Types of Gun Sights – Which Should You Use?

Properly aiming a gun means more than just pointing in the general direction of something and pressing the trigger (unless you’re directly in front of a target, in which case fire away). Instead, shooting requires skill, adaptability, and precise aiming with the help of the sighting device on each gun.

A basic sight usually consists of one point at the end of the barrel and two in the rear that can be aligned towards the target. However, there are other types of optical sights available. Anything from reflex sights to lasers and those that are in-between can be a welcome addition to your gun.

But, what makes each of the sights unique and what is their purpose? Well, below you’ll find a list of the different types available and a brief explanation of their use so you can make an informed decision that suits your needs.

Iron Sights

The most common type of sight on a gun is the factory default iron sight. You’ll find that shotguns have the most basic form of it as a single round bead that sits at the end of the barrel. This type works perfectly for shotguns, as simply looking down towards your target with the bead on sight is pretty much enough to hit what you’re looking at. Granted, while it’s not the most precise type of sight in the market, it’s suited well enough for shotguns.

However, let’s say you’re shooting a pistol, for example. This weapon requires precision to hit its target. For that reason, they’re built with one front and two rear (almost like a fork) sighting devices that need to be aligned with the target in order to fire accurately. Front and rear iron sights work great if you’re within the functional range of the weapon and have steady hands (about 50 m).

However, there are some caveats:

  • Bad eyesight will make iron sights harder to use.
  • They require practice to master.
  • Eyes aren’t designed to focus on three separate distances.

While iron sights are not perfect, they serve their purpose well enough and already come with the weapon, so it’s not like you’re investing more than the initial payment.

Telescopic Sight

You’ll want to use telescopic sights for small or distant targets. This type of sight comes in two varieties. One is the fixed magnification with 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, and 24x varieties. The other one is the variable zoom, which can have its magnification adjusted. That’s why you might see something like 6-24 x 50 on the specs label. This means that the forward lens is 50 mm in diameter. A larger lens, in this case, will allow for more light to come through the scope. However, whenever I recommend a scope to someone, I tell the person to look for one that has the best “eye relief.”

The term “eye relief” refers to the distance between the ocular lens of the scope and your eye ( or the point at which you can see the crosshair clearly). If you’re using a rifle, this is a fairly short distance due to the way you’ll position your eye (right behind the eyepiece, but not close enough to where the recoil will give you a black eye). If you have a pistol with a scope, you’ll have a far greater distance between the eye and the lens.

There are, however, a few things you should keep in mind when purchasing a scope:

  • Light transmission: Higher quality means better illumination with less light. If you’re hunting in an environment that has poor light conditions, a scope with a higher rate of light transmission will work better, and as we mentioned above, a larger lens allows more light.
  • Reliability: Scopes are typically meant to handle the recoil of most firearms, but if you’re using a scope on a spring-powered rifle, the recoil can actually break the scope. Additionally, a higher-quality scope will actually hold its “zero” position for longer periods of time.
  • Optical quality: A higher-quality scope will have a glass with minimal to no imperfections and a clear image displayed on the end. Lower-quality scopes, on the other hand, appear blurry and have distortions around the image.

Peep Sight

Similar to iron sights, peep sights still have a very distinct look. Peep sights are commonly seen on rifles, but other weapons can use them as well. On this type of sight, the front sight is the standard iron sight, but the rear sight is a circular lens that you will “peep” through.
Peep sights normally come with two apertures in the rear sight, one with a large circle and another with a small one. The holes serve the same function, but the smaller one helps with precision shooting, and the larger is better for target acquisition.

Laser Sight

A laser sight is a mounted device that goes under the muzzle of your gun and projects a red (or green) beam of light to the target. Theoretically, the colored dot points towards the spot the shooter wants the bullet to go to. It is great for a new gun owner who is still familiarizing himself with the mechanics of shooting. But laser sights are not very practical when shooting at the range, and we don’t recommend them for expert shooters. An overreliance on laser sights can actually hinder the development of a shooter as dependence on the sight grows.

If you’re defending your home with a gun that has a laser sight, keep in mind that if your hands are shaking, the laser sight will give you away. Additionally, they’ll also give away your location in dark places and don’t work in bright areas.

Reflector/Reflex Sight

Red dot, holographic, and reflex sights come in many names and forms, but they’re usually meant for fights that are expected to happen in short- to middle-range distances. Typically, they will feature a red dot in the middle of the sight. This type of sight is commonly favored by the military and the police for their relative ease of use and their accuracy. Reflex sights allow soldiers and policemen to line up shots quickly and precisely.

This type of sight has three settings:

  • Adjustable brightness
  • Daytime use
  • Nighttime use, which can come with an attachment that is mounted behind the sight

Additionally, there are small differences between them, too:

  • Red dot sights have a small red dot in the reticle.
  • Reflex sights use LED to project a reticle onto the image displayed on the sight.
  • Holographics are similar to the reflex.

One disadvantage is that if you accidentally move the lever on the device, you’ll have to re-zero the sight. If you moved the lever on purpose to change the reticle, you might have to re-zero the sight as well.

These are the basic types of firearm sights, but there are more available on the market. Check out the various sights at US Patriot.

As the technology behind firearms develops further, there will certainly be even more different types of sights. But for now, the sights listed here serve as a good starting point for what types you’ll be using. They all have their advantages/disadvantages and require varying levels of experience to use. With time and effort, you can certainly master all the different types of gun sights.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Emmanuel "Dash the Bomber" Barbosa

Emmanuel Barbosa, AKA Dash The Bomber, is currently serving in the 7th fleet, and has over 8 years of experience in the military. A writer with a penchant for the humorous and informative, he loves to share his stories with those who would be willing to listen. Having served in deployments that have taken him around the world, Dash has seen and heard about many things that would be hard to believe. A loving father and a faithful husband, he is dedicated to protecting his family and country. For fun he enjoys cosplaying, videogames, and writing for online magazines.

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