So what is an iron sight? It consists of two pieces, the front sight, which is fastened towards the front of the barrel (muzzle) and the rear sight, which is fastened near the back of the barrel (the breech). These pieces may be fixed or adjustable to accommodate for range and windage. Aiming is done by using the human eye alone. There is no device for magnification (such as a telescope) or low light conditions (night vision device), just the two pieces. The user simply lines these two pieces onto the target and then pulls the trigger. The two pieces for most iron sights are in the shape of a bead, a post or a ring, or combinations of each (e.g. front sight may be a post and rear sight may be a ring, or both sights may be posts etc.)
There are two main categories of iron sights: (a) the open type and (b) the aperture type. We will study more about these types of sights in the following posts.
Iron sights are usually characterized by the following features:
- Simplicity: There is very little that can go wrong with iron sights, as they are very low tech indeed, compared to some other types of sights. They are mostly immune to recoil effects. Since iron sights don't have any electronics or batteries, there is less that can go wrong with them.
- Weather resistance: Iron sights are usually pretty sturdy and are not much affected by the effects of weather and temperature.
- Ease of training: These are pretty basic sights and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how to use them.
- Durability: Most sights are pretty resistant to shock, unlike other types such as telescopic sights. Since iron sights are usually smaller and low-profile, they are usually less likely to get knocked out of alignment when handling the gun. However, hard blows can sometimes knock even iron sights out of alignment.
- Less weight: Iron sights are very light and do not affect the balance of the gun much. This is unlike other types of sights, that may be much more bulky.
- Cheap: Since they are so low-tech, they are also very cheap to manufacture.
There are also some disadvantages with using iron sights:
- Lower precision: Not as precise as some other sight types and also difficult to adjust accurately.
- Lower range: Since there is no image magnification with iron sights, the aiming is based on how good the user's eyesight is.
- Reduced field of view: The front and rear sights will block out some of the surroundings when the user lines them up with the target, especially the lower half of the target.