on the Eye-Target Line

When we teach people how to shoot, one thing we talk about is this notion of the “eye-target line”.

The “eye-target line” is a (imaginary) line that connects your eye to the target. What should intersect that line are the sights of the gun. So what you have is eye, rear sight, front sight, target, all in a perfect line and all properly lined up in their respective manner (e.g. using your dominant eye, the sights are properly aligned). Kathy Jackson’s CorneredCat website has a great graphic to show this. In fact, Kathy’s article has a fine discussion about sight alignment and aiming in general — highly recommended read. I’m wanting to focus on some specifics about the “eye-target line”, especially as it’s come up in my dry fire practice.

While the above is a good general notion to introduce the concept, it really has to be more precise and specific. Your vision should be focused on a specific target, a precise point. Instead of focusing “on the bullseye”, how about that X in the center? Or even better, how about the spot where the 2 lines that make the X intersect? Or even better, how about the pin-point center of that spot, since the lines have some width? It’s the same problem with having aiming points like “center of mass” because all too often people envision COM as “torso”. Instead, get precise, like the top button on the shirt, or maybe if it’s a button with 4 holes in it, right in the center of those 4 holes. This is important to ensure you aim where you need to aim. That eye-target line needs to go somewhere specific.

From Karl I learned to imagine there’s a string going from my eye to the target. When pressing the gun out, bring the sights up to that string. Literally imagine a string and that the top of the sights comes up to touch the string, to ride the string like a rail.

While I’ve always known to do this, I haven’t been doing it. Or if I did do it, it was too general or I’d lose it somewhere along the press-out. I guess I could say I wasn’t as rigorous with it as I should be. Perhaps I didn’t realize, until now, just how increased rigor at adhering to “riding that rail” would improve my ability.

I’ve really worked to focus on this during my dry practice — to really “ride that rail” when I press out. And there’s a few things involved in this, that I’ve discovered in my practice.

First, you really have to ride that rail all the way. From the moment you start the press out, your eyes and brain have to think about “the rail”. You have to see the rail, it can’t leave your imagination, it can’t leave the “imaginary projection” into your visual field. When you press out, the gun needs to come up to it, and both the front and rear sights need to click into the track, stay in the track, and ride the rail all the way out. When I do this, when I have this sort of mental look and discipline about things, the gun goes right out to where I want it. Yes it’s a lot of thinking about it right now, but I figure a few thousand more reps and it should drill home and become unconscious.

Second, shifting point of visual focus. When you start (no gun out), your eyes are going to be target focused. What has to happen during the press out is your eye focus switches to the front sight. I found I wasn’t doing this soon enough, or that I’d try to find the front sight early in the press out and keep my vision focused on it as I pressed out, “riding” the front sight with my eyes. But that usually wouldn’t work because the speeds would be different, I’d be visually chasing the sight or trying to find it, and losing time. What’s working better? Know the point in space where my front sight will end up when I’m at full extension and just shift my focus there. Thus, everything will converge. But I still have to be careful, because it’s still easy to lose focus and have my eyes just generally staring into space. This is where that precise target focus matters, because it makes me truly visualize the string from my eyeball to the target and “ride that rail”. My body then works to index the movement up to and along that string, really bringing everything to meet at the right spot.

Third, I have to ensure to set this all up before I start, else it’s a “false start”. For example, during my dry practice on reloads, I would click, bring the gun back, do the reload. If as soon as the magazine seated and my hand was back on the gun I started pressing out, I’d likely fumble things. If instead as soon as my hand was back on the gun I took a moment to set myself before starting the press-out, things worked better. Basically I had to force myself to make a distinct reset, both physically and mentally. To get the gun back out wasn’t a part of the reload; the reload ended when the mag seated. Once I finished the reload, then I needed to start the press-out again, and that required a moment of reset. I’d rather take that 0.1 second to reset and get things right, than to skip the 0.1 second and blow it. I believe in time this will consume less time to become almost unnoticed.

These are just my observations from my regular dry fire. It’d been a month and a half of dry firing once a day for 10-15 minutes, 5 times a week. In some respects I don’t feel actual improvement, but I know it’s there because I’m paying more attention to my technique, identifying problems, working to correct them. Next time I’m at the range I want to do some live fire experiments to see how this dry fire is progressing. One thought is to do something simple like the basic routine but from the holster, and time to see how long it takes to get the shot off. It’s a simple measure. My goal tho is to combat a problem I’ve also identified that I need to overcome: dry practicing one way and live practicing another. That dry should have just as much intensity as live, and live should be as laid back as dry. Fundamentally no disparity between the two sessions, but mentally I have to think to ramp up my dry and pull back on my live — to shoot each like the other. If I don’t, it means one needs to be fixed (probably that dry needs to pick things up).

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