Even with modern advances in riflescope technology, many shooters still shun the use of optics, and for many reasons. Good optics can be prohibitively expensive after the purchase of a rifle and other accessories, and glass can also add a level of complexity that some shooters may not wish to deal with.
Scope lenses can also occasionally fog up under certain weather conditions, potentially rendering your rifle useless. Some people, such as myself, simply like to shoot with iron sights. And, when using a riflescope on a defensive carbine, it’s important to keep a set of back-up iron sights on the gun in case anything goes wrong with the primary optic.
No matter what your reasons are for sticking with irons, you’re in good company. Many serious competitive disciplines such as silhouette shooting, service rifle and Palma matches focus on primarily using non-magnified sighting systems. And while these different specialties all share a common bond, there are differing rules about which sights you can and cannot utilize.
For instance, Palma shooters and other long-range iron-sighted marksman have long known that aperture style front sights give them a major advantage when aiming at tiny things that are far away. Service rifle competitors are barred from usage of this superior sighting system, because their equipment must closely mirror standard-issue military rifles.
I found it very interesting, and quite telling, that competitors with unrestricted equipment choices almost exclusively pick aperture front sights over a traditional post-style front sight. I asked myself: if aperture front sights are more precise and easier to hit with when compared to standard sights, then could my iron-sighted AR-15 benefit from the same system?
Pricing out quality Palma-style front sight bases and apertures for an AR-15 gave me a bad case of sticker shock, and their real-world durability was questionable. I began thinking my idea of uber-precise, match-style sights on a practical gun was not itself practical, until I stumbled upon the KNS AR-15 crosshair front sight post.
The KNS AR-15 crosshair sight post is a sturdy, aperture-style front sight, specifically designed to integrate easily into any standard AR-15 front sight housing and most aftermarket rail-mounted sights. Elevation adjustments can be conveniently made by simply rotating the aperture in half-turn increments. Within the aperture, a fixed duplex-style “reticle” is securely anchored in place.
It really can’t be overstated enough just how thin this reticle really is. For instance, the standard front sight post included with my AR-15 measures .070-inch wide. The fine duplex wires of the KNS aperture front sight, on the other hand, measure a slight .010-inch in diameter, centered in a .240” aperture. Realistically, this means that the KNS wires cover less than two inches of the target at 100 yards, as opposed to the roughly 12 inches that the standard post covers. This, combined with the front aperture, makes for exceptionally easy shooting.
Why are aperture-style front sights easier to use than regular “post” style sights? The answer, as it turns out, lies within human physiology. The human eye is extremely good at aligning things. That’s how post-style front sights work: your eye automatically centers the tip of the post in the rear aperture.
Unfortunately, slight misalignments are easy to overlook with a front post, and this is why aperture front sights are so popular with long-range irons shooters. Your eye can easily and repeatedly align twin circles with a much greater degree of precision than a post/circle combination.
After the simple installation process (unscrew standard sight post, screw-in KNS), I was able to quickly and easily zero the rifle at 50 yards. This was my first experience shooting with an aperture front sight, and I found that my eye did indeed naturally center the front aperture within the rear. After moving the target out to 200 yards, I was able to rapidly and accurately engage targets by placing the thin crosshairs on the very center of my target, with an equal amount of the target in each of the four quadrants defined by the center of the crosshairs.
The KNS crosshair sight gave me great success at a distance, but the benefits didn’t end there. I immediately noticed a sharp increase in target acquisition speed at close distances (inside of 25 yards). By peering over the rear aperture (to accommodate for the elevation change due to the sight/bore offset inherent in AR-15 rifles), standard silhouette targets were nicely framed solely within the front aperture. The fine wires were easily ignored at close range, and quick, instinctive hits were possible by simply throwing the circular aperture up into my field of view and on the targets.
I was initially worried that the fine crosshairs would be easily damaged, but after the rifle rode around in the trunk of my vehicle without a gun case for several weeks, they remained intact. Since the overall thickness of the crosshair housing is quite thick, it shields the wires quite well.
I’m sure that with enough abuse, they would break, but then again so would a standard sight post. Durability simply isn’t an issue, although the black coating did start to wear on the edges of the brass aperture. Nothing a little Sharpie marker couldn’t touch up.
I was also concerned about the usability of the fine crosshairs in low-light conditions. Again, this did not prove to be an issue, as my “practical” rifle is equipped with a Streamlight TLR-1 (because it’s dark outside half the time!). Activating the light after the sun went down clearly silhouetted the crosshairs against the underbrush outside my farmhouse, and contrasted well with the broad, blinding beam of the TLR-1. In fact, the isolation of the central aiming point within the aperture made it significantly easier to use than the thick standard post in low light conditions.
KNS Precision has managed to give AR-15 shooters an easy way to gain the precision of aperture front sights, without breaking the bank and without purchasing expensive barrel-mounted sight bases. The overall unit is well made, attractively priced, and extremely functional at all distances and under varying light conditions. On a ranch rifle or hog gun, this product would be outstanding.
The very nature of the AR-15 platform makes switching up and changing out parts and accessories an almost daily occurrence for some of us; however, this is one part that should earn a permanent home on your rifle.
What iron sights do you use? Tell us in the comment section.