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Education / Training Open sights: part 1

Open sights: part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was promised last week, and it will take more than one posting to cover it all. Open sights are so simple-looking that few shooters give them a second thought. If we had been brought up at a time when firearms had no sights, we would probably appreciate today’s highly refined open sights much more.

Blade and notch
The earliest open sights were on the front of the gun only and were nothing more than a reference point. Since the guns themselves weren’t accurate, the sights were of little concern. However, during the matchlock era, rifling came into play, and the shooting community also discovered that a close-fitting lead ball can be very accurate when fired from a smoothbore, too. In fact, there was a club of target shooters in Ohio in the 1800s that shot nothing but smoothbore guns and round balls. They were said to be capable of making groups of just a few inches at 100 yards with those guns!

The early blade front sight was a low, rounded piece of metal made of brass or German silver (a combination of nickel, copper and zinc – but no silver). The rear notch was a wide, low v-shaped sight that was used as a reference point for the front blade. Both sights were fixed and the sight picture was changed to move the strike of the bullet.

This is a representation of the sights found on a Pennsylvania rifle from the late 1700s. Note the different sight pictures. These are just representations of the dozens of different sight pictures the rifleman had. Because the shooter probably had just one rifle, he became an expert at positioning the sights for the desired outcome.

8 thoughts on “Open sights: part 1”

  1. Sorry to be off topic, I recently received a Diana G80 made in Great Britain. I was wondering if you could give me any information on this gun? This is my first air rifle and I would like to know as much as possible on using and maintaining it. The model and make are on the top of the gun. Thanks for your help,

  2. Dear B.B.
    Thanks for your answer on the crossman 2300S. As you said you haven’t tested the crossman 2300S as yet but what you suggest for a hand gun in 22 or 177 cal. for shooting squrrils and general varmit shooting. I would prefer to keep this in a CO2 or spring gun area with price not being a factor but performance and ease of operation being number one.
    Thanks for you assistence and repeated informative advise.

  3. B.B. i want to run an idea by you concerning the testing of leaks in spring airrifles but first. am i correct in thinking that the only time that springers leak from the seal is during the time of firing?
    if this is correct than would it be possible put some powder (babypowder, baking soda etc.)around the seal. if powder flies up during firing than there is a leak. do you think this idea has any potential for accuracy? and am i correct in assuming that the air stored in a springer can only leak during firing? thanks for all your help your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  4. A spring gun doesn’t store air. It rapidly compresse it when it fires. That’s the only time it can leak at the breech.

    The baby powder test is a time-honored test for this.

    There will always be some air blowing out of the breech. You need to look for excessive air. That’s where experience comes in.

    Start testing now and you will soon delevlop a feel for it.


  5. I am looking at buying either the benjamin 392 or the c9. I notice they are rated at 685 fps for the .22 cal and 675 fps for the .20 cal. I also noticed that both the .20 cal and .22 cal benjamin diabolo weight 14.3gr. I am assuming these velocity ratings are determined by using thier own pellets. So by reading your blog I have learned that muzzle energy is the real number to look at which is going to be about the same on both rifles. My question is what is the advantage of one over the other. I have read every thing I could about the advantages of each caliber and I am leaning toward the 392 because it is a little cheaper and their are more options on ammo, but the c9 seems a little cooler just because it is .20 cal. I mainly do gneral plinking and target shooting with a small amount of pest control. Also why is the .20 cal rated 10 fps lower than the .22? thanks

  6. applemaniac,

    You have correctly identified the differences between these two models. I have a Blue Streak and I love it, but if I were to buy today, I’d get the 392.

    The difference in velocity is meaningless. Nobody can get two airguns that achieve gtheir rated velocities anyway. The guns are equivalent.


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