Bore Sighting a Pistol: It’s Simpler Than You Think

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Last Updated on July 30, 2021.

Writer for Minuteman Review, handgun aficionado and artisan firearms reviewer. 

Bore Sighting a Pistol It’s Simpler Than You Think

Although handgun boresighting is a relatively uncommon practice compared to rifles, it is not only possible; it’s an inexpensive and straightforward process. Learn why you should consider boresighting your pistol and how to do it step-by-step.


Why Boresight A Pistol?

Shooters use boresighting laser devices on rifles to ensure that their riflescope shoots to the point of aim at a specific distance, usually 100 yards. The most common technique is to set a target at 25 feet, place the laser dot on the middle of the target, and center the sights onto the laser dot. If done correctly, the rifle should shoot to the point of aim at 100 yards.

However, aside from some powerful hunting revolvers, most handguns do not have scopes. Even then, expecting a 100-yard shot is wildly unrealistic unless you are an accomplished shooter. So then, you may be wondering why boresight a pistol in the first place? The answer is simple: Making sure your sights are on target.

Even on a brand new pistol, your sights may be slightly off target, meaning that even with good fundamentals and correct sight alignment, your bullet still doesn’t hit the intended target.

Many shooters, even experienced ones, become complacent and commit the poor practice of compensating for the sights’ inaccuracy by adjusting their aim manually.

At the range, it is an inconvenience at most. But in a self-defense situation, the difference may be a matter of life and death.


Boresighting Process

Unlike with rifles, it is generally impossible to look directly down the chamber of a pistol to check that the barrel is pointing at the target. Therefore, the only way to boresight a pistol is to use a laser bore sighting device.

These devices are essentially laser pointers designed to fit inside a pistol barrel, guaranteeing that the laser beam is concentric with the bore. A good-quality laser bore sighter should cost a little under $40, making this useful tool a relatively inexpensive investment.

Learning how to use a laser bore sighter on a pistol and begin the boresighting process isn’t challenging, as long as you apply all relevant safety rules.

Before manipulating anything, ensure your pistol is fully unloaded by removing the magazine and clearing the chamber.

Necessary equipment

To start laser boresighting your pistol, you will need to gather the following equipment:

  • A laser bore sighter compatible with your pistol
  • A classic bullseye paper target with black 9 and 10 zones
  • A handgun vise
  • Appropriate sight adjustment tools

Setting up

Place your paper target at your preferred zeroing distance. Typically, this will be 25 yards, although you may prefer a 15-yard zero for small concealed carry pistols.

Power your laser bore sighter on, then insert it inside the pistol’s chamber, taking care to respect laser safety rules (do not point the device at your eyes or another person).

Insert your laser bore sighter in the pistol’s chamber, then set the pistol on the vise. Adjust the vise carefully until you line the laser dot perfectly with the target’s bullseye.

If done correctly, your barrel should now be pointing perfectly at the target center, allowing you to start making adjustments to your sights and verify whether they are on target.


​Sight Adjustment

Here’s how to use a laser bore sighter on a pistol. First, select the aiming method (or hold) you prefer. The three most common pistol holds are the center mass hold, the 6-o’clock hold, and the combat hold.

Keep in mind that when sighting a pistol for combat hold, the front sight should obscure the target, which means your front sight should also cover the laser dot. After deciding your preferred aiming method, look through your sights and check the laser dot’s position

  • Your preferred hold is a center mass hold - The laser dot should be right on top of your front sight.
  • You’re opting for a 6-o’clock hold - Assuming your target is a traditional paper bullseye target, the top of your front sight should be right at the bottom edge of the target’s 9-zone.
  • You’ve chosen a combat hold - You may have some difficulties ensuring the front sight is in the correct position. Adjust your sights until the dot is right on top of the front sight, then, if possible, adjust for elevation until the front sight blade obscures the red dot.

If the laser dot is not in the expected position for your preferred distance and aiming hold, adjust your sights until the dot is in the correct spot. The sight adjustment process depends on your particular model; some may not be fully adjustable.

Even with the most basic set of fixed sights, you should be able to use a sight pusher tool to adjust the rear sight for windage. Fixed front sights are typically non-adjustable for elevation, although you can mitigate the issue by purchasing a front sight blade with a different height.

If your pistol features a set of fully adjustable sights, you should be able to make adjustments using a dedicated tool. Most sets allow for windage and elevation adjustment from the rear sight.


​Testing

Once you’re satisfied with your boresighting adjustments, you may want to test them with live ammunition to ensure that you are shooting to the point of aim.

Test firing from the vise will remove all human errors and variables, ensuring the sights are on target and your firearm’s mechanical accuracy is sound.

Remove the laser bore sighting device from your pistol’s chamber, and insert a fresh magazine with reasonably good-quality ammunition. Test a group of at least five shots, and measure the group’s distance from the bullseye.

If you’ve done everything correctly, your group should be dead-on or very close. Make sure to test different brands and types of ammunition to see how well they group. Some combinations of bullet weight and bullet type may cause significant point-of-impact shifting, even on a perfectly bore-sighted gun.


Final Considerations

If you’ve followed this guide correctly, you should have successfully managed to boresight your pistol.

However, keep in mind that this procedure is only necessary to ensure that your sights are correctly set. While having confidence in your gun’s accuracy and sight adjustment can help boost your self-esteem, there is no replacement for regular practice and training.

You can also check out:

How to Sight-in Laser on Pistol (See Full Guide)

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