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Old 09-02-2009, 06:12 PM
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Sights and sighting in, a newbie guide

Since I made my earlier post about how to be a DM, I have gotten a few questions as to how you are supposed to sight in your rifle with your iron sights and optics of various kinds. Most of these questions were asked at Counting Coup by some of the younger players in our fold, and I found their enthusiasm in the subject rather exciting because to me it meant that they wanted to learn something. It also let me spout off at the mouth and hear my own voice, which let's be honest everyone loves...

In this little "how to" I am going to show some of the newbies and others that are interested how their sighting systems on their weapons work. The majority of this how-to is going to be based around the M16A2-A4 series of rifles, including M4A1-A2 since their sights are built the same, and along the way I will point out the difference between AK and HK (MP5/G3) sights and how they work. First up will be an explanation of of the different parts of iron sights and how they work, a general discussion on optics, and finally ways to make them all work together so you can hit stuff.

Knowing Your Iron Sights:
As everyone has guessed every weapon comes with front and rear Iron sights. The purpose of the sights is that you line them up and create what is called a "sight picture" putting your target lined up in relation to your weapon so that you can hit it with the projectiles of your choice. Let's start with the front sight and move our way to the back sights, along the way pointing out the pieces and how they work together.

Your front sight (M16/M4) is made up of the sight riser, side flanges, and the sight post. The sight riser is simply the large hunk of metal that rises up from the barrel and gas block assembly and houses the front sight. On the real steel AR design, the riser protects the gas block, where the gas tube of the rifle connects to the barrel. This assembly is in place so that gas is returned to the system of the rifle to help cycle the bolt in semi auto and burst/ auto firing modes. At the outside of the top of the riser is the sight flanges, these are the curved pieces of metal that surround the sight post. The purpose of these pieces of metal is to help you focus and align your sight picture. They provide a frame of reference so that you are able to mentally know when you are making a correct sight picture, as well as provide a "frame" around your target helping you to focus in on it more clearly. Finally on the front sight is the sight post itself. On M16A2/M4A1 models the front sight has 4 notches that go around it with a pin that is indented into one of them, usually on the side facing the rear of the rifle on a standardized rifle. These notches are designed on the real steel world so that when the front sight is adjusted it gives 2.5 inches (1.2 minutes ) of elevation change at 200 yards. To raise or lower the front sight post there is a special tool that can be used, or if your me, a small nail will also suffice. Raising the sight is done by pushing in the small detention nub and rotating it the desired direction, counter clockwise to raise and clockwise to lower. AK iron sights, especially earlier models (47) have most of the same pieces as the AR rifles when it comes to their front sights, being that they have flanges and are adjustable for elevation. HK front sights have what is sometimes referred to as the "HK hoop" or Diopter Sight. Their sights are surrounded by a solid hoop of metal that helps the end user to focus in on their target.

Here is an AR style front sight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41976027@N08/3903096695/

Here is a H&K Diopter style front sight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41976027@N08/3903098019/

Pulled from the interwebz, an AK front sight:
http://www.bhigear.com/productimages/bh-ak-2001-6.jpg


Rear iron sights on the AR series have a few more pieces to talk about. Usually built into a carrying handle, the rear sights of AR series weapons offer a large degree of adjustment for left and right travel as well as windage. The rear sight is made up of the aperture, Lateral adjustment nob, and windage nob. The rear aperture is where you as the end user look through to acquire your sight picture. On an AR it has two different settings. The smallest hole is made especially for 150-300 meter plus shooting. The reason it is smaller is because the smaller hole causes your eye to focus at your longer range target easier by hiding some of the objects that surround it. The larger of the two holes is made for 0-200 meters, and should be labeled as such on the sight. This aperture is made for quick acquisition of targets as well as for use with goggles and gas masks where proper sight picture can be hard to achieve. The larger one will be your home in airsoft because there is no need to be able to sight targets at 300 meters. To change between the two simply flip the aperture forward or backward. On the right side looking to the end of the rifle is the Lateral adjustment nob. this moves your rear sight left or right to adjust for the shooters individual sight picture. At 300 meters three clicks one direction or the other adjusts the sight 6 inches of travel. Turn the nob clockwise for right travel and counter clockwise for left as noted on the sight. Finally on the left side of the rear sight looking toward the end of the rifle is the windage. The windage is a way for the shooter to adjust the distance or range of his or her sights in order to "lob" shots on to targets at extreme distances. How this works is that it raises the entirety of the rear sight block ( the entire rear sight assembly ) so that the angle at which the rifle is sitting is angled more barrel up when the shooter goes to align their sights. Standard settings for this are 8/3 as marked on the nob itself. Beware that if you adjust this nob without understanding how this works, you will not hit much until you calm it back down and bring it back more to a reasonable level. For airsoft you will not need to adjust this nob much if at all because the ranges are so short and you can see your shots traveling and adjust accordingly. AK rear sights have what is know as a notch sight where there is no adjustable aperture. They are also adjustable for windage by sliding the adjustment bar under the sight forward or backward. The reason the AK sights are so rudimentary is due to the range limitations of the 7.62 by 39MM round that they fire. Adjusting the windage on an AK will see the rifle angled extremely high once again due to the range limitations of the real steel rounds. HK rear sights have a rotating rear sight "drum" to their Diopter sights. This rotating drum rotates for both windage and aperture tightening at the same time. HK sights are quicker to sight in, but have less fine adjustment due to the fact that there is no "in betweens" on the rear sight set up.

AR style rear sight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/4197602...n/photostream/

H&K rear Diopter iron sight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41976027@N08/3903097763/

AK rear iron sight, once again from the interwebz:
http://www.globaltrades.com/ak_sights/120.jpg

A Quick Guide To Optics
When it comes to optics, there are so many to choose from, that it would take me days to cover them all. Red dots, susats, scopes, EOTechs take your pick. So in leu of that, I am just going to stick to the 4 that I see asked about most often. Those being the reflex style sight, EOTechs and replicas, AimPoints, and ACOGs and their replicas.

Reflex style:
Reflex scopes became ubiquitous after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out in fall of 2007. It became the default for what people referred to as a "red dot" sight after the game gave it an over simplification. Reflex sights are built for their name sake, quick reflexive sight acquisition and shooting. Reflex sights usually have modest battery life due to the fact of their stream lined design. They also have no magnification and what is sometimes called a "soft" reticule due to the fact that the lens is exposed to the elements. A BB strike can end a reflex sight in a hurry. Reflex sights are also some of the cheapest sights you can find.
http://www.opticstore.com/SM13003C-S...cle%20page.jpg

Holographic Sights or Holosights:
Holosights represent the pinnacle of sights for most shooters. With a wealth of benefits and a sleek design, Holosights are a really great choice for people with some money to spend. Holosights operate in such a way that the reticule that you are seeing is not actually there, but a reflection of the reticule put on to the lens from below your sight plane. Since this is not projected directly onto the lens, there is no parallax. This means that no matter where your eye is in relation to the sight, where the reticule is, that is where the round will go. Real steal EOTechs also have vision modes for use in low light and night vision instances. One major problem that detracts from the EOTech design is that it is a battery hog, having less than half of the battery life of the next worst sight in this list, the reflex sight. Another problem is that they, like the reflex sight, have a "soft" lens. A BB strike can make a $600 dollar paper weight if you have a real steel 55X series.
http://www.swfa.com/images/eotech_features.jpg

AimPoints:
AimPoints are the most robust and widely used sights in this list. They are very sturdily constructed. Built from an aluminium 30MM tube, AimPoints are elegantly simple. They project a red or sometimes green dot in the center of the lens, situated in the center of the tube. This is so that when the shooter brings the sight up to his or her face, they are able to put the dot on target consistently. These sights are very sturdy and hard to break, and give unparalleled battery life. Many times that of an EOTech. One down side that is most Aimpoints do not come with mounting hardware, so at the end of the day, the cheaper cost might be negated by the cost of the mounting hardware that you choose.
http://www.militarysupplies.biz/imag...s/Aimpoint.jpg

ACOG:
ACOG's are the most misunderstood sight on this list. Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights are different then the rest of the sights on this list in that they need no batteries to operate. At least on the real steel. They use a fiber optic channel along the top edge of the sight that gathers light so that the internal reticule can be lit. Airsoft replicas do not do this. They use batteries. So in theory, they are just AimPoints that you are paying more for due to the style. Artificial expense once again fueled by Call of Duty 4. The only thing that replica ACOG's share with real steel is the fact that there is some sort of zoom in their lenses. In my opinion, stay with an AimPoint, they are cheaper and you don't need a zoom when the guy is 150 feet away.
http://www.trijicon.com/parts/ACOG-TRD-031.jpg

Using Your Sights Effectively
This comes down to a lot of personal preferences, but I will share how I was taught and maybe that will help you guys out and get you started in the right direction. Sighting in your iron sights. Set up a target at about 50 feet. for most AEG's this is about 1/3 of their effective range. Take aim with your weapon and fire a string of shots. Keep in mind your fundamentals of marksmanship: Steady position, trigger squeeze, breathing, and sight picture. As well as your hop-up settings. Once your weapon's iron sights have been aligned, remember how their pieces work from ^^ up there somewhere, now mount your chosen optic. Align your sights as before, now aligning the reticule of your chosen sight, and fire some more shots. Adjust the reticule of your optic so that all of the sights are aligned perfectly. Now your sights are "co-witnessed" meaning that everything lines up and makes sighting perfect and easy. I have always left my iron sights on and in use, so that co-witnessing is instant. This makes sighting my weapons second nature, and makes them deadly accurate. Some people like to remove them though, and some like to sight in BUIS ( Back Up Iron Sights ) that fold and then stow them until your optic dies. But that is personal preference.

My Aimpoint ComPC3 co-witnessed with my BUIS, show through the rear sight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/4197602...n/photostream/

In Conclusion
Using sights and optics effectively requires a lot of practice and patience. Understanding the workings of these things should help new and veteran shooters alike in getting themselves squared away. At the bottom of this entry I will post a couple of links to some things that I think will help people get going, as well as implicate my background as stated from my previous post. If I get the time between not working on my college work and sitting at work 40 hours a week I'll try to wrangle some pictures together to show some of the stuff I am talking about. Good luck out there guys.

Works Cited:
Nutnfancy, I love this guy, watch his vids and you will too. This vid is about real steel optics, but 90% applies to the clones as well. Talking points are on the EOTech and Aimpoint sights.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF6fG...e=channel_page

Army FM3-22.9
http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...2-9/index.html

My previous post on the DM role.
http://www.airsoftohio.com/forums/sh...ad.php?t=24535

Feel free to PM me if you have a specific question. Also if anyone has anything to add that I forgot, also feel free.
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Last edited by blacksheep_p; 09-13-2009 at 03:14 AM. Reason: loki said so...
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Old 09-02-2009, 06:49 PM
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Thanks for taking the time out to help. It must have taken awhile to come up with that.
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Old 09-02-2009, 07:19 PM
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Not to come up with just a while to type. I was sitting in Marketing class and dying of boredom so I went ahead and spewed forth some stuff I knew. God that professor is like a human Quaalude or something. So I just threw some of my training together for some of the new guys I noticed talking about optics and similar stuff lately.
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Old 09-09-2009, 09:18 AM
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Updated with links for pictures. Had some time in class again!
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Old 09-13-2009, 01:47 AM
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Just a few things you got wrong....

Reflex sights are farrrrrrrr older than Call of Duty, and to be perfectly honest, I've not heard anyone actually use the term in quite a while.

The new trend is to call any RED DOT sight a "holosight".

"Reflex" is a product name registered to Trijicon (known subsequently as the Trijicon Reflex sight.) If it isn't made by Trijicon, it isn't a Reflex, but it IS "Reflex-like".

The Eotech Holosights use some of the same technology that the heads-up displays in fighter planes use. Rather than projecting a dot onto a lens, it uses holograms to function. To the best of my knowledge, Eotech is the only company to field this technology, and thus, is the only true Holosight (which I believe is ALSO a product name, rather than a category).

ACOGs work primarily because they have a reticule that contains Tritium, which is a luminescent radioactive isotope. The fiber-optic located on the top of SOME ACOGs makes the reticule brighter, and thus, easier to see in daylight. For more information on tritium, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium
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Old 09-13-2009, 03:01 AM
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You are correct Loki, Reflex style sights are older than Call of Duty. Trijicon does own the patent as well, so other sights are merely "reflex" like.

EOTechs are a brand, not a style as well.

I think you took me a little too literally in my way of setting up the post. You are most certainly more advanced than your average airsofter. The post was intended for n00bs. Straight up. In such a way that they can easily understand the very basics of the things I talked about. I have had a non fiber optic ACOG in my possession before, it was attached to an M14 I was issued and was subsequently destroyed when the sling mount of said rifle broke. I have also had "work time" with the EOTech 552 series which is an outstanding piece of kit. Truly the most advanced weapon optic I have ever used. I also currently own an AimPoint ComPC3, which resides on my Armalite AR15A2 at my parents house.

The fact that you took the time to point out some of the over simplifications of the post showed me that you actually wanted to try to help, and I really do appreciate it. I just think that the basics are really all people need to know up front. After that it is on them, at least in my mind, to come up with back ground knowledge and some of the finer points. We preach the word of the Google around here right? I chose to label the "categories" by the general sight type for people to easily understand what I was referencing. I didn't mean to step on anyone's toes.

As a funny aside: Don't use Wikipedia for reference material. Bad juju right there. Here is the Idaho State University's site on Tritium: http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/tritium.htm
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Old 09-13-2009, 11:20 AM
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Ssssstttttiiiiiiccccckkkkkkyyyyy

Awesome. Informative.

But you didn't talk about the awful iron sights on the mk16/mk17.
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Old 09-13-2009, 07:21 PM
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Sorry SOL, ZERO experience in the field with SCAR's to be honest. The only time I saw a real steel was at a range qualification in like '06 or '07, and I still think those were the Gen. II's to be honest. The one I got to shoot didn't even have the flip sights that are ubiquitous of SCAR's, it had the small removable AR style rear sight! Nice weapons though for sure, and any soldier, marine, airmen, sailor, or operator that gets to use those is truly blessed in my mind. Maybe when I get a chance to use one again, airsoft or otherwise, I'll add it to the mix. I just went with what I knew from first hand experience from airsoft to real steel.

Other than an M14/M16 series stuff that I got to use, my other home was on the fun side of crew serve weapons. M2 .50cal heavy machine gun, M240B, M249 SAW, MK 19, and M60G were where I lived a lot of the time. Those aren't really about pinpoint accuracy though.
"Let's erase this small building over there SPC. Pariano."
"No problem Sir."
(pulls charging handle on "AT&T" M2 .50) LOL.
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Old 09-13-2009, 07:28 PM
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I got 404'd on the rear AK sight picture
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:29 PM
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Another excellent post my friend.
Nice intro sentence.
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Old 09-13-2009, 09:12 PM
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Yams,
About the AK link, I just noticed that. I'll get around to fixing it tomorrow in class, since I am paying tuition to get bored out of my mind.
If there is anyone around here that has an AK rear sight picture link from their album, that would be awesome. Saves a lot of time, and I know it won't just up and go away a few days after I post it!
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:17 PM
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nice post blacksheep
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