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Old May 9, 2012, 08:36 AM   #1
iMagUdspEllr
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How to use iron sights?

I would really appreciate any advice you guys could give me on this topic. I can't seem to do any better than 6" groups at 100 yards with iron sights. My AR's small aperture on the rear sight is .07" (or about that). It seems that I need to get a smaller aperture if I want to be more accurate.

I just hate it that when I fire the Barrett .50 BMG at the range with an Aimpoint Comp M4 (don't ask me why they put that optic on it) I can get 1" groups at 100 yards. It makes no sense. Neither one has magnification. How do people make accurate groups with iron sights? Are they using .04" or .02" apertures with paper-thin front sights?
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Old May 9, 2012, 08:44 AM   #2
TX Hunter
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The size of the rear appeture is not as important as breath controll, body alignment and trigger pull. At 100 yards you will not be able to make out the rings in a standard target. Atleast I cant. Focus on breathing, natural point of aim and trigger pull and your groups will shrink. Provided that you aim at the same spot each time you fire the rifle.
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Old May 9, 2012, 08:58 AM   #3
iMagUdspEllr
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Thanks for the fast response TX Hunter. I gotcha. But, what I don't understand is that if I can make 1" groups at 100 yards with a .50 BMG with a red dot and not with a 5.56 with iron sights. I don't think my issue is breath control, body alignment, and trigger pull. If that were true wouldn't I suck just as much with the Aimpoint?

I can swear that I perfectly aligned my iron sights but when I look at the target the group is terrible. I must not understand how to get sight alignment. But the only way I know how to do that is to... line them up. But, that doesn't seem to work out for me.
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Old May 9, 2012, 09:16 AM   #4
Bart B.
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When shooting for accuracy with iron sights (both open and aperture), top competitors focus their aiming eye on the front sight. That's what is moving around. The bullseye will appear as a fuzzy ball, but it's not moving.

It helps if the front sight is a post that its width be the same width as the bullseye appears. And a flat top front sight is best for this. Get a sight picture with the black fuzzy ball setting atop the front sight post. If you use an aperture front sight, it should appear about twice the size of the round black fuzzy ball bullseye, then just center the fuzzy ball in the aperture ring. Mastering this will let good shots shoot almost as accurate as when using a scope.

Aligning the front sight with the rear is difficult with a notch rear sight. It's pretty easy with aperture rear sights. Just don't use too small an aperture in the rear sight that dims the view too much.
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Old May 9, 2012, 09:31 AM   #5
iMagUdspEllr
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@Bart B.: Wow! Thanks! I'm going to try that out. I have an aperture rear sight and a post front sight. So you actually put the center of the target above the front sight post? I will try that this weekend thanks!
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Old May 9, 2012, 10:01 AM   #6
btmj
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Quote:
So you actually put the center of the target above the front sight post? I will try that this weekend thanks!
yes, this is key to success. Some (many) handguns have a sight alignment where you cover the target with the front sight... But with rifles (and some handguns) you use what is called a 6 o'clock hold, meaning the point of impact is just above the front sight, rather than behind it.

Another thing to consider: That big barret is a heavy heavy rifle, and when nestled into a sandbag it will be much more resistant to "breathing effects". When shooting a lightweight rifle, breath control and stillness become more critical.
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Old May 9, 2012, 10:18 AM   #7
Brian Pfleuger
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Iron sights have to be aligned. Red Dots don't. That's the single biggest factor. Consistent sight alignment, which is aided by the techniques outlined above.
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Old May 9, 2012, 10:37 AM   #8
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Hey I don't have anything to add to this topic but just wanted to say this information will help me out greatly as well so thank you very much for the tips and great topic iMagUdspEllr
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Old May 9, 2012, 11:07 AM   #9
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Really basic iron sights info:
* Don't look at the target, look at the front sight. The target will be a blur.
* Center the front sight in the aperture.
* Breathe in and relax, letting the breath out naturally.
* Squeeze the trigger, don't jerk it.
* Make sure your cheek weld and your sight picture are consistent.
* Make sure your support is consistent from shot to shot.
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Old May 9, 2012, 04:34 PM   #10
Bart B.
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iMagUdspEllr asks:
Quote:
So you actually put the center of the target above the front sight post?
Yes, if the target's a round bullseye. Or even a square one. It's easier to hold the same elevation for each shot when there's an edge of the target at the bottom for reference. Although it's a fuzzy ball, if one tries to center the top of a flat post in the middle, there's not much of a reference and you'll have vertical shot stringing. It's whats called a "6-o'clock hold" as the front sight's at the 6-o'clock position on the round bullseye. Ideally, the front sight's width will appear to be as wide as the round bullseye is; this helps to prevent horizontal shot stringing.

There's two things that using this "pumpkin on a fence post" 6-o'clock hold with a square topped front sight under a round bullseye that should be learned for best accuracy.

First, if sunlight's coming from behind you and to the right, the front sight will appear to be a tiny bit to the left from where it actually is and the barrel will point too far to the right from where it should be; the right rear edge of the post is full lit by the sun but the left rear edge is in the shade. You'll have to put 1/4 to 1/2 MOA correction to the left. The old saying "Light's right, sights left" covers this. The opposite's true for light from the left; light's left, sight's right.

Second, if it's a very bright day, the iris in your aiming eye will close down a bit and because you're focusing on the front sight, making the bullseye appear a bit larger. You'll have to put 1/4 to 1/2 MOA up correction on the rear sight. Hence, the second old saying "Light's up, sights up" applies. Conversely, "light's down, sight's down" is the thing to do on dark days.

Last edited by Bart B.; May 9, 2012 at 06:29 PM.
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Old May 9, 2012, 08:47 PM   #11
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everything Bart B said is true, and some of that I remember learning in my youth, and I have since forgotten... thanks for refreshing my memory.....

With my near sightedness and astigmatism, I shoot much better with a low power scope than I do with iron sights. A 1.5X scope does not offer much magnification, but it relieves my eye of having to focus only on the front sight.
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Old May 9, 2012, 11:14 PM   #12
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The use of iron sights for fine shooting is becoming a lost art. You've gotten some fine advice. With peep sights, you eye autmatically centers the top of the front sight in the circle. You can see when it "looks right".

Put the target on top of the post, and shoot. You'll need at adjust a bit till the rounds hit the center of the bullseye with the hold, but once done, tis done, and you can work on being consistant with your hold and squeeze, and that is what makes small groups.

With leaf type sights, the traditional semi-buckhorn, etc, you have to put the top of the front sight (or the bead) in the bottom of the rear notch (or alternately, top of the front sight level with the top of the rear,and centered), consistantly the same way, and then sight the gun either for the 6 o'clock hold or sight it for the bead to cover what you want hit. These sights do fine when you are shooting at things. Peeps do fine on things, and have an advantage (easier to use well) on tiny things, like a spot on a piece of paper.

Back before 1900, the best shots were getting 1,000yard groups in the 10" range, with iron sights, using .45 caliber blackpowder rounds, with at drop at that range measured in multiple yards. Irons aren't impossible to use with great accuracy, they just need more from the shooter to do it.
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Old May 9, 2012, 11:32 PM   #13
iMagUdspEllr
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I love this forum. Thank you guys a bunch. But, hey, don't let me stop anyone from contributing. Continue, if anyone has more to add!
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Old May 9, 2012, 11:53 PM   #14
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In the army we use to blacken the front and rear sight with the black smoke that came off a candle. It would remove the glare and give a more crisp sight picture. Aside from all above mentioned, give it a try. In the bright hot sunlight of the South Carolina sun, I was consistently hitting targets out to 500 yards with my M-14. I still remember my windage and elevation. 11 and 13.....
Soon after I qualified with the M-16, and then it was off to that waste land called Vietnam.....
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Old May 10, 2012, 12:13 AM   #15
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I try to keep a very thin line of white between the top of the sight and the bull, but I push the post up so "close" to the bull that it seems that the bottom of the bull flattens slightly. Some sort of an optical illusion, I guess, but that's how it looked. I can see the bull with a very thin line of white and then below that the front sight with the bottom of the bull looking very slighly flattened as if the front sight were pushing up against it and flattening the bottom.

Then you have to pay attention to getting the bull centered on the front sight and, with iron sights, keeping the front sight centered in the rear notch with the top of the front sight even with the top of the rear sight. With an aperture, alignment with the rear sight isn't so critical--your eye sort of handles it for you.

Watch your lighting conditions as well. If the sun is off to one side or the other, and the conditions are variable (clouds occasionally blocking the sun) then you can end up with the light on the side of the front sight causing you to shoot away from the sun. Basically it makes the front sight appear to be larger on the side that is illuminated. If you shot a group with some of the shots fired while a cloud was blocking the sun and with the rest fired while the sun was shining on one side of the front sight, that can open your groups up.

Blackening the sights helps with all of this.
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Old May 10, 2012, 03:01 AM   #16
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It's been touched on, but the target is almost as important as the sights. A matte black aiming bull that's about the same width as the front post (~6 moa) on a light tan background works well. White copy paper can be too bright and wash out the aiming bull.

A scope may let you hit golf balls on the 100 yard berm, but it's only because the magnification lets you see them. You can hit golf ball size targets just as easy with irons as long as they're stuck in the middle of a proper target.
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Old May 10, 2012, 04:46 AM   #17
Bart B.
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Here's two popular versions of a myth about using metallic sights:

Quote:
With peep sights, your eye automatically centers the top of the front sight in the circle.

With an aperture, alignment with the rear sight isn't so critical--your eye sort of handles it for you.
Anyone who can shoot no worse than 1 MOA for 15 or more consecutive shots with these sights knows they are myths. But alas, the internet is full of sites with folks claiming they're facts such as this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_sight . But it's got other good information on them.

Ask the folks from the US Olympic or Palma rifle teams who are the best in using aperture (peep) sights.

Last edited by Bart B.; May 10, 2012 at 05:14 AM.
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Old May 10, 2012, 05:28 AM   #18
mehavey
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First. See pic below and the earlier post it came from:

http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...3&postcount=39

Second. Your eye does naturally center the intersection of the post and target in the brightest part of
the aperture circle -- which optics have that eye perceive as it's center.

Third. You/the shooter can align the target/adjust the sight on top of that post any way you want: 6-o'clock at shown above for bullseye shooting; dead centered if you've a mind to and can distinguish the front post from the target background; or even on top of the target (i.e. on the animal's back) if you need hold-over to extend your range.

Last edited by mehavey; May 10, 2012 at 05:36 AM.
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Old May 10, 2012, 06:04 AM   #19
robertsig
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Quote:
I was consistently hitting targets out to 500 yards with my M-14.
How is this even possible?

I have 20/20 vision and any small target past 100 yards would look way too fuzzy to make out. At 500 yards, I wouldn't even know it was there unless it was a barn.
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Old May 10, 2012, 06:15 AM   #20
Sport45
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Quote:
How is this even possible?

I have 20/20 vision and any small target past 100 yards would look way too fuzzy to make out. At 500 yards, I wouldn't even know it was there unless it was a barn.
The aiming bull is about the width of the front post even at the longer ranges. Doping the wind becomes more difficult than elevation at longer ranges.
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Old May 10, 2012, 06:55 AM   #21
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Wow, this thread has explained this wonderfully. I've been struggling with this as well and have been splitting the bull with the front sight post and trying to zero like that.

My only observation is that this seems great for shooting at doping bulls sized for specific ranges, but wouldn't that mean that when shooting at other practical targets (like a hostile enemy or whatever) you would have to hold the radius of the respective doping bull below the desired point of impact(center mass)? Or am I over thinking it. It seems that while it makes it easier to keep tight groups on doping bullseyes, it would make it more difficult to aim small on other targets that do not match the doping bull for a given range.

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Old May 10, 2012, 07:11 AM   #22
Sport45
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I've never been in combat, but I imagine a 7 has about the same effect as a X.

The guys who are expected to make precision hits at 200+ yards probably have optics.
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Last edited by Sport45; May 10, 2012 at 07:20 AM.
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Old May 10, 2012, 07:25 AM   #23
Bart B.
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mehavey claims:
Quote:
Your eye does naturally center the intersection of the post and target in the brightest part of the aperture circle -- which optics have that eye perceive as it's center.
Which one of them (post or target) does the eye naturally center when the post does not intersect with the target?

How does the eye move and realign the rays of light coming from both the post or target and the aperture such that either one aligns to the center of the aperture?

What about aperture front sights where the bullseye doesn't intersect with anything; it just floats in the middle of the aiming ring? What part of that front sight picture does the eye naturally center?

Last edited by Bart B.; May 10, 2012 at 08:05 AM.
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Old May 10, 2012, 07:46 AM   #24
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As an aside.

This is an example of one of the reasons why RDS sights are such a "force multiplier" on the modern battlefield.

They are easier and quicker to learn/align than traditional iron sights.

That being said, the key to any aiming method is consistency.

You don't have to be "using them right" as long as you are using the the SAME ever time.

There are techniques that will make it easier and that play to the natural tendencies of the human eye/brain combination to line things up, but the key is alway going to be consistency.

Get to the point that you "do it the same" every single time without thought, once you get to that Zen point, you will be much more accurate.

If you do it "wrong" very consistently you will be more accurate that doing it "right" less consistently.

Since I figure you are shooting a SCAR 16, I would make sure that your barrel screws are tight and equally torqued to the correct torque then start working on those things that many people here have suggested.

Mr. Stuart on this board would be an excellent resource to tap or other guys shooting National Match competitions.
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Old May 10, 2012, 08:43 AM   #25
mehavey
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Quote:
Which one of them (post or target) does the eye naturally center when the post does not intersect with the target?
Neither. The brain/eye system goes to the center of the circle of light.

Quote:
How does the eye move and realign the rays of light coming from both the post or target and the aperture such that either one aligns to the center of the aperture?
Rays of light do not move. As noted above, the brain/eye centers itself in the light circle.
The shooter (i.e, the brain) can train to either center the post top there (with target above it),
or the post top there again (with the target centered behind it).

In "target" shooting, we "generally" locate the target above the post for greatest precison
against the fine tangent line of the bull -- but the post top is still centered in the light ring.

In hunting, we "generally" center both the target (e.g., the heart-lung area of a deer) and the
top of the post -- but the post top is still centered in the light ring.
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