The Best Ways to Sight in a Rifle With Iron Sights

Man aiming rifle, close-up, rear view

Iron sights have several benefits. They are typically built into the barrels of guns, so there is no additional cost or labor to install them. Iron sights conform to a design that uses a rear notched sight and a front bead. When you line the bead up with the center of the notch, the top of the bead indicates the spot where your bullet will strike.

Use the Appropriate Front Sight

The bead on open sights is often colored gold, red or white. This bright coloration makes the bead more visible in dim light but can have some drawbacks, according to rifle enthusiast Chuck Hawks. The brightly colored and curved tip of the bead can reflect sunlight and create a false image, which will impair your aim. When hunting during bright daylight use a flat-topped black bead to minimize this interference with your aim. Use a rifle with a brightly colored bead during dawn and twilight hunting, as the black bead will be difficult to see at these times.

Differences in Rear Sights

Express sights are simply notched rear sights that line up with the front bead. They are designed to provide good aim at moderate distances when you have time to aim carefully at your game. If you may need to aim more quickly at distant or fleeing game, use a semi-buckhorn rear sight. Semi-buckhorns have knobs or bulges extending upward on either side of the notch. This creates a larger area in which to draw an initial bead on a moving target. Once you have matched your target’s movement within the wider area, narrow your aim until the bead lines up with the smaller notch between the bulges and fire.

For bird hunting, use a full buckhorn rear sight. The buckhorn features vertical wings on either side of the rear sight’s notch. These wings curve together above the center of the rear sight, creating a circular opening through which you sight your flying prey initially. As with semi-buckhorns, once you have matched the motion of your target, you can refine your aim until the bead and notch are aligned with your target in your line of sight.

Adjust for Windage

While many rear sights can be adjusted to the left or right, and front sights can be raised or lowered, this technique for compensating for wind varies from rifle to rifle. If wind conditions are consistent, refer to your rifle’s owner’s manual to properly adjust your sights to compensate. If winds are irregular or gusty, aim your rifle slightly into the wind while you pull the trigger. If the wind comes from your right, aim slightly in that direction, and do likewise if the wind comes from your left.