When the ambient light washes out your sights

Recently, I finished up a fantastic Pistol 2 class at the Sig Academy in New Hampshire. One of the interesting observations was a sight system fading as a result of the sun was rising over the berm early in the morning.

Just Look Harder

Not only was this experienced by the students, but myself included. My take away was more of a realization there is not much you can do about the situation. Or is there? When I stepped up to the firing line to perform the first demonstration of the class I mounted the pistol and was like “what the hell?” The glare from the sun was pretty intense early in the morning. The range runs East to West with East being the backstop. You were literally shooting into the sun as if it was high noon in the frontier. My initial thought was am I doing something wrong. Like I wasn’t concentrating hard enough to see my front sight.

At Times Not Much You Can Do

Sight System Fading
Bright Conditions

Over the years I have developed several accommodations to using my sight system. A lot depends on the situation, but some of them can be affected by the lighting conditions. In this case, it wasn’t a lack of visible light…it was too much. What do you do to manage this situation. You can try to shade your eyes, use high end eye protection or wear a ball cap, but there was a period of the day none of that mattered. This affected everyone on the line, regardless of the type of sights or sight systems (MRDS mounted pistols included) everyone experienced sight system fading. When you are used to things happening a certain way, there is generally a pause when things happen differently. It takes a moment for the brain to recognize the novelty and figure out what to do. That was my “what the hell” moment.

Being Objective Helped

What I discovered had more to do with me and confidence in my skills than in the adverse conditions. On the first day, I didn’t have anything to really measure the negative outcome objectively. I can tell you my feelings were definitely hurt not being able to shoot to my normal level, but that isn’t too helpful. On the second day during the time of the day this was the most prevalent we did a lot of work from the 25 yard line. I made it a point to shoot as many of the drills as possible in an effort to learn what I could about my sights. Here is what I learned, nothing.

Shooting Based On Feel

My sights were still there, the only difference was the level of visual focus I could apply. The glare was so bright I wasn’t getting the most precise front sight focus I’m accustomed to when not battling the glowing ball of fire. At first, I was frustrated and the result of that frustration was shooting errors. They mostly cost me in my shot group not being as precise , but still accurate. That’s right, I was still hitting the target only not with the tight group I enjoy normally. When I really paid attention what I noticed was my sights were very shadowy, not sure if that is a real word, but it is super technical term. The ability to see how precise my sights were aligned was negligible at best. Most of the gun mounts were based around feel with what little sight confirmation I could get from my sights.

Don’t Over Compensate

The best way I could describe it is they were super subdued, no visual reference from the tritium dots or highly visible paint, only an understanding in my mind of what they should look like. That to me was the take away, don’t so much worry about how precise they are aligned. Just do the best you can with what you have. Several other students explained the seeing the sight system fading with similar results to me during breaks. There was a degree of precision they were accustomed to they had to let go. Not seeing the sights as clearly as possible meant they were trying to over compensate in other areas. The overcompensation was resulting in poor results so it was better to avoid them and just go with what you know.

The lesson was important, not everything is going to go your way. It doesn’t matter if you are skilled since you will make the best of the situation with your training.

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