The Importance Of Sighting In Your Pistol

Today's article comes from X-Treme Pro Staff Shooter Ryan Calhoon.



I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound like a new idea to tell people to sight in their pistol, however I have to admit that up until a few years ago I didn’t really sight in my own pistol. In my experience, most new shooters are willing to accept that the factory sights are very close and therefore only make minor changes by drifting the rear sight or do nothing at all. In some cases the sights may be zeroed for you and your ammo. At the 7-10 yards that many people shoot their pistol at a man sized targets in practice, the sights are usually close enough to hit the center scoring ring of the target. If this is all you intend to do with your pistol then simply drifting the rear sight is probably close enough. If you want to be competitive at 3 gun it will probably require a little more fine tuning.

In recent years, I have noticed that many of the steel targets being shot in 3 gun with pistol have gotten smaller and or farther away from the shooter. Suddenly that pistol that was close enough at 7 yards on a man sized target is nowhere close to an 8” piece of steel at 25 yards. While it takes skill to shoot smaller targets at longer ranges with your pistol, it also requires a good zero so that you know where your bullets will impact. Regardless of skill level, you will have a better chance of hitting the target quickly if your pistol is zeroed.RC Pic 1

I initially started shooting 3 gun with fixed sights because I was afraid that adjustable sights would move under the stress of my pistol being abandoned during 3 gun matches. The fixed sights allowed me some elevation adjustment by changing out the front sight for one of a different height and windage adjustment by drifting the rear sight. The problem for me was that the adjustments were somewhat crude and often took a long time to make. I finally decided that I was willing to take a chance and run adjustable sights. I personally choose to run the Dawson Precision adjustable sights on my Glock 34. This change allowed me to quickly make very precise adjustments so that I could reliably hit the small targets that were becoming common at 3 gun matches. Even though I am usually a little forceful when abandoning my pistol and I have yet to have an issue with my zero since switching sights.

For me I have found that zeroing my pistol on paper at 25 yards works best for most of the matches that I attend. By zeroing at that distance, it has helped to ensure that my windage is very accurate. As a result, I have not had many issues when confronted with the occasional 100yd plus pistol target in a match. Additionally 25 yards seems like a common distance for the more challenging shots and that is the distance where I know exactly where my bullets will impact. One thing that you may find in the process of zeroing your pistol is that your pistol ammo is not very accurate in your gun.

I have come across more than one commercially loaded brand of ammunition that did not group well in my pistol. In the process of zeroing, you may encounter the same thing. If this is the case, you need to switch to a different ammunition that does group well in your pistol. It is important to understand that once you zero your pistol, the only ammo that you for sure have a zero for is the ammo that you used to zero it. There is no guarantee that another brand or bullet type will hit anywhere close.  What I am getting at is once you find something that works get a bunch of it so that you don’t need to zero your pistol before every match. Take note of the lot number on the ammunition because you may find variance in the same ammunition between lots.

RC Pic 2

I shoot a 9mm for 3 gun and I prefer to reload my own pistol ammunition so that I can adjust the load until it meets all of my requirements. I need my ammunition to be accurate, reliable, and consistent. Reloading allows me to control all of these variables. In my case I prefer to load to a power factor of around 130 (bullet weight in grains x velocity in feet per second / 1000) and have found that I like the recoil impulse from a heavier bullet with a fast powder versus that of a light bullet. I have found the Xtreme Bullets 147gr HP loaded with Hogdon Titegroup to be the best combination for my preferences. Once you have found ammunition that is accurate in your gun and obtained a good zero, you’re ready for your next match. If you have misses on small pistol targets at the match, at least you will know it wasn’t because of the ammo or your zero.



1 comment

  1. Doug 18 April, 2016 at 15:47 Reply

    I was shooting IDPA with fixed sights on my Beretta 92 FS Compact but was never confident the bullets were going where I was aiming. Since adding an adjustable rear sight and zeroing the pistol, I have removed at least one factor in my terrible scores. 🙂 Seriously, my accuracy has improved way beyond what I thought. Now I just have to pick up the speed.

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