How to Aim a Pistol | Guide to Using the Sights For Accurate Shooting

Learning how to aim a pistol is one of the skills you will require when you buy your first firearm. It requires attention to detail, regular practice, and knowing the key elements needed to aim a handgun accurately including how to adjust pistol sights.

Why is accuracy with a pistol important? If you will not be able to shoot your target, you will not be able to take full advantage of your ammunition and gun. Also, learning how to aim a gun will help you stop a threat in time plus avoid accidental shooting. Pistol shooting drills can help you a lot, not just with aiming.

In this article, you will learn shooting tips such as how to aim a handgun the right way. In case you still haven't figured out what gun you should choose, a pistol or revolver, go through this text.

You will also learn all aiming essentials such as how to aim with your dominant eye, proper handgun grip, aligning the front and back sights, how to determine your sight picture, how to aim with iron sights, just to mention a few.

How to Aim a Pistol

Having helped shaping personal protection, pistols have plenty of historical context, but they are still one of the most difficult firearms to aim or shoot. There is a shorter radius between the sight of the rear and front than with other firearms such as rifles making it easy to make mistakes.

Do not be discouraged by this because you can achieve accuracy by learning some aiming essentials.  As with holding and loading your gun, you still need to be careful with your weapon to avoid accidental shooting.

Sight Picture vs. Sight Alignment

Sight pictures and sight alignments are important elements that you need to pay attention to when aiming.  This is because shooting is not a straightforward process. You need to know how to achieve proper sight alignment in order to hit your target.

For some folks, it's easier to learn how to aim a pistol with 3 dot sights while others prefer regular iron sights.

Sight picture simply means your target and how it is aligned with your handgun sights.  Your weapon will hit where aimed if the proper sight alignment is achieved.

What is sight alignment?

The eye must be lined up with the front and rear sights.  If you are wondering what handgun sights are, here is their definition.  

They are a set of markers mounted over the muzzle and rear of a gun. They come in all shapes and sizes with 1 goal; to aid in aiming a firearm. Most pistols have a rear sight that looks like U or V and a front sight that looks like an I.

correct sight alignment

You need them to perfect your shots. Once aligned properly, you will get a proper sight picture and shot. So sight alignment is lining up your front and rear sights properly. Errors in sight alignments can affect your accuracy and even result in a miss.

Equal Height, Equal Light

Rule of thumb for sight alignment is equal height, equal light. In order to get a decent shooting, make sure that the rear and front sights are at equal height.  If the front sight is too low, you will hit your target low.

If your front sight is too high, you will target high.  After achieving equal height, make sure you have equal light.

The more you will have practice, the better you will become at aiming and getting a decent shooting. You will also need to dedicate a decent time in order to perfect your skills especially with bigger guns like Beretta M9A3.

Practice Your Natural Aiming Stance

Once you learn how to hold a pistol, you need to find your natural aiming stance. This is where your body naturally rests on when shooting a pistol. If you are a novice shooter, this might not even be something you’re completely aware of but as you progress, you’ll realize it’s one of the important basic skills you will require when shooting.

The first step is to identify which shooting stance works best for you without requiring much effort. A strong stance allows for proper sight picture and alignment, increasing your target accuracy and flexibility.

Once you have chosen a comfortable shooting stance, you need to practice to perfect it. You can improve your aiming stance by dry-firing before progressing to a loaded gun. This will allow your body enough time to embrace a natural shooting stance that you will be comfortable with.

A natural aiming stance has excellent advantages such as:

  • It provides enough flexibility and speed to hit multiple targets
  • Allows you to get a proper gun grip reducing wobbling during discharge.
  • It minimizes muscle fatigue during a long course of shooting
  • A natural position makes it easy to aim, especially on moving targets.
Lady holding a gun

Slow Down and Control Your Breathing

Having control over your inhalation and exhalation is another important skill that you need to master when aiming. Whether we are in the field hunting or at the shooting range, we want to hit our target when we pull the trigger.

It’s all about doing everything to get a decent shooting. This includes controlled breathing, gently but firmly holding the gun and maintaining a correct sight picture.

You can master most of these skills through practice. Avoid holding your breath for a long time since it will increase your pulse rate, and this is not good for a decent shooting.

There are many breathing techniques out there, try them out and see what works for you and then practice. Here are three basic breathing techniques to help you get started;

1.      Inhale and pause

 Take a deep breath, when your lungs are about a half-full, pause, then squeeze the trigger.

2.      Exhale and pause

Take in a deep breath, exhale a portion of the air and pull the trigger.

3.      Full exhale

Take a deep breath. With a controlled heart rate, slowly let your breath out then pull the trigger.

Dry Fire Helps Greatly

Dry fire refers to the action of mimicking an actual firearm shooting, only that your gun isn’t loaded. Learning how to load a pistol and unload it safely is very important so a novice gun holder should practice both.

Luckily, you can practice dry-firing at the comfort of your home. Take precautions to store the ammo in another room apart from the area you are practicing dry-firing in. You can practice dry firing techniques that you would use in normal shooting.

There are dedicated dry-fire pistols in the market, but you can still use a normal gun as long as it’s not loaded. Triple check this! Dry-fire will save you ammo and it is highly effective at improving shooting skills such as:

  • How to improve aim
  • Proper pistol grip
  • How to shoot a pistol accurately
  • How to adjust shooting sights
  • Practicing your shooting stance

Trigger Control

The trigger is usually a neglected item on a gun. It should not be disregarded because it plays a major role in getting an accurate shot.

Trigger control refers to the act of applying pressure on the trigger in order to fire the gun effectively.

Proper trigger control is achieved when you use a pad on your fingertip. It has the ability to press the trigger with firm pressure. It allows more strength and heavier trigger press.

male hands holding a pistol

Trigger control and discipline are arguably the most important aspect of shooting. When you are ready to fire, combine your breathing technique with steady pressure on the trigger until the gun fires.

Trigger discipline refers to keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. As you start-out slow and get used to controlling your trigger, you will start to shoot faster and at longer distances.

Back to Sight Alignment

Are you ready to transform your shooting? Focus on your sight alignment amongst other basics. Sight alignment refers to the process of lining up a handgun's sights to achieve a perfect shot.

What is the sight picture? Sight picture is the first object you see once the sights are properly aligned with the target. It involves lining-up the sights properly to get a precise picture and achieve a proper sight alignment. Here are two techniques to try out.

  • The basic aimed shooting technique primarily uses the dominant eye, with a hard focus on the front sight. Why should you aim with your dominant eye? It will give more accurate information

It also works well for novice and long-range precision shooting.

  • Point shooting requires both eyes to be open, with a hard focus on the target. It is suitable for a dynamic combat environment for a broader field of view.

High Firm Pistol Grip

Proper handgun grip on your pistol is critically important for accuracy. Like I mentioned before, you should always aim or shoot with two hands when possible. This is because a two-handed grip is more stable, and therefore more accurate.

In addition to recoil control, a firm grip helps in mitigating alignment errors. To achieve a firm pistol grip, hold your pistol high on the grip.

Also, use your non-dominant hand to firmly support the grip of your weapon so that you can control the recoil of the pistol when it fires.

Press the Trigger Gently 

When pressing the trigger of your pistol, go slow and easy. You can try to imagine that the bullet costs like $200 so you can enjoy each shot. 

For an accurate shot, squeeze the trigger gently but firmly. If you pull the trigger quickly, you risk pointing the muzzle to the left or right, thereby missing your target.

Use your index figure’s first knuckle as a measurement of how much trigger finger is required.

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