Posts Tagged ‘aperture sight’

Learning to shoot with open sights: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

In Part 2, we learned that the peep sight has been around for a very long time. But following the American Civil War, the entire world became intensely interested in shooting for about 60 years, and target shooting was at the top of the list. World-champion target shooters were regarded like NASCAR drivers are today.

Because of all this interest, the common peep sights that were already at least 50 years old, and perhaps as old as a full century, started to change. By 1870, designers were innovating again. One of the most famous innovators, and the man whose designs are still impacting battle rifles 125 years later, was Col. Buffington of the Springfield Armory. In 1884, Springfield selected his sight for the U.S. .45-caliber, single-shot military rifle — the gun we call the Trapdoor.


The Buffington rear sight is both a peep and several different open notches. It sits 10-12 inches from the eye, yet is easily used with practice. Adjustable for both windage and elevation, it increases the accuracy potential by sharpening the sight picture.

As far as I know, the Buffington sight is the first use of a peep sight on a rifle that was intended for all combat troops. It worked so well at ranges of 500 yards and beyond that the American Army used it on all versions of the Krag and the M1903 Springfield, as well. Even though the peephole is located 10-12 inches away from your eye, it still works with precision.

The U.S. Army was so satisfied with the peep sight that they put it on the O3A3 Springfield of WWII, the M1 Carbine, the Garand, the M14 and all models of the M16/M4. It’s an easier sight to learn and far more precise than an open notch. Only in recent years have our Army and Marine Corps begun to experiment with optical sights, with the declination of the peep sight.

The refinement of the peep sight
But it wasn’t the Buffington sight that brought peep sights to their highest level. It was a challenge in 1873 that came from the champion Irish rifle team to any team of riflemen the Americans could put together for the championship of the world. No one, including the Americans, thought the Irish would lose the match; but just shooting against them was such an honor that we put a team together, built a thousand-yard rifle range and two firearms companies — Sharps and Remington — each built long-range target rifles for the team members to shoot.

The Irish shot Rigby muzzleloaders that were considered the most accurate in the world. No one thought a breechloader had a chance against them. And Rigby, himself, was part of the Irish team!

Until the year of the match (1874), there were no peep sights with vernier scales in the U.S. The best anyone could do was adjust their sights by 1/200 of an inch. At close ranges out to a maximum of 300 yards, that’s good enough; but when the distance is 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, the sight has to adjust in the thousandths of an inch. The way to do that was to add a vernier scale to the sight. So, both Sharps and Remington did exactly that.

A vernier scale is a scale of numbers that aligns with an index, making it possible for the naked eye to see measurements as small as one ten-thousandth of an inch, even though our eyes cannot actually see things that small. The vernier scale magnifies the final measurement for us through an ingenious scale of lines that are 10 times or 100 times larger than the measurement it’s measuring.


This closeup shows the Ballard rear peep sight from 1876. This is a common short-range (up to 300 yards) rear sight that’s adjustable to 1/100 of an inch, with care. There’s no vernier scale on this sight, so it has to be read directly. There’s a lot of interpolation required, and I have to use a jeweler’s loupe to read it that close.


This is a vernier scale on a peep sight. The offset index marks on the small scale align with the sight index marks, but only one of them is aligned perfectly. This allows you to “see” measurements as small as 1/1000 of an inch.


This Ballard front sight from 1876 uses an aperture! It was hand-filed to the correct size for the 20-rod (220 yard) bullseye target. It also works perfectly for a smaller 100-yard bull.

The results of the first international match at Creedmoor was a win for the U.S. team; but the score was extremely close, and the Irish team had fired one shot at the wrong target — losing the score. As far as the world was concerned, the match proved nothing about the superiority of muzzleloaders or breechloaders. However, the next year the U.S. won again in England, and this time the score was more conclusive. The breechloader had finally arrived on the target scene, and peep sights were accepted, though most shooters were using scopes if the rules allowed it. And the day of the precision peep sight with a vernier scale had finally arrived.

The American shooters positioned their rear sights on the heel of the butt, giving them the maximum separation of the front and rear sight, but requiring the shooter to lay down with his feet toward the target and balance the muzzle on his shoes. This odd position was given the name Creedmoor — after the range — and has every since defined that style of prone shooting.

Bottom line
Not every nation adopted the peep sight, and some who were as well-regarded as the Americans (namely the Swiss), shot very well with the older post and notch. They used it right on up through the 1960s. The US, Canada and the UK stayed with the peep sight on their battle rifles because it was quicker to learn, faster to use in battle and more precise.

Notice, also, that target shooters were using front aperture sight elements in the 1870s! Until a few years ago, I thought front apertures were an invention of the 1970s, but they’re at least a full century older. They came about because of changes from square targets to round targets around the mid-1870s.

Feinwerkbau 150: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Here’s this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 gift card.


This was taken by A.J. Stewart right after a blizzard in New York. Edith says this reminds her of the movie “Where Eagles Dare.”

Part 1
Part 2


The FWB 150 is a classic target rifle from the past. It’s also the father of the FWB 300.

Today, we’ll see if the FWB 150 target rifle can shoot. A couple good things have happened in the meantime to help me with today’s test. First, you may remember the last time I shot the Ballard rifle I discovered how to best hold it (on the bench) for really fine results. I applied all I learned there to the 150, and it did seem to help.

Next, you remember I reported that my eyes had suddenly gone bad a few months back? That was due to some blood sugar issues and the fact that my body was so dehydrated that my eyes had lost enough fluid to alter their prescription. They’re back to being very close to where they used to be now that I’m controlling my blood sugar, so sighting with non-optical sights is getting easier.

While my eyes were bad, I discovered that if I used a 500-watt quartz photo lamp on the target instead of a 75-watt lamp, I could see the target better. Now that my eyes are recovering almost all their former power, it’s even more helpful to use such bright illumination. I remember from the NRA National Junior Air Rifle matches that each of the 140 shooters on line had a 500-watt quartz lamp illuminating each target. So, the answer was there all along, I just wasn’t paying attention.

Finally, my 150 rear sight came with a Gehmann color filter; and when I switched from clear to dark yellow, all the mirage left the target. Mirage is when the target appears to distort and even move while you’re sighting. The yellow filter in this case cancels that and the bull stays put and also perfectly round.


My rear aperture sight has an extra attachment. A Gehmann color filter (the two knurled rings with the silver ring in between) allow you to select one of several filters through which to view the front sight. I found that far from being a gimmick. It really worked.

I began the test with RWS Hobby pellets, knowing that I probably needed to sight-in. The rifle was laid directly on a sandbag at 10 meters, because the 150′s sledge anti-recoil system acts like the perfect artillery hold, just like the RWS Diana model 54 Air King did the other day.

In fact, there were a lot of comparisons between the 150 and the Diana 54. Both are sidelevers, but where the 54 action has to be levered into position by the sidelever before the shot, the 150 doesn’t do that. The target rifle is so easy to cock that you can leave it in position on the bag and simply pull the sidelever.

Also, the shot cycle of the 150 is far smoother than that of the 54. In fact, this one is smooth for a 150. The tuneup really changed the nature of this gun for the positive.

All of the following shot groups are five shots. I continued to adjust the zero throughout the testing, so if the point of impact seems to move from target to target, it’s because it really does.

One last observation before I begin the report. The other day while testing the Diana 54, I complained because I shot out the point of aim early on, making it difficult to aim precisely. A scope sight needs something in the center of the target for the crosshairs to align with. With an aperture sight, you can hit the exact center of the bull repeatedly and never notice it, because you’re using the outside of the black bullseye to sight. That’s why I felt comfortable adjusting the sights to hit the center of my targets.

RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets
For some reason, RWS R-10 Match Heavy pellets produced the largest groups of the four pellets I tested. I shot several groups and then tested all the other pellets in turn. Finally, I returned and shot a couple more groups with R10s, but they just didn’t want to group as tight as the others. The best group I shot measured 0.191 inches.


Try as I might, this was the best group I shot with RWS R-10 Heavy target pellets.

Next came the H&N Match Pistol pellets. They shot tighter groups than the R10, but still not as good as I was expecting from this rifle. The best group measured 0.153 inches between centers.


H&N Match Pistol pellets were better in the 150.

Then, I switched to H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets and saw an immediate improvement. There were several good groups, but the best one measured 0.119 inches between centers.


H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets shot one of the smallest groups of the test.

The last pellet I tried was also the first one I’d started with — the RWS Hobby. For some unknown reason, Hobbys shot the generally tightest groups of all four pellets in this particular rifle. Even though H&N Pistol Match tied them on one target, Hobbys were best overall.


RWS Hobby pellets also shot the smallest groups of the test. This one measures 0.119 inches.

End of the test
Well, that was a good look at the FWB 150, and it sets us up for the next report on the FWB 300S, a later, more refined version of the same gun. I found the 150 to be a good blend of old-world craftsmanship and the latest technology of its day. Ten-meter rifles continued to evolve and get easier to shoot after the 150 was left behind, but they didn’t get much more accurate.

The Walther LGV Olympia – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


The Walther LGV Olympia is a beautiful breakbarrel spring-piston target rifle from the 1960s.

Well, the Roanoke Airgun Expo starts today, so while you read this, Mac and I will be buying, selling and looking at airguns. I will take pictures to show you, of course.

So, there I was, on the morning of October 5, reading my October 4 blog, “A safe strategy for no-loss — mostly gain — airgun collecting — Part 1,” when I came to the embedded link to the Yellow forum classified ads. Since I always check the embedded links in blogs, I clicked through and immediately came upon an ad for a Walther LGV Olympia target rifle in great condition for $425. What? Are they going to be selling Harleys in crates left over from World War II next?

And, then, I noticed that the seller was none other than Tom Strayhorn, one of America’s most well-known collector of Walthers. I knew Tom was a straight shooter, so this ad was apparently no scam despite the 1990s price. Ironically, this ad came to me right as I was lecturing to all of you that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes along every few months if you look for it.

So, I bought the gun. What else could I do? I had just told you not to miss out on really good prices when they come along, and here was one that just landed square in my lap. Talk about serendipity!

Walther LGV
During the 1960s, spring-piston target air rifles reached their high water mark. There was the Anschutz model 250, the FWB model 300, the Weihrauch HW 55 and, in 1963, the Walther LGV joined the fun. The LGV was the last in a long line of target breakbarrel rifles from Walther that started in the 1950s with the LG 51. Its immediate predecessor, the LG 55, is well-known as a fine European club gun, and the LGV took that one step farther. Although it’s a recoiling spring-piston rifle, the LGV is so smooth and heavy as to be almost recoilless. It was produced until 1972.

There are several different versions of LGVs, and mine is the first model called the Olympia that has rounded corners on the wood. I owned another Olympia LGV years ago that had a matte finish on all the barrel jacket to cut the reflection, but this current one is probably an older model that has all deeply polished metal finished in a deep black oxide. The polish is fully the equal of a Whiscombe or a Colt Python with the royal blue finish.

The forearm contains a lead weight to make the rifle decidedly muzzle-heavy, as target rifles are supposed to be. The rifle weighs 10.5 lbs., or just about one pound more than a 1903 Springfield rifle. It’s very muzzle-heavy, not only from the lead weight in the stock by also from the thick steel jacket that surrounds the barrel.


The heavy steel barrel jacket is held on by a special nut at the muzzle.

Casual observers will spot the barrel latch immediately. Like Weihrauch’s HW 55 target rifle, Walther provided the LGV with a special latch to positively lock the heavy barrel closed. The LGV was the only breakbarrel Walther did this for. The LG 55, which is quite similar in size and power, does not have a barrel latch.


Barrel latch locks the breech like a bank vault.

To compliment the latch, the baseblock has two hardened steel pins, one on each side of the block, that eliminate any possibility of sideways wobble in the barrel. In combination with the barrel latch, they make a vault-like rigid joint when the barrel comes to the closed position. Like the doors on a Mercedes, the barrel closes with the quietest of clicks that mask the ultra-rigid lockup.


Hardened steel bearing pins on either side of the baseblock ensure zero sideways barrel play.

Cocking effort on the LGV Olympia is legendary. It’s one of the few adult models to cock at less than 12 lbs. effort. This rifle has been tuned prior to my receiving it, so it may cock a little harder, but it’s still on the silly side of trivial. I will record it for you when I test the velocity in Part 2.

You’ll notice that the grip is heavily stippled to grab your hand during a match. These rifles were shot from the offhand position only, so all the design features stress that position over all others.


LGV grip is roughly stippled for better purchase.

The curved buttpad is rubber and adjusts both up and down. The trigger is a fine target trigger, although it is of 1960s technology and not the current day. It’s two-stage and breaks at 11 oz. And, of course, it’s adjustable.

The stock is figured walnut (I think) with a reddish-brown finish. It’s very full and robust, yet the forearm has no checkering, stippling or even finger grooves. It seems almost informal compared to the other contemporary target rifles. The Olympia was not intended to shoot in world cup competition. That honor was reserved for the LGV Spezial and the UIT models.

The front and rear sights are target-grade and identical to those found on the LG 55. In the front, a globe accepts standard inserts; in the rear, Walther’s own proprietary aperture target sight prevails. The rear sight rail allows for some adjustment of eye relief, though the rear sight has to lock down in one of the half-round cross slots on top of the receiver.


The LGV uses the same rear aperture sight as the LG 55.

I’m not a target rifle shooter, but I must say that this rifle holds steadier than any other rifle in my collection. Mac is supposed to bring a Weihrauch HW 55 CM for me to see, so I’ll get a chance to compare that to this gun. But of all my target rifles, this one is the steadiest.

In Part 2, I’ll chrono the rifle for you and measure the cocking effort.

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