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  #1  
Old 09-02-2012, 12:20 PM
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Hunting with iron sights


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Canuck Bob and I have started a discussion of iron sights. As between us we cannot possibly “know everything” we thought a thread on irons would be fun.

Starting a discussion of iron sights on lever action rifles and there is so much to talk about it is difficult to know where to start.



I have poor eyesight and when it comes to iron front sights, I prefer large gold beads or the flat top Sourdough with gold insert. I do not see red insert front sights very well in bright sunlight and cannot use the red insert sourdough sight very well under any but artificial light.
White beads are a good second choice but they are always second behind the Gold Bead for my eyes. My father still drives without glasses and he uses the White Bead just as well as the Gold Bead.




Francis Sell wrote that in order to shoot small groups we must use small beads or narrow front sights and he was correct. Sell often wrote of slipping a bullet between branches or tree trunks when shooting at partially obstructed deer. If you have good eyesight or if you may get a shot at a deer in the open beyond 100-yards a small bead does have its advantage.
Most of my iron sight hunting is well within 100-yards and most animals are in motion when first sighted. For this type of hunting a large bead with a color contrasting the background works best for me.

The 1/16” bead covers 11 ¼” at 100-yards assuming 30 inches from eye to front sight.
My preferred 1/8” bead covers 15” at 100 yards.

The 1/16” bead covers 15” at 200-yards.
My preferred 1/8” bead covers 30” at 200 yards.

As you can see, it is easy to cover a deer with your front sight as the range increases.
There are several ways around the problem and the use of a flat shooting cartridge such as the 307 Winchester, 308 Marlin Express and the use of the new Hornady LeveRevolution flex tip ammunition in the 30-30 WCF and the 32 Winchester Special are example of using ammunition to overcome the sight picture problem.

The next method is Trajectory sighting which was advocated by all of the older riflemen from E.C. Crossman through Francis Sell.
A. W. Kabernagel wrote the article: “Trajectory Sight In” for the 1956, 10th ed, of the Gun Digest. There are similar description in Crossman’s book Military and Sporting Rifle shooting and a number of hunting books from the 1930’s and ‘40’s.
I will put up the chart for 30-03, 32 Winchester Special and 303 Savage as an example of the theory. As you will see the use of the trajectory sight-in will extend the point blank range of your rifle while using a 6 O’clock hold which does not obscure your game.
Granddad and his Grand dad knew how to sight in rifles and there are examples in old writing of trajectory sight-in being used for Kentucky rifles.

The use of the open iron sight was discouraged by Gunwriters in the pre-WWII era and writers such as Townsend Whelen wrote in detail of the advantages of the tang and receiver sights.
I agree about the advantages of the tang sights and receiver sights over the open rear sight, however, in my experience; more than satisfactory results can be obtained on deer and rabbits inside 50-yards, even when sighting on moving game.
For this type of shooting it is hard to beat the Marbles Flat Top Folding open rear sight - I prefer the model with windage adjustment.
I am going to put up a few pictures just to start the discussion. Most of these are my pictures but some are not. I hope Ken K sees this and puts up a good clear picture of his modern Williams Receiver sight on his Marlin.
This will require some editing to ad discussion to the pictures but it will stat the discussion.
First, the Lyman sight picture drawing.



Then the Lyman 103 Tang sight. A picture of Major Whelen with his Savage 99 and No. 103 Tang Sight. I’ll take some pictures of the Lyman No. 2 Tang sight to include in another post.



Then a few receiver sights. Note the advantage of the Lyman receiver sight over the Willaims. The Lyman sight is adjust with a coin while the Williams require two screwdrivers for adjustment of the hunter screws or one screwdriver for adjustment of the target knob models.
The Lyman slide is removable at the push of a button while the Williams require the use of a screwdriver.
Sadly, the Lyman Company is not attempting to give Williams a reasonable competition with sight availability and Marlin has stopped drilling the sides of receivers for proper mounting of the receiver sight.







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  #2  
Old 09-02-2012, 12:26 PM
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Then a few of the Cascade Snap Shooter, Ashley and XS sights. This is a good big game hunting sight but is not a good sight for a small game hunter. If you use this sight pick a load, sight in for it and stick with it.









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  #3  
Old 09-02-2012, 12:29 PM
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I am not a fan of the moder Savage 99 rifle as the balance of the rifle is too far aft. The early Savage 99 and the R Model in particular, were well balanced for off hand shooting. The later shorter barrel rifles hve the center of gravity too far aft for good offhand work. Francis Sell noted this in several aritcles. Here are to quick quotes from a 1943 article.in the American Rifleman.





I pulled the Lyman No 2 tang sight from my Trapper along with the open sight for a quick trial of the burris forward scope mount and it has been there ever since,



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Old 09-02-2012, 12:37 PM
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There are problems mounting the Williams sight on the modern Marlin rifles as Marlin discontinued drilling the sides of the receivers for the Lyman sights and Williams changed the mounting to utilize the scope mount holes on the top of the receiver.





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Old 09-02-2012, 12:40 PM
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Anyway, this should start the conversation. I’ll put up a few pictures of the Lyman No 2 tang and the open sights.

I forgot to add the chart from the Trajectory Aiming article.

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Last edited by William Iorg; 09-02-2012 at 12:52 PM.
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  #6  
Old 09-02-2012, 01:56 PM
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Ive got a Skinner peep sight on mine. They're really basic, and you can get different size aperture inserts that thread in, or leave them out for a large ghost ring. I've also got on Williams front fire sight. I'll try to get some pics when I get home.
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Old 09-02-2012, 02:07 PM
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Harcourt Ommundsen and Ernest Robinson wrote: Rifles and Ammunition and Rifle Shooting in 1915.
Page 270 (page 403 to 405 on the Adobe tool bar) will get you started on Trajectory Shooting.

http://books.google.com/books?id=lXA...ooting&f=false

I would like some pictures and experiences with the fire sight on this thread.
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Last edited by William Iorg; 09-02-2012 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 09-02-2012, 02:38 PM
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Good thread Slim.

I've taken to putting a peep rear sight on my Marlins, with an XS (nee Ashley) front post. That is the front post with a white stripe on it. The peep sight tucks in under the scope if a little is trimmed off of the Weaver rail.

Have used it a time or two in the field - works great as a backup or for very close range hunting.
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  #9  
Old 09-02-2012, 02:49 PM
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A back up sight is one on my main reasons for continuing with regular iron sight shooting.
I have had two scope reticles fail in five years.

I messed up in the first thread and described Whelen with a Savage 99 equipped with a Lyman No. 103. The sight is actually a Windgauge sight. No. 30 ½ This sight cost $6.50 in 1940. The No. 103 was $9.00 and the Lyman No. 2 cost $5.00

Good sights have never been cheap.
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Old 09-03-2012, 02:03 AM
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I have an N.E.C.G. receiver sight mounted on my Ruger 77/.44 Mag. Had to replace the front sight with a bit higher one though, but the Ruger shoots great and is the rifle I use when hunting in heavy brushy woods.
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  #11  
Old 09-03-2012, 02:45 AM
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I just replaced a Williams FP with a cheap red dot Barska. It shoots better for me. Guess I am getting old.
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  #12  
Old 09-03-2012, 07:05 AM
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Bob,
When I am using the bead front sight I sight-in the rifle so that the bullet is intended - in my mind - to land under the center of the bead. Using the Trajectory Sight-In technique this allows the bullets to strike high at close range and then gradually drop under the bead as the range increases.
This fits in with the advice of my father and “Hunting Uncles” who told me - “make certain there is hair under your sight for the first shot.” None of my mentors believed in “holding over” when shooting at game animals.
From about 1890 on there was considerable writing on the use of the front sight for hunting. There was considerable discussion about pin point, sharp point, flat top and bead sights.
There was discussion and complaint by hunters over the amount of game animal covered by the bead at long distance.
If you looked around in the book linked above you will see it was felt a good shot would have no trouble keeping his bullets in an 8 inch circle at 300 yards from a good rest.
The important thing to remember is that a 3/32” bead will cover 33 ¾” at 300 yards! It require big targets to shoot well with beads at a distance.

While the NRA’s Firearms Classics Library has reprinted many classic shooting books they are still not readily available in libraries.
There are a few books available free on the internet and the rifle book by Walter Winans is a good one. Note that Winans was an Olympic shooter, hunted in Russia, observed at the front during the Russo-Japanese war and was a horse breeder and sulky/sleigh racer of note.
Winans won the running deer match at 110-yards using this Rigby Mauser.

There were several front sights designed to overcome the problem of the bead covering the target. Paul Estey was a proponent of the Marbles V-M sight, originally brought out in 1914 or ‘15. Estey wrote “The Woodchuck Hunter,” was a hunting partner of townsend Whelen and in addition to beng a Navy pilot in the 1920’s was the treasurer and I believe the President of the Estey Organ Company.
Shooting the woodchuck over unknown distances using iron sights required skill at estimating distance and a practical knowledge of how your rifle is sighted and what the trajectory of your load is.
The V-M sight allows the hunter to see the critter under his sight without the restriction of using a globe or hooded front sight.



Here is Winans 276 Rigby



Walter Winans “The Sporting Rifle” from 1908

The sporting rifle: the shooting of big and little game, together with a ... - Walter Winans - Google Books


While we tend to think products offered today are new and unique there is little that is really “new” in the world.
Here is a picture of the Williams-Pop reciever sight intended for the 1903 Springfield from 1921. This sight was developed prior to the 1903-A3 Springfield and has elements of the Williams Guide sight.











Hints on revolver shooting - Walter Winaus - Google Books
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Last edited by William Iorg; 09-03-2012 at 07:49 AM.
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  #13  
Old 09-03-2012, 08:14 AM
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I forgot to include the aiming target for the chart above. This is from the Trajectory Aim article.

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Last edited by William Iorg; 09-03-2012 at 08:43 AM.
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  #14  
Old 09-03-2012, 11:24 AM
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Thanks Slim,
I bumped into a thread from Slim that discussed many ideas and particulars regarding using peep sights.

Lyman#2 range test

It struck me that as a dedicated peep sight levergunner I never really applied myself to any level of expertise and practical advancement. I never advanced past my military training with my beloved FN.

I'm embarking on a project to learn about practical use of iron sights for my older eyes. To study how to fine tune a load using iron sights, what really works, bead or post, etc.. What kind of target works best. I hope to find that we have been seduced by the scope to the point even a guy like me is believing myths.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:34 AM
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[QUOTE=William Iorg;633506]There are problems mounting the Williams sight on the modern Marlin rifles as Marlin discontinued drilling the sides of the receivers for the Lyman sights and Williams changed the mounting to utilize the scope mount holes on the top of the receiver.

[img]

[img]

[img]

When installing the top mount Williams peep sight you can reverse the sight to make it fit better in the rear holes. If mounted as shown the sight hangs over the rear of the action quite a bit. If you turn the sight around it barely hangs over. By reversing the sight, you will also have to reverse the peep sight and elevation slide. You cannot get the rear sight at its lowest setting mounted this way due to the screw in peep hits the top of the mount. If you remove the screw in peep and use the sight as a ghost ring all is well. I installed a taller front sight on my 94 44 mag so I could set my rear peep higher.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:53 AM
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I'm a lefty. Years ago I bought a used Rem 700 in 7 MM Mag. I bought into the gun rag movement of the 60's and 70's. I outfitted the rifle with a receiver sight. I no longer remember the make but the rifle was D&Ted for the sight.

I often challenged my buddies with their scoped bolts and won a few beers to 300 yards. That combo was good to 300 yards for game and did work well. It worked out to 2-2 1/2 moa back then.

It got sold and I returned to my 444S. Nothing carries like an iron sighted lever with proper balance and the 444 killed way beyond what the gun rags said it should. It killed moose better than the 7 Mag to 200 yards.

One thing I learned with my 444 was the difference between a very familiar rifle with a scope and a peep. For a couple years I outfitted the 444 with a Leupold 2.5X Ultralight scope, a real dandy rig. I also used it for load development.

With well tailored handloads of 265 Hornady FN bullets that rifle is a tack driver with the scope at 100 yards. When I switched back to the peep it went from around 1 moa 3 shot groups to 2" groups. Or if I could shoot 2" groups the rifle was a 1 moa rifle! I plan to revisit this experiment with my 58 year old eyes.

What have others found when they switch back and forth between irons and scopes?
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Old 09-03-2012, 01:28 PM
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Bob,
I don’t have a lot of trouble switching from iron sights to low power scopes.
It is doubtful I will ever give Townsend Whelen a run for the title “Mister Rifleman” but I do disagree with Whelen on one point of using rifle sights.
As you can see Whelen believes in using the 6 O’clock hold with bead sights. I do not do my best shooting when using a six O’clock hold using a bead sight - particularly when aiming at a round Bullseye. I shoot my best when I have a contrasting circle aiming point large enough to show color around my bead sight This allows me to center the rifle on the Bullseye.
When shooting close I have often cut a half circle Bullseye and cut a half round out of that. I bring the bead up into the cut out Bullseye and leave a slight bit of white between the Bullseye and the bead. It is a bit of trouble to make these Bullseye but the are a good aim point.
The Canadian military used a half and half blue and black or brown Bullseye and this works well with a flat top post sight.

Nest is the Whelen pictures of the bead sight as seen through the Lyman tang sight. Note the 6 O’clock hold. Then the picture through the Lyman tang leading a running deer.



Here is a picture of Winans running deer target picture and this is extraordinary shooting at 100-yards with an open sight bolt action rifle.



If you hae never read Van Dykes The Still Hunter I recommend it. It is free and here is a link. There are many good quotes in The Still Hunter. Here are three.




The still-hunter - Theodore Strong Van Dyke - Google Books
The flat face bead is hard to beat for a hunting sight and I am interested in how others use the aim point of the bead. Holding on to cover a portion of the critter or a 6 O’clock hold?
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Old 09-03-2012, 01:42 PM
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I was trying to add extras but messed up.Take a look at Van Dyke and his discussion of sights.
The information on adjustment of the ladder sight is as good as any I have read
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Last edited by William Iorg; 09-03-2012 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 09-03-2012, 02:46 PM
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Here is a link to another thread here regarding Elmer Keith's opinion of the classic shallow V English Express Sight.

Elmer Keith and Express Sights!
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  #20  
Old 09-04-2012, 03:28 PM
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Bob,
When it comes to iron sight-lever action accuracy, if I can keep All of my 100- and 200-yard shots inside an 8” circle from field positions I am a happy guy. I know that does not meet some of our expectations – including mine – but the fact remains, if I can hit that 8” circle while sitting on gravel or kneeling on rocks, I can hit the vital spot on a deer.
I don’t have difficulty from a sitting position at 100-yards but I have a few problems at the 200-yard line. Different days and different light often brings about a less than satisfactory result.
Here is a scan from the external ballistics chart of Greg Mushial’s RCBS Load program. The chart is based on a 26” Model 94 30-30 with 170-grain Speer JFN bullet at 2,350 fps.
The chart is not anything new but it is interesting to realize how much deer is covered by the bead at the various distances.



With a 150-yard zero at 80 yards the bullet is 1.40” high. This is my wife’s rifle and she uses a 1/16” white bead. At 80 yards her bead covers 6” and at 100-yards the bullet is 1.41” high and her bead covers 7 ½”.
At 200- yards her bullet is -3.63” low and her bead covers 15”. It does not take a lot of wiggling around for her bead to be all over a deer’s body at 200-yards. Add a little cold weather, some excitement and even some wind and we have a challenge for the iron sight hunter.
As long as we remember to keep hair under the bead and take our time, the rifle will do its part. My Dad used to say: “Take your time – fast.”
Ross Seyfried once wrote that to be certain of your zero, shoot at the sight in distance, in this case 150-yards. The confidence brought by knowing what the target looks like at that distance and where your bullet will hit will help you overcome the problems of fatigue, weather and light.
A 2 foot square piece card board is a good iron sight target at 200-yards and it may surprise how difficult it is to keep all of your bullets on that 2 foot square target. A brown target 24” wide looks pretty small when your bead covers 15”.
The most consistent advice I have seen from gunwriters starting in the 1800’s up through today has been to be conservative with regard to distance. Good advice then and now. I prefer to hunt close as I like to SEE the animal and how it moves. I admit this is more fun with turkey than deer but I still find it more fun to be in close.

I am including a couple of drawings from Townsend Whelen illustrating his preferred method of the 6 O’clock hold with both the flat top post and the round bead.
Also a small picture of the sitting position as I attempt to practice it. And then the kneeling position.
I am interested in the sight picture used by others. Take a look at the post in the book section on the two Diana’s….







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