Backup sights are starting to become an afterthought with AR-15 rifles. This is mostly because red dots and other optics are so reliable now. In the vast world of gun experts, half of them will say they are not needed, and the other half will say they are a must. Military, law enforcement, and other firearms experts are split on this subject.
I have backup sights on most of my rifles, having had to rely on them before. Most optics have an impressive battery life, but like I have said before, batteries can die and electronics can fail. Without backup sights, you could be in a world of hurt if your optic dies on you. But if you don’t see the need for backup sights, that’s fine. Just train and have a backup for your backup.
But if I have room, a set of lightweight flip-up iron sights won’t hurt anything, so why not have them just in case? As the old saying goes, “It’s better to have ’em and not need ’em, than to need ’em and not have ’em.” So, let’s talk about backup sights, or more specifically, Yankee Hill’s QDS flip-up sights.
We tend to think of any “flip-up” sight as a backup option and nothing else. But they can also be used as a stand-alone system. The ability to fold them down is great for storage when not in use. If you are in the market for a set of sights for your AR-15, these are worth taking a look at.
Who is YHM (Yankee Hill Machine Co)?
Founded in 1951 by Wallace Judd and James Graham, Yankee Hill Machine Co set out to make firearms and firearms accessories. According to the company, Graham served in the Military and had just finished a tour in Korea when they began their new journey. YMH has a reputation for manufacturing high-quality guns and parts. Their QDS sights live up to this standard as well. Plus, all YMH products are made right here in America.
YMH QDS sight set
The Yankee Hill front and rear sights are sold together as a set. They cost a little more than polymer sets, but they are built to last. Made from aircraft aluminum with a hard-coat anodized matte black finish, they meet military specifications. The elevation adjustment on both is ½ MOA, and the front sight can be adjusted using a standard AR-15 front sight tool.
At 3.4 oz, the weight is kept at a minimum. As I mentioned above, unless you don’t have room for a sight set, it couldn’t hurt to add it. The sights lock in place when closed, and a button on the side releases the sight. When the button is pushed, the sight flips up on its own and locks in place.
In the open position, the sights are secure with almost no wiggle room at all. Until they get broken in, the button can be a little hard to push, but that’s not a big deal. The rear sight has the standard ghost ring and peep sight available.
Mounting the QDS sights
To mount the QDS sights to your rifle, you will need an H4 hex bit (1/4-inch). Attaching the sights to your AR-15’s Picatinny rail is simple. Both sights in the down position should face towards the back of the gun. To mount the rear sight, some models require you to slide the sight onto the rail.
To do this, lock open the bolt and leave the charging handle pulled to the rear of the gun. This keeps it out of the way while you slide the sight on. The YHM sight, however, can snap over the top of the rail, just like a red dot or flashlight. Just loosen the screw until the sight fits over the rail and re-tighten it.
If you also have a red dot on your gun, make sure the rear sight does not get in the way when opened. Depending on the controls of your optic, having the sight too close can block access to it. You also don’t want it so far back that it gets in the way of the charging handle.
I mounted the rear QDS on the second slot from the rear of the Picatinny rail. For the front sight, I mounted the front of the optic flush with the front of the rail. The greater the distance between the two sights, the more accuracy you will have.
How do they compare to other brands?
I mounted the Yankee Hill sights on my CCMG MK-47, an AR-15 version of an AK-47. The sights are not bulky and look great on the rifle. I placed a little oil on the spring-loaded button that released the sight because it was hard to push. After I worked them up and down a few times, it started getting easier.
I had already zeroed in my Holosun 512C red dot, so I adjusted the iron sights based on the dot. After that, I fired a few rounds at 50 yards and then 100 to check them. I was within two inches at 50 yards and had to make a few adjustments at 100 with the peep sight. I’m not as concerned about bullseye accuracy with iron sights as long I can accomplish combat accuracy.
When you look at flip-up sights, there is a big price difference from one brand to another. This is where you get what you pay for. I’m not saying all cheaper iron sights are bad but check the quality before using them. Some companies use low-grade materials and the sights crack and break.
You could also have issues with keeping the sights zeroed in if they are not made well. After using the QDS sights for a while, I have no concerns about using them on my self-defense rifle. I would place them in the same category as companies like Troy, Midwest Industries, Strike Industries, and Magpul. Quality.
Do you need backup sights?
If you need a set of iron flip-up sights, Yankee Hill is a good choice. They’re made in the US and built like a tank. You can use them as a backup system, or as a primary sight system. Red dots are a game changer, but there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple, either. Sometimes simple is better. If you have a great optic on your gun, then mount the QDS sights to your rifle and forget about them. You may never need them, but if you do, you will be glad they are there.