Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Prepper's Armory: Iron Sight Types

The earliest firearms were simply pointed rather than aimed, but as technology matured and new concepts were developed, sights started to appear. At first they were similar to what we would think of as shotgun sights today: more of a guide to make sure the shot went in the right general direction than an actual sight for accurate shooting. As rifled arms became more common, however, better sights were needed.

Some of the earlier styles of iron sights are still with us. For example, the Patridge sight (no, not partridge like the bird) was named after 19th century target shooter and inventor E. E. Patridge and consists of a square post front sight and a rectangular notch rear sight (figure B in the illustration below). Nearly every iron sighted pistol, and many rifles, still use this design.

There are also more recent additions to the handgun iron sight family, such as the Steyr Trapezoidal sight  (figure G in the illustration below). Similar to the Patridge system with a front post and rear notch, the difference here is the shape of those two elements. The front sight is pyramidal, while the rear sight has a similarly-shaped cutout.

A selection of open sights, and one aperture sight suitable for use with long eye relief:
A) U-notch and post, B) Patridge, C) V-notch and post, D) Express, E) U-notch and bead,
F) V-notch and bead, G) trapezoid, H) ghost ring. The gray dot represents the target.

The Buckhorn and Semi-Buckhorn are named for the curved elements on the rear sight that extend up and around, containing the view of the front sight. The arms of the Buckhorn come close to meeting at the top, while the semi-Buckhorn is more open. While the former version of this sight has fallen from common use, the latter style is still frequently found on modern production lever action rifles.

For anyone who's ever attended a Cowboy Action match with a long range component, they've probably seen shooters using a tang-mounted aperture sight, sometimes called a Vernier sight. By positioning the rear sight on the wrist of the stock, it gives a much longer sight radius than the usual rear sight location near the chamber of the barrel, and can be removed or folded down when not in use.
It is a precision mechanism, and was one of the earliest finely-adjustable precision rifle sights available.

This sighting system is complemented with the addition of one of a variety of front sights, usually inside a protective tube or hood and frequently combined with a spirit level for consistent levelling of the rifle. This sight is mounted at the traditional location, the muzzle end of the barrel.

Receiver sights were, as the name implies, mounted to the side and top of the rifle's receiver. These sights, also commonly called peep sights, allowed hunters to make accurate "snap shots" relatively quickly, even in low light conditions. As with the tang sights, many receiver sights were also capable of precise adjustments. This style of sight is the conceptual predecessor of our modern Ghost Ring sight.

There have been more sight designs over the years in addition to these. Some withstood the test of time, while others did not.

In my next post I will explain how to look through the sights and put them on the target, aka sight alignment and picture. 

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