Accuracy, and more importantly, repeatable accuracy with a rifle is the deliberate and consistent application of fundamentals. In order to put a fired round on target where we want it, we have to apply the use of a pointing or sighting system.
For our first technical tip, settle in for a briefing on the most common sighting systems found on rifles today. Even though you may be exclusively interested in the one on your Challenge rifle, please take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with all of them. You are bound to come across the others in the future.
There are a lot of new AR-15 owners out there so let’s start by talking about the type of sights this rifle uses – PEEP SIGHTS. This sighting system involves two parts, the front sight and the rear sight. The front sight is located nearest to the muzzle and is a simple post with protective ears on the left and right side. The rear sight near the back of the receiver is a metallic disk with a small hole in the middle. To put together a proper sight alignment, you are lining up three things: the front sight, the rear sight, and our aiming eye.
Imagine a set of vertical and horizontal crosshairs in the rear sight as you look through it. A proper sight alignment will have you place the vertical centerline of the front sight post in the center of the hole. The second part to this is to get the top edge of the post aligned with the imaginary horizontal line we’ve drawn. What’s interesting to note here is that if you know which elements are supposed to line up, the human brain and eye almost naturally wants to center these things without a tremendous amount of conscious thought. Practice this a few times and it will come naturally to you.
Once proper sight alignment is achieved, you need to establish a a sight picture by moving your aligned sights to the target. You can either use a center hold, where your front sight is in the middle of the target vertically, or a six o'clock hold where your front sight rests directly under the target. Once you are ready to take the shot, be sure that you focus your eye one the front sight. The rear sight will be blurry and the target will be a little blurry too, but that's okay. Focus on the front sight post, because that is where the bullet is going to go when you break the shot.
A majority of the rifles sold today have this type of sights on them. The front sight is very similar to what we saw above but the rear sight has some type of notch machined in the middle of it.
The top of the front sight post should align with the top of the sides of the rear sight. There should be an equal amount of daylight on either side of the front sight as well.
There are some small caveats here that are worth mentioning. Some notch sights, like the ones that come on a ruger 10/22 are slightly different. The front sight has a round bead and it aligns with a half circle cut out of the rear sight. Make sure to read your owner’s manual if what you have on your rifle doesn’t match up with our examples.
Just like we did with the peep sights, our next step is to move our aligned sights on the target. Remember, focus on that front sight!
With an optic, one might think that since there isn’t a front or rear sight that sight alignment is not something we have to consider. If we can see the reticle, we’re good-to-go right? Well, that’s just not the case. Remember, we’re aligning our eye with the sights; or in this case the reticle within the scope.
So sight alignment is still part of the equation that we need to consider. Above is an example that shows a shadow in the upper right of our view. If we see a shadow, we either need to move our head enough side to side and/or up and and down until the shadow dissapears. If this is your situation, you may find that relocating your scope forward or backwards on the rifle will help. If you don’t feel confident about moving your scope, you may consider taking it to a gunsmith for adjustment and leveling.
Another challenge unique to rifles with scopes is cheek weld. If you are struggling to get a good cheek weld, because of the additional height of the optic, consider adding something to the comb or the top of the stock so that your cheek is resting on the rifle with your eye properly in line with the scope.
Once we have a nice clear view through the optic, we need to align our reticle on the target to build a proper sight picture. You will notice that everything through the optic will be much clearer than using iron signts. However, we still need to have a point to focus on. Again, we don't want to focus our eye on the target, we need be focused on the reticle when we break the shot.
That wraps up the tips for sight alignment and sight picture. I hope you have found this information helpful and will put it to use next time you’re at the range. If you’re serious about taking it to the next level, check out an Appleseed marksmanship clinic near you.
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