April 12, 2018 2 min read

When it comes to learning how to aim your handgun at your intended target, you will hear the terms sight alignment and sight picture. But what are they exactly?

Sight Alignment

Sight alignment sounds a lot like something a mechanic should be doing to your sights, like a front end alignment or something. But it isn’t. It refers to aligning the two sights on your handgun in such a way that you will hit your intended target. Your handgun most likely has a rear sight, which is the sight on the slide closest to you. Though there are many types of sights, the most common rear sight is a U shape. The other sight is the front sight, which is the sight on the end of the slide closest to the target. To get a good sight alignment, look through the opening in the rear sight and line up the front sight in the space of the U. Successful sight alignment happens when the front sight is level across the top with the rear sights and there’s equal space on either side of the front sight post. This is much easier to see than it is to explain in words. Correct sight alignment looks like this:

So, sight alignment refers to the relationship or alignment of the two sights on the slide of your handgun.

Sight Picture

Now that you have aligned the sights with one another, the next thing you want to do is get a good sight picture. While keeping the sight alignment intact, put the front sight post so that it appears to be either covering the intended shot placement on the target (combat hold) OR just below the intended shot placement (target hold). The correct sight picture will be dependent on your firearm.


So we have seen that there are three elements to aiming: the rear sight, the front sight and the target. The human eye cannot keep all three elements in focus. It is logical to believe that you should focus on the target because that is where you are aiming, right? Well, not exactly. Most experts agree that the best place to focus is on the front sight because the front sight in relation to the back sight is where the bullet is going. So the front sight post should be crystal clear while the rear sight is a bit blurry and the target in the distance is a bit blurry.

Putting it all Together

So now that you have the front sight aligned with the rear sight (sight alignment), you place that alignment so that the front sight, while aligned correctly, represents where you want the shot to be on the target (sight picture). Then you focus on the front sight while activating the trigger and taking the shot. Sounds simple, right? Like anything else with shooting, all it takes is practice.