Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Are Iron Sights Still Relevant?

Modern firearms in our modern world come with modern sighting solutions. While magnifying scopes aren't exactly new technology, the glass being used in them gets better every year, and red dot sights make for incredibly fast target acquisition on rifles and even pistols. There is no arguing the benefits of the latest technology in aiding accurate fire. With that said, is there still a place for iron sights in today's firearms? Let's look at the pros and cons of iron sights and see if they still bring value. 

Let's start with the cons, because they definitely have some.
  • Iron sights are much harder to use if, like mine, your eyesight is weak
  • They have much lower visual contrast than a dot or a crosshair. 
  • They lack any kind of magnification, making engaging targets at longer ranges far more difficult. 
  • Many of them also have very limited adjustment, or adjustment that requires tools.

With all these factors stacked against them, why would anyone want iron sights on a firearm they plan to do serious work with? 

Not all is dour and dreary in the world of irons, and their redeeming qualities are very strong.

  • Irons are simple. You only have to put a post in a notch or a peep window and you're on target. There are no complicated reticles or uncertainty about how a dot should appear in your optic.
  • Irons are durable. While iron sights are not indestructible, and most modern optics aren't exactly fragile, the old-school iron sight definitely wins in the durability category. I've seen both iron sights and optic sights fail, but the failures on irons are far less frequent and generally have required far more substantial force.
  • Irons are less expensive. The gold standard for AR-15 iron sights can be bough for just about $110, and even the most expensive irons top out around $200, but quality optics are barely getting started at that price point.

In addition, the contrast issue I mentioned earlier can be resolved with brightly colored paint, or with a fiber optic sight insert. Both of these options have worked very well for me.

The verdict on whether or not irons are worthwhile is up to the individual user. The strongest point I can make on the matter is that all of my guns which can effectively mount iron sights have them. Sometimes old technology still gets the job done.



  1. Unless you have cataracts they work perfect and never need batteries. I have a brand new Skinner Peep Sight to install on my Marlin 1894CB in .357 MAG one of these days.

  2. Iron sights are less bulky. This is useful if mounted on a pistol for concealment.


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