Hoods Woods New Hoodlums Forum

Full Version: Iron Sights
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2


[Image: Whelen.jpg]


The way the Nine-Fingered Rat Bastard sees it, you can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Sitting around and complaining about something? That’s being part of the problem.

I’d rather be part of the solution.

[center]* * * * *[/center]

Dear Uncle Bastard,

The last time I came to visit that wino flophouse SRO dump where you live, someone siphoned all the gas out of my car, stole my battery, slashed my tires, pinched a humongous loaf in my back seat, and gang-raped my dog. So you’ll forgive me if I ask you this question by email, rather than venturing back to the Spider Hole to ask you in person. I just can’t go through that again. And neither can Rex.

For the last year and a half I’ve been saving money by washing out condoms I find in the alley and reusing them instead of buying new ones. So between that and my election year bribe from George Bush tax rebate I have enough saved up to buy a decent centerfire bolt-action rifle, but I can’t seem to find one with iron sights. What to do?

Your Nephew,


Alas, poor Cletus; what to do indeed? And Cletus is hardly alone: Iron sights—and the current lack of them on sporting rifles—seem to be a recurrent topic on this very Forum. Rather than just bitch-squeal porcinely about the problem, let’s take a look at what we can do about it.

Iron (or metallic) sights used to be standard equipment on every rifle. And in some rifle classes they still are. Many if not most .22 rimfire rifles still come with irons. Almost all lever guns do. And most semi-autos with detachable magazines and pistol grips derived from military design—the so-called Assault Rifles—also have irons. Yet relatively few current-production bolt guns do. And while the sights on some of the assault-rifle designs can be pretty good, in reality the sights on the lever guns and .22s are pretty sub-standard, the bare minimum of what a good iron sight can be.

Maybe that’s the bad news. The good news is that you can easily remedy the situation. A very nice selection of iron sights is still available in a wide range of designs. Whether or not a rifle comes with iron sights should be about the last item in your decision-making process: chambering and action type are far more important, especially when adding good irons is so easily done.

Iron sights have several very real advantages: They’re lighter and more compact than any other sighting system. They’re often more rugged too. They work well in the rain or in direct glare or in very dusty conditions. All of these are why most handguns still use irons. As a backup or a primary means of sighting your rifle, they’re still a valuable asset.

Then there’s the bolt-action rifle: perhaps the most versatile firearm we’ve had in the last 100 years. With a bolt action you can choose from the widest range of cartridges. The best designs have been produced in the millions and were proven in the mud-filled trenches of the First World War. A good design field strips easily. Bolt guns are super strong, and since most of them are magazine guns they offer the convenience and advantage of rapid second or third shots. They’re also reliable and rugged—excellent character traits in a gun destined for field use.

Then why is it that so few centerfire bolt guns feature iron sights? Quite simply because the vast majority of shooters choose to mount telescopic sights on their bolt action rifles. Virtually all of those bolt actions come drilled and tapped for standard telescopic-sight mounting bases today; just 50 years ago this was hardly the case, and drilling and tapping for scope mounts was the rule, not the exception. Some companies like Ruger and Sako go even further and build their rifles with integral bases as part of the receiver. Complaining that a rifle lacks irons today is like complaining that a quality tennis racket comes unstrung, or that your skis don’t come with bindings, or that a first-rate camera body doesn’t come with a lens. Smart consumers know this going into the situation and choose these things for themselves. For the savvy shooter it’s an opportunity for you to add the precise sighting system you choose--iron, optic, or electronic. For guys like Cletus, it’s just an opportunity to squeal.

Iron sights need two principle parts: front and rear. The rear sight on most factory-equipped rifles is most commonly an open notch mounted somewhere on the barrel ahead of the receiver. They are seldom adjustable for windage, and often the elevation adjustment is crude as well. Most militaries realized the limitations of this arrangement 70 years ago and began equipping their soldiers with rifles using an aperture much closer to the shooter’s eve, generally on the rear of the receiver.

If you’re putting irons on a rifle—especially if you’re not mounting a scope—an aperture sight (sometimes called a receiver sight) is really the smart way to go. In general they’re robust, precise designs that do a couple of things really well. First, they increase the distance between the front and rear sights—the sight radius--and that increases the degree of practical precision which the sight is able to offer. Even more important, though, an aperture rear sight close to the shooter’s eye almost automatically removes sight misalignment error and aids in focusing only on the front sight: the rear sight can be a total blur and still function superbly.

Rather than just read a bunch more of the Rat Bastard’s verbal droppings, let’s look at some photos. We’ll discuss each photo with a caption that appears below it.

Front Sights

[Image: M1903Sweat-OnRamp.jpg]

Here’s a great example of a vintage sporting sight which has been added to an M1903 Springfield. It’s a Lyman ramp, screwed and “sweated” to the barrel, and with a gold-bead front sight blade installed. These sight blades are of varying heights for a rough elevation zero, and the blade may be drifted in the base right-to-left in order to gain a rough windage zero.

[Image: MillettFront.jpg]

If you’d rather have a flat-topped front sight, these are several available too, from XS Sight Systems (more on them in a minute), Brockman’s, and Millett. (Information on all resources appears at the end of this post). Most modern non-optical military sight systems use some form of the flat-topped post.

[Image: SightHood.jpg]

If you’re concerned about protecting the front blade during transport or use, most commercial systems (and today that largely means Williams) offer bases which are grooved so one may fit a hood. This hood is on a Marlin factory front sight. There’s no reason you can’t mount a Marlin sight on, say, your Ruger or Remington either, although for most shooters a Williams would be easier to simply order up.

[Image: M600Fin.jpg]

Swoopy! The 1960s were a groovy time—and that even spilled over to the rifles produced then. Witness this front sight blade on the Rat Bastard’s Remington Model 600.

[Image: M96Globe.jpg]

Target shooters often choose something called a globe front sight. This is a thick-walled tube—sort of a “super hood”—with interchangeable inserts. Its versatile and strong, and a great choice for bulls-eye shooting. But the thick wall section of the hood, while fine on the target range, is a distraction in the field. Still, it’s an option you should know about

[Image: M96GlobeSide.jpg]

Another view of the globe sight, this one on a Swedish M96 Mauser. Note how this model simply clamps to the barrel over the existing blade front sight.

[Image: M98ScoutXSFrontTrySight.jpg]


How do you know how high your front sight should be? Both Marbles and Williams publish formulas to help you calculate the right height. XS Sight systems takes a different tact: they give you a “try sight.” You install it, boresight your rifle, and then head out to the range. It’s a simple plastic post which you just keep cutting down until you get an appropriate zero. Then you measure the try sight’s height and order the appropriate permanent sight from XS. A nice variation on the old gunsmith’s trick of using a piece of paperclip or coathanger secured to the barrel and cut to fit.

[Image: TrySightRemoved.jpg]

The XS try sight removed.

[Image: PusheronBbl.jpg]

I'm your Mama

I'm your Daddy

I'm that Rat Bastard

In the alley . . .

Traditionally, the way to drive in or adjust the windage with your front sight has been to use a hammer and a brass or nylon drift. There’s a better way—a sight pusher, this one from Wheeler Engineering. Sure, the hammer-and-drift method works, but you run the risk of battering the sight base loose. Use your pusher, man.

[Image: Pusher.jpg]

Rear Sights

[Image: M39FlipUp.jpg]

Here’s a typical barrel-mounted open rear sight (a Marlin). Sure these can work adequately, but we can do much better.

[Image: M1903Lyman.jpg]

Ah, that’s more like it. A vintage Lyman, again on our M1903 Springfield sporter. The micrometer style gives precise, repeatable, predictable rear-sight adjustment, and the interchangeable apertures a wide range of choice when it comes to rear sight picture.

[Image: SavageScoutWilliamsWGOS.jpg]

Another aperture, this time a Williams WGRS. A very nice aperture design, very rugged, very simple, designed to fit effortlessly to the rear receiver bridge of most bolt guns using the rear bridge’s scope-base mounting holes. This one was original equipment on a Savage Scout Rifle.

[Image: M94Lyman.jpg]

An excellent receiver sight choice, a short-slide Lyman 66 on a Marlin 39. Like the Williams 5D and Foolproof (FP) models, these “L” shaped receiver sights offer a greater range of coarse and fine adjustment than the WGRS type.


[Image: M98ScoutWilliamsInlet.jpg]

Another Williams Foolproof, this one on a Mauser M98 receiver in a Scout-rifle configuration. These sights require two holes be drilled and tapped for 6-48 screws. Some lever-action rifles are drilled and tapped at the factory, but it’s a simple job if you know what you’re doing and are capable of careful, precise work.

[Image: M96Elite.jpg]

A European Elite (brand) target rear aperture system on an M96 Mauser. For hunting or fast field work this sight blocks out too much of the area surrounding the target. For target shooting, though, this is a non-issue, and the restricted field of view actually helps visual concentration. This is a very nice, very precise, very strong sight. Like the Williams, it also requires two holes drilled into the rear receiver bridge. Receivers which are case-hardened (the 1903 Springfield, the true Mausers) require spot annealing and even spot surface grinding before you start drilling. Carbide-tipped trills and hardened taps also help. Stainless guns present many of the same issues, but they’re hardly insurmountable. I mean, if a liberal sheeple hippy like the Rat Bastard can do it, why can’t you?

[Image: M1903A3.jpg]

An M1903A3 (the so-called “03-A3”) Springfield. This was a very robust sight used on Springfield bolt guns in the Second World War. Surplus sights (widely available) make up into nice, rugged rear sights that fit many modern bolt guns with a little work.

[Image: AR7Aperture.jpg]

That darling of survivalists, the AR7 .22 autoloader. The rear sight is pretty rudimentary—just a flat piece of sheet steel with a hole punched in it and held in place by a screw. Still, it does a more than adequate job.

[Image: NECGFrontier.jpg]

Ruger owners have another option: New England Custom Gun (NECG) makes a nifty rear aperture that uses the Ruger’s factory scope-ring mounting system. One screwdriver and you’re done. The sight is adjustable for windage and elevation as well.

[Image: M1903SmallAperture.jpg]

Here’s a nice feature of the modern Williams aperture. For precise, long-distance shooting in good light, you have your choice of several aperture diameters . . .

[Image: M1903GhostRing.jpg]

. . . but when the light goes south, or you’re shooting fast and close, you can just remove the aperture altogether and use the aperture housing as a giant “ghost ring.” This is very fast.

[Image: M94Blank.jpg]

If you decide to remove your rear barrel-mounted sight and it leaves an unsightly dovetail cut, Marbles and Williams both make a blank to fill it in.


[Image: TangSight.jpg]

Lever-action shooters can choose from several tang sights; both Marbles and Lyman make modern takes on this old design. In essence, this is a stalk-mounted aperture engineered to mount on the top of your rifle’s grip and fold down when not in use. The best are adjustable for both windage and elevation. These are generally not a good choice for bolt guns because they interfere with the bolt’s travel.

[Image: SteyrScoutRearDown.jpg]

Steyr’s Scout Rifle has a clever rear aperture sight. Folded down it’s completely unobtrusive and well protected.

[Image: SteyrScourRearUp.jpg]

Just a thumbnail is all it takes to flip the sight up into position. The front blade folds as well.

Field Expedient Sights

What do you do when your optical sight (scope, electric, etc.) takes a dump at an inopportune time, and you haven’t had the foresight to fit some backup irons? How about making your own? The Nine-Fingered Rat Bastard dreamed this up after looking at the simple apertures welded to the top of an old M3 “Grease Gun.”

[Image: ExpediantSightKit.jpg]

Here’s all you need—some sheet metal (the can will work fine, but thicker stuff like some aluminum- or steel angle or flat stock works even better), some tape, and a jack knife or Leatherman-type tool.

[Image: ExpediantSightsBlankedOut.jpg]

You’re going to cut out a small strip for the rear sight, punch out an aperture with a nail or your knife’s awl, and bend it into a right angle. The front is a little more complicated, but this photo and the last one in this sequence should give you the right idea.

[Image: ExpediantRear.jpg]

Tape your aperture down as shown here.

[Image: ExpediantFront.jpg]

Tape your front sight to the barrel like this. Remove the bolt from your rifle and bore-sight it to get the sights in the ballpark. Adjust your windage zero by bending the frnt sight blade to the left or right, and adjust your elevation by cutting the blade down to the correct height. Finally, fine-tune the lashup with a few test shots. While this gen-u-ine Nine-Fingered Rat Bastard invention is embarrassingly hillbilly, it’s still better than nothing if you’re out in the sticks and really up against it. It’s also an example of what happens when you have no social life but a safe full of guns staring back at you every night! Want a little more refinement? Use worm-drive fuel-line hose clamps to secure a front sight made from heavier material to the barrel. For the rear, and drill out mounting holes that match the telescopic-sight-base holes the factory’s provided in the rear receiver bridge, and use the scope-base-mount screws to attach your home-made apeture/base. You might as well start cutting your hair with a pair of tin snips, too.

At this point in the class, someone who doesn’t have the skills to sweat on a front sight without overheating the barrel and warping it, or who can’t drill a blind mounting hole without drilling too deep and clean through into the rifling will ask if they can’t just glue the front sight to the barrel. I suppose you can, but I have to think that if it were such a good idea the gun companies would already be doing it. That’s just the cheap, lazy way out. If you can’t drill or sweat the sight on yourself, then pay someone else to do it right—it ain’t like this is going to cost a fortune. I mean, if you’d paid $750 for a new Remington and then found out that they’d glued on the front sight, you’d have a Technicolor shit hemorrhage. So why pay $700 for a new Remington and then screw it up yourself? Take some pride in your work, or find someone who does and pay them—you’ll be happier and have a better tool in the end.

People also seem to be at a loss as to how deep they can drill a barrel. Here are some observations:

A number-6 screw (the most common used to affix iron sights or scope bases) has a diameter of 0.138-inch. The second number denotes threads per inch (tpi), so a 6-48 screw is a number-6 with 48 tpi. Industrial standards (read that as non-gun use) for number-6 screws are coarse (32 tpi), fine (40 tpi), and special (36 tpi). The 6-48 size is an oddball.

A good rule of thumb is that you should never drill down past one-half of the barrel’s wall thickness, and certainly never drill a hole that comes closer than about 1/16 of an inch (0.0625 inch) to the bore. Here’s a practical example: The Rat Bastard has been working on a Ruger M77 Mark II chambered in .308 Winchester. (You’ll see the results here in about a month.) With its standard, sporter-weight barrel, diameter at the muzzle is 0.570 inch. That makes wall thickness about 0.130 inch.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to drill deep enough to tap a hole equal in depth to the screw’s diameter. As you can see, with a number 6 screw that clearly won’t work—the screw’s diameter is 0.138 and our barrel’s wall thickness is only 0.130 inch. Drilling a hole half the wall thickness of the barrel at the muzzle gives us a hole about 0.065-inch deep, and that gives us a touch over three threads of engagement for the sight-mounting screws. Maybe not ideal, but it’s been proven to work. But you can see, you need to have some pretty precise skills—there’s not a lot of room for error. Still, if the Rat Bastard can do it . . . . get an entire diameter’s worth of the screw.


Looking to mount some irons? Here (in alphabetical order) is an annotated list that may help you find what you need.


Battenfeld Technologies

(Selection of gunsmithing tools, parts and accessories)[indent]Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.

5885 W. Van Horn Tavern Rd.

Columbia, MO 65203


Orders: 1-877-509-9160

[url="http://www.battenfeldtechnologies.com"]http://www.battenfeldtechnologies.com[/url] [/indent]


(Heavy-duty proprietary front and rear sights; full gunsmithing services)[indent]Brockman’s Rifles

445 Idaho Street

Gooding, Idaho 83330


[url="http://www.brockmansrifles.com"]http://www.brockmansrifles.com[/url] [/indent]


(Premier supplier of gunsmithing tools; also offers a full range of gunsights)[indent] Brownells Inc.

200 South Front Street

Montezuma, Iowa 50171


[url="http://www.brownells.com"]http://www.brownells.com[/url] [/indent]

E.R. Shaw

(Best known for their line of barrels, they’ll also offer gunsmithing services such as drilling and tapping for iron so telescopic sights)[indent]

5312 Thoms Run Road

Bridgeville PA 15017


[url="http://www.ershawbarrels.com"]http://www.ershawbarrels.com[/url] [/indent]


(Excellent quality receiver, front, and tang sights)[indent] Lyman Products Corporation

475 Smith Street

Middletown, CT 06457


[url="http://www.lymanproducts.com"]http://www.lymanproducts.com[/url] [/indent]


(Front sight inserts, tang sights)[indent] Marble's

420 Industrial Park

Gladstone, MI 49837


[url="http://www.marblesoutdoors.com"]http://www.marblesoutdoors.com[/url] [/indent]


(Very good selection of sights, parts, accessories, gunsmithing tools; good prices and service)[indent]MidwayUSA

5875 West Van Horn Tavern Rd.

Columbia, MO 65203-9274


[url="http://www.midwayusa.com"]http://www.midwayusa.com[/url] [/indent]

New England Custom Gun--NECG

(Clever rear apeture sight which fits Ruger integral mounts or Weaver bases with no gunsmithing; proprietary front band sight with interchangeable blades)[indent] New England Custom Gun, Ltd.

438 Willow Brook Road

Plainfield, NH 03781


[url="http://www.newenglandcustomgun.com"]http://www.newenglandcustomgun.com[/url] [/indent]


(Receiver and open sighs, front sight inserts and ramps; catalog contains valuable information on calculating correct sight height; full gunsmithing services also available)[indent]Williams Gun Sight, Inc.

PO Box 329

Davison MI 48423

1-800-530-9028 or 810-653-2131

[url="http://www.williamsgunsight.com/"]http://www.williamsgunsight.com/[/url] [/indent]

XS Sight Systems

(Ghost-ring rear sights, heavy-duty front sights; “Scout” mounts)[indent]XS Sight Systems

2401 Ludelle
Fort Worth, Texas 76105



[url="http://www.xssights.com"]http://www.xssights.com[/url] [/indent]


Home Gun Care and Repair

P.O. Ackley


Roy F. Dunlap

Both of these books are older, and by today’s standards a bit dated, both in terms of style and techniques. But they are valuable none-the-less. They’re relatively easy to find used on the Internet (isn’t everything?) or at gun shows, often for just a few dollars. They presume the home-gunsmith knows some basic machine-shop operations: how to use a torch, sharpen a drill, run a drillpress, tap a blind hole, etc.

Firearms Assembly

NRA Publications. Two volumes, one for handguns, one for rifles and shotguns. If you don’t know how to take it apart and put it together, you’re hosed.

Brownells Catalog

If there’s a tool that makes working on a gun easier, someone at Brownells has figured it out. Apart from its resource for parts, tools, and accessories, if you have the discipline to read it through you’ll gat a fair education.


Grand Master King Dickhead Maximum Rat Bastard Slack-Jawed Liberal

California Sheeple Jesuit Illuminati Samizdat Intelligentsia Cultural Elite

Long-Haired Gun-Hippie Desert Roach Nine-Fingered Mouth-Breathing Mud-Running

Motorcycle-Riding Alpha Ãœber Geek Yuppie Asshole Spaßbremse and Cross-Country Ski Jerk™
Another most excellent post of yours, --ML. Thanks a lot.

You must be able to read minds. I thought a lot about how to build field expedient sights during the last few weeks. Thank you for the hints on how to mount and set iron sights as well.

Hopefully Cletus and dog will get over their little "experiences" soon. <img src='http://www.hoodswoods.net/IVB/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Tongue' />
A pretty Good write up.

I believe that this will help people do what need to be done and gives options with out us having to do the research.

Thank you.
Thanks once again. Learned quite a bit..

Now you just have to give me a primer on how to sight a rifle in...

And how to overcome cross-eye-dominance with a pistol..

And what firearms I should own..

Etc., Ad nauseam
Very Cool!

Thanks for taking the time to write this up. This article just made the saved file. Now if I was only brave enough to risk my dog for a visit and learn from you in person!

Good job,

Nicely done, ML.

Here is a site for sights which are getting some very positive reviews. I've shot one of my friend's Marlin 336 .30-30 with the Skinner sight. I really liked it, and although I have the Williams 5D on my 336 .30-30, and a Lyman on my Marlin 1894S .41 Magnum, I think I'll buy the Skinner sight for my Marlin 336 in .35 Rem. and give it a workout.


Thanks for the info ML...all of my guns have the irons...and it was hard for me to purchase one without...but yer hillbilly in-genuine-oowity might just do it for me.
One other reason for irons (peep, aperture, or receiver types, that is) is that the rifle -- a bolt action of course, a Model 70, an honest 1950s FN, or an 03A3 -- balances so SO much better than with an alloy and glass sight. It's much easier to carry in either hand, or the African sling carry off the left shoulder, and its nearly as quick as alloy and glass in ideal conditions and it's ten times quicker in less than ideal conditions (snow, rain, hail, moisture in the air, etc.). Inasmuch as we are all close shooters (anybody and I do mean anybody can shoot an elk, moose, deer, or caribou from 300 yards plus) the receiver sight is perfect for the task.
This is a great post, it should be a sticky.
[quote name='Clifton Clowers' post='257319' date='Jul 4 2008, 08:27 AM']anybody and I do mean anybody can shoot an elk, moose, deer, or caribou from 300 yards plus[/quote]

HA! You have obviously never spent a day _observing_ at a public range.
Most NEF & H&R rifles come with sights. If you want a peep (or scope) on them, that is cheap and easy too. Just another reason to stick with simplistic/cheap firearms.
Great job ML!!!

I'm a big fan of irons sights, especially peep sights. I was debating what to put on my 1894 and Leanwolf comes to the rescue. I didn't want to put a tang peep on it.

What I really like about peeps with a square front post is you put the target on top of the front post. You can see your point of impact. With the 'round' front posts, the beed is the bullet and your suppose to put the beed on the point of aim. Well, at distance the beed can be a foot wider or more covering a lot of the target. With mine, I put my point blank ranges on top of the post, then know I'll be an inch or so high at 100 yards... I can live with that... at least I can see my poi.

I'm also a fan of front apeture sights as well. As eyes get older, this seems to be the ticket. Mine aren't that bad yet, but I'm sure the day will come.

My 600 now sports a Williams FP rear sight. I had to grind a lot of metal off it to get it to fit, either that or cut the stock. Fits perfect now and works great. It's a little clunkier than I'd like to see, but with the 600 your options are limited. MUCH better than a scope option.

There are some disadvantages to irons. Not enough to disuade me though. For under 200 yards (ie hunting rifle) they are the way to go. First is old eyes. Scopes will put the visual plane on the target. Second is the ability to change elevation easily for long distance targets. I don't consider the second since most my shots are well within 200 yards and only go further out during competitions.

Irons do take practice, like anything else, it is a skill to acquire. When mastered, you'll be suprised how accurate they can be. Just remember, keep your focus on the front sight.

In case you wanted to see how the FP sight fits on the 600..

[Image: 600-1.JPG]

[Image: 600-2.JPG]
Pages: 1 2