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What Are Iron Sights?

What Are Iron Sights?

Guns are no child’s play, and you need a steady hand, lots of training and practice, and oh, a good sight to be trusted to fire a gun in the most accurate way.

What Are Iron Sights?

What is an iron sight?

To get the most accurate shot possible, guns come equipped with sights. These sights, as the word suggests, literally become your sight when aiming at a target. They are small optical devices mounted on top of all firearms, and without them, firing an accurate long-range shot becomes incredibly difficult.

There are multiple types of sights, namely iron or open sights, peep sights, telescopic sights, reflex sights, laser sights, and a bunch of others. The most standard sights are the iron or open ones, which are mounted onto almost every rifle now. As technology has advanced, more advanced versions of the traditional iron sights have been made, and are added onto firearms for the additional benefits that they provide; however, iron sights remain the most basic sights there are and can be found on all old models of rifles.

How do iron sights work?

Iron sights work by providing the shooter with horizontal and vertical reference points so they can aim at targets more accurately. Iron sights do not have any magnifying properties, which can be a major disadvantage and really inconvenient for people when they’re looking to shoot beyond certain distances.

Since rifle bullets don’t travel in a straight line, these sights are crucial to let the shooter know the trajectory that their bullet will take to make sure that they hit the bullseye. The sights align the target with the gun, helping the shooter get his exact target.

Rifles are somewhat curved and shoot at a certain angle. If you shoot using only your naked eye to aim, you might miss the spot entirely. The sight helps you to where you will be shooting and aligns the gun so that the bullet hits the spot, despite the trajectory.

How accurate are iron sights and far can you shoot with them?

An iron sight, at least in theory, should not affect accuracy at all. You should be able to shoot just as well with an iron sight as you can do with a scope, though the scope makes the job easier. For a practice hand and eye, iron sights would consistently get you the accuracy you need, just like any other sight would.

However, the quality of the iron sights matter. With finer iron sights, you can get a better sight picture, helping you aim better, while crudely made iron sights will not give you the same sight picture from larger distances, and smaller targets.

As far as the question of how far can iron sights be shot is concerned, with enough practice and expertise, shooters are able to shoot precisely from a distance of 1000 yards. As mentioned, iron sights are largely accurate, granted that you have a deep understanding of iron sights, and have had enough practice with them.

But just because it is possible to shoot from 1000 yards, does not mean you should. Shooting with an iron sight is ideally only recommended for distances up to 300 yards or even less. Some limit the distance by even half that number.

Best use for iron sights

Are iron sights obsolete?

While iron sights are not generally preferred anymore, they are still used, and many love to use them as they are confident with the years of training and practice they have gotten with iron sights. Iron sights are now not really too popular among civilians, but they are still widely used in the military, so it’s definitely not obsolete.

In comparison, though, iron sights are probably not the most superior sights in the market. They work just as well as they did a century ago, and you can easily shoot long-distance targets very accurately with an iron sight, but there are far better options available now. Red dot optics and other modern versions of sights are so convenient and simple, why would someone go through the hassle of understanding and practicing with an iron sight when the end result is just as good with any other sight?

Zeroing and Bore Sighting Your Iron Sight

Indeed, iron sights on your rifle need to be zeroed. Zeroing also referred to as sighting-in, is the process of adjusting the rifle so that the line of aim intersects with the bullet’s trajectory at just the right point, i.e., your target. The iron sights adjust the vision and ensure that you get the perfect shot. Using your rifle without zeroing in will result in your bullets flying all over the place.

Before you start thinking about zeroing your rifle, though, you should ideally bore sight your rifle. Bore sighting is the process of adjusting the optical appliances or sights on a rifle so that the firearm barrel and sights are aligned. This is typically done to pre-align the sights before you start zeroing in your sights, as it makes the process much faster.

Then you can move on to zeroing or sighting-in on your rifle. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Pick a stable surface to do the job. Make sure you and your rifle are placed on a steady, unwavering surface when you calibrate your rifle. Even the slightest mistake can result in significant deflections off the target.
  2. Pick the distance you want to zero in on (how much distance is appropriate for zeroing in is another debate altogether and will be discussed below.) Place a target at that option, and fire some rounds to see where they land.
  3. Based on where the bullets hit, adjust your iron sights, so the point of aim and the point of impact are perfect.
  4. Fire some more rounds at the target to see how well you have zeroed in. If the bullets are still slightly off the mark, make the adjustments accordingly.

Once you have zeroed in the rifle to your desired distance, you are ready to go out and start shooting some game. But how much distance should you consider sighting-in on?

Iron Sights on a rifle

Does the military use iron sights?

Absolutely. All military rifles come with iron sights, and recruits are still tested and trained on marksmanship through traditional rifles with iron sights. While the iron sights on these weapons can be removed and replaced with red dot sights, they are still in-built with most modern military weapons.

Military men and women need to be able to use rifles in any condition and situation. And iron sights are the best candidate for the job because they work, despite bad lighting, without any batteries, and even when your rifle has taken a beating and is bent out of shape. Iron sights are reliable, which is why soldiers are still made to go through basic training with iron sights, so they have something to fall back on when moderns sights and technologies fail them.

Does the military use MOA or MRad?

Choosing between the Minute of Angle (MOA) and Miliradian (MRad) is a never-ending debate. Most civilians just go with what the military and law enforcement agencies are using, without completely understanding the concept behind these, because they trust these agencies to know best what works best. But the debate isn’t about what’s better and what’s not.

MOA and MRad are, to put it simply, units of angles. To fully understand how the two differ and what significance they have on actually shooting the rifle, you will have to revisit the geometric features of a circle, and other complex math equations. To make things simpler, the target size and distance from which you’ll be shooting at are important considerations. If you plan on shooting targets over small distances and are comfortable with the imperial system of calculations, stick with MOA. The military typically uses MRad, as it enables them to take aim over unknown distances, but you probably don’t need that, as a civilian.

If you are contemplating whether to go for an iron sight or investing in one of the pricier, modern options, we suggest doing your research before diving in. Iron sights might be old-fashioned and trickier, but they are still the sight of choice for a lot of skilled shooters for a reason.

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Rifle Scopes Center Staff