Iron Sights: A Primer
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    Iron Sights: A Primer

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    First and foremost, I am NOT an expert nor am I a high precision shooter. I'm just an average shooter who likes iron sights. Since many of you paid good tax money to teach me how to use them, I thought maybe I'd repay the favor if I can.

    And it seems this topic comes up quite often so I thought I'd toss out my take in hopes it helps someone.

    Alright, so, iron sights, well, obviously there are different kinds. Quite a few different kinds really. But I think for the most part the bulk break down into four basic kinds: Open Sights, Peep Sights, Tang Sights, and Ladder Sights.

    The latter two, tang and ladders, are for more precision and/or long range work. I'm not going to spend much time on these as most who choose them are far more versed in their use than I and most here are interested in the first two.

    Open sights are just that, open. It primarily refers to the rear sight. Buckhorns, notches, batwings, whatever the name/style, they are generally a blade with some type of cut-out to align the front sight. More often than not, they are barrel mounted. Stock Marlin sights are open sights. Open sights are notoriously less accurate than any of the other styles. More on that later...

    Peep sights (a.k.a ghost rings) use a ring for the rear sight. These are generally receiver mounted. While on the surface these may seem like they would be less accurate than open sights since they don't have a notch cut to the size of the front sight, the opposite is actually true. More on that in a minute...


    SHOOTING WITH IRON SIGHTS:

    There are two basic steps in shooting with irons.

    1) Sight Alignment: Sight alignment is looking through the rear sight, then to the front sight and properly positioning it in the rear sight, then back to the front sight and then to the target and positioning the front sight at the point of aim on the target.

    Sight alignment with an open sight means centering the front post in the rear notch with the top of the front sight level with the top of the rear sight.

    Sight alignment with a peep means centering the front sight horizontally and vertically in the ring of the rear sight.

    Something like this:



    2) Sight Picture: Sight picture is when you have everything lined up and then let your eye focus on the front sight. The rear sight and target go blurry. I say again, the target should be blurry. As in the target should be out of focus. The only thing that should be crisp to the eye is the front sight. If you focus on the rear sight or especially the target your front sight will drift and your sight alignment will go to hell and you will not hit where you want. To those not trained/learned in this it may sound odd, but believe me, it is true.

    Sight picture goes something like this and please excuse the poor artwork but hopefully it gets the point across:

    We see Mr. Deer...



    Mr Deer is dumb and doesn't mind us raising our rifle to gain sight alignment...



    Everything is lined up nice and we're ready to shoot, so we gain sight picture and the eye focuses on the front sight...



    Don't get freaked out by Mr. Deer being blurry or the subtle figure eight of the front sight. Ideally, the bang happens just when the figure eight is at the center but I believe trying this more often than not leads to trouble for folks as they force the trigger. Remember, Mr. Deer has a fairly forgiving kill zone. His guts don't care nearly as much as we do if we're off by two inches.

    To adjust iron sights, you move the rear, windage or elevation IN THE DIRECTION YOU WANT THE SHOT TO GO. If you are adjusting the front, it is the opposite of this and you move the sight IN THE DIRECTION YOU ARE OFF.


    So why are peep sights generally superior to open sights? Two reasons: 1) You gain a longer sight plane. The more distance between the front and rear sight the better. This equates to smaller adjustments on the target. 2) And I feel more importantly, a peep lends itself to coming naturally to eye yet going blurry. Blade type sights present such a visual object and require so much attention to align the front sight that they are neither natural nor quick. A peep just seems to melt away the right amount, especially when closer to the eye.

    Alright, I think that's enough for a start.

    I believe a lot more folks can use iron sights than think they can. With practice they can be very fast and effective. They are robust and dependable. And while I've laid everything out in detail, the whole lining up process really goes very fast once you are accustomed to it.

    Correct me if I've mis-stepped and ask if you have questions.



    Last edited by Eli Chaps; 09-12-2014 at 11:06 AM.

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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Looking through the peep forces bad eyes to focus. I can still shoot open sights ok.

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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Pretty good explanation, Erik. I hope that's the deer you shot this past season.

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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    I can remember being taught " Target, foresight, backsight, target, foresight, target, fire.

    It kinda happens in a very small moment in time. Identify target, place foresight beed on it, check your level and centre on backsight, spot the target, spot the bead, spot the target and squeeze her off.

    I have always preferred a round bead and a 'U' sight to a straight post and a slot, they are much finer and less obscuring.

    And dont forget you should be breathing out and firing when breath is exhausted.

    We used to shoot three second shots at 25 yards with a 22, raise rifle, releasing safety, line up the target, and nail it by the count of three. Was lots of good fun, and helped heaps when in tight bush and forest.

    And last of all, with irons, tell yourself, "aim small, miss small " ( I see that was on someones signature here. Never a truer word, nor better advice. )

    Just how I was taught
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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Lotsa good pointers from everyone there....
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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Quote Originally Posted by Halwg
    Pretty good explanation, Erik. I hope that's the deer you shot this past season.

    Ha! Hardly.

    It is representative of how I usually find nice bucks though. Looking right at me before all I see is tail.




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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    good post Erik. I like a bead better with a peep sight but its a personal preference. I also like a front sight dovetailed into the barrel better so theres nothing in the sight picture but the front sight & the target. I do fine with the ramps but they clutter things up more than I like.
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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Erik, that was an excellent explanation on the use of iron sights. The only thing you left out is the distinction between a six o'clock hold and a dead on hold. The six o'clock hold is when you put the aim point of the target appearing to rest on top of the front sight. The dead on hold is when you place the tip of the front sight superimposed directly over the aim point.

    I am a certified firearms instructor, and, when I used to teach CCW classes I spent a good deal of time on explaining the use of iron sights, and I wrote an instruction manual with illustrations like yours. With so much emphasis on the use of scopes nowadays, all too many individuals have never spent much time in gaining proficiency with iron sights. It's too bad.
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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    I put a peep on My Glenfield this afternoon and was practicing the hold. Now if the snow would EVER leave, I could actually get to the range and do some shooting!
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    Re: Iron Sights: A Primer

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in FL
    Erik, that was an excellent explanation on the use of iron sights. The only thing you left out is the distinction between a six o'clock hold and a dead on hold. The six o'clock hold is when you put the aim point of the target appearing to rest on top of the front sight. The dead on hold is when you place the tip of the front sight superimposed directly over the aim point.

    I am a certified firearms instructor, and, when I used to teach CCW classes I spent a good deal of time on explaining the use of iron sights, and I wrote an instruction manual with illustrations like yours. With so much emphasis on the use of scopes nowadays, all too many individuals have never spent much time in gaining proficiency with iron sights. It's too bad.
    Thank you Brian. I was never formally taught the 6 o'clock hold. The dead-on hold was all I ever knew for a good while. The dead-on is just so natural to me now I didn't even think to mention the 6 o'clock. Thanks for bringing it up.

    There is no question scopes have their place and are a vital tool in many scenarios, but I personally believe a lot of folks gravitate toward them just because it seems the thing to do and they don't actually know how to use irons. I also believe folks think they really "need" to see the target so scopes fit that bill. When in reality, as long as you can identify the target then all you really need to be able to do is get your sight alignment.

    Where I live, hunter after hunter after hunter, will tell story after story after story of the game they have taken at 35, 50, 70, 90, 110yrds. It is much more a rarity to hear about the 200, 235, 250yrd shots. But mention an iron sighted lever gun and they'll look at you like you're some kind of idiot.



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