How To Adjust Pistol Sights | Achieve a Proper Sight Picture For a Better Aim

Adjusting the sights of your pistol is a straightforward process. Pistols sights can be adjusted up/down, right and left in order to achieve a proper sight picture. In other words, most guns allow side to side movement (windage) and up and down movement (elevation).

The bullets need to hit where you are aiming. If sights are not aligned correctly with the target, you will not be able to hit it.

In this article, I will discuss how to adjust pistol sights so you can have a perfect shot. But before you proceed, you should read this text to know what type of gun to buy in the first place.

How to Adjust Pistol Sights

When adjusting the sights of your pistol, do not forget the rules of gun safety which are:

  • Do not load your gun unless you are ready to aim and fire
  • Treat it as if it is loaded and point its muzzle in a safe direction
  • Keep your finger off the trigger

Pistol sights are either fixed or adjustable. The fixed sights-this term is somehow misleading because fixed sights can be adjusted using a small hammer. Normally, adjusting iron sights is mostly to the rear sights as front sights are permanently fixed.

Adjustable sights use screw mechanisms so it is easy to adjust them either vertically or horizontally. Some even have an indicator on the adjustment screw.

Pistol sights come in various shapes and are made up of different materials.  The most common ones are steel and iron sights.  How to adjust the iron sights? Adjust an iron sight by moving it up and down or side to side.

  • Set up your target or pistol sight picture. This is where you want your bullets to land or it’s the point of impact
  • You can fire a test shot to see if the bullet will land too far right, too far left, too low, or too high.
  • If the bullets land more to the right, here is what you need to do; adjust them left.  If too left, adjust them right. If too low, raise them and if too high, lower the sights.
  • Both rear sights and front are adjustable for most pistols; some allow rear sights only. If elevation or windage is the problem, adjust it until you have a proper Glock sight picture, for example.

    A problem may arise if you are hitting too low or high and your front sight is fixed. In that case, file the sight down if your bullets are landing too high or have it replaced if you are hitting too low.

    What Is “Zero” When It Comes To Shooting?

    This is the process of aligning sights so you can achieve a perfect shot.  What is sight alignment? Sight alignment is achieved when you align front and rear sights. As simple as that. 

    Zeroing involves sight adjustment; adjusting front/rear sights or both of them to get bullets to hit where you are aiming.

    How to zero iron sights

    Here is how it is done with a pistol. Identify your target. This is where you intend to hit.  Make sure your weapon is unloaded and do not forget to observe gun safety rules. Find a hammer or a suitable tool for adjusting your sights.

    Point its muzzle in a safe direction. Adjust the sights up, down, side to side depending on where you want to hit.

    What You Need To Zero a Handgun

    You may be wondering what to zero a handgun is. This is the act of adjusting sights to hit where you are aiming.

    Adjusting your iron sights will help acquire a proper sight picture, therefore, hitting your targets effectively. What is the sight picture? This is the image you see when you align your sights well with your target.

    Imagine a scenario where you are faced with an attacker, or an armed robber but cannot protect yourself because your shots are not hitting where you are aiming.  If faced with either of these situations, you would appreciate the importance of knowing how to adjust pistol sights.

    Several factors come into play when zeroing a handgun such as:

    Distance to target

    If you are a new shooter, I would not recommend zeroing with long distances. Start with shorter distances which are not affected by wind and can help you tell if your sights need adjustments or no.

    step 1

    Place your target at ten yards or fifteen yards. This is a good distance to start with and you are sure to hit your target.

    step 2

    Aim and shoot. If your bullets are hitting more to the left or right, adjust them.

    step 3

    If you are satisfied with your sight alignment, fire again, and inspect the point of bullet impact.

    step 4

    If the bullet hits the desired point of impact, increase your shooting distance, and try again.

    Eyesight and skill

    Your experience and skill level will play a large part when it comes to the zeroing process.

    If you are having problems shooting from short distances, you may need to work on your sight alignment, how to sight in a pistol, and acquiring a proper sight picture before you worry about adjusting your sights.

    Keep shooting on short distances to help build your skill.

    A man aiming the target

    Type of ammunition

    The type of ammunition your handgun uses matters a lot when it comes to accuracy. Rimfire rounds are perfect for short distance targets while centerfire is perfect for long distances.

    If you want a more accurate shot at a longer distance, I recommend using centerfire rounds because they are heavier and pack more powder for greater bullet speed.

    Handgun Sight Adjustment

    Most handgun manufacturers nowadays use the three-dot system. To achieve a proper sight alignment, the front sight should line up with the rear sights gap.

    However, your bullets may at times miss your target. This can be caused by your sights or your shooting skills.

    If your sights are the problem, you need to adjust them in order to get perfect pistol sight pictures.

    1.    Adjust the windage to make the bullet hit left or right

    2.    Adjust the elevation to make the bullet go up or down

    Every handgun is different so you need to read its manual for instructions required to make these adjustments.

    Adjust Iron Sights on a Fixed-Sight Revolver

    Iron sights are markers on a firearm such as a revolver. They play a major role in sight alignment so you can hit your desired target.

    The front iron sights of most revolvers are fixed and need a special tool like a hammer to adjust them.

    To achieve an accurate shot, make sure the tip of the front sight is not too high or too low with the rear sight. Use a hammer to adjust the rear sights by moving them right if your bullets are landing too much on the left.

    Adjust your sights to the left if your bullets are landing too much on the right.

    Adjusting iron sights with a hammer

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