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Dating back to the 1600s, iron sights are a crude, yet reliable sighting system for rifles, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, cannons, and virtually every other firearm platform. Typically welded to the barrel or mounted on Picatinny-style rails, iron sights are usually composed of a rear sight, mounted perpendicular to the line of sight and consisting of some form of a notch (open sight) or aperture (closed sight), and a front sight post, bead, or ring. Modern civilian defensive, hunting, and police firearms usually feature open sights, while many military battle rifles employ aperture sights for improved long-range performance. While there is a wide variety of iron sight designs in today’s market, virtually all iron sights are used the same way.

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Fixed vs. Adjustable Sights

Iron sights are either fixed or adjustable. Fixed sights are relatively rare with modern firearms, as they consist of a welded, non-adjustable front sight blade and rear V-notch sight, crudely aligned during the forging or finishing process. Fixed sights are most common with black powder firearms, vintage artillery, and firearms designed and/or manufactured prior to the 20th century, though there are many modern firearms that feature a fixed front sight with an adjustable rear sight.

Adjustable sights are self-explanatory: They adjust side-to-side (windage), up and down (elevation), or both to deliver precise shot placement and a clear line of sight on targets across a variety of ranges and shooting environments. This process of aligning the sights is often called zeroing. Most modern iron sights are fully adjustable, allowing users to adjust for elevation and windage while on the move for improved accuracy and consistent field performance.

Various Sight Designs

Open Sights

Open sights are the most common iron sights, as they’re relatively easy and affordable to produce and install. They provide minimum occlusion of the shooter's view for quick target acquisition and reduced eye fatigue, but at the expense of precision or long-range performance. Open sights often feature a V-notch or U-notch rear sight, combined with a square post or a bead on a post front sight. The post or bead is placed in the rear sight notch, with the target placed above and centered on the aligned sights. When properly aligned, there should be a noticeable space between each side of the front sight and the edges of the notch. The spaces are called light bars, and the brightness of the light bars allows shooters to align the post in the notch for accurate shot placement. Vertical alignment is achieved by aligning the top of the front post with the top of the rear sight, or by placing the bead just above the bottom of the V or U-notch. If the post is not centered in the V or U notch, the shot will not be accurate. If the post extends above the notch, it will result in a high shot, whereas a post held lower than the top of the notch will result in a low shot.

Aperture Sights

Often used in combat/tactical applications and mid-range hunting environments, aperture sights, also known as Peep sights, are designed to deliver intuitive target acquisition and precision accuracy in fast-action environments. Aperture sights feature a unique combination of a bead or post front sight and a round hole set close to the shooter’s eye for reduced eye fatigue and improved clarity on mid-range targets. 

At GunMag Warehouse, we carry a variety of open, aperture, target, night sights, fiber optic sights, and more, offered at prices designed to fit any budget. Better yet, we have a large selection of iron sights in stock and ready to ship! So, whether you’re upgrading your competition or home defense shotgun with fiber optic sights, complementing your optics-compatible pistol with suppressor-height sights for improved field performance, or looking for adjustable flip-up sights for your tactical rifle or carbine, shop our complete selection of factory and aftermarket iron sights today!

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Iron Sights

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