How to Use AR15 Iron Sights

With the emergence of more advanced scope sights, using the standard iron sights flew out the window. Shooters started focusing on ACOG, holographic sights, and red dots as they offer higher performance. However, mastering the iron sight, like any other aspect of using your rifle, can’t be ignored. It’s a bit challenging for newbies to figure it out, but if you follow this guide, you’ll gain some insights into the primary and advanced principles of using an AR15 iron sight. 

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Critical Thinking

New shooters usually have some misconceptions about the sight alignment that impact aiming.

Even for those used to peep sights, some essential concepts need to be highlighted to ensure proper shooting. Additionally, today’s shooter games deliver a faulty image regarding alignment. Usually, such games view the target as the object of focus, whereas the surrounding stays crystal clear except for the rear sight.

However, we need to get this out of the way because it’s not how the human eyes work. In reality, when your eyes are focused on the target, the front sight gets blurry. Contrarily, if you focus on the front sight, the target gets fuzzy.

Furthermore, there are some Other factors that contribute to how you see your target in relation to the surroundings while focusing on different objects. These factors include the distance between you and the target and the size of the aperture. Regardless, it’s never similar to the presentation you get from shooter video games.

Basic Technicalities 

When shooting at a target, there are some basic steps that every shooter will come across. First, you have to adjust your sights, then align them with the target. After that, you should smoothly squeeze the trigger while maintaining focus on the position of the target relative to the front sight.

You’re now ready to fire, preferably, between your natural breath pauses. That said, we should turn our attention to the rear and front sights for better aiming. 

Rear Sights

rear sights for ar15

The iron rear sights consist of two parts: the ghost ring and the peep. Each comes with some key features that give it more advantages depending on your target and the situation. Although both systems look almost identical, they’re, in fact, different in various aspects that may not be obvious at first glance.

The ghost ring features the larger bore sight compared to the peep, and it’s incorporated into the majority of rear sights. Usually –unless otherwise specified- both bores of the rear sights have different zeros. However, the ones that have the same zero are labeled “same plane rear aperture.” On the other hand, as I was just saying, each has a different zero, and accordingly, used differently.

  • Ghost Ring

ar 15 ghost ring

The ghost ring is used for quick alignment in favor of targets moving in dim light that are relatively close. To use it properly, focus on the target and center the front sight. This will make the front sight a little fuzzy; however, that’s how it’s intended to be.

It’s crucial that you pay attention to your speed rather than precision. The fuzzy front sight should be on the moving target when you pull the trigger.

If you focus on the front sight, the resolution of your target will decrease, which doesn’t only prevent you from seeing what your target is doing but also restricts your ability to catch targets at close range (100 – 200 yards).

Additionally, it’s better to use the ghost ring in the same manner in case of low light, as the peep ring is small, and it darkens the image. This, in turn, results in poorer image quality, thus makes it harder to catch the target.

  • Peep Sight

peep sight for ar15

The peep sight, on the other hand, is a small bore that’s more useful during bright light. It offers excellent precision for both near and far sights. The key to understanding how peep sights perform is threefold.

First, the depth of the field. When you’re using the peep sight, you’ll notice that the downrange stays clear even when you focus on the front sight. Some other factors can enhance or diminish the clarity of the field, but we’ll come back to such factors later on.

Secondly, the size of the aperture. Well, being as small as it is, you’ll need to squeeze your eyes a little, which forces you to focus on a limited part of the field.

Lastly, focus. Unlike the ghost ring, with the peep sight, you should focus on the front sight rather than the target. This is merely because the target would still seem relatively clear.

The concept of having such a small hole is similar to how pinhole cameras operate; ever used one of those? Because the aperture is so narrow, light rays reflected from the target are forced into a limited space. Thus, even when you’re focusing on the front sight, you’re forced to catch some details with respect to the target. This significantly enhances your accuracy while shooting.

Moreover, the design of the peep sight prevents alignment error, AKA parallax. As mentioned earlier, with the ghost ring being a wide hole, you should center the front sight as roughly as possible. However, because the peephole is much narrower, it naturally suppresses parallax. In other words, as long as the front sight is visible through the peep, chances are, you’re in perfect alignment with your target already.

Of course, there’s a minimal chance that you might miss your target. This entails accidentally letting the front sight come in touch with the fuzzy edges of the rear sight. Otherwise, you don’t have to center the front sight to attain proper alignment. Instead, you can focus on exclusive alignment of the sight with the target.

Sight Radius

The sight radius is defined as the distance between the rear and front sights. As you may have heard, the longer the radius is, the better because this improves accuracy. Decreasing the sight radius interferes with the ability of the peep to provide a deep yet clear field.

The same thing happens when you get your finger too close to your eyes; at some point, it starts getting hazy. This explains why targets seem fussy while using carbines, at least in comparison to rifles. Therefore, it’s essential to keep a long sight radius whenever possible, especially if your goal is precision.

How to combat short radius? You don’t have to settle for a hazy view if you have a short carbine. There are some tricks that you can turn to have your edge back such as: 

  • Reducing the Peep Diameter 

If your aperture is smaller, you’ll retain the depth of field you usually get from your peep sight. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of light, meaning that you’ll probably need to shift to the ghost ring sooner than you usually do while using rifles. 

  • Compensate for the Short Barrel 

Another way to even things out is to replace the carbine barrel using a dissipator style built or a mid-length front piece block.

  • Using a Rail 

Using a rail can also help you regain field clarity. You can chop off the front sight and reattach it on the rail. However, it’s better to resort to this option only if you use other optics. Regardless, if you use iron sight only, using a rail wouldn’t be the best option as it can deflect the iron upon flexion.

Range Errors

Some range errors are dreadful and hinder you from getting the perfect shooting experience you’re looking for. The most common I’ve seen by far is misplacing the rear sight. Usually, new shooters attach the rear sight away from their eyes in a trial to enhance alignment. What they’re doing, though, is reducing the clarity of the downrange to almost zilch, hence introducing parallax error.

Another common error that needs to be avoided is exerting so much effort on centering the front sight even when using the peep sight. It should be crystal clear by now that this is restricted to using the ghost ring sight and won’t do you any good when it comes to the peep sight.

Getting Zeroed

Now that you understand the concepts of using iron sights and the pitfalls that you need to avoid, it’s time to zero the sights.

Regardless of the design of the iron sights, they share the same basics of operation. To zero your sight, rest the rifle, mark a close target, and take the first round while marking the adjustments. 

The majority of iron sights are zeroed at 100 yards or less. However, in some rare cases, you’ll find that the system increases elevation, and thus, the rifle will be zeroed at higher ranges.

If you find your bullet leaning to the left, move the rear bladed notch on the iron sight to the left and vice versa. This will help you direct the bullet towards the target more accurately and without any hassles.

This video showing more details.

Final Thoughts

Provided the above-mentioned information, you can master using iron sights with AR15 in no time. Make sure you grasp a solid understanding of the functions of each sight, how and when to use it, as well its set up, and you’ll soon get the hang of things.

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