BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Vision Science Research Center investigator who also is an expert marksman has found a more intuitive way to aim a pistol.
Associate Professor Timothy Kraft, Ph.D., has developed a new gunsight design that relies on subconscious ability. Opti-sight, a UAB-protected innovation, updates a pistol-aiming device that has remained unchanged for more than a century. Opti-sight promises to reduce the time law enforcement, professional and amateur shooters need for target practice to improve marksmanship.
Opti-sight is a precision-milled half-triangle shape that replaces the traditional pistol gunsight. The design relies on subjective contours, an optics principle that explains how the subconscious mind fills in the blanks when the eye sees half of a familiar shape like a circle, square or triangle, Kraft says.
The rear opti-sight notch looks like an incomplete triangle sitting atop the gun barrel. When a shooter looks through the notch, the brain tells the eye where the missing triangle apex should appear, and that apex is the precise point of aim, Kraft says. "This triangular shape that I've created allows the brain to visualize concentric triangles whose imaginary apexes focus the shooter's attention on the exact target bullseye.
"Opti-sight makes shooting very intuitive by allowing gunsight alignment to become subconscious."
Marksmen, especially beginning shooters, will see improvements more quickly with opti-sight than a traditional gunsight, he says.
Currently, pistol sights feature a square post on the front of the barrel that is visually centered inside a notch on the back of the barrel. A shooter uses the two pieces to align the barrel with the target during firing; this method of aiming takes considerable time to master as the brain must work to reconcile inconsistencies seen through the notch, post and down-range target, says Kraft, who competes against some of the nation's best pistoleers and has worked with members of the U.S. Olympic pistol team to test his opti-sight design.
"The way a traditional gunsight works is all very disconnected," he says. "In order to get a good shot off you have to visually scan the gap between the front post and rear sight on the left and equalize that to the gap on the right, then align all that with the center of the target. It is too much for the eye and brain to process."
Kraft's opti-sight design is among the many leading-edge technologies under management by the UAB Research Foundation (UABRF). The responsibility of the foundation is to identify, assess, protect and market commercially viable intellectual property developed at UAB. The UABRF also seeks, negotiates, manages and monitors commercial licensing agreements on behalf of UAB and also ensures compliance with certain government regulations.
When not at the shooting range, Kraft focuses his vision expertise on the physiology and biophysics of the photoreceptors in the retina that send signals to the brain. He and his colleagues in UAB's Department of Vision Sciences and the School of Optometry work in a multidisciplinary vision-research environment to advance the understanding and treatment options for retinal disease.
About the UAB Vision Science Research Center
The UAB Vision Science Research Center promotes collaborative research and advances the scientific knowledge of the eye and central visual pathways in ways that lead to improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blindness and visual impairment. It is a worldwide center of excellence with dedicated personnel, equipment, laboratory and clinical facilities to continuously support knowledge and the training of new vision scientists.