Using peep sights: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Adjustable-iris peeps — Merit
- Gehmann adjustable peep
- Tunnel sights
- Front sight elements
- Target post
- Hunting inserts
- Unusual front sight
- Target aperture
- Clear apertures
- Last word on inserts
- How do you hold over or under?
- Peep sights on handguns
Normally I don’t do what I’m about to do, but the reader response to the first report on peep sights was overwhelming. We finished last Thursday with more than 150 comments, and as of this writing there are 248 comments. That propels it into the ranks of the all-time best reports! I had to put Part 1 in the title several days after publishing, because I knew there would be a Part 2.
Today I will address the discussion points and questions brought up by readers, and add a few point of my own. Sit back and enjoy!
Adjustable-iris peeps — Merit
There was some discussion about peeps that offer holes of different sizes. The most famous of these is the Merit Iris Shutter Click adjustable peep sight. This one has been around for at least 75 years and probably longer. I own one and it used to fascinate me. I will show you mine next to a dime, to illustrate the size.
The Merit peep sight with adjustable iris is small.
The Merit is nice because it offers flexibility. However, the unit is small and doesn’t block out light as well as some peeps. I found that I would rather have a disc with a hole of a known size than one that adjusts and might not always be where I expect it to be. The Merit has no markings, so you never know for sure where you are. I haven’t used mine in 20 years because of this.
Gehmann adjustable peep
Gehmann is a well-recognized producer of sights for target shooters. One of their popular products is a peep that offers adjustable holes. It is meant for target shooters, so the holes are never as large as hunters would want, but this is a precision unit that I enjoy using. It has numbers that correspond to the hole sizes, so there is never a need to wonder what you have selected.
This Gehmann rear sight attachment has different peep holes of specific sizes.
I have another sight attachment that I think is a Gehman made for Anschütz. It bears the Anschütz name. This one has no specific hole sizes and adjusts smoothly from very small to as large as it will go — which is still pretty small and is meant only for target shooting. This one also has colored filters that allow the shooter to select one of three shades of yellow, three of gray and one that is completely clear. I like this one so much that it is permanently mounted on the rear sight of my FWB 300S.
I’m pretty sure Gehmann made this rear sight attachment for Anschütz. The hole adjusts within a small range and there are 6 colored filters to choose from.
The Merit and the various models made by Gehmann are the two adjustable peeps that are currently available. There have been others over the years, so don’t be afraid to look for them at gun shows. They all do pretty much the same thing, which is to allow the shooter to adjust the size of the hole in the peep sight.
I’m going to keep this discussion constrained to peep sights, only. There are other optical devices that allow shooters to adjust the level of light coming in through the sights. Most of these attach to glasses and are a whole different topic than peep sights.
This is a very rare type of peep sight that you won’t find today. There is not much information about it, either. I owe all I know about them to blog reader, Kevin, who told me about them when he visited me years ago.
The tunnel sight is a very long peep sight (it looks like a scope) that basically focuses the sighting eye to the point of maximum acuity. It was combined with a Tyrolean stock to position the head in the same place every time. Both the Tyrolean stock and the tunnel peep were outlawed for competition within the first year after they were used, as it was felt they gave too much advantage to the shooter. This is similar to the 500-gram minimum trigger pull weight limit for air pistol competitors — where free pistol competitors have no minimum and can set their triggers at less than an ounce.
The Tyrolean stock is characterized by the deep-cupped cheekpiece. It was banned from air rifle competition, along with the tunnel peep sight.
Front sight elements
Now let’s talk about the front sight that you see through the peep. Many front sights that are used with peeps have interchangeable elements. Let’s look at a few of them and see what they are for.
The target post is a traditional front sight element that is for shooting bullseyes. The top of the post is positioned at the base of the bull at what we call the 6 o’clock position. If you have a rear notch you would have to make sure that the front post is also level with the top of the rear notch, but with a peep your eye automatically centers the front element. Unless you consciously hold it at a different place, all you need to do is align the top of the front post with the bottom of the bull.
These three target posts, obviously from different front sight globes, show the range of post widths you might encounter.
A peep can also be used with a variety of hunting inserts. None is better or worse — they just cater to personal tastes.
Here are three common front sight inserts that are used with peeps. The perlkorn or tapered post on the left is common. Sight so the pellet strikes at the top of the post. The bead in the center is also common. Sight so the pellet strikes where the bead is. The insert on the right is a common one, but it’s not one I use. Sight so the pellet strikes at the intersection of imaginary lines that run between the stubby posts. I imagine this sight is used for rapid target acquisition and for running targets.
Unusual front sight
This one is unusual enough that I have never seen one. It’s for hunting, but it is also very refined. You can see that the front bead is framed by 4 wires that highlight its location for acquisition.
This front sight is unusual, but obviously for hunting.
Now we come to the single insert that works best of all of the older ones for target use — the aperture. It fits the front globe and is a near-perfect frame for the bullseye in target shooting. They come in many different sizes so you can have more or less light around the bull when you sight. And of course there are bulls of different sizes to be considered. I still use apertures like this on several of my target rifles.
This is the front insert most target shooters choose. It’s much easier to use than the square post.
One problem with the target aperture is you can shoot at the wrong bullseye without knowing it. In the 1960s or ’70s someone came up with a brilliant idea to fix that. They took a thin piece of plexiglass and drilled a small hole in it. The angle of the edges of the drilled hole looks like a solid circle to the shooter, which puts a perfect ring around a bullseye. But, because the plastic is clear, you can now see which bullseye it is!
Clear aperture inserts come in a holder like this. The sizes of the holes are hand-written on each insert.
Last word on inserts
It should be obvious but it isn’t — not all inserts will fit all front globes. In fact, this is the number one issue shooters have. Not only are there different sizes of inserts, they also attach and fit in different ways. Owners have to ask whether an insert will fit a globe for an Anschütz rifle made before 1981, and things like that. Like PCP fill probes, there is little standardization.
How do you hold over or under?
This one is simple. You hold over by consciously holding the front sight higher than the center of your vision. In other words, the top of the front sight appears to be above where you want the pellet to hit. It’s easy, but you have to think about it to do it. Same for holding under. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.
Peep sights on handguns
Peep sights don’t work on handguns. If you think about how far a rear sight will be from your eye when you hold the handgun, you will see why. This question comes up all the time and I think it’s because a peep sight is so effective on a rifle.
In the past there have been experiments with novel sighting systems for handguns that work something like peeps, but allow the gun to be held normally. Nothing has come to market yet.
That’s all for today. There is still a little more than could be told if there is interest. But I think we have hit all the high points.