Sight Alignment, Trigger Control, and the Big Lie Chapter 3 FREE

Chapter Three

Improve your groups and scores

The following is the first four chapters of my book “Sight Alignment, Trigger Control & The Big Lie.”
The sections in red are techniques that should be paid close attention to.

I learned to shoot aperture sights long before my eyes started to go and I’m glad I did. I will admit that it helps tremendously to be young and have good eyes to shoot a “post” front sight. Aperture sights, sometimes called “globe” front sights, are far easier on the eyes. There is no need for the constant focus.

With the aperture, sight alignment and sight picture are the same. You have three concentric circles. The rear sight, the front sight and the aiming black must all have the same center.

When you look through the rear sight, make sure you have the same “eye relief” each and every time. Once again, eye relief is the distance from the rear sight to your eye. It is controlled by the placement of your cheek on the same spot of the stock, known as “stock weld,” or the placement of your cheek onto your hand (usually the thumb), known as “spot weld.” Make sure you are looking through the center of the rear sight.

The front sight is an aperture, or circle, and it must have the same center aligned with the rear sight. Place the aiming black into the front aperture and its center must be concentric with the others. Having an equal amount of white around the aiming black ensures that it is centered.

Everything I have told you to this point is true – as far as it goes. That was all that I was taught, and I made the same mistakes most new shooters make. Through a lot of trial and error, I started to learn what works and what doesn’t.



For the most part, High Power Shooters are great people and are willing to help. Remember, on the firing line, the seasoned shooter is trying to get ready for the same match you are. He may be getting mentally prepared and if you ask a lot of questions, it may be irritating. After the match, you cannot go up and say, “Tell me everything you know.” That could take awhile. You have to know what questions to ask.

After much “trial and error,” I found the correct method and amount of adjustment for both the front and rear sights. One day, I knew the right questions and who to ask. Col. Sam Burkhalter has been the Senior National Champion more times than he cares to admit, and when it comes to helping other shooters, he is a gymnast of the first order. He will bend over backwards to help.

During one conversation, Sam said, “That’s right! Most new shooters have the front aperture closed down too far, and the rear aperture opened up too far.”


During your prep time, closed down the rear sight aperture all the way, slowly open it to the point where a flood of light comes in and your eye relaxes. STOP at that point. DO NOT open it any further. This is not a case of “if a little is good, a lot is better.” Opening it further will be much like the improper focus with the post front sight. You will get wide shots – nines when they should be tens or Xs.

Let’s talk about the Match Rifle rear sight. Today’s technology makes the sight almost a work of art and you can get one with all the “bells and whistles” like I did. I have both the Warner and Zelenak sights and they both are excellent sights – both come in 1/4 or 1/8 minute clicks and both require the aperture to be purchased separately.

The Gehmann aperture is a fine choice. Here is where all the “bells and whistles” come in … but also the trouble! The features available are: adjustable iris, polarizing filters, five colored filters and a diopter. The adjustable iris is a must; it is the part that opens and closes to let in more or less light. This is the one most new shooters open too far. The ability to open or close the rear aperture is one of the match sight’s strong points and you do want it.

The sight comes with two polarizing filters which are nothing more than a lens with finely etched lines very close together. As you drop the filter down into the line of sight, it refines or filters to one plane of light, and gives the aiming black a sharp, clear contrast against the background. It’s mostly used on a bright day and it will cut the glare. I only use one of the two filters because using both just makes it too dark. When I first got the sight, I thought there would be instructions on how to use the polarizing filters. There were instructions, but they were in German and with a lot of effort I had them translated – it was how to break the filters down for cleaning, not how to use them. Using only one polarizing filter works fine for me. It is a nice feature and you will like it.


Unless you are among the one or two percent of shooters who use a lot of colored glasses in different light conditions, save your money and don’t get the aperture with the five colored filters. You’ll find you just don’t use them.

I didn’t know what a diopter was until I saw one at Camp Perry. A diopter is a magnifier, either on the front or the rear sight. You may not use both. It is said to act as a telescope and is not legal. (More on the front diopter later).

When I first got the Gehmann aperture with the rear diopter, the salesman said: “Hold it up and look through it at a distant object and turn the ring.” It was like a miniature spotting scope. You could bring the distant object into focus, just like a scope. You could see the aiming black clearer, sharper and bigger (closer). You can use it at all ranges from 200 yards to 1,000 yards. “Oh boy, I’ve got to have this.”

I bought the rear diopter at Camp Perry in August and used it up until the beginning of October, with no problems. When we started shooting in April, I was having one hell of a time shooting. My shots would go wide at nine o’clock and I would come right. It would be all right for awhile, but then I would get another wild shot out the left and again come right. It kept doing that for sometime. “Someone said, “It’s early in the season. Everyone has problems. You’ll settle in.” For three matches, my scores went from High Master down to Expert. I was ready to sell a $500 sight for $75. Luckily, Rocky, one of the shooters on the line, didn’t take me up on the offer.

I gave the sight to Boots Obermeyer to check out. He put it on a dial indicator and found it was tracking perfectly. “It might be the diopter,” he said. I told him, “I know how to find out.” On the next Wednesday night practice, I put up a 600 yard reduced target at 200 yards and from the prone position, I fired my first ten shots – the same problem continued. I got out of position and removed the aperture with the diopter and replaced it with a plain aperture with just an adjustable iris, no diopter. I laid back down and fired the second shots and got a 99 with 6 Xs. I talked to the salesman at Camp Perry that year, and he said, “The rear diopter was made for Small Bore shooting and High Power shooters discovered them, but they are not designed for the punishment and shock High Power gives them.”

Save your money – stay away from the rear diopter. (Since this was first written, Bob Jones has come up with some rear diopters especially made for High Power) By dropping from High Master to Expert, I knew something was wrong. A Marksman or a Sharpshooter may think, “It must be me” and he will continue to shoot with bad equipment. Your RIFLE, SIGHTS, AMMO and EQUIPMENT must be better than you are. If any one of these is a limiting factor, you will shoot up to “its” ability and not “yours.”


(Logic Takes a Holiday)

When I started to shoot a Match Rifle with aperture sights I was told about the three concentric circles and told to line them up with the same center and to make sure the aiming black was centered in the front aperture with an equal amount of white all around it. That was all I was told.

Like 98% of the other new shooters, I made the same mistake. My front aperture looked like Figure 11. I had too tight a line of white around the aiming black. Logic said that it would be easier to judge if it was centered and I could pick up small misalignment of the sights.

Too tight a line of white actually makes it harder for your eyes to distinguish when you are lined up. It causes eye strain, fatigue and creates undue tension as you shoot. It can create a fuzziness and distort the image as you try to break the shot.

By experimenting, I gradually opened the front aperture and, gradually, I shot better. I read several articles which said the front aperture should be two or two and a half times the size of the aiming black (See Figure 12). I was amazed because my previous logic told me otherwise, but since I was improving by opening the aperture a little, I tried the suggested larger opening. My scores got even better.

It may seem a little strange, but stick with it and the results will show in the improved scores. Don’t try to make your sight picture too good. The aiming black self centers as you fire your rapid fire. I tried to make it, “Just Right,” and it messed up my timing. In one of the “STAR WARS” movies, Luke Skywalker was learning to use the light saber – he was told something like, “Don’t use your eyes, just ‘feel’ it, let it happen.” Don’t try to make it too good, just feel it and let it happen. You will be surprised at how much better you shoot and you can call your shots far better.

During the slow fire, you want to make each shot just right. Your eyes will automatically center the aiming black but you are not sure, “Is it centered?” You take it off-center a little and say “yep, that was centered,” and you then re-center it. After awhile, you will know exactly when it is centered. Quite often, just as it is centered up, the image will “brighten” just a little. For me, it is like a one-watt light bulb was turned on and I know it’s time to break the shot.

Do not “lay” on the rifle and take an extra long time. Once you close the bolt, check the wind, make an adjustment if needed. Place the rifle in your shoulder, roll into it, take your breath as you are checking your number board, pick up your sight alignment and squeeze off the shot. You should complete the process in about one half the time it takes to read this paragraph. If you stare at the sight picture, the sights will be “burned” into your mind and you can misalign the sights, still thinking they are correct. 3-5 seconds — no more.


I used the “Drop In” apertures, both metal and plastic. They are all right, but use an adjustable one once and you’ll never go back to the drop in type. I tend to use one setting for all yard lines on a given day. I use the same setting for off-hand, 200 yard rapid, 300 yard rapid and 600 yard prone as long as I keep the 2 – 1/2 ratio of white around the aiming black. The light conditions for this weekend may not allow the use of the same settings you used last weekend. You may not even think about it until you look down range through the sights at the start of your three minute prep time. After using the full three minutes to get the right drop in aperture, I decided to switch to an adjustable one. You reach up and dial it like a radio and it takes just seconds.

I’m using a Gehmann adjustable aperture on an Anschutz base, with a Tiger Eye Diopter.


If you have ever fired the 1,000 yard iron sight matches at Camp Perry you know they import the fog and/or haze just for that match. Finding your own number board twenty times in a row is a major accomplishment.

I have this little demonstration I do when explaining a front diopter. I do it at the 200 yard line, but it will work at any yard line. I first take the diopter out (it just unscrews) and I have the person look through the sights at the aiming black just the way it would normally appear. I then screw the diopter back in and I have them look again. You should see their faces light up. One shooter said, “I’ve got to get one of these.”

The .3 diopter can be used at the 200 yard, 300 yard and 600 yard lines. I leave it in for shooting across the course. Make sure you take it out and clean it before each day of shooting. It makes the image so much sharper, clearer and larger. You must see it to believe it. The .3 diopter can also be used for the 800 yard, 900 yard and 1,000 yard lines. You can see your number board and aiming black.

The .5 diopter is best used at 900 yards and 1,000 yards. It is very strong. Shooting 1,000 yards with a .5 diopter makes it appear as if the aiming black is at only 600 yards. You can shoot so much better when you can see.

I tried the .5 diopter at 600 yards to see what would happen. I fired the first ten shots with it and it really brought the aiming black in close. I was getting some pretty wide shots, so, after the first ten shots, I took the .5 diopter out and put in the .3 diopter. I immediately knew what the problem was. The .5 magnified it so much, it looked like Figure 11 and there was too tight of a line of white around the aiming black. The .3 made it look like Figure 12, with the correct amount of white, 2 – 2 1/2 times. The second ten shots were all tens and Xs – no more wide shots.

The adjustable, front diopter magnifies everything. If you are using the Gehmann adjustable you have to open it even farther than normal. I was using the model that opened to 4.2 and I had it opened all the way. This didn’t leave any room for bad light conditions. Last year at Camp Perry, I sold it and I got the newer model that opens to 4.8. Everyone I know that has used the front diopter has liked it. My recommendation for High Power: “Stay away from the rear diopter. It may never give you trouble, but if it does it will be BIG trouble.”

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