  A touch narrower is exactly what I needed to keep all the shots in the a-zone and score a 300 on the 60 round qualification course.

Sig P320 Gen 2 and Amerlglo CAP front sights, compared for width.
Just a slight bit of difference in width.

Here is a direct number comparison between the CAP and Sig 3 dot #6 sights.

Sight Comparison
   Width in Inches Front – Rear Difference
Ameriglo CAP Sights Front Sight Blade .140″ .010″
Rear Sight Notch .150″
Sig Sauer #6 Sights Front Sight Blade .135″ .015
Rear Sight Notch .150″

The thinner front sight and the slight increase of available light on each side of the front blade inside the rear notch made all the difference for me in the qualification. I managed to squeak out a 300.

Massad Ayoob and Paul Carlson at Safety Solutions Academy MAG40 class, shaking hands.

Of course, with some time and effort, I could make the CAP sights work at a distance because we all know that it is the shooter, not the equipment that matters.  The fact that I could be forced to make a precision shot at 15 yards in a self-defense encounter in real life has helped me realize I need to make a change to sights that find more of a balance between fast sight acquisition and precision at distance.

There is always something to be learned when you are training—as long as you are open to learning.

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA's students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

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