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Steel Sights in the 1950's - center hold vs sub-6 hold, and SA vs DA

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Post by mikemyers 8/19/2020, 1:19 pm

First topic message reminder :

Back in "the good old days", did Bullseye shooters use a center hold, or a sub-6-o'clock hold?

Trying to align a black steel front sight and a black steel rear sight in front of a black bull seems to be what led shooters to use a 6 o'clock hold, but since that results in "point aiming", many people got better results with the sub-6-o'clock hold which is area aiming.

What did the better / best shooters do back in the day, when revolvers were still king?



Follow-up question - for those shooters, were they using the revolver in single action (takes longer, but good control), or double action (faster, but less precise?)
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Post by -TT- 8/20/2020, 2:05 pm

Larry2520 wrote:The Marine manual says for 25 yards hold 6 and 50 hold center.

I'm intrigued by this. Is it because the 50yd sight picture is better, or because the military 45's have no elevation adjustment, so this naturally raises the POI?

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Post by mikemyers 8/20/2020, 2:11 pm

To me, the point was to go out to the range and experiment, and see what works best for me.  All my guns other than my Model 14 are put away.  I think I'll learn faster with the 38 than with my 22.  I've got three boxes of ammo, and another stack of targets, and I expect to shoot at a "slow fire" pace, and if all goes well, "timed fire".  I expect to start with two hands, and if I'm satisfied, go to one hand.  Distance will be 25 yards (I considered 15, for learning - I'll see how it goes.)

I see no point in attempting rapid fire, until I get decent at timed fire.

I've got a wide open mind.  Based on reading the book, my plans may change.  If the book indicates I'm doing something incorrectly, I'll note it and try what the book suggests.  

As to SA vs. DA, last night I started dry-firing DA.  While I wasn't happy with what I could do, round after round I got better.  I didn't give up on DA - but I figure if I get the motions right, speeding thins up will come with practice, as always.  


Original plan was to go today, Thursday, but the weather report was horrible.  If possible, I'll go tomorrow.  Tomorrow and the weekend are also likely to be nasty - if it's damp, I'll go, but if it rainy and stormy, I'll stay home.


What I expect to find, is that my sight alignment will still be better in front of white paper than the bull, as people here explained years ago, and I'll go with a sub-6-o'clock hold as I believe in area aiming, not point aiming.  I will continue to attempt to shoot the way Crazy Thunder has been teaching me, so if possible all my shots will "surprise" me.  I'm bringing both B-8 targets, and plain white paper, no bull.  

That's about it.  Oh, and if I have any questions later, I'll post them in my own thread.  This thread was intended to be a lot more than "my shooting".  I fully intended to consider changes in what I'm doing based on the answers I expected to read, but I try to segregate "shooting" information, and "suggestions for me".


Last edited by mikemyers on 8/20/2020, 2:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by mikemyers 8/20/2020, 2:15 pm

-TT- wrote:
Larry2520 wrote:The Marine manual says for 25 yards hold 6 and 50 hold center.

I'm intrigued by this. Is it because the 50yd sight picture is better, or because the military 45's have no elevation adjustment, so this naturally raises the POI?
Wondering about this myself - if I'm shooting at 25 yards with a sub-6 hold, and I move the target back to 50, the additional drop in bullets due to gravity might be equal to half the diameter of the target, so that sounds logical.  

My friend Dave tells me to do all my slow fire practice at 50.
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Post by Slamfire 10/18/2020, 11:14 pm

If your front sight is skinny, and the sight picture looks like a lollipop, you are probably better off using a 6 OC hole as the sight will disappear in the target.

A wide front sight allows a flat tire or center hold. When the edges stick out, you can judge sight position very well based on whether the target is looking fatter or not.  I always preferred center hold as I only had to remember to center the sight in the middle.

Line of white, never tried unless visibility was horrible.

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Post by Mike M. 11/10/2020, 9:50 pm

Hmm...For a long time, I shot center hold, with a front sight painted fluorescent orange.  I gave that up when I got into International Black Powder, the rules for that specify black or white sights.  I'm still shooting center for the single-shot pistols.  Revolver?  Deep sub-six.

FWIW, I suggested a deep sub-six to one of my teammates...his scores immediately improved.  Significantly.

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Post by mikemyers 11/11/2020, 7:22 am

Mike M. wrote:Hmm...For a long time, I shot center hold, with a front sight painted fluorescent orange.  I gave that up when I got into International Black Powder, the rules for that specify black or white sights.  I'm still shooting center for the single-shot pistols.  Revolver?  Deep sub-six.

FWIW, I suggested a deep sub-six to one of my teammates...his scores immediately improved.  Significantly.
Maybe you can expand on this some more, and possibly answer the original questions:


  • 1) Back in "the good old days", did Bullseye shooters use a center hold, or a sub-6-o'clock hold?


  • Trying to align a black steel front sight and a black steel rear sight in front of a black bull seems to be what led shooters to use a 6 o'clock hold, but since that results in "point aiming", many people got better results with the sub-6-o'clock hold which is area aiming.


  • What did the better / best shooters do back in the day, when revolvers were still king?



  • 2) Follow-up question - for those shooters, were they using the revolver in single action (takes longer, but good control), or double action (faster, but less precise?)




I think you're saying that "in the good old days" you shot pistols center hold, and painted your front sight orange so it would contrast with the black bull.  For revolvers, you shot "Deep Sub Six".  Since revolvers are what I had in mind when posting, if you were a typical example, the answer to my first question seems to be "Deep Sub Six".

Apparently you were shooting single-shot revolvers, so there was no question of "single action or double action".  For those who did have a choice, if you remember, what did they do?
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Post by inthebeech 11/11/2020, 10:08 am

[quote="CR10X"]Ok, here is THE answer that I got from talking to a LOT of shooters who were better than I will ever be.  The very best shooters will use the hold (area of aim), single or double action for rapid fire, etc. etc.; that produces the most consistent results and greatest number of points for THEM.  Whatever they did or did not do, may or may not work for YOU.  They achieved this by trying different options for a long enough time, keeping records in their journals (scores, conditions, etc.) and then worked on getting the most consistent results they could. (Remember even Zins started with looking at the dot before he decided the target was better for him.) 

And when things changed, the very best also went through the exact same process again, and again, etc.  (Changing glasses, older eyes, moving to dots, etc., etc.)  Not trying something different or doing something that way "just because" you started that way is a self limiting condition.  There needs to be a reason for what you do, and the basic test of "reason" for bullseye is if it produces more points. 

Not that it makes any difference, but I shot single action for TF and RF and sub-6 hold.  (DR#9)

CR[/quote]

I'm calling BS on your claim that there are/were A LOT of shooters better than you. :roll:
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Post by mikemyers 11/11/2020, 10:29 am

inthebeech wrote:
CR10X wrote:...........Remember even Zins started with looking at the dot before he decided the target was better for him.......

I'm calling BS on your claim that there are/were A LOT of shooters better than you. Rolling Eyes
People here have written something I strongly believe in, dealing with only ONE thing at a time.
When I'm comfortable with everything else, I guess I need to find out what difference, if any, it would make looking at the target rather than the dot.
There ought to be a thread here discussing this as the main topic of the thread.  Easily fixed.

https://www.bullseyeforum.net/t15959-as-you-shoot-bullseye-with-a-red-dot-sight-are-you-giving-your-attention-to-the-dot-or-to-the-target
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Post by TonyH 11/12/2020, 7:26 am

mikemyers wrote:
People here have written something I strongly believe in, dealing with only ONE thing at a time.
When I'm comfortable with everything else, I guess I need to find out what difference, if any, it would make looking at the target rather than the dot.
When do you think that will happen? Hasn't happened to me yet and never will, but it doesn't keep me from trying new techniques and figuring out if they work for me or not. Not sure how many times I have tried something, decided it doesn't work, gone back and tried it again later (as I evolved in BE Pistol) and adopted it. in my thinking, only the fundamentals are a constant, and one need to build a solid foundation with them. "Everything else" is limitless....and will certainly get in the way if you let it. Can't get to the wheat without going through the chaff.
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Post by mikemyers 11/12/2020, 7:58 am

My list of "everything else" is very short.  Maybe that is why it can happen for me.  

To exaggerate, there is no point in aiming at all, until you learn how to work the trigger without moving the gun.  For me, some things need to happen before I even think of working on other things. 

If I've got a shot process that works for me, I can shoot while concentrating on the dot, then later shoot with my concentration on the target, and after all this, see if one works better for me than the other - or if it even matters for me.
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Post by TonyH 11/12/2020, 8:05 am

Carry on!Steel Sights in the 1950's  -  center hold vs sub-6 hold, and SA vs DA - Page 2 1960973398
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Post by Jack H 11/12/2020, 11:11 am

I shot my first 92FS straight out of the box, fixed sights, original trigger, using USA ball ammo.  I bought it at a gun show and took it straight to the range.  I fired one target and saw the fixed sights were pretty much set at point of impact.  I used CENTER hold next and here is the target
Steel Sights in the 1950's  -  center hold vs sub-6 hold, and SA vs DA - Page 2 92fs_u12

LtC Miller taught me to use a 6 hold many years before.  Not sure my thinking that day with the 92fs.  But it might have been a "new gun syndrome" plus a new sighting syndrome that made an out of the box gun do fairly well.
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Post by mikemyers 4/4/2022, 8:22 pm

Because of a renewed interest in shooting revolvers, and my new Springfield SA-35, I need to get better using open sights.  I read this full thread, with a goldmine of information, and then I found the following wonderful post from this forum in 2003.  It gave me a lot more to think about....  I've been trying the different holds.  For my revolvers, sub-6 gets me the best results, but with the SA-35, I do better with center-hold.

Hopefully it's acceptable to re-post this.  Can I suggest that it belongs in the Bullseye Encyclopedia?


SteveT
Nobody makes the case for sub-6 better than the late great Al Bacon.  I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with him at Camp Perry 2007.  I told him after Perry I was putting my dots away to focus on going distinguished (I had 12 points).  He talked at length about the benefits of sub-6.  Andy Moody and Brian Zins had promoted it in their clinic, so I figured if all these great shooters felt this way, it was worth a try.  It took many sessions to get comfortable and probably 4-6 months before it really felt right.  I got my distinguished badge 2 weeks before Camp Perry 2008.

Steve Turner
-------------------------------------------------------

From: Allan Bacon
Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 7:15 AM
Subject: POA, 6:00 or Sub 6:00 hold with Red Dot

I agree with center hold for dot sights. No exception!

The only real discussion is with iron sight.

But I respectifully disagree with international shooters using the center hold for precision. For Rapid Fire, center is the way to go. For Rapid Fire (Old Duel) of Center Fire Pistol, it is the way to go. For Standard, Air, Free and Precision of Center Fire I did not. Most of the europeans I talked with did not/do not. (Day Iuga, Ragnar Skanaker, Mortz Minder are three I remember)

There are three general places to aim a target pistol with iron sight. Center Hold, Six O’clock Hold, and Sub Six O’clock Hold or line of white. Here is an analysis of each and in my opinion the pros and cons of each.

A key assumption on this discussion is that we are talking about a 22 that groups one inch or less and a 45 that groups two inches or less at 50 yards in a Ransom rest.

However, this subject is based on my priorities of how to shoot a pistol and what is important, the priorities for shooting a pistol with iron sights are:

1. Sight Alignment.
2. Area Aiming – minimum arc of movement.
3. Trigger Control.
4. Grip.
5. Follow through/ shot recovery.
6. Breath Control (breathing).
7. Stance.

For shooting a scope or dot sight, number 1 is shoot your aiming area – minimum arc of movement.

Here is my analysis.

You cannot hold a pistol still, no one can. The result is that you will wind up having movement. This is more obvious with a scope or dot sight. Iron sights minimize the apparent movement – but have the problem of keeping three objects (front sight, rear sight and aiming area) in alignment. However, you must remember that the pistol is still moving. We all should know from extensive discussion and other written material how slight a tiny (almost microscopic) miss-alignment of sights can adversely affect a bullets impact at 50 or even 25 yards. Thus, with iron sights, sight alignment is the most critical action where errors must be avoided. Inattention to sight alignment is the lack of action that causes most bad shots. Errors in sight alignment cause most bad shots – more so than poor trigger control, because as a shooter progresses up the classification ladder, one’ s ability to call shot placement is enhanced as attention is always placed on sight alignment, (front sight – rear sight NOT including the aiming area) this more than any other factor determines one skill with a pistol because as you have greater ability to call shots, your focus is on what is important, sight alignment, you can call your shots, and because you want to shoot better, your body will eventually get the picture of what is supposed to happen. (This is where setting attainable technical, not performance goals are critical i.e. holding all your shots in the 7 ring or higher is a technical goal, winning the Marksman class at a regional match is a performance goal and in my opinion, is flawed. You do not control who else is there, which will affect your winning. You do control your shots, and that is what your should focus on. But I digress, back to the point of this commentary!.)

Exactly where the aligned sights are pointed is not important, only that the area of interest be on your target, and that you attempt to consistently make this area the same from shot to shot and string to string. You must strive to have a minimum arc of movement while delivering the shot.

Trigger control can best be summarized as the action (vice the inaction of poor sight alignment) that causes most bad shots. If you have correct sight alignment (no errors) and you have good trigger control, (no jerk, heel, or snatch) shooting an accurate pistol, your shot will be a ten. If not, you can used your screwdriver to adjust you sight so that your shots fall within the ten ring. I will save extensive discussion of trigger control for a later commentary, but for the short version, you must pull the trigger in the 10 to 12 seconds you have maximum arm stability, minimum arc of movement between the time you settle into your aiming area, before lack of oxygen causes the brain to lose focus.

Now, lets go back to the subject, where to aim.

Center Hold – Clearly the best for tactical shooing, but for target shooting there are mostly negatives. Given that sight alignment is critical, and tiny errors are fatal, only very young (generally) and very good eyes can discern the minute variances that must be perfect to have target quality sight alignment. Consider that this is a black front site, aligned horizontally and vertically with a black rear sight centered on a fuzzy, out of focus black aiming area at distance? Again this might work for young eyes and/or very good eyes, but I hope you can visualize the difficulty this poses.

Six O’clock Hold – This is the traditional bulls eye hold that has been taught for years. This overcomes most of the problems with the inability to distinguish the minute variances of sight a alignment associated with black on black on black but introduces a new problem. Since we cannot hold the pistol still, we will have the aligned sights moving around the desired point on the target. As the aligned sights move about this area, there is a usually irresistible temptation to pull the trigger at the proper point, resulting in a snatched shot. Depending upon the skill level of the shooter, this generally results with a wide shot, in the 7 ring at the extreme ends of the figure eight wobble area. If this can be overcome, the shot can be well placed, but many times this is not the case. This aiming point technique also tends to cause a shooter to focus on the target – specifically the point of aiming, rather than an area at the base of the black aiming circle. Finally, the Six O’clock hold must really be an area (remember the we cannot hold the pistol still) thus the shooter must accept shots in the black, under the black, to the right and to the left, but this is seldom thought of, but to be successful, this is what must be happening.

Sub Six O’clock Hold – What we are left with is the sub six or line of white. Drop the aligned sights below the aiming black at 25 yards. About where the edge of the repair center is, but if you can see the edge of the repair center, you are doing the same technique as the Six O’clock Hold and all the associated negatives. At fifty yards, you can easily have your area midway between the aiming black and the bottom of the target. You need to experiment with this over several shooting sessions. I found this gave me a clear, unobstructed view of the sights, to achieve better, more consistent sight alignment and I could focus on pulling the trigger without disturbing the sights. There is no urging from your mind to jerk the trigger at a fixed point.

These are the three concepts of where to aim iron sights. I know of several shooters who are quite successful with using center hold at 50 yards and six o’clock at 25 yards to avoid needing to move their elevation to adjust for the 50 from 25 yard come up, but the pros and cons remain the same for each technique.

When I was learning to shoot at Parris Island from 1976-1978 I experimented with each of these techniques and I consistently had higher scores, significantly higher x-counts, fewer heeled or jerked shots and always a more comfortable time shooting iron sights with the sub six o’clock hold. I shot each technique for a year and compared results after three years.

I recommend the sub six o’clock hold for iron sights, especially service pistol.

Allan Bacon

Marine Corps Pistol Champion 1978
Distinguished Pistol Shot 1978
Distinguished Marksman 1982
Presidents Hundred Winner 1982
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Post by chiz1180 4/4/2022, 8:55 pm

Mike,

I would not recommend switching back and forth between center and whatever variation of 6 o'clock, pick one and stick with it. Using both you add an extra layer of complication. 

I shoot center and have personally have seen great results switching from sub six. I have found shooting center demands the utmost focus on the front sight, basically center the sights in the fuzzy black of the target with a proper trigger squeeze I get good results. If I shoot a gun that is sighted in for a flavor of 6 o'clock, the first few shots are good, but then the shots eventually end up high as I bring the sights back towards center mass. 

Just something to consider.
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Post by mikemyers 4/5/2022, 3:07 pm

I agree.

For my open sight guns, mostly revolvers, I will stick with sub-6-o'clock hold whenever I'm shooting at targets. 

If I were trying to emulate Hickok45, with a gazillion targets of differing sizes and shapes, and distances that would not be a good idea.
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Post by Coupebuilder 4/7/2022, 8:45 am

I can attest to the following simply from owning /growing up with my grandfathers guns and his BE practice long before I knew what it really was. He had a railroad tie lined section of his basement in the middle of Long Island NY that he would shoot in and take us as kids (a HUGE treat) when we visited. If practice was an indication, he originally shot SA with a SW 34-2 with red ramp front and target rear with .086 leaf which to me gives an excellent 6 o'clock hold at 25yrds. He later switched to or alternated a HS Model 107 Supermatic Citation with 7in fluted barrel. I still recall (and recently found) the lead weight he made from sinkers that he used to hold straight out while he was reading or listening to music and smoking a cigar.

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Post by mikemyers 5/1/2022, 11:28 am

chiz1180 wrote:I would not recommend switching back and forth between center and whatever variation of 6 o'clock, pick one and stick with it. Using both you add an extra layer of complication. 

I shoot center and have personally have seen great results switching from sub six. I have found shooting center demands the utmost focus on the front sight, basically center the sights in the fuzzy black of the target with a proper trigger squeeze I get good results. ......
After a lot of time thinking about this, for several reasons I agree with you:
I shoot several guns, and I can use center-hold with all of them.  Not so with non-adjustable open sights
I aim at the center with a dot, and I'd be doing the same thing with irons
My range has matches for both "bullseye" and "silhouette", and sub-6 won't work for the latter.

From CR10X:  It does not matter your ability or level of shooting, unless you have some process to try out different things, you will probably wind up limiting yourself. 


From Allan Bacon:   Center Hold – Clearly the best for tactical shooing, but for target shooting there are mostly negatives. Given that sight alignment is critical, and tiny errors are fatal, only very young (generally) and very good eyes can discern the minute variances that must be perfect to have target quality sight alignment. Consider that this is a black front site, aligned horizontally and vertically with a black rear sight centered on a fuzzy, out of focus black aiming area at distance? Again this might work for young eyes and/or very good eyes, but I hope you can visualize the difficulty this poses.


With proper prescription shooting glasses, my eyes seem to be "good enough".  But anything other than center hold is useless for anything other than paper targets.  It seems to me that I am best off following your advice.  If six months from now I give up, I can re-consider. 


I've learned by now that if I have something to do over and over, it gets ingrained into my brain and muscles, and I get to do it naturally.  My body (brain included) doesn't like doing things "differently".  I've tried sub-6 but that only works with certain guns and targets.  I know that center-hold can work with anything, and every gun I own.

Bottom line, I agree with you, that what you suggested is most likely best for me, so as of today center hold is the only thing I will do.  Of course, that still leaves questions about what to do with my steel sights, find a "carbon smoker" or some white/orange paint.  I guess that's where the advice I copied from CR10X fits in, test various combinations, keep notes, keep targets, and find out what options work out best for me.


Apparently there is no "one size fits all".  I enjoy red dots more than open sights, because they are easier to use.  Most of my guns have open sights though.  I want to be able to use both.
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Post by adminbot1911 5/1/2022, 6:17 pm

This thread is interesting.  As with most things different ways of doing business work for different people.

Shue shoots center hold for everything (irons and dots) and is quite passionate about it.  

I shoot center 50 and six-o'clock 25 with irons.  Not because the Marine manual said so, but because I forgot what my 25 yard dope was in a DR match once, shot a timed fire string at 6-o'clock, and liked it.  

FWIW I'm not even in the same shooting universe as Shue, but I'm pretty sure it is because of our respective level of skill and dedication to the sport, not our choice of hold.
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Post by mikemyers 5/2/2022, 8:40 am

It's fascinating that when I use this forum nowadays, I see a list of "Similar topics" at the bottom.  Whoever thought of doing this - you "did good"!!!!

Makes it easier to find other threads on any given topic.  I see there are five threads listed below this one - so in a few minutes I get to do a lot more reading.


One new note to add to this thread - the biggest "problem" with center hold is perhaps seeing a black front sight in front of a black bull. I've been dry-firing every day, for an hour or two each night.  Yesterday I stopped dry-firing at a white wall, and started dry-firing at a black tv screen.  At first, it seemed impossible, but the more I did it the easier it got.  

The orange front sight on my S&W Model 28 is easier to "see" than the black front sight on my S&W Model 17, so that might be a good idea for the future.  S&W offers rear sight blades with a white outline - I think I will try that as well.  

Anybody here know of a vendor that sells the carbon smokers that so many people used to use "back in the day"?  I've read the carbon is considered dangerous for shipping, so it's hard to find.  Or, plan "B":

Sight Black Spray

Steel Sights in the 1950's  -  center hold vs sub-6 hold, and SA vs DA - Page 2 51VC5XnLWdL._AC_SL1280_
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Post by Wobbley 5/2/2022, 10:57 am

Carbide can be found here

https://www.karstsports.com/calcium-carbide-4oz-bottle/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=&scid=scplpCARBIDE4&sc_intid=CARBIDE4&gclid=CjwKCAjwgr6TBhAGEiwA3aVuIXR9wPm9cgMzTh5g0ok0nFjo32EjGlExy2OPHlQI-BIEWnfr_lABUxoCaz4QAvD_BwE

Smokers can be found here

http://www.champchoice.com/store/Main.aspx?p=ItemDetailOptions&item=CL20
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Post by STEVE SAMELAK 5/2/2022, 11:22 am

A twisted up piece of blue painter's tape will give a nice black soot in a pinch.
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Post by chiz1180 5/2/2022, 11:39 am

mikemyers wrote:
One new note to add to this thread - the biggest "problem" with center hold is perhaps seeing a black front sight in front of a black bull. I've been dry-firing every day, for an hour or two each night.  Yesterday I stopped dry-firing at a white wall, and started dry-firing at a black tv screen.  At first, it seemed impossible, but the more I did it the easier it got.  
Not all things that are black are the same level of black. For example most targets have a bull that is more dark grey than true black. 

I use a variety of different things to blacken my sights with some variance base on condition. I have used burning masking tape (don't do this inside), black sharpie, flat black model paint, a carbide smoker, an Anschutz lighter thing, and probably a few things I am probably forgetting. Some options work better in some conditions than others. Try a few things that you may have on hand, you may have something that works well for you already.
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Post by jim1K 5/10/2022, 10:08 am

I know in the 60's The Marine Corps was a 6 o'clock hold .... back then I could see the hardball bullets going to the target..... now I can't clear the front sight...... lol.... Jim

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Post by SingleActionAndrew 5/10/2022, 11:57 am

I bought Flatwood fire starters based on some reading. I haven't tried burning them yet but the particular type of wood is supposed to create a strong soot. They are like thick matches made of wood. I'll try by the weekend on my Pardinis
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Post by SingleActionAndrew 5/14/2022, 5:21 pm

Well, the flatwood stick certainly burnt easily and created a dark black deposit that was easy to transfer onto the front blades of my Pardinis SP22be and GT45. This might not be the right smoke source because the sights are so glossy they're brighter indoors with my overhead lighting than before (particularly with SP22). Next time I shoot outdoors I plan to take them smoked and see if it's right. The black wipes off easily.
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