Focal and Peripheral Vision

Perhaps one of the most overlooked mindsets in shooting, especially with pistol shooting, is the understanding of your vision.

You have 2 types of vision. Focal vision is the area in your vision that is in focus and your Peripheral vision which is everything else. Understanding this and applying it to pistol shooting and shooting with iron sights will make you a more situationally aware and accurate shooter.

We all know that your focus needs to be on your front sight with equal height and equal light on either side of it, coupled with a good trigger press to make a well placed shot. So how will training your planes of vision help you achieve this?

This is how; by training your vision you increase your hand-eye awareness. Let’s look at this in a draw and fire, first shot out of the holster situation.

Your focal vision will be on the target area you want to hit while you draw the pistol.

You draw, bringing the gun up all the while still maintaining your focal vision on the target.

While you bring the gun up (do this slowly when dry firing to really understand) you will notice that while focusing on the target you will see the front sight in the bottom of your Peripheral vision. Do not change your focal point but look and understand how to track that as it moves from there to the center focus of your vision. Do the same with your rear sight. (I talk about this in a video on my Instagram, linked below)

The purpose of this drill is so that the front sight automatically moves to your focal vision by bringing the front post from the peripheral to the focal naturally.

As we all know, as soon as we stop having that front post in our focal vision we miss shots. The trick is how to change that sight picture back and forth from the focal to the peripheral.

This brings me back to the hand-eye awareness. By slowly training your vision and understanding it more you increase your hand-eye awareness. This will translate to an increase in your speed and your accuracy.

It was Bruce Lee who said, “the skilled warrior is an average man with laser focus.”

Your vision is the absolute key to better shooting. After all, it’s your eye that places the shot. Everything else just makes that happen.

Think about this simple principle and you will find your situational awareness will increase as well. Your peripheral vision tracks movement, it’s almost how you select what objects to then “focus” on. You can train it best at night in the woods or outside.

Part of the reason the human mind is so uneasy at night in the dark is the loss of your focal vision. You become blind, so to speak. However, your peripheral vision and your hearing will become more aware. By learning that your peripheral vision selects “focus points” based off movement you will exponentially increase your understanding of your own awareness.

This will translate to your shooting and for all you soldiers and police, in a gunfight this will translate into higher survivability. Try it out and train it, I guarantee that awareness will make you a better shooter.



Shaun A. is a former Recce Patrolman with 3 PPCLI who has served in Afghanistan and is now an avid shooter and instructor. Having trained at the Sig Sauer Academy, Shaun continues to work with armed civilians and professionals teaching defensive firearm skill sets. He is a freelance writer for Funker Tactical, War Doll and his own personal website. Shaun is also a brand ambassador for Safariland Group and Patriot Alliance.

Follow his blog and instagram.

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