The search for AR15 sights and optics is not one that you should take lightly. Choosing the right sights or optics for your rifle can be a matter of connecting with your target or not - which can be vitally important.
Now, this post is going to take a fairly controversial stance - notably, on the general superiority of iron sights, specifically flip-up and backup offset iron sights.
But it is fully warranted.
Allow an explanation.
Iron Sights vs. Red Dots, Scopes, and Other Optics
Likely, the vast majority of people that shoot some modern sporting rifle patterned after the AR15 don’t even give a second thought to iron sights.
This is a mistake. Advanced optics like scopes, red dot sights, and reflex sights have their place, but they should never supplant iron sights. Nor should you view them as an absolute replacement.
Each type of optic or sight has its own advantages. For instance, take scopes. If you’re into long-distance shooting or competition, then scopes, specifically variable magnification scopes, reign supreme. Period.
But scopes are not good at close ranges, especially with moving targets. They limit the sight picture, achieving the appropriate eye relief at a moment’s notice is difficult if not impossible, and acquiring a target at close range, especially through a variable mag scope, is difficult, to say the least.
This brings us to red dot sights, which are better at close ranges but which are not free from issues.
At close ranges, the fact that red dot sights allow you to keep a fully open sight picture is a definite advantage. You don’t have the same issues of target acquisition and there is no problem with parallax distortion.
You can also shoot from the hip with a red dot sight and still connect with a target; they’re also practical in the dark.
But red dot sights are not perfect; they can be damaged by water, extreme temperatures, broken, obscured by dust - or, perhaps most grievous of all, the batteries can die.
This is one of the reasons, but far from the only one, that iron AR15 sights should still be on your rifle.
Why Iron Sights?
What do iron sights offer that neither red dot sights nor scopes can offer?
Well, let’s break down some of the advantages.
- Iron sights are utterly impervious to fog and dust, unlike scopes and red dot sights.
- Iron sights are waterproof. Heck, if you should shoot your AR underwater, they’d work there, too.
- Iron sights can never run out of batteries.
- They offer a completely open sight picture which is often a massive advantage at close ranges.
- If you can see, you can shoot. They work just as well in the dark as in the light.
- Iron sights are shatterproof and don’t have glass components that can break.
- They’re easy to maintain and clean; they’re effectively maintenance-free, actually.
- Iron sights are easy to learn how to use and in the hands of a skilled rifleman are effective at any range - from 5 yards well out past 100.
- Iron sights are lightweight, far lighter than any other AR15 sights, period.
- Calibrating/sighting in is often easier with iron sights than with a scope or red dot.
- you can spend over $1,000 on optics or red dot sights, but get a pair of bombproof iron sights for like $30, and iron sights are tougher and will last longer.
So the list of advantages of iron sights is pretty big. But if you were expecting us to call for you to shoot only over iron sights you’re only getting half the picture.
This is not about one being better than the other. It’s about being prepared.
This Is Not a Case of One vs. the Other
Don’t take this as an advocation that you need to ditch your optics. Far from it; this is just a call for you not to ditch your iron sights.
But you probably noticed that by throwing a red dot sight or a scope on the rail you covered up your stock AR15 sights, right?
So the solution is to get a second pair.
You’ve heard of the expression “one is none and two is one,” right? It’s about preparedness, and you’re not prepared if you have only one option for target acquisition.
So, get a pair of offset iron sights for your rifle, preferably a pair that doesn’t fold, so they’re always automatically deployed and ready to use.
Flip-up sights are fine, but we also sell fixed offset sights that are Pic and Weaver rail compatible, made from 6061-T6 aluminum, and which are finished with a nonreflective coating.
Most importantly, they don’t need to be flipped up when you need them; they’re always ready, just like you’ll be when you add redundant, backup sights to your rifle.
When you drill, make sure you get comfortable shooting over offset sights just as you would shooting over a red dot. That will ensure you are as prepared as possible.
Invest in Redundant Preparation with Spare Iron AR15 Sights Today
We carry a wide range of high-quality flip-up front and rear sights among out AR-15 parts and accessories.
But we also carry a wide range of red dot sights and optics like scopes in our collection, in addition to flip-up iron sights.
You don’t need to choose one or the other as you outfit your rifle with AR15 sights. Get both and be better prepared.
If you do a lot of long-range shooting or compete, get a scope and use the backup sights for close-range shooting.
If you do a lot of close-range shooting and still want a viable option that’s good at close and intermediate ranges, opt for a red dot and iron sight combo instead.
Either works. It’s just a matter of what type of shooting you do the most, and what your needs are.
One thing is certain, though. You don’t want to be caught without iron sights.
And you don’t need to be.