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Article 1 – 2021 (February)

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 1 – 2021 (February)

Question:  I need some help regarding the purpose of the front sight in my shotgun. I am hearing so many different opinions on why I need to have a sight and also why I need one, but never need to use it. That statement doesn’t even make sense I know and I am frustrated even thinking about it. Also can you explain the use of a centre bead?

Warrick Lester Noosa Heads QLD


Answer:  It is a common question so don’t feel frustrated. First of all the front sight. I certainly know some elite shooters that don’t even have a front sight on their shotgun, but I can assure you they are in a small minority. If you have a shotgun that fits you perfectly and you are shooting in conditions that provide plenty of light on the end of your barrel then there is no doubt you will break a great deal of targets without a front sight.

You must however be aware where the end of your barrel is and a front sight is an aid to achieve this. I recommend that you have one. I don’t suggest you get the biggest and brightest front sight that is available on the market because my experience tells me that, particularly for new shooters, your eyes can be distracted from the object you are looking to hit to the object glowing on the end of your barrel. That of course is the number one rule in shotgun shooting. The old saying that shooting a shotgun is a game of pointing, not aiming, is on the money.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to coach in japan several times and their shooting culture for some strange reason is to have the funkiest glowing sights they can find. Their shooting population is quite old (you can fire a gun in Japan until you are twenty years old) and their notoriously bad eyesight makes them want to see the end of the barrel clearly and concisely. This of course only inhibits their ability to focus on a target travelling away from them at over one hundred kilometres per hour and getting vastly smaller very quickly. They tend not to hit much, but their shotguns nearly glow in the dark!

Where shooters get caught out without a front sight is at night or dull and fading light where identifying the end of your barrel in your for-vision becomes difficult. For-vision is really the key word in this equation. You only need to be aware where the end of your barrel is so your brain and eyes can make hundredth of a second calculations so you can pull the trigger at exactly the right moment regardless whether you are using swing through lead, pull away lead or sustained lead. By knowing where the end of your barrel is located these decisions can be made more accurately in my opinion. In essence I suggest you have a front sight, but don’t use it to look at, use it as a reference point in the front window of your vision. Remember if you are a two-eyed shooter then the end of your barrel is your third eye. They all need to work together (if you are a one-eyed shooter then all it means is that the end of your barrel is your second eye).

The centre bead is a great aid for new shooters when they are learning the art of mounting the gun correctly when practicing your dry firing at home. I advise people to use it as a training aid, but when you get out on the range or on the banks of a swamp somewhere you really are past the point where you can use it to break your target. It can be beneficial after you have fired your shot to see how the recoil of the shotgun has affected your eye alignment down the centre of the barrel. If you find that your eye is no longer perfectly aligned then the centre bead will highlight this problem and it may be time to have your stock looked at for a variety of problems that can include pitch, cast drop and length. Certainly a topic for another day.

I hope this explanation helps. It is often a question from shooters that have been raised using rifles and pistols where using the front sight correctly is an integral part of their success or failure. I do believe sights on shotguns are a necessary evil, but when used correctly the good far outweighs the bad.

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