How to Aim a Pistol: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Aim a Pistol: 13 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Aim a Pistol: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

If you've never fired, it's a good idea to learn the correct way to do it. In theory, aiming a pistol is pretty easy, but it will probably take time and practice before you can shoot well without effort. Here's what you need to know to aim a pistol correctly.


Part 1 of 3: Aim Basics

Aim the Pistol Step 1

Step 1. Aim with your dominant eye

Aiming with both eyes is practically impossible, so it's safer to aim with your dominant eye as it presents a more accurate image than your non-dominant eye.

  • The dominant eye is usually on the same side as your dominant hand, but this is not always the case.
  • To find out which eye is your dominant one, make a 2.5-centimeter circle with your thumb and forefinger. Reach out and try to look across the circle at a distant object.
  • Gradually bring the circle up to your face with both eyes open, but don't look directly at it. Your hand will naturally move to your dominant eye.
Aim to Pistol Step 2

Step 2. Align the front staff with the rear staff

The pistol has a rear sight, called the sights, and a front sight, called the sight mass. When aiming the pistol, the sighting mass (front) must be centered between the sights (rear).

  • The front sight is made up of a single column and the rear sight is made up of two columns.
  • There must be equal spacing between the left and right columns of the rear sight and the column of the front sight.
  • The top of the front staff should also be aligned with the top of the rear staff.
Aim to Pistol Step 3

Step 3. Focus your eyes on the weapon

To aim the pistol, you need to look at the rear sight, the front sight and the target. However, it is physically impossible for your eyes to be able to focus on all 3 at the same time. To be able to aim correctly, you need to make sure your eyes are focused on the gun sight and not the target.

  • The target will be a little blurry, but you should still be able to see it. It will be in the background and less sharp than the gun sight.
  • More precisely, you should focus on your front sight. It lets you know the position of the weapon in relation to the target.
Aim to Pistol Step 4

Step 4. Choose your aiming point

There are three aiming points that can be used. None of them are defined as the best, meaning you will have to test each one and decide which one works for you.

  • Center crosshairs or crosshairs in center of mass: Position the top of the front crosshairs in the center of the target. The top must be located in the horizontal center of the target.
  • “6 o'clock” sight: Position the top of the front sight just below the center of the target. If using a shooting target, the top of the front crosshair will overlap the bottom of the black circle.
  • Sub-6 sights: You must place the top of the front sight even lower than the center of the target. When using a shooting target, the top of the front crosshair will be roughly in the middle of the white circle below the black part.
Aim the Pistol Step 5

Step 5. Concentrate

Aiming a pistol requires patience and concentration. A more or less aim will result in a more or less shot.

  • Before firing the pistol, make sure your weapon is properly aligned.
  • Be patient to pull the trigger. If you're worried about shooting and pulling the trigger right away, even for a moment, you'll lose concentration on aiming and will likely make a bad shot.

Part 2 of 3: Common Mistakes

Aim the Pistol Step 6

Step 1. Identify angle errors

An angle error occurs when the staff is not properly aligned. It is usually possible to identify if there is an error in the angle based on where the bullet hit the target.

  • If the shot was below the center of the target, the top of the front sight may have shifted under the tops of the rear sight columns.
  • If the shot was above the center of the target, the top of the front sight may have shifted over the tops of the rear sight columns.
  • If the shot was to the right of center, the front sight may be closer to the right side of the rear sight.
  • If the shot was left of center, the front sight may be closer to the left side of the rear sight.
Aim to Pistol Step 7

Step 2. Acknowledge a shift error

Shift errors occur when the crosshair is lined up but your hand moves when shooting. Holding the pistol firmly results in a more accurate shot, but in general displacement errors don't interfere as much in aiming as angle errors do.

Shift errors are almost always caused by moving the wrists up or down. That way, the shot is always just above or below center

Aim the Pistol Step 8

Step 3. Detect errors with the footprint

Shifting errors are unlikely to be the only difficulties you will face. Where the bullet hits the target can indicate several other problems.

  • If the shot hits off center and close to your dominant side, you're probably squeezing your thumb or using too much force on your trigger finger. Just as if the shot hits the other side of the center you may be using little trigger finger force.
  • If the shot is in the lower right corner for right-handed shooters, or the opposite for left-handed shooters, you may be holding too tight when pulling the trigger. If it goes down on the left side, you may be squeezing your fingers too hard or putting too much force on the trigger.
  • If the bullet hits the upper right corner for right-handed shooters, or the opposite for left-handed shooters, you may be anticipating the shot. If he goes to the upper right corner, you may be anticipating the shot or not holding your position until the end.

Part 3 of 3: Putting It All into Practice

Aim to Pistol Step 9

Step 1. Hold the gun with your dominant hand, following the handle of the gun and with your thumb positioned near the barrel

  • Your middle, ring, and pinky fingers should wrap around the outside and front of the handle.
  • The index finger must be outside the trigger.
  • This position will give you maximum control over the weapon. When you fire the pistol, it will recoil and it is important that you are able to keep your hand steady.
Aim the Pistol Step 10

Step 2. Place the non-dominant hand against the uncovered part of the handle

Your non-dominant hand will be your supporting hand and the way you position it will give you more support and control against kickback.

  • Place your supporting hand as high as possible around the gun's handle.
  • All four fingers should be under the trigger guard and the index finger should press firmly on the underside of the guard.
  • Your thumb should point forward and touch the other thumb on the opposite side of the weapon.
Aim to Pistol Step 11

Step 3. Assume the firing position

Firm your feet on the ground, pointed towards the target. Your feet should be shoulder-length and your knees should be slightly bent.

  • This position makes it easy to move around without compromising your stability.
  • Pick up the pistol and raise it until it's positioned in front of you. The arms should be aligned and slightly bent at the elbows. The gun must stay away from your face.
Aim the Pistol Step 12

Step 4. Aim the pistol

Follow the instructions given in this article to aim the pistol correctly at the target.

Aim the Pistol Step 13

Step 5. Press the trigger until the gun fires

Instead of “pulling” the trigger, you have to press or squeeze the trigger in a controlled manner.

  • Press the trigger all the way to the back using constant pressure, only use pressure from the front of the trigger and not from the sides.
  • Squeeze the trigger until you start to feel the slack
  • Keep holding the trigger until the gun fires. Try not to guess when this will happen as it can lead to an error in aiming.


  • Treat the pistol as if it were loaded even if it isn't. That's a basic rule of thumb in the gun world and following it can prevent a tragedy.
  • Aim the gun in a safe direction. You should never point a weapon at others and the direction in which it is pointed should not cause physical damage and minimal, if any, material damage. If you're in a firing range, the safest direction to aim the gun is down, toward the ground.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until it's time to fire. Your finger should stay off the trigger guard until you decide to fire.
  • Be aware of your target and the entire area around it. On a professional firing range there are safety regulations to prevent someone from being in the line of fire and targets are positioned in a location that poses no threat to anyone. If shooting private property, you need to make sure there are no homes or businesses behind the target area.

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