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Front Sight

I love to shoot firearms!  There is something about shooting a pistol, rifle or shotgun that gets in your blood.  It’s exciting, challenging, requires control, discipline and focus.  It is part of our American culture and my family history.   I personally believe everyone should know how to shoot to protect their family and our country.   It is safe if you always treat the firearm with respect and always obey the rules of firearm safety.   Fear of firearms is overcome by knowledge and training, just like learning to drive.

As I enter into the age of “the arms getting shorter” stage or what is known as “presbyopia”, I am becoming more acutely aware how much more difficult it is to shoot with traditional, open (no magnification with a scope)  iron sights on the firearm.

In our forties, the crystalline lens of the eye reaches the stage where it hardens and loses it’s elasticity.  When this happens, the lens of the eye can’t change shape much to help focus on near objects.  The focusing muscle doesn’t weaken, the lens just can’t flex and change shape.  Like a pair of binoculars that has the focusing knob rusted up so you can only see far away.

Pistol shooting is affected the most due to the short distance of the sights from the eye.  Since the eye can only focus at one place at any given time, the key to shooting well with pistols is to concentrate on the front sight.  The rear sight will be blurred some and the target will be blurred some but the front sight is the most critical to focus on.   Especially if you train more realistically to move and shoot.   To “get off the X”  as they say.


Glasses are problematic in that the old-fashioned flat top bifocal is at the bottom of the lens.  If you try to look at the sights through the bifocal, not only is it awkward but it makes the distant target almost impossible to see.  A better option for glasses is a progressive addition lens or “no-line” bifocal.  Since the power is progressively stronger toward the bottom, a smaller head tilt is required and often there is a “sweet spot” that can help focus the front sight without excessive blur on the rear sight and distant target.  Of course this is really only helpful if you are target shooting and standing fairly still.  In a real self defense scenario, you are going to be looking through the top distance portion of your glasses and basically point shooting.  Hopefully, if you regularly practice, even dry firing, your muscle memory will kick in and focus on that front sight.

I personally have had good luck with a multifocal soft contact lens, the Air Optix Multifocal.   It is like a “no-line” bifocal but the bifocal is circumferential, just like a bulls-eye.  It helps to see at all the distances needed at the same time, sort of like a “peep hole’ sight works on certain target rifles.  There are some other brands as well.

Rifles and shotguns are tougher to use at bifocal age but since the front sight is significantly further away from the eye, it is easier to focus on with the top part of the glasses prescription. Of course a red dot scope and ideally, a laser is ideal for sighting at shorter ranges, especially in a home defense scenario.  You know exactly where that bullet is going to with a laser.  A red or green (green is better) laser pointing at a bad guy’s chest is very intimidating and can diffuse a dangerous situation often without firing a shot.

Focus on the front sight as you get your sight picture and you will typically hit what you are aiming at.

If you are lamenting the worsening of your vision and how it’s harder to shoot, don’t feel too bad.  If it makes you feel better, even John Wayne in the movie, Big Jake, had to start using a sawed off shotgun due to “short sighted eyes!”

Courtesy of Dumas Vision Source, PLLC and Dr Tory W. Moore, Optometric Glaucoma Specialist.    Serving the Dumas, Texas,  Moore County and upper Texas Panhandle area for 21 years.   Call (806) 935-2020 for appointment or visit our optical gallery without an appointment.  Connect on Twitter @eyedocdumas  and like our Facebook business page:  Dumas Vision Source You also can visit our website for more information.   Tory Moore, OD  – “A Hometown Eye Doctor You Know and Can Trust!”