RailScales® est. 2014

The Art Of Iron Sights

August 15, 2018

The marvels of technology can help in so many unexpected areas. After all, advances in technology are what help us make lighter, more durable, heat-resistant rail scales that don’t bulk up your handguard rail. It’s pretty safe to say we enjoy the benefits of some good technology. That aside, technology isn’t foolproof. What do you do when reliable technology goes bad? When it comes to your AR 15 setup, the best AR accessories creators will take use into account to prevent a lot of potential issues. However, there’s a pretty common failure that any AR owner should be prepared for: your powered optics. If you’re not already in the know, it’s time to learn the fine art of iron sights.

Optics and the AR

If you’ve been relying on a red dot or green dot sight, well, that means you’re like a majority of AR owners. Don’t get us wrong, we understand the appeal. It’s quick and easy to sight in so you can focus on the other elements needed for accuracy, like your stance and grip. Most red dot sights have the advantage of being lighter in weight, especially in comparison to many of the scopes out there.

The one potential pitfall is also a pretty common one. What do you do when the battery goes out? Without power, your sight becomes an ornamental weight on the front end of your firearm. Now, if you only use your AR during range time, a dead battery and an unusable red dot sight is a hindrance, but not an insurmountable problem. At worst, you cut your range time short or switch to a different gun until you can get that battery replaced. However, if you intend to use your AR for another purpose, say, for home defense, it can be invaluable to have a backup plan in place.

Iron Sights

Way back before clear-as-day magnifying scopes and powered red dot sights, gun owners had the fixed iron sight to help them sight shots. These days, thanks to those aforementioned technological advancements, iron sights are seeing less and less use. If you’re not even sure how to use one, well, you’re not alone. The art of the iron sight is, sadly, a dying art. But, despite the lack of frills or powerful benefits, an iron sight can be an invaluable part of your AR setup. They’re generally exceptionally light, small, and low-profile, meaning you can add iron sights to your handguard rail without impeding your laser or red dot sight.

When we talk about iron sights, we’re using it as an inclusive term for a whole range of open sights. They rely on a combination of two split side shanks and a third centered notch that, when aligned, help the user line up a shot. There are u-shaped sights, v-shaped ones, three-post options, and more. In addition to the various shapes, there are also fixed iron sights and adjustable ones. Despite the name, most modern iron sights are made from materials like aluminum or plastic rather than iron as a way to cut weight even further and make them easier to manufacture. Of course, some adjustable and fixed iron sight options may be anodized or otherwise finished to ensure durability as well we a lighter weight. The overarching point here is that there are an abundance of iron sight options that you can choose from to find the right option for your setup.

Choosing Iron Sights

Many iron sight options come in two components meant to attach at different points along the same line — generally along the handguard rail to keep them aligned easily. The downside to these options is they can potentially be interfered with by other optics attached along the same line. There are also fold-down iron sights made to work with your red dot sight, but these often result in the loss of a lot of rail space. On a Picatinny rail, a folding iron sight can take up anywhere from three to seven rail slots depending on whether it’s deployed up or folded down. The alternative option to avoid these issues is to find a fixed iron sight that works with or attaches to your laser sight. In the end, you’ll want to choose the right iron sights based on your upper receiver setup.

Using Iron Sights

In theory, using open iron sights to align your shot should be as simple as, well, lining everything up. If you’ve ever played a first-person shooter video game, we can practically guarantee you’ve experienced the digital equivalent to aiming with iron sights. However! We mention this with a big caution: don’t rely on just video game experience. It’s a good starting point for understanding the concept, but the human eye doesn’t work the way you’ve seen iron sights work in games. As with everything else AR-related, the best way to improve your experience using iron sights is going to be range time.

The basic steps to using iron sights are:

  • Line up the sights with each other
  • Line up the aligned sights with the target
  • Squeeze the trigger, keeping your focus on the target/front sight
  • Fire

There is more to it than that, of course, but those basic steps are enough to get you started no matter what type of fixed iron sight you use. On top of that, how you set up your iron sights will also have an impact on usability. If your iron sights are two separate components, make sure the rear portion is further back on the rail and the front sight is as far forward as you can get it on your rail, preferably over the muzzle. The longer the distance between the two, the better your depth of field will be, which can help with precision. This shouldn’t be a problem with single-unit fixed iron sights since they are designed to take depth of field into account.


Back To Basics

Using a fixed iron sight may feel like going back to prehistoric days after the level of adjustability you get with scopes and red dot sights. However, iron sights are absolutely invaluable as a backup option. In fact, plenty of AR owners choose to use iron sights concurrently with their red dot sight as a co-witness option. If you’re looking for ways to help improve your precision, this could be the double-check you need to boost performance at the range or during competitions.

Here at RailScales, we’re big fans of making technology work for our needs. We’ve carefully designed and crafted adjustable and fixed iron sights that work with DBAL and ATPIAL series sights. Our designs fit seamlessly, making our fixed iron sights incredibly low-profile, lightweight, and durable — all while saving you valuable rail space. Explore the benefits of the LEAF and LEAF - PEQ iron sights for yourself. Order online today!