Posts Tagged ‘Iron and Dot-type Sights’

hree-dot tritium sight picture

Understanding Handgun Sights

I have noticed that discussions on combat sights, combat shooting, and handguns are often hi-jacked by those with an embarrassing lack of experience. All they know is what they have read and much of that isn’t accurate. A shooter should study, true, but they should also gain practical experience and meet the instructor half way with this experience.

Cimarron Open Top revolver left side

Cimarron’s Open Top Revolver

The history of men and women and machines is fascinating. The revolver may not be the most in demand at Cheaper than Dirt! but there are none more interesting. The first cartridge revolver in the United States was the little Smith and Wesson Number 1 in .22 Short. Colt was making thousands of cap-and-ball revolvers for the Union Army and Smith and Wesson sold its revolvers through private sale. Soldiers could tuck the little .22 into their shirts or jackets. Colts were the horse pistols, and the revolvers used by fast moving cavalry units.

7-AR730005

At the Range: Bushnell First Strike Reflex Red Dot Sight

Bushnell’s First Strike Reflex Red Dot is a low-profile dot sight that’s waterproof, fogproof, and extremely lightweight. Because of its small size, I recently installed and fired the sight on a Rock River Operator to see how the First Strike worked on close-in targets, possibly to run in tandem with a scope for 3-Gun rifle events.

Tasco ProPoint

Four Must Have Optics for 2013

Given the rush at the gun counter, it is no surprise that optics is a hot category as well. Going through my notes, I have selected four more optics from the 2013 SHOT Show that you really need to consider before making your next purchase.

Simmons Predator Quest

Sight Solutions for 2013

Given the rate products are flying off the shelves at Cheaper Than Dirt! and elsewhere around the country, it’s not worth being too picky in deciding which products deserve flavor of the week treatment, so I am not going to even try. I have already played with a whole goodie bag full of new offerings this year and will roll out a handful of new products each week, so enjoy and keep checking back!

Wild Turkey Hunting

What Makes a Turkey Shotgun?

The turkey shotgun is one of the integral parts of turkey hunting. What makes a shotgun a turkey shotgun? Some gun manufacturers would have you believe that you can’t kill a turkey unless you spend top dollar on specialized shotguns with high-end components. While these little details certainly will not hurt, just about any shotgun can kill a turkey, and slight modifications to the firearm will increase your chances drastically.

Folding front sight

Belt and Suspenders

How do we aim rifles? The most obvious way is by pointing. No sights at all are needed at a very close range. Iron sights come next. They are rugged and do not require batteries. They do require front sight focus, which is no problem on a square range with high-contrast bullseye targets.

Browning High Power sights were marked to 500m

Imperfection of Vision

Looking at historic arms, we often see sights graduated to extreme distances. Rifle open sights were marked out past a mile, and pistol sights sometimes went past half a mile. With such inspiring examples, how do people justify festooning their modern guns with lights, lasers, red dots and tactical kitchen sinks?

Overcoming Cross-eye Dominance

Aiming a pistol is easy even with cross-dominant eye

Aiming a pistol is easy even with a cross-dominant eye

Using the dominant eye with open sights

Using the dominant eye with open sights

About 10% of all people are left-handed. About 30% of the population has a dominant left eye. In quite a few shooters, the left dominant hand is paired up with the right dominant eye, or the right hand and left eye. When shooting pistol, that mismatch is easily overcome by a slight shift of the head position. With rifles and shotguns, cross-eye dominance can be a problem. Closing the dominant eye to use rifle sights is uncomfortable and feels unnatural. Worse, a shotgunner pointing with both eyes open won’t get a good reference for the barrel position: instead of seeing the bead at the end of a rib, he might see the side of the barrel as the wrong eye asserts dominance.

One way to work around this issue is to move the head so far over the stock as to make use of the dominant eye. Most people find it awkward, but it does work. The other solution is to fire from the weak shoulder using the strong eye. Some prefer that approach, others find it trying. It is theoretically possible to re-train your eyes to switch dominance, but that isn’t a quick process.

A third way exists that works for rifle and even better for shotguns: using red dot sights. Red dot and the older occluded eye gunsights work by having one eye acquire the target and the other acquire the red dot. The shooter’s brain superimposes the two enabling precise aim. With cross-eye dominant shooters, the stronger eye looks at the target and the weaker eye picks up the red dot, leading to a sight picture as good as or superior to that of regular shooters.

 

Holographic sight used by a cross-eye dominant shooter.

Holographic sight used by a cross-eye dominant shooter.

Aimpoint Micro H1 attached to an AK47 with an Ultimak rail

Aimpoint Micro H1 attached to an AK47 with an Ultimak rail

Equipping a long gun with a red dot sight is a quick hardware solution to a software problem. Since many people do not want to re-train their eyes, it works out as the long-term solution for many. And for those of you who have family or friends with this issue, now you know what to put under the Christmas tree for them.

Plain or Fancy?

Plain Keltec Sub2000

Plain Keltec Sub2000

Sub2000 with quad rail and accessories

Sub2000 with quad rail and accessories

One of the most common discussions on gun forums is about the usefulness of accessories. Should shooters use a telescopic sight when irons are available? Are light, laser and wind speed indicators necessary on a home defense carbine. Are battery-operated red dots helpful or just another item to fail at the most inopportune moment?
The benefits of each piece of gear are clear: sights provide better practical accuracy, light provide positive target ID, lasers give alternate aiming options (especially when wearing a gas mask), and wind speed indicators help with calculating long-range windage. So what are the down sides?

 

For one, all of these accessories cost money. Good, durable accessories can be expensive. Fortunately, users can amortize their accessories over many years and the benefits of having a good scope can be well worth the few dollars per month in depreciation. Most accessories also add weight. A red dot here and a white light there, plus a side-saddle with ammo and a bayonet, and soon you are looking at pounds rather than ounces of extra weight. You are also looking at new corners that can snag during use. Maintenance is another issue: a plain-jane shotgun can sit in a closet for years and still work, but the laser battery might not last as long (though lithium batteries can last for years on the shelf). Regular rotation of batteries becomes a scheduled task.

 

Plain-Jane Winchester 1897

Plain-Jane Winchester 1897

Keltec KSG with light, laser and red dot.

Keltec KSG with light, laser and red dot.

The real cost of accessories is not the weight, the money or the maintenance requirements. It’s the training time. If you have a light/laser unit, can you turn it on and have it in the mode you want by feel, without having to think about it? The simple shotguns may be popular for reasons other than cost and a large bore — users generally operate it as point and click device with no elaborate sighting or mode selections. If you have a rifle with elevation-adjustable sights, do you make the changes for range or just aim off to allow for the expected deflection? If your gun has multiple possible modes, your sight has multiple settings, and you have the option to use light, laser, or both, how long before your decision-making slows down. In offensive use, operators can configure these options in advance, but what about the much more likely defensive situation?

Should we take the time to learn how to shoot while wearing a gas mask? The time taken to learn that would cut into the basic marksmanship or movement practice. How about using a sight with a busy range finding reticle instead of a simple dot or cross hairs — would the distraction affect of all that extra information ought-weigh the benefit of long-range precision it facilitates?

 

Plain-Jackie AR15 (Doublestar "teen" model)

Plain-Jackie AR15 (Doublestar "teen" model)

Crusader AR with scope, red dot, sound suppressor, light and laser

Crusader AR with scope, red dot, sound suppressor, light and laser

The same question applies to training of new shooters: simple or complex? Do we want the laser to help diagnose issues with sight picture and trigger control, or would plain iron sights be better? Should we teach with scopes that permit observing hits and misses, or with a red dot that’s forgiving of cross-eye dominance, or stay with the old reliable notch and post? Is even using sights an unnecessary complication when a plain barrel and a trusty bayonet were good enough for the illustrious ancestors? What do you think — should we embrace the technical progress or concentrate on the basic katas using un-accessorized sticks?