How to Aim a Pistol With 3 Dot Sights: A Beginner’s Guide

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Many modern handguns feature white three-dot sights or a group of front and rear sights with contrasting dots for aiming.

However, most amateur shooters don’t know how to aim a pistol with 3 dot sights.

Becoming skilled with a three-dot sight configuration usually requires much time and practice.

However, once you learn the technique, you can shoot more accurately, even at a distance.

What Are 3-Dot Sights?

Three-sight dots are typical for most pistols where the front sight has a dot while the rear view has a cutout with two dotted posts.

The size of the dots and the gap between the cutout differs between pistol models.

Some pistols have a rail system for easy replacement or customization.

Also known as combat sights, they give shooters visible reference points, typically painted in white or other high-visibility colors.

In theory, the primary purpose of this sighting system is to give shooters the chance to assess the correct sight alignment.

The shooters must ensure that the dots are level vertically and evenly spaced horizontally.

Type of Sights

As mentioned, sights differ and have many variants. Although the standard type that comes with the handgun may work fine, you might find a better option.

Fiber Optic Sights

This sight type uses fiber optic tubes in highly-visible colors of green, orange, red, or yellow that capture and reflect the surrounding light for illumination.

They may not function well under dark or low-light conditions, but they are great during daytime or in a robust lighting environment.

Laser Sights

A laser sight casts a green or red beam, showing as a dot when pointed at your target.

There are different laser mounting setups, including the frame rail, within the grip panels or projected from the internal guide rod of the pistol.

Laser or light combinations help to aim and target identification by providing a laser and tactical light in one unit.

One downside of laser sights is that any object in the foreground can intercept the laser beam.

Also, they need batteries to function, which usually last for two hours max.

Micro Red Dot Sights

Red dot optics was first used on long guns, but more people these days mount them on pistols, too.

Also called reflex sights, shooters will see a red aiming dot when they look through the eye view.

Handguns holding micro red dot sights come with mounting points at the back part of the slides.

A gunsmith can modify a pistol slide that does not come with a mounting point to make room for a red dot sight.

Micro red dots should work well with open sights, allowing you to see and use the latter through the optic glass, called “co-witnessing.”

The farther you are from your target, the more it is covered by the red dot.

These tiny and lightweight optics let the shooter focus on one aiming point instead of aligning the rear and front sights.

A micro red dot is beneficial for shooters having trouble aligning an open sight.

Many shooters can keep their eyes open with a red dot sight while getting hold of their target.

On the downside, not all pistols are made to accommodate a red dot optic and may need modifications.

Once modified, you might have to get a new holster that can fit the handgun.

Although the optic is made to function for thousands of hours, it still needs a battery to operate.

Night Sights

Night sights come with glow-in-the-dark aiming points made of photoluminescent paint or self-illuminating tritium.

They look white during the daytime and display a greenish glow in a dark environment.

Many tritium insert sights can glow for up to 12 years before they start to die and need replacing.

You will also find some sight brands that combine fiber optic and tritium inserts, making them suitable for all lighting conditions.

learn how to aim a pistol with 3 dot sights

Open Dot Sights

Open sights are the standard variety of sighting systems included in pistols straight from the factory.

They come with a front post and a rear sight notch and are sometimes enhanced with outlines and dots that help in alignment.

Some shooters prefer plain black sights instead of having the dots painted with white or other vibrant colors.

Others choose handguns with windage and elevation adjustments for their rear notch.

Different Aiming Methods

You can try different aiming methods while learning to use these three-dot sights.

Each method aims to provide awareness to the shooter’s hold point, which is different from the point of aim.

The point of aim is where you want to hit your target, whereas the hold point is the guiding spot in your sights towards your mark.

We will discuss three aiming methods, each applying a different hold point.

That said, choosing the best aiming method depends on personal preference while considering each type’s benefits and drawbacks.

Also, some handguns come with aftermarket sights and hold points; thus, testing at the firing range is required.

6-O’Clock Hold

The 6-o’clock hold got its name from its use in bullseye shooting.

The top of the front sight must be pointing at the 6-o’clock position at the bottom of the bullseye target.

With proper sight alignment, you can be sure that the bullet will go straight into the black bullseye zone.

A 6-o’clock aiming method is excellent if you have a fixed target size and distance.

On the other hand, this aiming method is not advisable if the size and distance of your target vary.

If you are into a target or other forms of competition shooting, you can try the 6-o’clock hold aiming method.

Center Mass Hold

The center mass hold, or center hold, as it is sometimes called, is the most common method taught when using pistol iron sights.

Your hold point in a center mass aiming method is in the center position on top of your front sight.

This method will put your front sight dot’s center slightly below the target’s center but along the same horizontal plane.

You will hit your mark if you position your target’s hold point in the middle with the right front and rear sight dots alignment.

The bullet will hit the mark slightly above the front sight dot while using this technique under low-lighting conditions.

This aiming method is excellent for general-purpose handguns, ideal for target shooting, duty, or self-defense.

Combat Hold

This pistol-aiming method called combat hold is mainly used for close quarter applications, combat shooting, or self-defense.

Also called cover-up or dead-on hold, your hold point in this technique is your front sight dot’s center.

You will hit the bullseye if the front dot’s center is placed over the center of your target, a practice called “running the dots.”

Some shooters pair it with tritium sights and regard it as the most comfortable aiming method for low-light shooting or home defense.

It is hard to see the sights’ outlines in the dark; hence, using dots when aiming instead of relying on the sight edges.

Some concealed carrying pistols are sighted in and tested at the factory, describing it as being “configured for combat hold.”

However, following the “running the dots” practice is challenging if you shoot in normal conditions.

It would help if you used the sights to block most of the targets, making it a challenge to make accurate shots.

Which Is Your Dominant Eye?

It will significantly help if you know which is your dominant eye, as this will help with your accurate shooting.

There is a simple way of testing your eyes to determine which one is more dominant than the other.

First, make a triangle using each hand’s index finger and thumb while your eyes are open.

Then, look for a fixed object and put it in the middle of your triangle before closing one of your eyes.

Your open eye is dominant if the object stays in the center of your makeshift triangle.

How to Aim a Pistol With 3 Dot Sights

Knowing how to aim a pistol with 3 dot sights depends on different factors, including the sight radius and your distance from the target.

While at the shooting range, most shooters use a sight picture where the bullseye is placed above the front sight.

The proper sight picture using an open sight should have a clear front sight while the rear blades and target are blurry.

Ensure that the three dots are aligned horizontally and should have equal distances in-between to achieve the correct sight picture.

Correctly Aiming a Pistol With 3 Dot Sights

It will help if you remember these tips while trying to learn how to aim a pistol with 3 dot sights.

First, ensure that your pistol’s front dot is in the dead center of the two rear sight dots.

Next, remember the sight alignment basics where the three-dot tops are lined up correctly.

Lastly, ensure that you focus on the front blade sight while aiming down.

You will significantly improve your marksmanship once you master these three tips.

Remember, rushing things will not make you an accurate shooter. You have to take your time to practice the skill.

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