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Open sights

16 Sep 2014
@ 01:38 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

It's exciting to see the development and improvement of telescopic sighting systems. The other side of the coin seems that fewer shots are taken with open sights, and maybe overall that's a good thing. I have a fondness for open sighted guns but have gotten to where 90% of my total shots through a rifle are taken using a scope. My question is do any of you have real life hunting situations wherein you still prefer open sights? Dangerous game scenarios come to mind but I also know there are more and more good "close range" scopes out there. I am curious to hear if anyone out there has a situation or a calber/rifle setup wherein they feel open sights are and will continue to be the way to go.


17 Sep 2014
@ 03:35 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Open sights
Hi Joshua, I really love shooting open sights. Aperture sights are my favorite but I enjoy both V and aperture types. I love shooting the military Mauser’s with their V sights. I really like the old Rossi lever action chunky square U sights which unfortunately Rossi no longer make. I like to shoot as far as I can shoot accurately. I enjoy shooting sub inch groups by expanding the size of my target, effectively zooming the target as opposed to zooming a scope.
But in the reality of hunting, using open sights can be a bit of a challenge. A black fore sight against a dark bush back ground can be difficult to use at anything beyond close ranges. Shooting a black pig against a dark back ground can be very frustrating at best. Companies like Williams now specialize in fiber optic fore sights which are much better than those of the past, but at the same time, few people are willing to fit open sights any more, regardless of the arrangement.
There was a time when I felt it was a travesty to not have open sights should the rifle scope fail in the field. For a time, I tried to set up my personal rifles (as opposed to the stream of research / test rifles) so that they featured aperture sights. But I found that I could not find what I wanted (basically a rear sight that would clip to a weaver base or picatinny rail). I fluffed around making sights but never made anything I liked. I also wondered about clip on fore sights as opposed to permanently screwed on sights. I found that my round count was so high that barrels only lasted me a season so a clip on system could have had merit. I played with the idea that if I could make the sight compact, it would not be a chore to add to my field kit.
In the end, I put it all in the too hard basket which is a shame.
In New Zealand, the sport of pig hunting currently involves the use of fast and light bailer dogs, moving away from holder dogs and a knife with a rifle as back up only. At the bail, the hunter comes in with a lever action rifle and using open sights, shoots the pig from within about 10 yards with (most commonly) either a Rossi or Winchester lever action rifle chambered for a pistol cartridge of relatively quiet report but ample power. The open sights on these rifles allow a wide field of view so that the hunter can see his dogs while the low profile of the sights (.5” high as opposed to 1.5 to 2” high) allows for very precise shot placement at close ranges.
Outside of pig hunting, many hunters in New Zealand have in recent years adopted suppressed rifles. Open sights and suppressors just don’t work together.
There are a few open sight manufacturers in the U.S now. They are not that easy to search for online but they are about. Some of these set ups are very slick. But still no clip on foresight (which I guess could be located via drilling into the end of the barrel- a single locating hole about 1mm / 40 deep.
OK, so my reasons for open sights would be thus:

1. Because I like using them.

2. When the first heavy snow hits the Kaimanawas, the animals move around a lot and shots can come quick, but snow on optics can be menacing while scope covers can be too slow under such conditions.

3. Scope failures in the field.

4. On extremely heavy recoiling rifles and in lieu of scout style scopes, open sights help minimize perceived recoil.

5. I sometimes find that I am better at offhand shots as a flow on from the above (5).

I have used scoped rifles in dangerous conditions at ranges of between 1 and 20 yards. I am so used to scoped rifles now and I do find target acquisition faster if I am using a scope and even at close ranges, I just take in the general picture whether I am set on 3x or 6x. A good shotgun would do the same at close ranges with open sights by looking down the bore of say a .30-30 and taking in the whole picture in a general manner- the line of the bore, the sights and the target. It’s been a long time since I really had to put myself to the test with open sights. There was however a time when my choices in rifle were either an aperture sighted Enfield or V sighted Enfield or V sighted Mauser.

I have given up on open sights on modern rifles these days and as I said, it’s a bit of shame. European rifles are often equipped with open sights. This is why the stocks on these rifles are pitched low which unfortunately can attribute to increase felt recoil when using a scope. Nevertheless, the Europeans have tried their best to retain some of these tradidional values (if that is an acceptable word). A few U.S manufacturers furnish open sighted bolt actions. But for the most part, open sights are related to the lever action rifles.

In the SMLE bedding video I put online, I show the aperture sights in use at exactly 15 minutes into the video including the sight picture / view. I still love using the old rifles.

If anyone has links to open sight manufacturers they want to share, please feel free to post them.
17 Sep 2014
@ 05:13 am (GMT)

thomas kitchen

Re: Open sights
back when me and a mate was first getting into centre fire rifles, he brought a mossberg 30/30 ( i think it was made by marlin in under contract) we put few shots through but couldnt seem to get a decent sight picture with the open sights. since it was drilled for scope mounts we headed to local gun shop to kit it out with a scope, as the sales person was fitting scope it was discovered the holes weren't lined up right so a scope couldnt be fitted. as it was handed back to us he flipped up the back sight. well me and my mate just looked at each other feeling like dumbasses we hadnt realised that the sight were like the standard 10/22 sights that the rear ones flip up and we had been trying to shoot it with it folded down ha ha. nathan right on the money bout most pig hunters carry open sighted guns mainly rossi 44 mags, with a few lee enfield still floating around among othere guns. i personally carry a rossi youth model 410 with solids for most of my pig hunting as most forestry block require shotguns be used only.
17 Sep 2014
@ 05:29 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Open sights
I hunt deer over hounds most weekends & there are still many guys using open sighted Remington pumps in 308 and 30-06 along with a few lever actions thrown in.
Not many years ago my mates tell me it would have been around 40-50% but with the availability of red dot sights and alike it’s dropped back a way now.
We still have a shortened open site SMLE 303 that admittedly is not used much anymore because the harder hitting 06’s versatility is preferred.
As already said in a bail up with dogs everywhere or stuck in a dark, fern filled gully when your normal scope won’t help, they are hard to beat! A lot more awareness with the sights compared to having “scope blinkers on”.

My fondest shooting memory is trying to hang on the back of an SLR (FAL) with peep sites as a skinny Army Cadet on a magnetic rifle range knocking over the targets! Great fun.
17 Sep 2014
@ 11:35 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Open sights
Here is a link:
18 Sep 2014
@ 11:25 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Open sights
Thanks for that link, Nathan. One of these days I'm going to buy an H&R Handy Rifle in .45-70. Now I know where to get a good sight setup.
19 Sep 2014
@ 06:55 am (GMT)


Re: Open sights
Another vote for skinner sights, you beat me too it nathan.
I have the skinner "alaskan" on my marlin 30-30, beautiful set up and very effective too. They have excellent customer service and I received mine within a couple of weeks (too nz). Hunting with open sights is a bit of a list art, which like you say is a bit of a shame. It is very rewarding, however you must also be very disciplined, there is a massive difference between target shooting and hunting sitiuations. Add to the fact that most hunting oppurtunities present themselves at last light you will find yourself passing up on animals that could have been taken with a scoped rifle which can be frustrating. That's all part of it though, going for the traditional/more challenging options, a bit like hunting with a recurve bow or the like.
19 Sep 2014
@ 05:38 pm (GMT)

thomas kitchen

Re: Open sights
i haven't had the chance to use any aftermarket sights but have heard good things about
26 Nov 2014
@ 05:36 pm (GMT)

Randal Graham

Re: Open sights
Browsing through the forum and came across this thread, thought I'd jump in as iron sight hunting has been my passion since the beginning of my hunting some 36 years now.
I have had glassed rifles, particularly for coyotes, but most often use iron.

My first great setup was on a BLR in .30-06, front sight was the factory post with a hood added and what I came up with was a small platinum shotgun bead. On the rear the first really good one was a lyman #90 .22 target sight, it has finger adjustable 1/4" click elevation and windage and although for .22 rifles by design, worked excellent on the BLR with a modified mount.

With loads that would shoot .75-80 inch with the scope I averaged around 1.25" with the aperture and bead.
The bead was great but had light limitations for sure.

I later tried a lyman front target sight with different inserts, including crosshair, and with that I could get right down on 1" groups, but again, light could very often be an issue with this setup as well. i did stretch out a few shots on whitetail with this combo to near 375 yards, and one paced to near 400, but the conditions were absolutely perfect including light, good rest, and still deer with no time pressure.

What I came to that I liked the best was a marbles fiber optic sight on the front, in red, and a .125 aperture on the lyman in the rear, and although at first found the front sight seemed large, that shot very fine for me once I got used to it. I could also maintain 1" resolution with that set-up and I was perfectly comfortable shooting to the 350 yard mark with that combo if conditions were very good.

My absolute favorite aperture sight is the bsa/martini vernier sight, and had it been easier to mount would have used that on my BLR.
On my BSA I found it easy to drop under 1" if I could find really consistant .22lr.

Through the years I tried a lot of different sights. New england custom firearms has some peeps that mount to scope bases that are very nice aperture sights.

Marbles makes some great signts as well, including a new bullseye model for tang sight set-ups that I think is the shit for lever actions, along with a fiber optic front. Perfect sight for a marlin 45-70 especially.

As I start the process to teturn to shooting and hunting after an absence I'll be going back to the iron sight set-up, not that I have anything against glass, or long range hunting at all, my passion is just iron sights and "long range" in that context.

Here are some links.


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