The Six O’Clock Hold
By Jason Dinger
The use of the Six O’Clock Hold when using a rifle with a front post and rear aperture sight is the most preferred method of sighting by match winners when shooting at a blacked-out center ring(s) target(s). Once you understand why, it is an almost certainty you will adopt this method of aiming also.
IT IS CRITICAL TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE IN AIMING PROCESS
The first thing the shooter needs to understand is that the 6 O’clock Hold is not a “point of aim, point of impact ” method of sighting. In fact, your point of aim will be lower than the point of impact. The reason for using this method of aiming on a target with the inner rings blacked-out is simply it is easier to find the lowest part of a circle than it is to find the exact center of a circle, also it is a match only method of aiming, nearly exclusively. Some shooters use other types of target engagement, but for NSSP it is for match and match practice only.
Knowing that each of you have started a Data/DOPE Books on your SPR’s. If not, get busy and get it done; you’re behind the curve! The DOPE Books are absolutely critical. Any rifle that you are using for competitive shooting needs a thoroughly kept DOPE Book.
The NRA, NSSP and CMP (unless specifically noted otherwise) matches are all conducted with iron sights. Your sights should be set-up with a front post centered at the end of the muzzle and an adjustable rear sight for elevation and windage with a rear “peephole” or aperture sight. Competition sights move in increments of 1/4 inch at 100 yards per sin-gle unit of movement, commonly referred to as a “click”, because the single movement can be felt and heard. The 6 O’Clock hold can only work with iron sights in this configuration. Until further notice; and for brevity, when the phrase “rear aperture sight” is used, it refers specifically to a, “rear peephole sight.” We will discuss other types of rear aperture sights later in the article.
DOPING YOUR RIFLE FOR A 6 O’CLOCK HOLD
The first step in doping your rifle will concern the rear aperture sight. The rear aperture sight windage needs to be put at exact center, also rear aperture sight needs to be put at its lowest elevation, or Zero elevation. This is known as “Zero elevation” and “Zero windage”. The exact center of the rear aper-ture sight should be indicated by a line that is twice as long as the lines for left and right windage. If you are having difficulty in finding the exact center of the aperture windage, look for the windage lines on the sights. They can be located in the front or rear of the aperture, depending on the sight’s manufacturer or the type of rifle. Refer to Illustration 2 below, showing the aperture in the exact center on an AR-15A2.
Windage and elevation can also be referred to as deflection by certain arms experts. They refer to changes in elevation and windage in mils deflected right, left, up, and down. It is used by military personnel who are trained in using indirect fire weapons such as artillery and mortars. This is just for your edification in case you come across a person using that jargon in reference to sight adjustments. In NSSP we will use the terms “elevation” and “windage”, which will be added or subtracted as needed until you obtained your sighting goal.
ZERO – ZERO ON AR-15 WITH A2 SIGHTS
View of rear aperture sight of an AR-15A2 (which is used on M-16A2, M-16A3 M-16A4,and M-4 Carbine, if equipped with a carrying handle. All AR-15’s have two rear aperture sights, one for close range. In this photograph the far range aperture is in the “up” or selected position. Pushing the aperture would change it.
ANOTHER VIEW OF AR-15A2 ELEVATION KNOB. ROTATING THE HORIZONTAL KNOB CLOCKWISE WILL LOWER THE APERTURE WHILE COUNTER CLOCKWISE ROTATION WILL RAISE THE REAR APERTURE.
The illustration above of the rear AR-15A2 aperture sight clearly shows that the rear aperture is centered. The next position the aperture needs to be placed in is the lowest elevation setting. If you look below the rear sight aperture (Image 2 & 3) you will notice that there is a rounded protrusion extending in equal length, orientated horizontally. This protrusion is the elevation knob of the AR-15A2 aperture sight.
EXAMPLE TYPICAL OF A NRA RIFLE TARGET, WITH INNER RINGS BLACKOUT.
THE TWO CHOICES OF SIGHT PICTURE WITH REAR APERTURE AND FRONT POST SIGHT. WHICH LOOKS LIKE IT CAN BE REPEATED MORE EXACTLY ON EVERY SHOT? IF YOU NOT SURE IT’S THE SIGHT PICTURE ON THE LEFT.
Regardless of the rifle type being used, Zero/Zero will be the starting point for figuring the DOPE necessary to use the 6 O’Clock Hold method of aiming. Having your DOPE book with you is essential. After you have sighted the rifle for a particular distance, target and location, the in-formation needs to be documented. Write down in your DOPE BOOK the elevation and windage clicks you used to get sighted-in, immediately, before you forget! When you are shooting that rifle again at the same range and target, you can refer to your DOPE Book and already know how much elevation you’ll need to get your rifle Doped correctly before you fire a shot. NOTE: it is possible that some rifle sights, especially ones made for Olympic/International competition will be adjustable in 1mm or 1cm per click.
PERFECT SIGHT PICTURE WITH A 6 O’CLOCK HOLD. FRONT POST CENTERED IN REAR APERTURE, TOP OF FRONT POST PLACED ON THE LOWEST PART OF BLACK RINGS. MOST IMPORTANTLY, FOCUSED ON THE FRONT SIGHT.
It is not unusual to be given two sighting shots before each stage of a match. Those sighting shots will reveal if any windage dope needs to be applied. You should already know how much elevation dope you need. Sighting shots are for determining windage doping only! Having to use a sighting shot to determine elevation doping, signals that you did not prepare well enough. If you notice your elevation is wrong after firing your sighting shots, do the best you can to correct for elevation and add the required windage. The worst outcome from not preparing properly before a match is that every scored shot will also be a sighting shot! Meaning you will still have to make elevation and windage adjustments to try to get hits in the 10-X ring during a live match. On a brighter note, you can consider you got 22 sighting rounds, but I wouldn’t brag about that.
If you do need to add windage correction, add the direction (right or left) and as many clicks in your DOPE Book as the wind speed in miles per hour and value. The value of the wind is the direction of the wind, and how the wind behaves, in gust or continuous. Is the wind a crosswind? Traveling straight across the trajectory, known as a full value cross wind, is a cross wind at 90°. If the wind is moving diagonally across the range, then indicate its value as 1/2 (45°) or 1/4 (22.5°), and so on. Draw a circle on the page of your DOPE Book you are using for match or match practice shooting, and use an arrow point to indicate the direction of the wind as it relates to your position on the firing-line. Just as on a clock face, indicate what clock position the wind is blowing in relation to you and the target. Wind blowing at 90° from left to right would be drawn as an arrow in a circle pointing to 3 O’Clock. Document the position of the sun in the same way with a circle, and show the position of the sun as it relates to your shooting position.
The most important information to document in your DOPE Book is the number of clicks for elevation and windage you made. If it took 10 positive (up) clicks of elevation and 1 click of left windage, document it. I know this may sound repetitive, but you must know how much elevation dope your rifle will need for the particular type of match you are shooting. Along with the correct windage and elevation document your location in detail, so when you find yourself in the same location again, shooting at the same distance and the same type of target, you will already know how many positive clicks you’ll need to dope your rear sight. The only thing left to determine, is whether the current conditions make it necessary to add any left or right windage.
CORRECT 6 O’CLOCK SIGHT ALIGNMENT, FRONT POST ENTERED IN PEEPHOLE APERTURE AND BLACKED-0UT
INNER CIRCLE (REPRESENTED IN ORANGE) AT THE LOWEST POINT OF BLACKED-OUT CENTER. THE PUMPKIN
ON A FENCE POST, AS IT IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO. REMEMBER THAT THE FRONT POST SIGHT IS THE
FOCAL POINT AS IN ILLUSTRATION 6.
THE TOP CENTER IS THE PROPER SIGHT ALIGNMENT FOR THE 6 O’CLOCK HOLD.
THE LOWER FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS SHOW POOR AND INCORRECT SIGHT ALIGNMENT.
Pay close attention to Images 8 & 9. Both show one illustration of a proper 6 O’Clock hold. The rest of the illustrations in these images show incorrect sight alignment and sight picture.
CORRECT SIGHT ALIGNMENT AND SIGHT PICTURE WITH 6 O’CLOCK HOLD
Correct sight picture with all iron sights is basically done the same way. With the 6 O’Clock Hold, you will change your point of aim from center of the tar-get to the very center bottom of the blacked-out cir-cle of the target. The reason, as stated earlier, is that the very lowest part of a circle, if you imagine the blacked-out circle being a clock face, will be at the number 6 or 6 O’clock position. This explains why this very effective aiming technique is referred to as the, “6 O’Clock Hold”.
While doping your rifle to find the correct elevation for a 6 O’Clock hold, you must keep proper sight alignment and sight picture, as shown in the previous illustrations. Since your front sight will be centered in the aperture, with your eye focused on the front post sight and the 6 O’Clock position of the blacked-out center ring of the target, such a setup is frequently referred to as the, ‘Pumpkin on a Fence post” (see Illustration 8). This means the elevation of your aperture will have to be given a more vertical elevation dope to compensate for the lower aiming point, which is lower than the dead center 10-X ring of the backed out center rings of the target. Study the illustrations above. You will notice that the tip of the post that is in the center of the aperture and the top of the post are placed at the lowest point of the black out circle. If you haven’t noticed, the target will not be centered in the aperture. The target will be on top of the centered post, like a pumpkin on a fence post.
Without obtaining the proper sight picture and sight alignment, when shooting at the target, you will miss your intended point of impact, which should be the very center blacked-out 10-X ring, the ring one in from the 10 ring. Hitting the 10 ring is nice but hitting the 10 -X ring is the best; and that should be your goal – the very best possible outcome.
FURTHER UNDERSTANDING WHAT EACH CLICK OF A SIGHT REPRESENTS
Precision iron sights and optical sights that are optimized for precision rifles/SPRs are adjustable in 1/4 inch at 100 yards. Each notch in the gearing or the sights will move the impact point 1/4 inch at 100 yards. The notch gives a slight feel of resistance and a slight audible noise as the resistance gives way. That is referred to as one click in the process described here. You also must know the language of firearm accuracy, which is a term used over and over, “Minute of Angle” or MOA. One MOA is one inch at 100 yards.
The 1/4-inch movement of each click will be smaller at close ranges and larger at longer ranges. With that in mind, how far would each click move the impact point at 50 yards? At 200 yards, how far would one click change the impact point? I am not giving you the answer. Use mathematics or experimentation to determine the correct answer. When you have the answer on how many clicks and in what directions it takes to impact the very center of the tar-get or the X ring, it needs to be immediately written in your DOPE Book. Remember, you must include windage and elevation clicks along with wind speed and value.
OLYMPIC SMALL BORE RIFLE SHOOTER DEMONSTRATING
ALL THREE SHOOTING POSITION WITH PERFECT TECHNIQUE.
THE GREATER THE DISTANCE, THE GREATER THE NEED
You might be surprised but the blacked-out rings will roughly look the same size at 15 meters and 600 yard, and everything in between. This hap-pens because the rings get larger on targets as distance increases. Rifles that are firearms, such as .22 Long Rifle rimfire (.22LR) chambered rifles, are used in relatively short-range target matches. These ranges start at 10 meters (32.8 feet) or 15 meters (49.2 feet). A distance of 15 meters is relatively short compared with the distance of targets in center fire rifle matches. For example, in a Service Rifle match the firing ranges are 200 yards standing and
sitting or kneeling rapid fire, 300 yard prone rapid fire and 600 yards prone position slow fire.
The 6 O’Clock hold becomes more and more useful as distances to the target increase. At 600 yards, it is nearly a certainty that you will not be able to find the exact center of the black-out rings, but you will be able, as mentioned several times, to find the 6 O’Clock position of the targets blackout rings.
Windage doping will be determined by the wind conditions on the range present during the practice or match day. Wind values can change over the practice or a match. During a match or match practice it maybe necessary to add and subtract windage be-tween shots. If the value of wind changes, annotate the changed wind value in your DOPE Book, and the number of windage clicks and direction applied to the rifle sights. Wind value can differ from the firing line to the target so much so, that I have seen a full value left wind at the firing line and a full value right wind at the target. It can be quite confusing for a novice shooter to know what wind value is more important, the wind at the firing line or at the target. So here is the answer, the wind value at the firing line will effect the impact point of the bullet much more than the wind value at the target. If the wind is variable in speed, attempt to time your shots to when the wind has stopped or dropped to its lowest speed.
Some outdoor ranges for rimfire rifles might have semi-enclosed areas with fencing, that will block most crosswind, meaning that having to add windage doping may not be necessary. Every range will have slight differences, no two will be exactly alike. In your DOPE Books, during practice secession or a match note the name and location of the range and range lane number you are on, and what number target position you are assigned for future reference. When you revisit previous ranges again, you’ll know what to expect. If you are at the range that has only one range lane, then annotating what number range lane you are firing on would not apply.
SERVICE RIFLE SHOOTER USING EXCELLENT BODY POSITIONING, WHILE SHOOTING THE 200 YARD STANDING OFF HAND PHASE. THE SLING CANNOT BE USED IN THE GRASP.
(PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA)
In matches with firing at a long distance, such as a Service Rifle match, which starts with 200 yards un-supported, the rifle sling must be attached to the front and rear sling attachment on the rifle and cannot be used as part of the, “Grasp” (the sling can’t be manipulated in anyway as support) during the 200 yard standing slow fire portion of the match. The sling will be allowed as part of the “Grasp” or support in the next positions at 300 and 600 yards.
Though the 200-yard standing, unsupported in-service rifle match is the first position of fire, it is difficult to shoot accurately, while standing and shooting off-hand. Off-hand only shooting becomes more difficult as the distance to the target increases. No extra means of support are allowed, other than how you position your hands, arms and body. There is no help from the sling. You must also very accurately judge wind conditions and adjust your windage dope as needed. Becoming a good standing off-hand rifle shooter without sling support, will make you an even better shooter when the sling is allowed to be used as part of supporting the rifle.
When shooting the off-hand standing position, with-out sling support, it is absolutely necessary to use a standing position that will help you keep the rifle stable as possible. Illustration 11 shows a Service Rifle match shooter at the 200-yard standing slow fire un-supported position, which is the first stage of the match. The standing slow fire consists of firing 20 rounds with a time limit of 20 minutes.
The standing position that will help increase your rifle’s stability is achieved with placing the back of your shoulder to your target with your feet just a bit more than shoulder width apart. As you shoulder your rifle, rotate your torso slightly back, until your rifle is aligned with your assigned target. Push your hip forward in the direction of the target and place your trigger hand in the normal position and move your support hand back to the location of the magazine. You can use the bottom of the magazine as a support hand contact point and place your elbow in the area of your hip that has been pushed forward. This standing position is sometimes referred to as the standing Olympic Rifle Stance. It is by far the most stable unsupported standing rifle shooting stance. Some instructors say, “never use the magazine as part of this stance”. I strongly disagree as long as there is no excessive play (movement) in the magazine.
DISTANCES IN IMPERIAL AND METRIC, KNOWN AND UNKNOWN
Through my experience in the military and law enforcement, I have learned one undeniable fact that real combat or self-defense shooting is so vastly different from shooting in competitive shooting matches. In most types of competitive target shooting we have some very, very important information. We know the distance to the target, and the size of the target. In real world engagements with a rifle or pistol, more than likely you will need to determine size and range yourself, while possibly being shot at. The point being, take advantage of the gift of knowing size and distance to the target; and absence of return fire! Stay focused and relaxed in competitive shooting; there is no reason not to be.
When you practice for a particular match, take care in getting the target placed at the exact distance
from the firing-line. Rules should clearly state what type of target will be used. Get the information from the governing organization rules book or website. The target will have a name and/or number listed in the rules. Know the size and number or target rings – in bullseye style target – and how many bullseyes targets are on one target sheet. In your kit bag you should have three different measuring devices: a ruler, a yard/meter stick, and a measuring tape. It’s important that all three measuring devices can measure Imperial/Metric increments.
MOST METAL SELF ROLLING MEASURING TAPES INCLUDE BOTH IMPERIAL (STANDARD)
AND METRIC DISTANCES. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO HAVE THIS PIECE OF KIT.
Know and be comfortable in using both measurements. Start the process of memorizing that there are 30.48 centimeters in a foot, there are 1.093 yards in a meter, and 109.361 yards in 100 meters. It will help you quickly adapt your doping needs. For instance, it you are shooting a target placed at 100 meters, and you only have doping information for your rifle at 100 yards you will need to add elevation dope to your sights. Even better, on your own, place targets at metric distances, and work out the amount of elevation needed to dope your sights. Then write those ranges and elevation corrections in your rifle data book.
If you become one of those lucky few who becomes a master of your shooting discipline, it can lead you to something very special. Being sponsored and allowed to join a Manufacture’s Team, like Team Anschutz USA. Maybe even more special, is the path to the USA Olympic Shooting Teams. All Olympic shooting teams compete in international shooting events and it is important to know that all international shooting distances will be in metric units only. The distance between shooter and target will be in meters.
Through extensive experience and observation, I learned the number one cause of a miss or horribly placed shot, is incorrect estimation of distance! In certain matches targets are posted without revealing to the shooter the distance to the target. When participating in a match where the distance to the target is not given, target shooting will be much easier if you practice by placing targets that are used in matches at known distances and learn how they look at each distance. Remember, the error factor increases exponentially as distance increases. Pay attention to what common items look like at known distances. This also will help you learn to estimate distance correctly. Do not get sloppy with your estimations by rounding the distance too much. If you estimate the distance to the target incorrectly, it will not matter if you have perfect sight picture and alignment when you fire. The result will be a big fat miss!
Competing in a “Combat Match” such as Three Gun Matches, distances will not be known, meaning you will not be told the distance of any target that you engage from the identified engagement area, just as in a real life combat. They are called Combat Matches because they are trying to simulate more accurately how a real-world firearm engagement would develop and how you would have to solve that scenario. Still, with the added benefit of knowing that no-one is shooting at you. Just because they call it Combat Match, there is no reason to allow yourself to get rattled. I assure you the match winner had that figured out.
Bad guys do not have signs or even small tags on them saying how far away they are from you. You must determine the distance on your own. There are laser range finders that can help, but the laser rangefinders that actually work well, which is the kind that will be able to hit an animal or person (low quality lasers do not reflect very well off of targets made of flesh and bone at distances over 200 yards) and give an accurate range-return are very expensive. There are mechanical optics, such as the Spectra 500 that can be used to determine range by using two lenses spaced farther apart than our eyes, much, much further. The further apart the lenses are, the more accurate the device will be in estimating range. I haven’t seen one these devices in 20 years, but I am sure with the help of the internet you could locate one. Also, there are scopes with mil-dot reticles that can be used to determine a targets range. These scopes also have a cam device in the elevation turret, that allows you to change elevation yards or meters, and are matched to a specific caliber, bullet weight and bullet design. Using a mil-dot reticle is more advanced shooting, and it is all based on knowing the average height and width of every-day objects.
DRAWING OF A LEUPOLD M3/M4 MIL-DOT SCOPE RETICLE
In this article I am not going to cover what optics are good for accurately judging distances or how to use a mil-dot reticle. I have just briefly mentioned them, because there are some very good ones available. The other reason not to cover this, is that the optics are very expensive and not allowed in most rifle matches. The optics that are suitable can cost as much or more than the SPR they will be used with. As more time passes and you develop into a consistency accurate rifleman, we will revisit this subject in detail, if NSSP at some point in the future, adds long range centerfire rifle matches that allow the use of an optical sight. However, I wouldn’t expect this to happen anytime soon, but possibly someday NSSP might…or not.
EASILY IDENTIFY NSSP LOANER RIFLES
It is possible that certain rifles and air rifles will not be well suited for the 6 O’Clock hold method of aiming. This may be due to distance from the firing line to the target, and almost assuredly when the distance is very close. However, there are air rifles that will be well suited for the 6 O’Clock hold method of aiming for very short range targets, if fitted with the appropriate small bore match grade sights.
Identifying what rifles are capable of holding a correct 6 O’Clock hold sight picture at very short range is a necessity. This is the manner in which NSSP loaner rifles should be sorted by rear stenciled stock consecutive numbers (which will be applied by the custodian of the NSSP rifles, with the assistance or an armorer), you need to keep your dope book for every rifle; that it is possible that you might use. This way when you are shooting a short, moderate, or long range you’ll know what that rifle or air rifle is capable.
6 O’CLOCK HOLD WITH REAR NOTCHED
THE 6 O’CLOCK HOLD IS SHOWN ON THE LEFT ILLUSTRATION AND
THE MORE COMMON CENTER HOLD ON RIGHT.
Rifles and pistols with ramp post front sights and rear adjustable notch aperture sights can use the 6 O’Clock hold also. Front ramp post and rear notch sights are the most common type of sights used on firearms and air guns as a whole. The rear notch sight being adjustable for elevation and windage is
key in being able to use the 6 O’Clock hold with sights in this configuration.
Match grade rear notch sights that are adjustable in 1/4” at 25 yards, and exclusively used on pistols designed for bullseye target shooting. Just like with using the 6 O’Clock Hold with a rifle, requires blacked-out center rings on bullseye targets.
AUTHORS’ SPRINGFIELD ARMORY .45 ACP LONG-SLIDE NATIONAL MATCH TARGET PISTOL
THE THREE MOST COMMON PISTOL SIGHT PICTURE WHEN USED
TO FIRE AT BLACKED-OUT RING TARGETS.
The degree of difficulty has increased due to the lessened accuracy of a pistol. All the fundamentals that have been discussed in using the 6 O’Clock Hold are still applicable. The increase of difficulty comes from the shorter distance between aperture and front ramp or front sight. The longer the distance is between the rear aperture and the front sight will increase the accuracy of a pistol. For pistol competitive target shooting use the longest barrel you can control, like the (Illustration 18) Springfield Armory National Match 6” barrel or long slide pistol. It is amazing how accurate the pistol is, it will shoot one MOA at 15 meters.
THESE REPRESENT JUST ABOUT EVERY REAR NOTCH APERTURE SIGHT WITH POST AND RAMP FRONT SIGHT. EACH SHOWS CORRECT 6’OCLOCK HOLD FOR THE TYPE OF SIGHTS IN THE ILLISTRATION.
I want everyone in earnest to try using the 6 O’Clock Hold, when practicing for a match in which blacked-out center bullseye targets are used.
I am certain that all of you will see an improvement in your match scores, as you become more comfortable with it, and as your DOPE Books gather more information. As always, if you have any questions feel free to email me.
Jason R. Dinger
Santa Ana CA Police Detective Retired & USAF Veteran
NRA Instructor and RSO
NSSP Firearms Expert and Armorer
DEADICATION IN MEMORIUM
Dedicated to my father, Robert “Bob” G. Dinger, beloved husband, father grandfather and business owner. U.S. Army, 7th Infantry Division, Veteran of the Korean War. Born December 21, 1934 – TAPS June 23, 2019, 1855 Hours. REST AT EASE DAD.
This article is for the sole use of the NSSP
a subsidiary of Royal Rangers USA &
TEN-X Firearms Training
Written By Jason R. Dinger 2019
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NOTICE: All firearms and air rifles should be considered loaded until proved unloaded by a qualified and trained adult. Never point a firearm or air rifle at anything you are not willing to destroy. Never place your finger on the trigger until you are 100% sure of your target and are ready to shoot. Always use appropriate safety equipment, hearing and eye protection when using firearms and air rifles. It is a criminal act within the State of California to let a minor use a firearm with-out the expressed permission of the minor’s parent or guardian. Check your local and state laws regarding permitting a minor to use a firearm, if you do not reside in California.
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NO PORTION OF THIS ARTICLE MAYBE REPRINTED
WITH-OUT THE EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION OF 10-X FIREARMS TRAINING
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