by B.B. Pelletier

I hear so often from shooters who think that because they are 40 and their vision has started to degrade, they are too old to use open sights. Hogwash! I’m 58 and wear bifocals, so don’t pull the old-eyes card on me! I think many shooters just don’t understand what sights really are and how their vision relates to them, so today I want to explore this topic.

Try shooting targets you can’t see at all!
In the Army, I lead a heavy mortar platoon. We had four tubes of 106mm (4.2″) mortars that shot 25-27 lb. high-explosive shells over 5,000 yards. We never saw the target! Forward observers adjusted our fire onto the target via the radio. What we aimed at were two metal stakes stuck in the ground about 30-40 yards from the guns. Call those stakes your front and rear sight, because that’s exactly how they work.

We couldn’t aim at the target because we couldn’t even see it, so we “aimed” at the two metal stakes. The precision came when we refined our “sight picture” of the two stakes using a small optical scope sight. What I am saying is that the care we took in looking at our crude sights made it possible to land mortar rounds ON TOP of target tanks many miles away! One time we actually dropped a round down the open hatch of a target tank and blew off the turret, winning an award for everyone in the platoon.

If you can see the front sight clearly, you’re almost home!
The secret to shooting with open sights is the relationship of the front and rear sights. Forget the target! Not really, but don’t let it be your emphasis. Let the front sight be your emphasis. If you can see it clearly in the rear sight, whether it is a notch or a peephole, you can shoot like a champ. Remember, I wear bifocals, so don’t tell me how hard it is unless you have 20/40 vision CORRECTED in your sighting eye. Then I’ll cut you some slack.

Get your eyes checked
Every shooter should have a recent eye exam if they hope to shoot their best. And wear your glasses! Yes, Lasik surgery is wonderful, but if you can’t afford it yet, put on those specs! And for gosh sakes, WEAR SAFETY GLASSES! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit in the face with pellet fragments that drew blood. Don’t risk the only pair of eyes you have.

Do me a big favor & try open sights my way
If you’ve avoided open sights (that’s any non-optical sight), try them for me – and try them my special way. Start at a ridiculously close range of 10 feet from the target. Yes, I know that’s too close, so wear those safety glasses. Shoot your rifle or pistol offhand at the target until you can keep your shots inside the nine-ring of whatever paper targets you use. Then, back up five feet and try it again. You may have to change your point of aim, but keep shooting until you keep them all in the nine-ring. Then back up to 20 feet and do it again.

Concentrate on the front sight, keeping it centered in the rear sight and level with the top of the rear if it’s a post-and-notch sight. Let the target appear fuzzy, but focus on that front sight.

By the time you’ve backed up to 30 feet and are shooting well, I would like to hear from you. Say whatever you want, but write me so the other readers can hear what you have to say about this.

One hundred years ago, it was well-known that shooting is a great builder of individual discipline and character. Leaders everywhere sought good shooters for whatever endeavors they were involved in because they knew such people would have the necessary strength of character to get the job done. That message has been lost, but it is no less true today. The youth who can shoot tens has no need to shoot streetlights or songbirds – he or she has developed the self-control required to master life, itself. And, learn to use and trust your eyes is where it all begins.