Aiming is one of the two key fundamentals of shooting. Without it the shot would nearly be meaningless.
Aiming, explained in its simplest form, is the relationship between your eye, the sights on your gun, and the target. When all of these things are lined up, your shots will hit their mark. In order to further explain aiming, we have to break it down into its fundamental parts. Those parts are sight alignment, sight picture, and hold control. Each of these parts can be done on their own, but also need to be done together to achieve accurate shots on target. There are other factors as well. Eye dominance plays a part in aiming, as does the mechanical relationship between the sights and the barrel of the gun, and also eye focus.
Aiming properly relies on the assumption that the sights on your gun are properly installed and mechanically aligned with the bore. To achieve this proper alignment, the front sight (usually) is centered on the slide and the rear sight is moved to *align* the sights with the barrel. On most new firearms, the sights are generally aligned well with the bore, but if they are not you need to move the rear sight IN THE SAME DIRECTION you want shots on target to go. This may mean finding a gunsmith to drift the rear sight for you, but 99 times out of 100, it’s the shooter who needs fixing and not the sights.
Proper sight alignment, when using typical iron sights, is taught by telling students to center the front post in the rear notch while also keeping the top of the front post level with the top of the rear notch. Take a gun with iron sights and set it on the bench or table. Are the sights aligned? You bet they are. Orient the gun any safe way you want and the sights stay in the same place in relationship with each other. So sight alignment isn’t really lining up the sights with each other. We already did that when we made sure the sights were aligned with the barrel. What we call sight alignment is really sight-eye alignment. It’s lining up the sights with your eye so you SEE them with the front post in the rear notch and the top of the front post level with the top of the rear notch.
Proper sight picture is presenting your sight-eye alignment to the target. How you should present this alignment differs depending on who you talk to, but the difference between the different “holds” is so small at self-defense ranges you don’t need to worry about it. Just place the dot on the front sight right over the top of the bullseye on your target. If you’re going to be shooting longer range, however, the holds will have a bigger effect, but I’d also hope you’re using adjustable sights so essentially you can choose the hold you use. No matter which hold you choose to use, one thing is absolutely necessary. Focus on the front sight. I don’t mean look at the front sight, I mean FOCUS on the front sight. That sight should be the crispest, clearest part of the entire sight picture, and that should never change. Don’t swap focus to the target or the rear sight. Focus on the front sight and the front sight ONLY. Did I mention you should focus on the front sight?
Hold control is the part of the aiming process which relies on the shooter’s ability to keep the sights aligned with his/her eye and the target. Let’s get one thing straight about this. Even the best shooters in the world don’t have perfect hold control. Every shooter has what’s called an “arc of movement.” Arc of movement is your body’s natural motion when extending a gun in front of you, and the only way to minimize your arc of movement is to practice.
So practice whenever you can. You can improve the aiming process with dry practice every day. All it takes is 25-50 individual sight pictures a day and you’ll improve tremendously in a short time. Don’t use dry practice as a substitute for live fire, though. You still need to put rounds down range to solidify the skills.