Eyes and Eyesight in Handgun Shooting

The following information on eyes and eyesight in handgun shooting comes from Section 11 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

It is not necessary to have perfect eyesight to become a good shot. I have met many excellent shots whose eyes were far from perfect. It is necessary to see the sights clearly, but in many cases the bull’s-eye appears to the shooter to be oval in shape and of a dull gray color. However, the shooter will soon learn what part of the oval object to hold on to get a center shot.

It is best to look directly at the target instead of looking out of the corner of the eye and in some cases the vision may be cleared by bending the head slightly downward. I have sometimes heard a shooter say: “Don’t rub your eyes when shooting.” I do not agree with this statement, for many times slightly rubbing the eyes will clear the vision.

The question is often brought up of a right-handed shooter using the left eye. This question can be answered in the affirmative, for the left eye may be used when shooting with the right hand, and the right eye when shooting with the left hand. The only difference is turning the head slightly to get the eye accustomed to this position behind the sights. Sometimes the eye on the same side as the arm used is not the best eye for target shooting. It is best to try out both and use the one giving best results.

The master eye may be determined by looking at some object with both eyes open and pointing the finger at the object, the edge of a door or window casing will answer the purpose. You are now seeing the finger pointed at the edge of door casing with both eyes open but you are directing the finger with the master eye. This may be proved by the following experiment: Close the left eye; if the finger does not move out of line with casing the right eye is the master eye, and the one with which you were seeing the finger in line with the door casing. If the finger does move out of line with casing when the left eye is closed then the left eye is the master eye.

Do not strain the eyes before a match by looking toward a bright light. It is a good thing to arrive at the firing point a minute or two before the match starts to allow the eyes to become accustomed to the exact condition you will encounter. One valuable use for eyes on the firing point is to pick out the target one is supposed to shoot on. Many otherwise good target shots have discovered after the smoke cleared away that they had added to their neighbor’s score by firing on the wrong target.

Shooting with both eyes open does not mean that both eyes are used in shooting. The master eye only is used. I am often asked if it is better to shoot with both eyes open. I shoot both ways and with right or left eye and in my own case I can see no difference. I have heard it argued both ways and can only say shoot whichever way you can make the best scores.

If the sights cannot be seen clearly with glasses, it is necessary to consult the oculist and he will shorten the vision to clear up the sights. Take the pet target arm along and try it. Take it to the window and try both sights and distance with corrected glasses. Amber-colored glasses are recommended for shooting when the sun is bright and also for shooting over snow. I use a pair of amber glasses that hook over the regular shooting glasses, which will save the expense of having the correct prescription ground into two pairs of glasses.

I believe that every one who shoots would be benefited by wearing glasses. On a bright day an amber glass will help even if a glass with no correction is used. Many who shoot without glasses would be benefited by using them and this may be proved by a visit to an oculist, taking the favorite revolver or pistol along and trying out the various glasses, holding the arm in shooting position. I am of the opinion that the sights will appear clearer and the target will lose that gray, oval appearance. I know several cases where I have corrected sights for well-known target shots that the correction was due to defective eyesight and a slight correction in glasses would aid materially and relieve the eye strain.

Men who are slightly far-sighted will, of course, have trouble in seeing the sights clearly and the sights must be seen clearly or unaccountable shots will be the result. I know the aversion of many people to wearing glasses for they feel that they are getting old, but glasses do not change the birthday and a few added points will mend the wounded feelings. The experiment is well worth trying. If possible, when the test is made, patronize the optician who is a revolver shot himself. He will know your needs and be able to give an accurate diagnosis of the case. However, if the eyesight is perfect the examination will not be in vain and all glasses are a protection against wind and flying particles of dust. The eyes should be examined twice each year as well as the regular physical examination.

Accuracy error in sighting chart

The accompanying diagram is to illustrate the error in accuracy which occurs when the shooter either pulls his revolver sidewise as he pulls the trigger or fires a shot when the sights are 1/16 inch out of line.

If the sights were 1/8 inch out of line, with a pocket revolver which is approximately 5.3 inches between sights, the error would be at 50 yards 42.50 inches.

If the same arm was used and the sights were 1/4 inch out of line, the error at 50 yards would be 85 inches or 7 feet and 1 inch.

1/64″ Divide figures under the distance by 4
1/32″ Divide figures under the distance by 2
1/8″ Multiply figures under the distance by 2
3/16″ Multiply figures under the distance by 3
1/4″ Multiply figures under the distance by 4

Click here to purchase Shooting in paperback

Eyes and Eyesight in Handgun Shooting

Return to Shooting Table of Contents