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Cool front sights

This report covers:

  • This report
  • Beyond fiberoptics
  • Cody Thunderbird
  • Innovation
  • Crosman Town & Country
  • Too expensive
  • Last one
  • Summary

This report

Today BB looks at innovative front sights that we no longer see. It’s been a long time since I have done a report like this. This one is for the engineers and marketeers in the airgun companies around the world. I used to write reports for the industry and I know from feedback that they were read. You’ll also find a lot that’s interesting in today’s report, and maybe it will get your thinkers started.

Back at the beginning of April when I started the HW 30S series, we saw that Weihrauch sells the 30S with a globe front sight that accepts inserts. We all gushed over them, and airgun makers need to pay attention when we gush. Sure, many people will remove the sights and mount a scope, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate the gift of nice sights, just the same. Don’t forget that not everybody who buys a Corvette wants to race it. Many just want to know that they can.

HW 30S front sight
The front sight accepts inserts.

HW 30S front sight inserts
A pouch that hangs from the triggerguard holds five of the six front sight inserts that come with HW 30S. The other one is in the sight.

Beyond fiberoptics

It seems like the only sights that most airgun companies know how to make or buy these days are the ones with red fiberoptics up front and green in the rear. I don’t know why this is so, but there must be a reason. 

Many years ago firearm companies, along with a few airgun companies like Crosman, were innovating with their front sights, even on bargain-basement rifles. I wonder why this isn’t happening today. Perhaps everyone has forgotten the past and what has been done. Let’s take a look.

Cody Thunderbird

The Cody Thunderbird revolver was an inexpensive 6-shot double-action revolver made in the 1950s. It was cheap, but it had a front sight that exuded innovation. Here is what my report in 2014 said:

Innovation

One of the interesting parts of the gun is a front sight that adjusts for elevation, not to mention the method of construction that allows disassembly for cleaning the cylinder and barrel in seconds without tools. This is also one of the world’s few revolvers with a safety! Let’s look at the sights first.

Build a Custom Airgun

Sights

The front sight blade is hinged on a pivot so it swings back to present a high blade for close work (gun will point down) and swings forward for distance shooting. But it doesn’t end there. There’s a slotted screw the size of an eyeglass frame screw in front of the front sight that allows fine adjustments up and down when the sight is swung forward.

Thunderbird revolver sight back
Front sight flipped back for close range.

Thunderbird revolver sight forward
Front sight flipped forward for long distance.

Thunderbird revolver sight screw
Turn that screw in to raise the front sight blade slightly when forward.

That is a front sight people will remember! And how great can the cost be when you plan for it up front? This is the kind of thing that drives people to buy and to keep airguns that have similar serious innovation. Wanna see one?

Crosman Town & Country

In November of 2017 I reported on Crosman’s elusive models 107 and 108 Town & Country multi-pumps. They were .177 and .22, respectively. These models were made for just one year — in 1949, and I wondered in my report if they were created because of the Sheridan Model A that we call the Supergrade. In 1949 no one knew what the future of the Supergrade would be, and it seemed like a good idea to jump on the bandwagon if there was going to be one. The Supergrade retailed for $56.50 and the model B that followed briefly was $35.

Town and Country
The Crosman Town & Country multi-pump pneumatic rifle.


Town and Country front sight1
The tall “Town” front sight is up. It is what you see when you sight the rifle.

Town and Country front sight2
The collar in front of the front sight assembly is unscrewed, freeing the tall front sight to rotate out of the way.

Town and Country front sight3
The tall sight is rotated to the right, down and out of the way of the shorter front sight that is now seen when the rifle is aimed.

The Town and Country was priced at $24.95 — a full ten dollars less than Sheridan’s model B and $31.55 less than the model A. While that sounds cheap to our inflation-deadened ears, consider that the still-impressive, if somewhat dated, Crosman model 101 multi-pump was selling for $19.80 at the same time. And when Crosman brought out the Town and Country, they also brought out the models 109 and 110 (.177 and .22) Town and Country Junior — a rifle with a similar appearance that was priced at just $14.95. Now you tell me — which will you buy — a new eco-friendly all-electric Tesla for $60,000, or that gasser econobox Fiat 500 for $25,000? If you are a celebrity you’ll get the Tesla to be seen in and you’ll keep a Roller as your go-to vehicle. But a working stiff usually has to make do with just one reliable car.

Too expensive

But BB — it’s too expensive to tool up for such things these days! Oh — whine, whine, cry, cry! Look at what Mossberg has done THIS YEAR!!!

Mossberg clip-on fiber
Mossberg has given shooters a choice to have fiberoptics or not! Why can’t airgun makers do the same?

Last one

There are dozens of clever front sights like the ones we are seeing, but one I want to focus on came from Mossberg in the 1940s. This one is found on the 46M (a) that was made 1945-1947.

Mossberg front sight
The Mossberg front sight from 1945-47 had a cassette with four sight element options — a thin post, a wide post, a post with a dot and an aperture. Why can’t something similar be done today?

Summary

Okay marketeers — it’s time to look at what has been done, rather than letting your offshore client/manufacturer tell you what they can do. Airgun makers — let your engineers innovate with front sights. Who knows what they will come up with? Remember that Sig Sauer, a firearm company, came up with the keystone breech for the now-obsolete ASP-20!

57 thoughts on “Cool front sights”

  1. B.B.,

    Hooded front sights should be standard even if there is a cutout in the middle to allow light to shine on that unwanted fiberoptic thingy! It protects the front sight from being banged around and helps delineate the front sight for the shooter.

    I don’t quite get the Mossberg innovation with the fiberoptic sight. Is it reversible so that there is no fiberoptic when viewed from one direction?

    Siraniko

    • Siraniko,

      Diana does have hoods for their fiber optic front sights but they’re integrated into a kind of plastic muzzle protector. Weihrauchs have grooves cut into the barrel near the muzzle, so you can swap the hooded inserts for a hooded fiber optic front sight.

      Amazingly, the fiber optic is only very slightly cheaper in the Canadian parts carried by D&L: $60 CAD for the fright sight base with fibrer optic and $65 CAD for the one with the inserts!

      As for the Mossberg, I think it’s a fiber-optic front sight that snaps onto the shotgun rib or barrel behind the existing front sight (brass bead or whatever). When it’s not wanted any more, you’d pull it off and return to using the existing front sight.

      Nathan

    • 99% of shooters even with firearms nobody uses iron sites. at the range I have seen guys with a expensive 22 with a 20x scope on it shooting at 50 yds. I can match them with a marlin semi auto with tech peep site

      • Mildot52,

        I agree with your statement. Although in defense our locally available airguns have poor open sights mainly because they expect the users to use a scope and providing a rear sight only as an afterthought for those who cannot afford one.

        Siraniko

    • I have to agree with Siraniko on this one. As a springer shooter who has wrestled with the vagaries of scopes on magnum double-recoiling springers for decades, I have oft turned away from the glass to the hooded front multiple insert sight and a Williams peep. A Merit Disc is an apt accompanying addition.

      Within reasonable air gun distances, the tunnel and peep work exceedingly well, and with far less problems than those of a mass of glass on top of a violently moving arm.

      The only issue that presents itself to me in a nagging way is adjusting variable and progressive eyewear to the tunnel and peep system. It adds a third variable to the mix. Not impossible, but something to figure out, practice, and master.

      My RWS Model 36 has a globe/tunnel front sight (like the one at the head of the blog post) and a Williams Peep with Merit Target Disc. The long distance between front and rear sights and variable iris makes it a predictable and dead-on shooter. It once had a scope, it broke it, and it was a relief to be rid of the glass. Indeed, it shoots better without glass because the low mass Williams peep doesn’t slide down the scope rail or scope rings (there are none).

  2. B.B.

    Well I hope there is an follow up on this, “UNUSUAL REAR SIGHTS”? I would not call the ASP-20 obsolete, just discontinued…I wonder what the final production numbers were?

    -Y

  3. B.B.,
    I must be the odd man out; I like a military-style front sight, like on the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, and M-16…basically, ears protecting a post, with an aperture for the rear…I must be a-getting old!
    In Florida, my hog rifle had the best sights I ever used: an Ashley Outdoor Express ramp with a white line down the center (front sight) and a ghost ring aperture (Williams, for the rear sight). Those sights worked great in dark cypress swamps right up to the end of legal shooting hours. They were mounted on a plain Jane Winchester model 94 (post-64). That gun was quick!…quick to shoulder, and fast on target on running game. It was truly one of the best hunting rigs I ever owned, but I can’t really say I miss it; the gun was gifted to a young serviceman who returned home from across the pond; he wanted a deer rifle, but had no spare cash; the look on his face when I gave him the rifle along with a receipt that said, “no cost; this rifle is a gift to you for your service to our country,” made me realize that gun was going to the right home. =>
    Take care & God bless,
    dave

    • Davemyster-
      I too prefer a ‘standard’ view for my open sights if possible. Too many rounds down range over the years. Natural point of aim, muscle memory and sight alignment of front sight, rear peep and the Mark 1 Eyeball is my idea of perfection.

      I get the opportunity to shoot lots of different guns and sighting arrangements. They all can work but some are indeed ‘work’ to get good results. A vicious cycle exists of what the manufacturer is willing to provide versus what the consumer thinks they want.

      Consumer wants a light, handy carbine- simple geometry dictates that a longer distance between front and rear sights leads to greater precision. Consumer wants a tactical bullpup configuration- this requires a high line of sight above the bore line, introducing greater imprecision. And so it goes…

      • “A vicious cycle exists of what the manufacturer is willing to provide versus what the consumer thinks they want.”
        Roger that, Pacoinohio!
        Especially “what the consumer THINKS they want”! Personally, I think the market (in both air rifles and firearms) is often driven by what people, who haven’t really thought things through, THINK they should be wanting (based on peer pressure, Twitter trends, or what some self-proclaimed guru said in a YouTube video)…but then again, what do I know? I’m just some retired guy who likes to shoot airguns because they’re fun! =)~

        • “thedavemyster May 4, 2021 at 11:15 am
          “A vicious cycle exists of what the manufacturer is willing to provide versus what the consumer thinks they want.”
          Roger that, Pacoinohio!
          Especially “what the consumer THINKS they want”! Personally, I think the market (in both air rifles and firearms) is often driven by what people, who haven’t really thought things through, THINK they should be wanting (based on peer pressure, Twitter trends, or what some self-proclaimed guru said in a YouTube video)…but then again, what do I know? I’m just some retired guy who likes to shoot airguns because they’re fun! =)~””

          I just think the World of both of your replies!

          Without a knowledgeable mentor/guide what do we really have to go by while standing in the BigBox store’s airgun aisle…SmartPhone savants!

          shootski

          • “Without a knowledgeable mentor/guide…”
            Well said, Shootski! Thankfully, in B.B., we DO have a knowledgeable mentor and guide; unlike many armchair internet gurus, B.B. has major ‘street cred,’ as he is talking from tons of actual real world experience! =>

  4. Attention Airgun Marketeers.

    I’ve owned hundreds of airguns. Vintage and current production models.

    You’re missing a great marketing opportunity by willfully following your “competition” and ignorantly allowing fiber optic sights to be placed on your new airgun introductions.

    You must seize this unique moment in time when firearm shooters are migrating to airguns in droves because of ammo cost, shortage of open gun ranges to shoot, anti firearm sentiment, etc., etc. This huge segment of consumers along with consumer’s alienated by the BIG BOX STORE AIRGUN CRAP THAT IS TYPICALLY OFFERED are also your targets.

    Your target market are shooters that want to spend time shooting in their backyard and those that have a pest problem in their backyard. You need to key your airgun marketing NOT about velocity in a backyard setting but more about ACCURACY WITHOUT A SCOPE. This is what needs to be on the outside of your rifle box. Offer decent iron sights for these seasoned firearm shooters. Better yet also include a rear peep sight with a front globe insert that is sized to a squirrels head at 20 yards. Put the fact that your consumer is getting old school iron sights on his new purchase along with a peep sight sized to a squirrel head at 20 yards on the outside of your rifle box vs velocity and see how that works. Velocity numbers were for kid’s. You need to recognize that there’s a huge untapped market that no airgun marketeer is tapping.

  5. Dear Weihrauch,

    I purchased an HW30S for my grandson. It has a front globe sight that accepts inserts, but like so many I have seen on various airguns it is of a proprietary diameter and does not accept “standard” size inserts. I have managed to push a FWB 18mm clear iris insert into it, but the retainer will barely screw in any.

    What I would like to see is airgun companies such as yours who use front sight inserts to accept 18mm or 22mm front irises. Yes, I can change the front sight to a “standard” one, but it would not be Weihrauch.

    A rear aperture would be nice also. 😉

  6. The Diana 50 has some nice front sights to go along with the rear notch sight / aperture. Using the narrow perlcorn, I was able to hit a 3/4″ dot at 25 yards.

    /blog/2017/08/the-diana-model-50-underlever-part-1/?swcfpc=1

    This particular one is missing the front sight hood. That I am sure would help immensely and protect the delicate sights.

    The airgun industry used to know how to make some real nice “iron” sights. Then came the cheap scopes and everybody forgot about fixed sights or if they do happen to put any on, they are those stupid glowy thingy sights.

    The problem with a scope is parallax. Many cheap scopes have a fixed parallax and it is usually at 100 yards. Most air rifles are used at 25 yards or less. Yes, there are scopes that focus down to where you can shoot off your big toe, but how often is the parallax properly adjusted to the range you are shooting? Yes, feral soda cans usually move pretty slowly, but fuzzy tailed tree rats rarely sit still for long. Good quality “iron” sights work at any range and when most airgun shots are at 25 yards or less, they are fantastic.

      • B.B.,

        IT still has to tweak the blog. RidgeRunner’s comment contained a long site address which was not cut leading to a very odd presentation of his post being cut off at the right hand side. I do see that later replies are in smaller text in an effort to minimize the reply consisting of one or two words per line, but the level of replies still is limited to four.

        Siraniko

        • Lets see if this works.

          From RR’s comment

          The Diana 50 has some nice front sights to go along with the rear notch sight / aperture. Using the narrow perlcorn, I was able to hit a 3/4″ dot at 25 yards.here

          This particular one is missing the front sight hood. That I am sure would help immensely and protect the delicate sights.

          The airgun industry used to know how to make some real nice “iron” sights. Then came the cheap scopes and everybody forgot about fixed sights or if they do happen to put any on, they are those stupid glowy thingy sights.

          The problem with a scope is parallax. Many cheap scopes have a fixed parallax and it is usually at 100 yards. Most air rifles are used at 25 yards or less. Yes, there are scopes that focus down to where you can shoot off your big toe, but how often is the parallax properly adjusted to the range you are shooting? Yes, feral soda cans usually move pretty slowly, but fuzzy tailed tree rats rarely sit still for long. Good quality “iron” sights work at any range and when most airgun shots are at 25 yards or less, they are fantastic.

  7. Hi folks,

    I couldn’t agree more. The Weihrauch sight is the way to go. It’s durable, you can choose your preferred sight blade or even switch to a diopter sight. Who wants fragile plastic glowy stuff that is inaccurate for target shooting and sits exactly where you want to grab the barrel for cocking?

    Speaking of sights… I read the article on follow-through last week. I admit my targets are back-lit so I can instantly see where the shot went. I wonder if I’m messing up my follow-through with this because my first instinct will be to watch for where the hole appears…

    Kind regards,
    Stephan

      • BB,

        it’s probably a lot less interesting than it sounds. I have a target/backstop area made from pavement slabs and bricks and there is a 500W halogen light shining at the area behind the paper targets, positioned in a way so it can’t be hit.

        Once I make a hole in the paper, the light shines through and I can see where I hit. But maybe this is “cheating” and prevents me from learning to call the shots properly 🙂

        Stephan

        • Stephan,

          I can see the fascination, and maybe there is temptation to jump on it too fast, but I think you can still call your shots. Of course I have never seen what you are seeing, so I don’t really know.

          BB

          • B.B.,

            The term DISCIPLINED Shooter comes to mind. But, “Good Order & Discipline are all antiquated concepts nowadays.” I remember my father saying that often in my youth!

            shootski

  8. BB and friends!
    Have been working on the FEG’s and this one is coming along well. The stock is a work in progress. I threw it together to see how a pistol grip stock would feel on this little rifle and, it feels great. Been shooting at 5m in the garage and getting ok groups even with the super heavy trigger. Tube has been polished inside, trigger group polished, preload figured out with washers, piston polished and leather seal oiled and flared out a bit, deburred and greased. Pumping pellets through it like a maniac. using the H&N flat nose cheapies. Don’t really cut paper as much a barge through. The butt to grip length is good, the butt height is great for off hand ( which is my choice of positions ) The dioptre sight needs to come down OR I fit the globe sight which is higher. Next step is a rail stock with screw on grip and adjustable cheek rest. Will work the globe sight in some how. Am going to experiment with soldering steel together, if that works then I can fab up dovetail doodads to clamp to. Spring tube is bedded into the wood with glue so the whole thing is pretty monolithic. Sight is glued on for the now but it’s pretty well stuck on there. Everything is pretty tight. Shooting with the post front sight is tricky as I can forget to center it properly…. ooops. and no cheek rest. But I have had some ok groups so far. Tried some fast shooting to see how well it all comes together and it’s actually ok. Firing off pellets in record time I was getting 1/5″ groups at 5m. I barely had time to look at the target ( a 5mm dot ). Fun! I was inspired by the Daisy 499. Wood work tomorrow! : – ) Robert

    • RobertA,

      Fantastic work! How is the current front sight attached? Couldn’t you secure a dovetail in front so that you can attach the globe sight? Alternative would be to build up the height of the current front sight, but that would end up as a rather fragile fin.

      Siraniko

  9. B.B.,

    As soon as I read your headline, I thought of Crosman’s Town & Country. Sure enough, you describe it. (And excellent photos of its front sight.) It was in my opinion the prime example of innovation well-executed.

    Innovative and tried-and-true sights are what WE want, those of us who take the time to read about such things every morning. But at the big box store, as we here all know, what has been successfully marketed for a couple decades now is what people think they should want. I remember when car tires had to be “steel-belted radials” or nobody wanted them. I had (and still have) no idea if they were good or not. Are tires still steel-belted radials?

    The informed customer often wants a particular something, something quite different than what the masses think they want. Hundreds of better mouse traps have come and gone with no one beating a path to the inventor’s door. Store shelves are still stocked with the same finicky spring traps that have been around for more than 100 years.

    Finally, I have concerns about how smoothly the Cody Thunderbird would clear a holster, but that is one cool name!

    Michael

  10. B.B. and Readership,

    Cool Front Sights just begs for another Blog Topic:
    COOLER Rear Sights

    I sincerely hope that the airgun manufacturers, marketeers, and designers pay some close attention to this blog.
    I will however put a question to you all; how many of you learned to use your Iron Sights from a member of the World War Two or Korean Police Action? The reason for that is how many new shooters have the vast number of grandfather, father, uncle, neighbor or other veterans (to include many of the Vietnam era shooters) to teach them the basics of Iron Sights and the proper methods of aiming with the various non optical sights.
    A well designed and simple instruction system needs to come along (made available on line) with any resurgence of quality Iron Sights on airguns or any gun type for that matter! It could be used to introduce new airgunners to the entire upmarket line of products available from manufacturers and retailers.

    shootski

  11. BB,

    Cool article. The front sight on that 46M looks like the Swiss Army knife of fronts sights. Many good ideas that will hopefully get picked up by some forward thinking manufacturer (all they have to do is to look back). I will not be holding my breath in the meantime though. 😉

    Chris

  12. B.B.,

    My post above about Good Order & Discipline reminded me of a thought I wanted to share with you and the Readership. During my training we did a good deal of time on the Grinder practicing our Manual of Arms. It was done with M1903 Springfield rifles. From that time forward shooting a Springfield always seems “Natural” compared to any other long arm! The hours and hours of touching every part of that rifle allows me to shoot it better than any other rifle.
    You posted that you felt the Springfield was your favorite…could it be that you spent time on the Grinder with M1903’s?

    shootski

    • shootski,

      Well, The Grinder is a naval term. I did lots of PT but we didn’t call the place where we did it that.

      Then there is tanker PT. Involves running with heavy weights like sprockets and roadwheels.

      I know some good Jody calls but none I can repeat here 😉

      BB

      • B.B.,

        Yea, I know a few of Those Jody Calls too! They sure did make those miles of running, Double Time, and plain old long marches overnight go by a little faster.
        We used the Grinder for PT (to stay out of the Fire Ants) as well as for Close Order Drill but on weekends if you had Demerits you got to march your Tours on the Grinder.

        shootski

  13. BB,

    Would you kindly please test Weihrauch’s fiber optic sights on your new 30S that we all have fallen in love with?

    Springers wise, considering the cool sights on break barrels, recently, there is only Weihrauch air rifles and Diana’s 350 magnum left. I’ll never buy an air rifle with fiber optic sights ever. The reason I’m kindly asking BB to conduct a test with the Weihrauch fiber optic sights is because Weihrauch sight solution is, I believe, the only ‘proper’ solution to the matter. Diana should be inspired from Weihrauch and drop the EMS design in favor of a Weihrauch like ‘customization;’ it shall be easy for Diana to realize such a change as it would be nothing but simply going back to an earlier design of hers.

    If airgun manufacturers want to sell airguns with fiber optic sights, they should follow the footsteps of Weihrauch. They should, at least, give their customers well designed fiber optic sights and don’t ever suggest ‘fiber optic or nothing.’ The cheap airgun manufacturers are altogether a lost case, but as a community, we might save Diana – and the sights could be a good start. When you take a look at the Diana break barrels, there is just 350 left if you want a decent Diana break barrel with decent trigger and sights. As the T06 has turned out to be a great success, Diana has decided not to use that great trigger on any of her break barrels other than 350!? I bet 350’s design will be the next one to receive revisions. (The EMS’s trigger is officially called Ntec T06 on Diana website)

    Thinking of Diana break barrels other than 350… T06 is gone, good ‘iron’ sights are gone, barrel droop is still there, and the price tag is as expensive as it could get. Can anyone give me a reason not to buy a Gamo or Hatsan break barrel instead?

    Fish.

    By the way, the issues with Android blog view still remain.

    • Fish, the Rekord trigger comes to mind;) and I did not know HW has a F.O.S.
      Plus, I think BB got the TIAT on the piston sear rod on Michaels LGV. I got grease on mine and had to take it off. Also the the cocking shoe can be tight, but I think it should be shooting faster the HW30. I like how the HW30 only uses one stock bolt with a metal pocket, and the anchor point onthe spring tube is beefy looking. There’s a couple more, like the vortek kit and the price.
      Rob

      • Blue,

        I sometimes complain a lot. A trigger is a trigger at the end of the day. What ever trigger I used, eventually, I got used to it and mastered it. As long as, it is not designed cheaply to an extremity, any trigger shall be fine.

        I just didn’t like what I read about the EMS trigger; it appeared to me as an unnecessary downgrade. Siraniko explained the possible reason behind the change a few days ago. I wish they kept the original T06 instead of the Ntec T06 – too much compromise was done for the modular design.

        At the moment, there is only one good break barrel brand left, and that’s Weihrauch. Oh yeah, don’t forget 350.

        Fish

  14. /product/hw-front-truglo-fiber-optic-sight-fits-select-hw-rifles?a=5584
    /product/weihrauch-rear-truglo-fiber-optic-sight-fits-select-hw-rifles?a=5583

  15. All FM can add to the conversation is, he is happy with the sights on his HW95; however, it will be wise to update the prescription eyeglasses for maximum enjoyment, minimum frustration and do it soon.

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