How to Sight in a Pistol

man aiming in a gun range

Shooters have a lot to learn when it comes to handling and shooting with their gun. Once you have become familiar with the parts and on how to operate them, the next thing to learn is how to sight in a pistol. This is also referred to as “zero a pistol” and is done to maintain its accuracy. The job of a firearm is to hit targets and by using one, you should know where your bullets are going to land. But what is “zeroing” and how do you do it?

To zero your gun means you are aligning the point of the bullet’s actual impact with the point of your aim. In other words, zeroing is done to ensure that the bullet hits your aim or at least somewhere near your intended aim. This is a process where shooters learn to adjust the pistol sight and reliably achieve a zero every time they shoot.

Why the Need to “Zero” A Gun? 

Those who are not yet familiar with the term, the act of achieving a “zero” is about learning to adjust the optics of sight of the gun so that the rounds land where you are aiming them.

The process of “zeroing” is not applicable to rifles and shotguns except for a few rifle slug guns. The principle of sighting in your pistol is the same with learning to use a rifle scope, but the process is different. To zero your pistol, you have to get the bullets to hit where you are aiming. You do this by adjusting the sights through elimination. Sights can be adjusted right or left and up or down. 

Try to aim at a specific target and fire. If the bullet hits too far right, adjust the sights a little to the left. If you hit too high, then lower the sights. This is the general idea to zero a pistol.

What Do You Need to Sight Your Pistol? 

There are a few things for you to zero your pistol. Basically, you would need a target. For most shooters, the paper is the preferred target when learning to sight in your pistol. You can easily see where your shots land and it shows where the real point of aim is with little interference.

You also need some ammunition that you know is accurate. You can choose to have a hardball or a hollow point, or whatever ammo will work well with your gun. If you have a new gun that you are breaking-in, you can use some good brass bullets that you keep in your pistol gun safe. 

You will also need a few tools to adjust your handgun’s sights. A set of small Allen wrenches will do the trick of adjusting your sights. Don’t forget to use eye and ear protection. You will need these when practice shooting. They are just easy to keep in your gun case so can always bring them along.

How to “Zero” Your Pistol 

Learning how to sight and zero your pistol is relatively simple. It is done by simply adjusting the sights right or left, and up or down. Start by setting up your target and your rest. It should be placed at a decent distance. Some 10 to 25 yards away is sufficient enough

Position yourself, practice proper grip and aim your gun at the target. Choose a spot where you want to land your bullets based on your sights. There are shooters who prefer to land their bullet just above the point of their aim, while others want it right at the point of their aim.

This will be up to you. Put your sight on the spot where you want your bullets to hit and fire. Check your point of impact. If you hit too high, you need to adjust your sight lower. If too low, then raise them. Too far left, adjust to the right. This is the basic idea of adjusting your pistol sights.

Some pistol sights will adjust in clicks similar to a rifle scope. Try with your pistol and proceed with single click increments if you have adjustable sights. If your gun doesn’t come with adjustable sights, try turning through fractions. A ¼ turn of the sight bolt is a good starting point.

In most guns, both the rear and front sights can be adjusted. But there are others with only one sight for adjustments. Check your gun to determine which and how your sights can be adjusted. Some guns only have rear sights which can be adjusted for windage and a fixed front sight.

Make sure to proceed systematically and adjust one variable at a time until you can hit what you’re aiming for repeatedly. Once you’ve zeroed on your pistol, it is good to go. Do check your pistol sight a few times a year to ensure that your sight is maintained.