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Old July 30, 2017, 11:57 AM   #1
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Vintage Military Rifle Sights

I don't think there is any dispute the the sights put on US Military rifles are the best in the world.

First you have to get a load that matches the Army's load for a given rifle.

This last week I hit the range with various rifles. Different rifle each morning. I shoot at an abandoned gravel pit on BLM land where I can shoot to 2000 yards and beyond, about two miles from the house. I use gongs because I'm too lazy to go check paper targets.

Some sights are complicated. Such as for the 73 Trapdoor and US Krag. Complicated meaning there are several different notches or apertures to chose from depending on how far, or fast you want to shoot.

I go early before it gets hot, and when I can have the range all to my self.

I started out with the 50-70 Trapdoor. Its sights were left over from the Civil War Muzzle Loaders and leave a bit to be desired. When the leaf is folded down, the notch is good for 100 yards. But with the leaf up, its worthless. There are no range markings on the sight. Plus the sliding notch does just that, slides while you shoot. No way to lock it.

Next day I took the '73 Trapdoor in 45-70. Mind has the later sights and has several apertures/notches to choose from and it matches the ammo. Using the 405 Bullet at about 1300 hundred FPS, all you have to do is match your chosen notch or aperture to the yard markings and its on.

The front sight is narrow and I have problems finding it in an aperture, but the notches are easy to see and fast for getting on target. The apertures are a bit more accurate at distance if you have the time to find the front sight and get on target.

The next day I took the Krag (Rifle) out, usign 220 gr RN bullets about 1950 fps. The sights are simular to the late model M1873s. You get a choice of aperture/notches. And like the front sight on the M1873, too thin for the aperture in most cases.

Both have markings for battle sight zeros but the trajectory of both make them useless in my opinion.

The M1903's ladder sight is quite simple and to the point. Match the ammo and the sights are accurate.

Same with the M1917 and M1903A3.

The problem with the last three is often you find on older rifles the front sight dont match the rear sights. You find a higher front sight, or file it down to match the rear sight settings at any range, they you're set for the rest.

On my M1903s3 and M1917, I found thicker front sights, this helps my old eyes a lot in getting on target quickly with their aperture sights. The problem in shooting the M1917 you have to be careful not to get on one of the ear protectors. (I've done that in CMP GSM matches. Trust me it doesnt help your scored).

The above rifles, except for the 50-70 trapdoor have windage adjustments but they are quite course, about 4 MOA per mark.

Then we get to the Garands (and M14/M1A) best sights of them all. Sight the rifle in. Set the dial to match the witness mark on the receiver to your sight in distance and your good to go for any range to 1100 yards. The windage is 1 MOA clicks so its easier to get dialed in.

The Carbine has some nice sights also. However many (most I have seen) had someone screw with the front sight. Once I got the proper front post to match my 100 yard marking on the rear sight, I'm good for 300. It also has nice windage adjustments.

As much as I like the M16A1, its sights leave a bit to be desired. But as I was taught, sight it in for 250 yards and you can make head shots from the muzzle to 300. Other then that you need to fool with the adjusting the front sight.

On the A2 I dont like the 3/6 Military sights. On mind I have the White Oak NM Sights in 1/2 MOA clicks for elevation and windage. Plus the sight is marked for yardage to 600. For shooting 1000 I use the 600 yard setting and come down 4 revolutions on the front sight and I'm good go go.

I run out of US rifles, now I have to find something else for my early morning shoots. Tomorrow I'll try the Mosin. I already have the front sight to match the rear sight settings but only tried it at 400. Tomorrow I think I'll move out a bit and see how the sights line up at distance.

So if you have a range finder, you can stretch these rifles out as far as you can see the target using iron sights.

Then I think I'll get creative. I have a couple old US Army Marksmanship manuals that instruct on indirect fire with the service rifle. This BLM gravel pit will be perfect for that. Find an object to use for aiming, then set the sights to hit at the target behind a small hill you cant see.

So there we have it, useless information on US Surplus rifles. But it gives me something to do to start my day.
Kraig Stuart
USAMU Sniper School Oct '78
Distinguished Rifle Badge 1071
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Old July 30, 2017, 01:53 PM   #2
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"I don't think there is any dispute the the sights put on US Military rifles are the best in the world."
No blue laws in Wyoming?
I used to love being able to hit hard at 1000 yards. As I get older I find hitting a mini ram at 200 yards with the 22 oddly more satisfying.
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Old July 30, 2017, 02:58 PM   #3
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Blue Laws???

Um this is Wyoming, the government tends to leave us alone.
Kraig Stuart
USAMU Sniper School Oct '78
Distinguished Rifle Badge 1071
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Old October 1, 2017, 09:12 AM   #4
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With my piss poor nearsighted eyes military irons are a constant struggle. It's easy to just say "screw it" and slap on an optic and go with it but for me I want to always push for higher proficiency. I'll never be a master but i'm in the battle against myself. I hope to achieve expert someday that's my realistic goal. I do reasonable with aperture type sights out to 200 yds, but 300 is a real struggle. My issue is i'm RH shooter but my left eye is much stronger. I shoot glass RH and shoot irons LH. I have an A2, Garand and M1A all stock with as issued irons. Notched military sights are the worst challenge , I love my AK47, 1884 TD and my K98 but I can only shoot them out to about 75 yds and maintain a comfortable target acquisition. So the struggle is real, but ultimately i'm a more versatile ambi shooter. Not many guys can shoot weak hand proficiently. I did succomb to the military dark side (or clear side so to speak) and recently purchase a '03-A4 clone for the ability to shoot Vintage Sniper at my club !
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Last edited by Road_Clam; October 1, 2017 at 09:18 AM.
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Old October 1, 2017, 09:38 AM   #5
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The opening statement by kraigwy should be considered as fact.

The problem in shooting the M1917 you have to be careful not to get on one of the ear protectors. (I've done that in CMP GSM matches. Trust me it doesnt help your scored).
LOL! For me, that situation only occured with the Carbine when shooting rapid fire under pressure or when I was tired.
I never could figure how my eye grabbed the left ear rather than the post.
Have done it several times, enough to retire the carbine from monthly 'fun' CMP 200 yd. shoots.

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Old October 2, 2017, 08:21 PM   #6
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The major problem with the older US rifle sights is that the adjustments aren't repeatable.
The sight slide just slides up and down and and there are no 'clicks' to go by.

As example, the 1903 Springfield National Match rifles needed a rear sight adjusting micrometer to repeat the settings.
This was a finely calibrated micrometer device that was held on the sight during adjustment then removed to shoot.
Many of these were made by P.J. O'Hare.
The owner recorded what the settings were for each range and each load so he could adjust the sight to the exact same setting each time.

The best US rifle sights began with the M1 Garand which were click adjustable aperture sights.
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Old October 3, 2017, 06:46 AM   #7
Don P
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Russians didn't do to bad with the Mosins and their sites
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Old October 5, 2017, 10:06 AM   #8
Mike Irwin
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The sights on your Trapdoor... Are they the Buffington sights?

The Buffington is generally regarded as the first "modern" US military sight, and were the first ones useful for 1,000 yard competitions, which cropped up soon after, but they were still problematic in getting repeatable sight adjustments.
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Old October 5, 2017, 02:27 PM   #9
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How does the saying go-In WWI the British had the best battle rifle, the Germans the best hunting rifle, and we had the best target rifle.
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