Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thinking About Rifles - VIII

It's time to think about sights.  If we consider the basic purpose of a rifle is to put a bullet into a target, then we must also consider the sighting system.  As this is a mental exercise, let's consider our options.

Iron sights used to be standard on every rifle, but that's no longer the case.  Iron sights have limitations, but some very good riflemen know how to use them.  I myself have several rifles with iron sights, and while they have their limitations, they also have their advantages. Probably the biggest disadvantage is that they're not very precise.  Before you all start howling, follow my reasoning for a moment.  The front sight on my Handi Rifle is 0.091" wide and covers about 10 inches at 100 yards.  Ten inches is a lot of terrain at 100 yards, and the area that front sight covers increases as the distance increases.  It is possible to shoot accurately with iron sights, and folks have made remarkable shots with iron sights, but they're not normally as precise as other sights, so we have to take that into account when we're discussing sighting systems.  However, iron sights are normally rugged and they're considered very fast.  If your target is close and presents itself for only a short period of time, iron sights might be the sight of choice.

Red Dot sights have come into their own in the past decade and there are some very nice ones on the market these days.  They are robust enough that the US military uses them on the M4 carbine.  The benefit of the red dot sight is that it projects a spot of light on the same visual plane as the target.  Put the dot on the sight, then fire the rifle.  Some of them are magnified, some are not, so choose wisely.  The one consistent drawback is that they use batteries, and while battery life is being extended in the red dot sights, if your battery dies, the sight is inoperable.  So, we pay our money and we take our chances, and red dot sights are an option that we shouldn't overlook.

Telescopic sights are here to stay.  With a bewildering variety of companies making them, options abound, and the price point might be under $100 dollars, or you might spend several thousands.  There are a variety of reticles, magnifications, and finishes.  The one constant in telescopic sights is that the ones on the market today are a whole lot better than the ones that were on the market thirty or forty years ago, and for the vast majority of rifle shooters, the rifle scope is a basic bit of gear.

For the practical rifle, it's important that when we mount the rifle,  the sight becomes instantly visible.  Yesterday, when talking about length of pull, we demanded that the stock fit the operator, and here we must consider comb height.  We've all seen a shooter have to move his head forward or backward, or un or down to see through the sights, and this is purely impractical when considering the practical rifle.  When the rifle is mounted in the shooting position, the sights should come instantly to the eye, with proper cheek weld and proper eye relief so that when the rifle is fired, the sight stays away from the face.  This is dependent on a number of personal considerations, to include the height of one's cheekbones and is not something that has a one-size-fits-all answer.  More than anything, it's a personal set of measurements, and the rifleman (or woman) must put proper   thought and experimentation into the rifle to make sure that the chosen sight comes instantly to the eye.

Some might require that a rifle have two sighting systems (for example, irons and scope) but I don't think that's necessary for a practical rifle.  What is important is that the rifle be set up properly for whatever system the operator decides to use, that the sighting system be robust, and that it be properly fitted to both the rifle and the operator so that it is instantly usable when mounting the rifle.

So, we amend the definition of the practical rifle to include the following:
1. magazine fed repeating rifle
2. weighing between 2.5 and 5 kilos
3.The cartridge must be capable of striking a single decisive blow on the target likely to be encountered at a distance where the operator is capable of placing the bullet in the vital area of the target.
4. Maximum length of 43 inches, with the length of pull properly proportioned to the individual
5. Robust sighting system, properly fitted to the rifle and instantly available to the operator.

Now, we're getting somewhere.


zdogk9 said...

I've got a 32 Special that is the same age as me, I'm starting to think that putting a red dot on it is the way to go. I've a Lyman mold that casts a bullet that works well in it, somewhere in the trash pile that I try and pass off as a shop there are several hundred pounds of wheel weights, I'm set for life.

Gerry N. said...

The areas I hunt and shoot in are heavily covered in brush so a long shot is about 30 yards. I have learned to use a receiver sight, Williams preferred, on my hunting rifles. The only scoped rifle I have is my Ruger 10-22 and I'm considering a receiver sight for it. Years ago I had a little M94 Swedish mauser that had been semi- sporterized, stock cut back,military ironwork removed, fitted with a recoil pad to lengthen the pull, that sort of thing. It was fitted with a Williams 5D sight and was wonderful in heavy brush and tight ravines.

I still regret selling it, but a new baby and house payments.
You know the drill.

I now have a full military M1 Carbine that fills that void with 130 gr cast bullet handloads.

Gerry N.

Old NFO said...

One other 'advantage' of open sights is you don't lose the target as you transition the weapon. That can and does happen with a scope depending on range. Anything 100 yards or less, I prefer open sights, but that's just me. If I use a scoped rifle, I try to use the minimum magnification I can to get the widest FOV depending on the range I expect to be shooting. (Again, just me)