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Peep sights

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m doing this post at the request of Steve, who asked:

Do you think you could write up a detailed article about peep sites and how to use them? I just bought one for my 392, and they are indeed very accurate; I was quite impressed. But, I found that I couldn’t find much on the web about how to use them, which leaves me to believe that peep sites are a bit underrated in lieu of scopes. But I think they’re a great cost-effective alternative, especially at around the 25 yard range.Cheers, Steve Seattle, WA

I don’t know when the first aperture-type sights were used, but in 1884, Lieutenant Colonel A.R. Buffington introduced a new type of rear sight for the .45 caliber rifle (the Trapdoor Springfield). It featured a combined open and aperture (peep) rear sight in a raised leaf that was both adjustable to 2,000 yards range and could also adjust for windage.

It may not have been the first use of peep sights on a rifle, but the 1884 Buffington rear sight on the Trapdoor Springfield was probably the first military use of peeps. It even compensated automatically for the drift of the bullet caused by the right-hand twist of the rifling! A very complex sight, it got the U.S. into peep sights for battle rifles, and they still use them today.

I’m pretty sure that when soldiers saw the new sight for the first time they hated it! They were used to open sights and buckhorns, and the newfangled peep must have confounded them. To put it on a primary military rifle in 1884 no doubt took real courage. However, when the U.S. adopted the M1903 Springfield rifle 19 years later, it had a modified Buffington rear sight, and every primary U.S. battle rifle since then has had a peep sight in the rear. Today, there is a move toward optical sights on the battlefield, but as of this time the peep sight still reigns supreme. Why is that?

It fixes parallax!
A good peep sight forces the shooter to position his eye in the same place every time, because it is difficult to impossible to see through the hole if the eye is elsewhere. But allow me to differentiate a good peep from an average peep. A good peep has a hole small enough to do what I just said. An average peep, and this includes all military peep sights I have seen, must use a larger hole for rapid target acquisition. The military doesn’t care where the enemy is hit, as long as he is hit. Target shooters do care where they hit!

The battlesight peep on an Enfield No. 4 Mk1 rifle can almost substitute as a basketball hoop. There is a much smaller peep hole on the calibrated leaf that’s laying down in this view. With a hole this large you won’t shoot targets, but a man at 100 yards is not safe. For more exacting work, flip up the leaf and go to town! The No. 4 Enfield is one of my personal favorite WWII battle rifles!

How to use a peep
Using a peep sight is MUCH easier than using an open notch-type sight! With a peep, all you do is look through the hole in the rear sight and put the front sight where it needs to be in relation to the target. Your brain will force you to center the tip of the front sight in the rear hole because that’s where the light is the brightest and the sight is easiest to see. Yes, you can subvert this if you really want to, but if you don’t think about it, your brain will center the front sight every time. For that reason, peeps are best used with square post front sights and annular (ring) front sights. Trying to use a peep with a post and bead front sight can cause confusion until you sort it out. If you think of the bullet going to the tip of the front sight, you’ll get along well with a peep.

When using a peep with a front sight that takes inserts, choose the annular type (left) or a square post (center). The post and bead isn’t as useful until you practice with it for awhile.

Adjusting a peep
The peep sight adjusts the same as every rear sight. If you want to move the strike of the round to the left, move the rear sight to the left. If you want to shoot higher, move the rear sight up.

Peeps in poor light
Like any non-optical sight, a small aperture will fail in poor light. A large aperture will work much better, which is another reason the military uses such large holes.

Why don’t more rifles come with peep sights?
Today, any rifle that doesn’t easily accept a scope is dead in the water. Non-optical sights generate little interest among rifle shooters anymore. The last big peep sight push on pellet rifles came from Germany in the 1950s and ’60s. And Daisy collectors can tell you that certain Daisy models such as the No. 25 pump have had combination peep and open sights that were very popular at that time.

This combination peep and notch rear sight was popular on many Daisy BB guns in the 1950s and ’60s. This one is on a 1955 Daisy No. 25 pump gun.

So, Steve, the peep sight is not much of a mystery to use. It forces you to concentrate on the front sight, which is where accuracy comes from. It works just like other open sights except for the aperture, however that small hole is what makes the peep sight the easier sight to use.

39 thoughts on “Peep sights”

  1. I’m a peep sight addict! At up to about 30 yards I’m as accurate with a peep as I am with a scope as I just haven’t gotten the knack of scope use.

    Is there a peep that you could reccommend with the Talon SS? I was going to order one of these /product/beeman-sport-aperture-sight?a=717 but I’m not sure if it will be high enough.

    Currently I’m using a homemade rear peep that mounts in the stock AF sight groove. I’ve also made a front post out of stainless steel and mounted it in the stock AF front sight. I’d like better adjustability of the rear sight.

  2. Maybe I shoulda been more specific. I know it will fit the reciever grooves, but my concern is the height. I’m worried about the peep being too low as it doesn’t quite have the height of the stock AF rear sight that my homemade one is based on. There aren’t any dimensions listed on Pyramids site to give me a clue.

  3. Bob,

    There should be plenty of elevation with that sight. Take a look at the elevation slide shown in the photo. That’s how far up it can go. It will be even higher than an AirForce rear sight, I believe.

    And if it isn’t tall enough, how har would it be to whack off a little of the front sight?


  4. Actually the concern is with the lack of a traditional stock on the Talon…..whether it will adjust for the height of my eye off the stock. As for whacking off some of the front sight, I actually threaded the piece into the hole where the stock AF fiber optic piece went through so the front sight is height adjustable.

  5. BB,

    I just got a Talon SS from pyramidair, but it sounded like someone slams the car door very hard. It’s not as quiet as you described in your posts. Is there something wrong with my rifle?

  6. Probably not. You need to get used to it. I discribe the SS as being as loud as a hand clap when set on power setting 8.

    Your rifle sounds normal. Just remember that you don’t need to shoot it on high power all the time.

    Start at power setting 2 and work up until the sound starts to seem loud. Shoot at that level for awhile and see if your perceptions don’t change.


  7. B.B.,

    For a Beeman R7 that shoots .177 at 700 fps, would Diabolo Exacts that weigh 7.6gr be too light? Would 10.2gr be too heavy? I want to buy a R7 but, dont want pellets that might damage it.

    Do you think a Buying a new R7 and having Beeman supertune it make any difference?

    What do think would be more accurate RWS wadcutters or Beeman wadcutters?


  8. Dave,

    Pellets won’t damage spring guns, despite what some people say. However, springers do like lighter pellets. I’d stay under 9.5 gn. with the R7. There is no lower end to the weight you can safely shoot.

    It’s been years since I’ve examined a Beeman Supertune, so I can’t comment on how good they are.

    I think Beeman (H&N) wadcutters will be more accurate in an R7.


  9. In discussions about peepsights everyone notes how the sight centers your eye. No one mentions the other half of the peepsight’s function, which is to bring everything into a reasonably sharp focus by acting as a pinhole lens.
    By itself, the human eye cannot accomodate the images of a rear sight, a front sight, and a distant target. The peepsight doesn’t require that you focus on the rear sight, just center your eye behind it, as noted in your post.
    Once the shooter’s eye is in place, everything in front of the peepsight comes into focus, something not possible with other open sights.

  10. Hello B.B.,
    I can remember using the flip-up peep sight on my Daisy pump when I was a teenager and loving it! My dad raised racing pigeons so keeping the neighborhood cats away was a noble task.
    Now that the standard middle age farsightedness has made open sights pretty much unuseable for me, might a peep sight possibly work? For farsightedness, do you think the peepsight would be easier to use closer to, or farther from the eye? I use no-line progressive lenses which makes the sight picture very inconsistent. I have to take my glasses off to use a scope.

  11. i think you posted on this already, but i cant find where. how is the accuracy of a peep sight as compared to a properly adjusted and used scope? and, is the peep different from a diopter? i read the diopter has a magnifying effect, thus making it illegal in competition. true?

  12. Hi, B.B.

    Hey thanks. Your article on peep sights was exactly what I was looking for! It confirmed what I was experiencing when I was sighting in my peep for the 392.

    I think what I appreciate the most about a peep sight, aside from its accuracy, is the simplicity of its concept.

    Anyway, thanks again for posting this. It’s an excellent source for anyone considering a peep sight.


  13. dm20,

    At close range, a peep and scope are about the same. As distance increases, the scope pulls ahead. Also in poor light the scope does better.

    There are apertures with magnifying lenses. The plain hole does not magnify.


  14. For pistol shooting you can use a Merit pinhole that attaches to your shooting glasses and gives the same infinite depth of focus as the aperature sight. It doesn’t constitute a sight in and of itself, but it does bring into focus the rear sight, the front sight, and the target simultaneously.

    I wear bifocals, too, and I find that using an aperature sight is easiest when I take my glasses off. The aperature works just fine all by itself to correct any defects in my vision.

  15. Is there a low peep sight that you would recomend for a 392LE?
    I am thinking on something like a Williams WGRS-54 as it seems it would need something really low. What do you think?

  16. Peep sight for 392,

    I cannot recommend any peep other than the Crosman peep for the 392. If that one doesn’t work, you have a way to recover your money. I have a Sheridan with a Williams peep that was made for it and it adjusts as low as necessary.

    It’s possible Williams changed the specs on their sights without notifying Crosman, so I would take any peep sight questions directly to them. That’s where I would go.


  17. B.B.,


    What happen when you turn off the r/g illumination on a bugbuster version 1 or other leapers w/ illumination? is there a black (mil-dot) rectile? or is there no rectile when you look throught the scope?


  18. I had a Benjamin in the early 60’s and always used the peep sight for accurate shooting.I would line aspirin up along the edge of my mother’s piano and one by one pick them off at a distance of 36′! It was in the basement, so no wind worries…Ed

  19. The automatic compensation for twist is very interesting — the first I have ever seen although for the typical target shooting distances, this does not affect most shots.

    I have just started shooting service rifles in competition and using the M1 Garand peep sights (and 1903A3 some). A couple of observations from a neophyte:

    1) Do not wear sun glasses when shooting with peep sights — you need all the light you can get through that small hole even for service rifle sized holes.

    2) As in all shooting, you want the front sight to be in-focus and maintain your concentration on it. Some peep sights have an option for a plus-lens to be built-in to assist. My solution is to wear my “computer/music” glasses when shooting peep (and air pistol) — the distance to my music stand or computer screen is about the same as the front sights for either rifle or airgun (the long barrel and my arm extended are about the same length). The further advantage is that these glasses do not block light (my “regular” glasses have automatic darkening in sunlight) so I satisfy point 1 simultaneously.



  20. Mi 392 is the limited edition and came with scope and no rear sight.
    The regular sight for the 392 won’t fit as the LE does not have provision in the receiver to bolt on the sight. It has rails for scope.

  21. BB…303 British Mk4…Try 38 grains of imr 3031 and a 312 dia. 150gr.Ptd SP Horandy…Mild,very accurate and deadly…In our group we shoot about 8 of these and find the above load has become a standard…TOM

  22. Tom,

    You know, it’s funny you should send me this load. I just cooked up a 38 grain load of 3031 behind a 120-grain .308 bullet for my 7.5 Swiss that out-shoots the best reduced load I had before.

    When I start loading for my No. 4 I will give this a try.


  23. Swiss 7.5…Check the original miltary ammo, they use bees wax? as a seal/lub??…Since, we have developed many match loads with bees wax and jacketed bullets…TOM

  24. Hi BB,

    I have a quick question about installing & adjusting diopter peep rearsights – I have a Daisy Avanti rear Diopter installed on my RWS 460 – should I install it as far back as I can so the eye-cup is as close to my eye as possible? The hole seems pretty big – so i’m not sure how to adjust the sight.

    Or should I move it forward, so the hole gets smaller – more precise?

    And what distance should I use to try to set the sight?

    Thanks for any help,

  25. Yes, I'm over scopes. I fell for all the bigger is better hype re. scopes. What a waste of time and money. Big scopes with zoom and parallax adjustments etc are almost impossible to focus and in the field (unless you setup in a hide) are next to useless. If you going with a scope I would recommend good quality fixed 4x (or 3x Nikon for a Crossbow). Walking around in the field with anything else is a waste of time. If you a survival nut like me though scopes are out. Too prone to error and breakdown. Now use a WGRS 54 peep and haven't looked back. Bullet proof and will last a lifetime.

  26. I hope this thread is still running… Can anybody recommend a peep sight set for a Ruger Air Hawk? I have been trying to find an answer to this but it all leads to making your own calculations on the height the Ruger’s barrel “likes” and am affraid to make a costly mistake. Has anybody replaced Ruger Air Hawk’s or similar factory sights for a peep? Thanks!

    • Tony,

      Welcome to the blog. Yes, this thread is still running, but few people see it.

      Here is what you do. Make your own peep sight from a piece of cardboard with a peephole poked in it. It sounds too simple, but it will work. You can change the height of the hole until you find what works for your rifle. Then you can buy the sight that works best.

      I’m thinking it will be an AirForce target rear sight, because the Air Hawk barrel has droop.


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