How To Aim A Pistol With A 3 Dot Sights?

To aim with a pistol, you will always require techniques you acquire through practice. But before that, you need to know what kind of sights you are using to aim at your targets. This is because every pistol has its own variations of iron sights and learning about them will give you the advantage to use any handgun in any circumstances.

Now, we all know any type of firearm comes with its own built-in set of iron sights which can be fixed or adjustable. You also get the option to choose other external sights such as laser, and red dot sights to cater to your personal needs.

Today, we will be covering the different aspects of 3 dot sights on a pistol. First, we will talk about what 3 dots actually mean and the different kinds of 3 dot sights you will find in pistols. Later, we will discuss the different aiming methods of shooting with a 3-dot sight pistol and common problems you can face while using it.

We have also answered some commonly asked questions by the shooters to give you more insights about the concept. So without further adieu let’s begin!

What Are 3 Dot Sights?

First question that comes to our mind while hearing about the 3 dot sights is what it actually means. To answer your question, 3 dot sights are an upgraded version of the previous iron sights that you will mostly find in modern firearms.

It means both the front and rear sights of a pistol have contrasting dots with highly visible colors like white or green and even sometimes iridescent colors for night visibility. These dots are mainly given with the purpose of giving the shooters accurate sight alignments for better targeting. These dot sights are also called combat sights as you get easily visible points for aiming reference.

The size of the dots is not more than 1/8th of one inch and are decorated with different colors. This style is considered the standard version but you will find varieties depending on the gun model.

Types Of 3 Dot Sight?

When it comes to different types of 3 dot sights you will find that it mostly depends on the model of pistol you are choosing. But there are four basic types of 3 dot sights that are most common in the market. These are-

  • Non-illuminated 3 dot sights: The standard version of sight you will find on pistols. These are also known as combat sights with their white dots. These kinds of dots are generally used in daytime missions for most visibility.
  • Tritium 3-dot sights: These sights feature tritium lamps which usually come in green color. Tritium is an object that glows in dark settings which is why it is the main component of night sights such as sights in Glock 19x and Sig Sauer P320 pistols. These sights are good for home and self protection.
  • Fiber optic 3-dot sights: You will also find 3 dot sights that are made of fiber optic tubes. These dots come in various colors such as green, and yellow and they are good for daylight shooting since the dots can capture and reflect ambient light and produce visibly bright dots.
  • Day/Night 3-dot sights: These kinds of dots are one of the most popular ones because they are versatile in nature and work for both day and night settings. It is actually a combination of both fiber optic tubes and tritium lamps creating bright colored dots that work in every light condition.

Why Do You Need Them On A Pistol?

Although the reason behind having them on a pistol is completely related to personal preferences, there can be some common benefits of having a pistol with 3-dot sights. The first one is the expense. It is well known that going for an external sight would cost more money, especially for beginners who are starting their journey and don’t want to spend too much money in the initial stage.

Another reason is battery life. What it means is that when you are using external red dot sights there is a chance of having battery issues, especially in case of continuous usage. That is when having 3 dot sights comes in handy.

Also, in any case, you need to use a rental pistol, you will not get the facility of using external sights. As a result, knowing how to aim with 3 dot sights will help you navigate through the process of using the pistol in hand.

What Are The Aiming Methods?

Now that we know everything about the 3 dot sights of a pistol, it is time for you to learn how to aim using these dot sights. First thing first, you need to make sure your front sight is in the center position between the rear sight. Also, the headposts of all the sights should be aligned.

Second, make sure the sights are aligned horizontally and the gap between them is the same. Also, your focal point will be on the front sight dot as you placed it on the target. With proper horizontal alignment, your shot will not drift toward the left or right. Similarly, proper vertical alignment will ensure the aim is not higher or lower than the target position.

After going through all these steps, you need to make sure your hold point is correct for the target. The aiming methods can vary from person to person but you will find three common methods to use in different situations. The major difference among these methods is the hold point.

Hold point of sight is a different concept than point of aim. Point of aim is the spot you want to aim at your target. Whereas, the hold point is related to your sights that will guide you to the target point. Now let’s look at the different aiming methods that employ different hold points.

  • Center Mass Hold: In this method, you position the hold point at the top of the front sight. This is the most common method used to hit bullseye. When you place the center of your front sight dot in the same horizontal plane, you point at the place slightly under the target’s center. Theoretically, this hold will get you bullseye using the lower head position.

This aiming method is very well-suited for general shooting purposes such as duty training, self defense, and target shooting. But, you can not use this targeting method in low light situations as most of the time you can’t see the top of your front sight.

  • 6-o’clock Hold: This kind of hold is good when you want to aim for competition shooting. When using this method you need to place your hold point over the top of the front dot. What it will do is give you a 6 o’clock position or the bottom position of the bullseye target. That way with proper alignment of all the sights you will be able to hit the target.

However, you need to make sure that the size of the target and its distance are known and constant. With the changeable distance and target size, this aiming method will not give you proper feedback. This method works really well for dynamic competition shooting, self defense, and combat shooting.

  • Combat Hold: Last but not least combat hold method is also known as the dead-on hold and cover-up hold method. This is a really great aiming method for low light settings. What you actually do in this type of aiming is that you place the hold point precisely on the center of the target meaning the center of both your front dot and target dot is aligned.

This works perfectly well in home defense or close distance shooting, especially when you have tritium 3 dot sights. However, configuring this aiming style can be challenging for some shooters.

Finally, find out the domination eye you use for aiming. Usually, your dominating eye will correspond with the same side hand. For example, a right-handed shooter will use his right eye to aim. However, there can be cases of cross eye dominance. In that case, the shooter will need to adjust his sight alignment according to the position.

Common Problems You Will Face With 3 Dot Sights

Although 3 dot sights have their beneficial points, they can become a cause of headaches at certain times. For instance, some shooters find particular colored 3 dot sights distracting and confusing. But as a solution, you can cover them using black electric tape and you will be good to go.

Apart from this, 3 dot sights can rarely provide you with long distance targeting. This kind of sight works perfectly well when you are using them for close range shooting but for aiming in a further direction- not so much.

Lastly, the 3 dot sights on pistols can be difficult to learn and adapt for novice shooters. But then again if you give enough time and effort in practicing with the sights you will be able to master them in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What color is best for gun sights?

There is no specific color that will cover all your issues with 3 dot sights on your pistol. Generally, green is used for night sights as it works great in the dark, especially with a tritium vial. However, when you are in daylight you might consider using dots in white, yellow, or orange colors. The solution for this issue will be for you to find the right color for your gun and see what works best for your aiming.

2. Is Red Dot better than Iron Sights on a pistol?

Red dots are external sights that help you with sighting your targets in case you are not satisfied with your iron sights. When we compare these two, we find that red dot sights demand more practice and adjustment whereas 3 dot sights are universal and easy to adapt. Although it’s your personal preference, the red dot will demand more attention than the 3 dot sights of your pistol.

3. How do you determine eye dominance?

In order to determine your dominant eye for aiming, you will need to use the simple trick of closing one of your eyes at a time and see whether the target’s position is changing or not. For your dominant eye, it should not change its position or shift to one side. In case that happens then your closed eye is the dominant one.

4. What requires the correct alignment of the target?

For a pistol, the correct alignment of the target will come from the proper alignment of the front and rear sights both vertically and horizontally. In addition, you will need to make sure that the sights have equal lateral and horizontal spacing between the sights.


Aiming with a pistol can be confusing, especially for novice shooters. With modern handguns, you get an upgraded version of iron sights which come with 3 dots on the posts of front and rear sights. Using these 3 dots to target has become necessary for many reasons.

Having a knowledge of these dots and the hold points to use them for accurate pointing will give the advantage of using any pistol anywhere in times of need. Therefore, make sure you go through the different methods of aiming with 3 dot sights and choose the one that perfectly fits your shooting style.

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