If you read all of the popular gun mags today you would be drawn inescapably to the conclusion that there were no rifles left in the world (outside of SASS) that were not wearing high dollar telescopic sights. Now I would be the last person to tell you that this is not the best set-up for the western half of the US in general, or for rifles intended to take game at distances expected to exceed 100 yards anywhere in the world.
What I will tell you, is that for close cover hunting, or hunting game that can reasonably be expected to bite back, iron sights, in particular receiver or “peep” sights, are not only a viable option, they are in many cases the superior option.
Iron sights serve, in general, two roles on hunting rifles. They are either the primary sight or the back-up to a scope sight. As a primary sight they are perfect for close range shooting (out to, say, 150 yards), in particular for treed bear or lion or bear in the thick stuff.
On a Wyoming elk hunt, I once had a guide call in a bull to a distance of about 25 feet before he finally appeared from behind a thick stand of aspen. All I could see through my 2 x 7 scope, even though it was turned down all the way to 2 power, was a featureless expanse of tan hair. I would truly dislike finding myself facing a brown bear in the coastal alders of Alaska under the same circumstances!
A “ghost ring” is essentially a standard peep sight with the aperture piece unscrewed and removed. You merely focus on the front sight and the target and your eye automatically puts them in the center of the rear sight. Because there is no aperture disk and the hole is so large, generally about .191”, the rear sight seems to disappear, hence the term “Ghost” ring. They are every bit as fast as an open sight, more accurate, and useable in any light when you can still see the front sight. If you keep the aperture disk, with its .91” hole, in your pocket, you will have plenty of time to screw it back in if it makes you feel better about that 100 yard + shot that presents itself.
Williams is the biggest seller of various types of receiver sights for most popular rifles, and I recommend the fully click adjustable “Fool Proof” model. Brownell’s and Midway stock them of course. Brockman, XS, Wild West and N.E.C.G. make really tough sights for the Winchester and Marlin lever guns, Model 70’s and Mauser ‘98’s, as well as for Weaver, Talley, Warne and Ruger bases. By the way, that old 8mm military Mauser “beater” makes a great woods gun.
As a back up to your scope sight, they will provide a great deal of peace of mind when you bring only one rifle on that expensive guided hunt for which you’ve been saving for years. This is particularly true if your trusty smoke pole is wearing that $19.95 “Special” piece of. . . . . stuff that you got at K Mart or Wally World. I can’t tell you how many otherwise nice rifles I’ve seen crowned with this kind of junk glass. The odds are slim that it will stand up to snow and rain, let alone your or your horse’s slip and fall in the high lonesome. If you spend about what you spent on your rifle on a decent piece of hunting glass, you’ll probably be OK, but that’s the subject of another article.
XS, Wild West and N.E.C.G. make nice back-up sights that fit Weaver, Ruger and Warne bases. Don’t forget to pre-zero them, and they will often fit beneath the scope and between the rings on a one piece Weaver base. Just take off the damaged scope by removing the coin slot screws on the rings and proceed with that dream hunt uninterrupted. Brockman makes a really trick Talley base for the Model 70 that has a spring loaded ghost ring that pops up when the ring is removed.
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