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Education / Training Learning to shoot with open sights: Part 3

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.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

76 thoughts on “Learning to shoot with open sights: Part 3”

  1. Ooh, peep sights!

    It really bugs me that rifles don’t come with ’em, it shouldn’t be any more complicated or expensive to put a basic peep on a gun than a leaf sight.

    • I think that the reason you see post and blade on most break-barrel airguns, aside from “we’ve always done it this way”, is that it helps to mask the barrel droop that is so prevalent in that platform. By using a blade sight mounted to the end of the barrel, droop is never an issue because the post and blade are on the same plane. It’s not until you mount the rear sight to the compression tube, whether a scope or a peep, that you actually realize the barrel isn’t locking up perfectly straight with the compression tube.

      That being said, Daisy used to put crude peep sights on lots of their BB guns. In fact, the re-released model 25 has a flip-up peep, IIRC.

  2. It’s not that there aren’t inexpensive modern receiver sights , but the bigger issue is that most modern air guns aren’t drilled, tapped ,or dovetailed at the front to accept a decent front sight. A cheaper Williams FP receiver sight costs no more than a fair quality inexpensive 3-9X 32mm scope and mounts. A really good set of new modern, front and rear sights will cost as much as a very good scope. Even older used receiver sights like the commonly used Lyman 48’s which were on the target .22 RFs I learned to shoot, will cost over two hundred dollars used today, not including the front aperture sight. In some hunting situations a scope can give you the edge in low light conditions if it is a good one, but for targets , irons give up nothing . Most of today’s shooters should come back down to earth and realize that they aren’t really ninja snipers. That “tactical ” part as executed in regards to sights on many RF’s and airguns of today, doesn’t usually promote accuracy while shooting at very small targets.

    • Its a shame to have to look so far back in time for an example of american innovation that has stood the test of time and set the bar internationally. Produced with what would be considered meager tools by what is available by today’s standards.
      Men were men, boys aspired to be young men. People took pride in getting the job done individually, instead of waiting for someone else to complete or finish it.
      Today were are concerned with quantity over quality, and are quick to offer excuses. We expect a pat on the back for doing what should already be expected. We have become full of ourselves, and are resigned to just import quality.
      This old goat’s eye sight may be wavering, but my insight is 20/20.

    • Tom,
      Another often overlooked reason for our collective lack of shooting ability is the fact that we, as a nation, are totally discouraged from even touching an evil firearm. I await the time when guns are even outlawed in the military. Then, and only then, when the enemy charges, we will be handed a rifle and told to shoot them in the leg to slow their advance, giving us time to read them their rights before checking them into rehab.

    • Well, now we have “smart bullets” and remote-controlled drones. 🙂 We have our share of problems, but I don’t think military power is one of them right now.


  3. I like peep sights more than scopes but less than real open sights. Peeps are fine for target shooting with any rifle, or for more practical applications within the MPBR of the rifle to which they are attached. Beyond MPBR, the peep sight or point of aim must be adjusted for hold over, whereas with an open sight, you can make adjustments to elevation by drawing a finer or coarser bead. I think that is the reason peeps are not standard on most general purpose air rifles: The trajectory will require too much peep adjustment within a small practical range for some applications. On the plus side, peeps are almost automagical for learning how to use, as long as the shooter is trained well enough to adjust them for range, and that is not an issue in target shooting. Overall, I prefer to see shooters learn how to use real open sights first, but if it is between a scope and a peep sight, the peep is a little better :)! Probably it is not surprising, but I dislike the whole concept of adjusting the sights for each range with knobs, whether it be a scope or a peep, although at “Creedmoor” type ranges, there isn’t much practical alternative.

    • BG,

      In what way does drawing a finer or a coarser bead on a post and blade setup differ from putting the front sight on a different part of the target (i.e. adjusting hold-over) when using a peep sight?

      • Bobby,
        The result is the same (physics), but I prefer to keep the target (don’t think paper bull so much as squirrel’s head) and the front sight lined up (adjusting position relative to rear sight) rather than aiming at something that isn’t there, if that makes sense.

        • Ah, it makes perfect sense when you explain it that way.

          That approach would have some advantages in that you could keep you target picture constant as you adjusted for bullet rise/drop. However, you are limiting yourself in the amount of adjustment available to you since at some point the post will disappear below the notch or the front of the barrel will obscure the notch entirely. It would also have the advantage that it should be fairly easy to correlate how much of the post showing above the leaf corresponds to particular distances.

          I personally prefer to sight on a different part of the target to accommodate for bullet trajectory for two reasons: first the amount of adjustment is effectively infinite, second I can more easily remember to aim 1/4″ low at the target when I have a constant sized target to judge by. Squirrels, for example, have a head that is about an inch around, so it’s quite easy to move the post up or down slight amounts under field conditions. There is another advantage to peep sights in that they tend to be more accurate in low-light conditions.

          I may have to give your method a try to see if I like it more than the method I am currently using now. Heaven knows I don’t have enough research projects to keep me going :-O

  4. B.B., I appreciate your post both for its historical and technical detail.
    I don’t know how much longer I can cock my springers but I have been getting a bit of shooting in. Yesterday I pulled out the Hatsan 70 .177 (yes, it’s a Daisy Powerline 1000, but I did enough research to know it is the Hatsan 70, version 2 as one poster called it). I suppose Daisy would have put it in the Winchester line if they sold it today.
    Using the open sights I was able to place 6 shots withing a quarter at 20 yards. I don’t consider this great shooting but I was pleasantly surprised, just the same. The group was left of center. When I turned the target over and tried again it was obvious I was tiring. I am working on muscle strength and control.

    Thanks to everyone for quality posts here.

      • Not only not cocking it; not even picking it up. I wasn’t allowed to lift more than a paperback book for a couple of weeks, and < 5 pounds for about two months.

        Seriously, good luck.

        • Thanks, Pete; I appreciate what you say (and I know you have been there).
          After I submitted my post I realized I was talking about all springers (as far as cocking them goes) for quite some time.
          As far as picking one up, I may be able to pick up a Discovery before I can even think about cocking a springer (you know, a Tim Allen kind of springer, not one of these lady springers…no offense to ladies).
          I haven’t been down this path before, so I know I will have to listen to others (definitely not the Macho Callihans of the world who tell you to get back on a motor cycle right after you get out of the hospital with busted wrists and ribs…this path I have been down but didn’t listen to those guys).

          I hope you are doing well, sir.

      • You would think that your neck would have nothing to do with your arms, but it does. I know.

        Wish you the best of luck, and don’t overdo anything….even if you feel like you can.


        • Thank you, twotalon. I have no doubt I will be tempted. Hopefully, I will follow the plan and not overdo it. After the motor cycle wreck I had PT for a while then took over for myself. It worked out and I didn’t try to go faster than was safe.


          • Usually you find out that you went a bit too far by the next day. Hard to tell where to quit at first. Some things will always cause you trouble. Go easy.

            Having trouble typing . Working on long island iced tea. Ran out of Beam and Black Velvet. Don’t feel like beer.


              • Had to make a lot of corrections.
                I have leftovers that will always bother me. Sore places in my neck. The muscles bunch up. Will never go away. Just live with it.

                Will go to bed before I get totally wasted. Have a lot of practice.


                • Yeah, take what you have and make the best of it.

                  Once things are healed up you live with what you have. May not make you happy, but do what you can with what you have.

                  What a buzz. Not used to this.

                  Bed time I think.


  5. Everyone,

    Well, I’m back. The trip back went well, except for wind at Dallas. We’d had it in Las Vegas the day before and it was blowing over 50 mph! It shut down four of the six runways at Dallas, so all flights going through there were held up.

    The show was wonderful, but I was learning to use an iPod, and it took almost the entire trip before I could use it well. It’s definitely NOT a computer! More like a brain-dead iPhone with a nicer keyboard.

    Went to the Pawn Stars place, and they have expanded the store! Lots of neat things to see, but none of the guys were there this time.

    Didn’t win anything gambling, but that was expected. Didn’t lose that much, either.

    Very few people at the show recognized me. My transformation has taken weight away, but added a lot of years to my face. Felt good, though, and I could do a commercial for Sketchers shoes! After the show and a lot of extra walking around my feet felt like they were being massaged all the time. It was the first time I haven’t had a foot problem.

    Thanks to everyone who helped keep the blog perking along. Gonna do at least one more SHOT Show report this week, plus there is a lot of stuff still hanging open.


    • BB,
      About the Sketchers: I’m interested, they make 276 models, which one are you wearing. I wonder if they’re all as comfortable? Whoa, do you think this is the first time non-shooting shoes were discussed on this blog? This may increase female readership. (I’m sorry, that was a bit sexist).

      • Chuck,

        About a year ago, I bought a pair of Skechers Shape-Ups. They were so wonderful, that I bought 4 more Shape-Ups. I like the ones that close with one Velcro strap. I wear them all day, everyday because I spend my day in jeans and that’s about as dressy as you have to get in Texas 🙂

        Because Tom has tender tootsies :-), I took him to a local store to try on a pair. He immediately noticed that the shoes propelled him forward. It was the exact same experience I had! He bought the shoes and also bought a second pair later. He wears Skechers almost all the time now.

        In the past, his return from SHOT meant sore, aching feet. He even has some peripheral neuropathy due to all the walking he’s had to do at SHOT in the past. This time, he came home and told me his feet felt wonderful.

        Tom’s lace-up Skechers are these: http://www.skechers.com/style/52000/shape-ups-xt/blk

        His slip-on version is no longer made.

        There are many types of Skechers Shape-Ups with different tread patterns. Tom’s tread is the same one on my shoes. We’re both sold on these. Here’s the page with all the men’s Shape-Ups: http://www.skechers.com/search?t=mens+shape-ups&x=0&y=0


      • I think Sketchers started out as skateboard shoes, and skateboarders are very hard on shoes (I avoided that problem as a kid – and I was the best in the neighborhood except for my older brother – by always skateboarding barefoot) so their standards are high.

        • Edith,
          Here’s a heads up for you. Maybe you already know since you sent me the link. I went to three different shoe stores today looking for the XT. Only one had them, but not in my size. They were on the shelf for $119 (gasp). I looked at the Sketchers web site and they had them for $90 MARKED DOWN TO $54.99. I’m glad, now, that the store didn’t have my size or I would have never known. I ordered a pair online from Sketchers. If they fit, when I get them, I’ll order another pair. I hope the price holds up for a couple more weeks.

          • Chuck,

            I bought our first pair from a local sporting goods store because the sizing was off for me. I had to go up a size. I didn’t know if the same held true for men’s shoes, so that’s why Tom’s first pair also came from a local store. The remainder of my shoes were ordered online. In fact, I even got a brand new pair at a deep discount through an outlet store on eBay 🙂


    • What’s the quick summary about Sketcher’s shoes–kung fu shoes, extra support?

      B.B., now you finally know how Frank Mann felt with his incredible feet that he could run on all day without tiring!

      Flobert, I was a disaster at skate boarding and just about the same with surfing.


      • Matt61,

        The Shape-Ups version is like a rocking chair: you balance on the arch of your foot. Sounds like it’s dangerous, but after a few steps, you’re used to it. The shoes seem heavier than my old Nike running shoes but walking/running is totally effortless. It’s almost as if I don’t have to move my feet…they magically move in the right direction.

        When I was in the store with Tom showing him the shoes, a “helpful” customer walked by & said, “Don’t buy those. They’re all hype.” I told him I’d been wearing them for some time, owned several pairs and the so-called hype is actually true.


        • Edith,

          when you mentioned peripheral pneuropathy, my antenna sprang right up. I have a very good friend bothered by this and I forwarded your comment to him. Who knows, maybe this shoe will help him as well.

          Fred PRoNJ

        • I bought a pair of slip-on Sketchers in 2005 to wear aboard boats. They were so comfortable they became my everyday shoes: most comfortable ones I’ve ever owned, for only $50 some dollars.

          I wear them everyday, am wearing them right now, in fact. I plan on replacing them with new Sketchers, if these ever wear out.

          I took Nicky and his sister Melanie to their first 4-H shooting class tonight. They are shooting Daisy 99’s. The regular air rifle shooters use Avantis. The guns were purchased with a grant from the NRA.


      • Matt,

        I have peripheral neuopathey on the balls of both feet. They are numb, and although this is not intuitive, they hurt like hell when I step on something as small as a BB in bare feet! Sort of the Princess and the Pea, only on my feet!

        These Sketchers cushion the soles of my feet and massage them the entire time I wear them! It’s like having a constant massage.


  6. Use all three (peep/scope/leaf) and like ’em all for different reasons.
    Paper punching indoors (or out on a calm day) I find that at airgun distances peeps are just as accurate as any of my scopes (which amounts to two 😉 )
    A side note…I’ve got the Gehmann Compact site all settled in. As you said b.b. it’s no more accurate than my old Daisy, but making adjustments is a dream. At 10m one click is (if I recall the instruction sheet) a 1mm POI shift.
    And it is exactly that. If I need to bring the pellet up 1/4″, 6 clicks was pretty much exactly what was needed.
    With the Daisy one click was about 1/8″. Problem was you could move it a couple of clicks…and nothing. Then the third click would move it 1/4″. A real royal pain.
    But most of the time outdoors I do prefer the scope. Especially if there is any wind. I find that with Chairgun loaded on an i-Pod it really is easy to deal with the wind if you have a Hawke scope.
    10mph wind…25 clicks…BANG…dead centre.
    And for just banging away at tin cans I find the B3(the AK lookalike) with it’s leaf sight works just fine.
    Red Dots…the only sight I really don’t like. A lot of money for something that I find to be no more accurate than leaf sights.

    • That is one lucky guy! Reminded me of a very tragic accident I read in the paper last week. Here locally, a guy and his son and a friend were hunting deer. The guy’s son had the job of flushing the deer so he was 400 yards out flushing them towards the two other guys. The dad took a shot at one of the deer but missed and hit his son in the head and killed him at 400 yds. I can’t imagine the grief that dad must going through.

      • This sounds like it was just a crazy plan and asking for trouble–shooting in the direction of other people only 400 yards away with a centerfire rifle. I’m reminded of another hunting story recently where two guys flushed a wounded black bear. The bear sprang on the older hunter, so the younger hunter fired at the bear but killed the other hunter.


        • This sounds like insanity. Why on earth would you shoot in the general direction of someone unless you’re purposely trying to shoot them? Even with a shotgun’s limited range, it’s not a smart thing to do even though I’ve heard the stories of spent shot raining down on other hunters in a field out of sight from the shooter. Then there’s Dick Cheney, someone I’d never go into the field with…

          Fred PRoNJ

          • The last thing the article said was it was still under investigation. The son was an adult and should have been aware of the danger. Still it’s reckless to send a beater into the woods and then shoot without knowing where the beater is. My guess is that neither the son nor the father were visible to each other. I can’t imagine what plan the father and his son worked out prior to going into the woods. Is it even common to have a beater like this for deer hunting?

  7. B.B., well I guess being a gun writer does have its perks getting in all that shooting time, not to mention the loads of free ammo for testing guns.

    So, did the Irish have something comparable to the amazing Vernier sights that the Americans did? I wonder if that made the difference. Does anyone have an opinion on whether a large aperture rear sight is better than a small one? I think the theory is that the small is better but Jeff Cooper claims that the large is better because one concentrates on the front sight allowing the subconscious to align the rear sight more accurately. Also, does anyone know why small apertures look fuzzy? Does that have anything to do with the wavelength of light? I seem to recall from physics that when an aperture reaches a certain fraction of the wavelength of a medium passing through it (waves, light, whatever) there are interference effects. Perhaps these have to do with the fuzziness. On the other hand, some, like Clint Fowler, claim that smaller apertures can sharpen the sight picture which is probably why they are used for target models. This is a completely different effect. And maybe the ambient light is also an important factor…

    For the front sight, does anyone know the preferences for front sight width? I understand that the national match front sight post for the M1 rifle is narrower than the battle sight, but some, like Clint have claimed that the broader one is actually better. I guess the ideal is a post whose width is exactly equal to the target. But if I had to choose, I think I would go broader over narrower because it seems easier to judge the tiny slit of space you want below the target. For this reason, I’ve been quite annoyed with the extremely narrow and short front sight post of the Lee-Enfield which is almost more like a blade than a post. But maybe the Brits are on to something. I’ve found myself sticking that little blade into the target rather than trying to open a slight space below it, and in combination with that fast bolt, you can pull off a pretty rapid shot string.

    Over the weekend, I saw Gina Carano in Haywire. Slinging Lead, you would like this. She’s nice. Crystal Ackley make way. Although everyone is using the latest polymer frame guns with a double-action (you would suppose), they are always cocking the gun to chamber a round–probably for the movies. The fighting was brutal because it’s hard to watch a woman take a licking, even if she more than gives it back. While there are realistic elements because Gina is a professional fighter, I don’t know if it is truly authentic. There was the usual choreographed back and forth sequences and people wiggling out of joint-locks that you see in movies. The real thing would have a more fluid, swarming quality and once someone is locked up that should be a finishing move if you are dealing with a pro. How do I know? Partly from my little sparring session with Vladimir the Russian commando. I was my own little movie star for a few seconds and then ulp. His moves were chained together with incredible speed and misdirection and against the locks there was no appeal. That’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent on self-defense instruction.

    Due to a memory lapse, I’ve been holding out on you guys about a great discovery I made over the holidays. Irish red potatoes! I’ve always thought that potatoes were a bit bland, but not the red potatoes and they can be livened up all sorts of ways with various spices and oils. They also have just about all the nutrition you need. We know this from the Irish famines from the 19th century which devastated the populations because they based their entire existence on the potato and did not cultivate anything else. That was highly unfortunate but it does furnish proof that one can survive on potatoes alone. Also relevant to the Irish experience is that they are extremely cheap, and this leads to the significance for shooting. With my new potato diet, I’ll be able to save a ton of money to buy more pellets, reloading supplies and all sorts of things! The Cabelas wild game sausages will just have to wait a bit.


    • Matt,a little tip about them potatoes…..DON”T boil them,steam them.The Irish would not have survived as well on them boiled.You want to steam them with the skin on.Then you can peel the skin if you feel so inclined.All the vitamins are in the skin.They make the BEST potato salad,IMHO.If you want,I’ll email you a recipe for Colchan(pronounced “coal-can”) a 500yr old recipe from Ireland.
      I love my red taters!

    • Matt, I too have wondered about a larger aperture. The diopters I’ve used (which admittedly hasn’t been a lot) have all been of the 10m type with small apertures.
      Yet I know that when setting up a rear sight for 10m pistol (the kind where you can adjust the gap on the rear sight) Yur ‘Yev (in his book Competitive Shooting) states that a wider gap is preferable…the gap on either side of the front sight should be at least as wide as the width of the front blade, for exactly the reason you state…the wider the gap the easier it is to see exactly when the front blade is centered.
      I know that the prime problem I have with the diopters I use is that the gap (circle) around the front sight is small enough that I really have to concentrate to center it…and sometimes I think if the gap was bigger it would just center more naturally.

      • Centra does make screw-in apertures for rear sights with variable aperture diameter. For more $$$ you can also get filters and polaroid filters.

        They fit standard FWB rear sights; I think FredProNJ has one. I have other more urgent needs, but want one someday. They make it very easy, as well, to compensate for changes in lighting.


    • For field use, the larger aperture is faster to use and is easier to see in low light. I have the National Match front sight on my Grand, the difference is not much. I think the Grand’s issue aperture is really too small for combat. If I had to use one in a fight, I would open it up. But, since I don’t have too, it works fine the way it is.


    • Matt,

      I haven’t found what sights the Irish used yet. They were peep sights, but whether they had Vernier scales I don’t know. All the reports I have read were written from the American perspective, but I’m sure the information is out there.


  8. BB,

    while we’re on the subject of open sights, I thought I’d put this one on the blog. Remember that 124 I have which was shooting high? I managed to get it into shooting alignment with the help of Kevin and his aperture sight, also by FWB. But the sight had to be adjusted as low as possible inorder for the rifle to be on target. If I had to shoot at longer ranges, I would be in trouble since I couldn’t adjust the sight any lower.

    Now I did take the action out of the stock, wrapped the breech in leather and put it in a vise and try to bend the barrel down. Well, God bless FWB because this barrel was not cooperating. I was pulling so hard that I was concerned that I would pull the vise out of its’ mountings on my workbench, so I desisted.

    I did order an Airforce adjustable front aperture sight and mounted that on the muzzle in place of the stock. I figured the higher front sight would give me the adjustment range I needed. Now here’s the strange thing. From what I can see and I’ll double check this evening, with the Air Force aperture set as low as possible, it’s roughly an insert aperture above the stock sight – we’re talking a milimeter. This should have been perfect for me. However, the rifle at 28′ is shooting 3″ LOW! I can’t lower this front sight any further and with the rear sight adjusted as high as allowable, I’m still not in the X ring. My failed attempt to bend the barrel down has me leaning toward the theory that the barrel isn’t bent but now instead of having a “drooper” rifle, I have the opposite – a riser? Any thoughts? Anyone?

    Fred PRoNJ

    • Fred,

      A riser is very common in breakbarrels. The barrel is bent up at the base block when someone pulled the trigger with the barrel open.

      You never straighten the barrel when it’s attached to the action. Remove it first. Then slip the barrel (the base block pivot hole) over a drill shank chucked in a vise. Another drill shank of the same size and also in the same vise becomes the fulcrum that you pull against.


    • Fred,maybe I’m misunderstanding…..but if the original front sight put you on target at short range with the rear bottomed out,at longer ranges it needs to go up (rear aperature).Did you mean it was all the way up? Ps.I will gladly send you a potato salad recipe &Colchan!

      • Nope. Let me give you more information. The original sight setup (hooded front and peep rear) had the rifle shooting high. The original peep couldn’t be lowered enough because the stock was in the way. To get away from this, I got the FWB peep sight from Kevin. This peep doesn’t have a part that descends as you lower it so no more worries about the stock. However, in order to get on target at 28′ with this peep, it had to be lowered all the way. No more adjustment which was OK as long as I wasn’t going to shoot farther than 28′.

        So I figured a higher front sight would allow me to place the peep closer to it’s center of adjustment. With the Air Force front sight on and lowered to it’s lowest possible position, I was hoping the rifle would shoot lower than with the stock sight. Well it did – 3″ lower and the peep then didn’t have enough adjustment to get me to the x ring.

        So I can either get a riser for the rear peep sight or do as BB has been telling me to do – remove the barrel, slip it over a drill bit and use a second bit as the fulcrum to try and bend he barrel back to it’s proper position.

        Fred PRoNJ

        • Oh, Frank, one more thing – remember that the pellet is going to rise the father away the target is until about 35-40 feet when it starts to descend so to get on target at farther targets, the peep would have to be lowered.

          Fred PRoNJ

    • Fred,

      “…..3” LOW at 28′ sounds like a drooper to me from what you’re describing here. You need the muzzle of the barrel to go up in relation to your sight line. It’s pointing to low, not too high. You’ll either need to take some of the droop out or find a way to mount your rear sight higher.


  9. I need help shooting aperture sights. I gave them another try this weekend after reading BB’s encouragement. I was shooting a Paul Watts long stroked Slavia 630 with a Williams rear aperture with an adjustable iris and a hooded aperture front sight. As long as I had something bright that would stand out to shoot at I did OK but if I tried to shoot at something like an FT target where the paint is chipped off the paddle and the area surrounding the hole I couldn’t tell where to aim. I had the same problem shooting at spinner targets that had not been repainted. I kept both eyes open as suggested. I am near sighted and I wore my glasses. I couldn’t see the target at all without them. I could see a bright yellow 2″ spinner but couldn’t see a 1″ or smaller spinners at 25 yards. All the targets are in the shade in the edge of the woods.

    I am willing to keep trying but it’s just not working so far. I hate to pull the nice set of apertures Paul put on the gun.

    David Enoch

    • One thing I forgot to mention is that I do not automatically center the rear aperture. Unless I consciously do that I am way off center. I seem to just focus on the target in the front aperture and ignore the rear aperture. I guess that comes from shooting scopes so much.


      David Enoch

  10. B.B.

    Peep sights are nice, however they steal light in foggy or twilight condition. Well, I’d say M-16 ring/peep swapping rear sight seems to be the ultimate open sights solution for bullet/pellet precision shooting.
    Last Sunday I had a chance to have a little practice with open sights as I spent the day shooting Saiga in 20 gauge (10 mags of 00). Not as much of a punch as 12-gauge version, but not as much of a kick as well, both ear- and shoulderwise.
    The gun I was shooting has ghostring sight mounted on a Picatinny/Warsaw crooked mount and I can say there’s nothing like it for a shotgun in means of target aquisition – fast and accurate. And, of course – there are no batteries to die at -15C – it’s finaly winter here and thick shirt/Army parka combo is a nice piece to have on your shoulders. Ghostring felt far superior to AK-style post-notch sights as it required almost no time to aim right and it stole no light at all. “Jumpers” were happy, as each and every one got a nice collection ripped-out holes in their chests at 10-30 meters and some cardboard thugs lost their heads 🙂

    Back to precision shooting, I think it’s possble that sights development could have moved a bit backwards in terms of size of the gun.
    Those disc-and-scale vernier sights remind me very much of artillery gun rear sights of 1840-50’s (as most guns were long-range direct-fire weapons except for mortar guns firing out of line of sight). Artillery men were always very much about precision and 1/1000 of an inch adjustments, as well as ballistics and other math things that riflemen learned to feel with their guts in days past. This turn to dials and maths – it looks so very-very artillery-like to me. Some clever guy looked, scratched his head and said – “If it’s good for the big guys, why shouldn’t we try it on small arms in a smaller size?”. So could they just borrowed an idea and adopt it for their uses?


    • duskwight,

      You know, I never thought of artillery sights until you mentioned them. They used them with inclinometers, I believe.

      In my day as a 4.2-inch mortar platoon leader we did almost the same thing with an aiming circle and aiming posts. We would align the platoon (4 tubes) with the aiming circle, then level each gun separately and refer each gun to two posts set out from that gun’s position. When the fire direction center told each gun to change its sights, it was easy to dial the corrections into the sight, align them with the aiming posts by moving the gun then level the gun (bubble levels on the sights). That was for indirect fire, of course, but the scales were still very fine. The gun sights incorporated both the inclinometer and the sights into a single package.

      I remember one day during a platoon test, we actually dropped a round down the turret of a target tank 5,000 meters downrange and our division commander got so excited that he wanted to give a medal to the entire platoon! Generally you try to land within 20 meters of a target if you can.

      We had to decline his offer because the evening before one of the guns in the same platoon had misread the sight setting by 180 degrees and hung a 4 million candlepower flare over the center of a nearby German village. It was embarrassing and impossible to refute!


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