Rifle Sights vs. Ghost Ring Sights


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444
September 11, 2008, 09:25 AM
On the Defensive type shotgun.

I have been fortunate enough to have taken a defensive type shotgun class using both types of sights and decided that I was much more effective using rifle type sights. In other words, I missed a lot more using ghost ring sights. Someone recently asked me about that and it got me thinking about it. After all, it seems like most of the semi-custom, tricked out defensive shotguns come with ghost ring sights.
After very little thought, I came up with the following idea. Ghost ring sights, as I understand them, are designed to provide a very rapid sight for up close, fast targets. I believe that the first I ever heard of them was in the context of a safari/African hunting type rifle where you wanted the reliability/duribility of iron sights with the ability to get a decent sight picture at a charging lion or whatever. The problem is that with a shotgun, that is exactly what we use buckshot for. The up-close, rapid response type target. When we need to make a more distant, precision shot, we select slug. So when we are making that precision, distant shot, we need a more precision sight and not a fast/up close sight it would seem to me.
As I said earlier, this seems to be true in my own experience. I always figured that I was not getting my eye in the same place, every time, behind the great big peep sight and therefore not getting consistent accuracy. Maybe it is a cheekweld problem, maybe it is just that the sight aperature is too large. With the more traditional "rifle" type sights. The alignment is more critical and slower but more consistent. And again, when you are making a shot with a slug, you are shooting beyond the range of buckshot with a single projectile: very much like shooting a rifle.

Your thoughts ?

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Landlocked Pirate
September 11, 2008, 10:08 AM
FWIW, here's what Gabe Suarez recently wrote on the subject:

2). Sights. I don't think a shotgun needs ghost ring sights. For 90% of all shotgunning the regular bead will work great. An optimizing of the bead concept would include a high visibility bead from XS sights.

Personally, I like the regular standard rifle open sights that come on most 870s. Adding an XS system to this is the optimal sight for shotgun use IMEAEO (in my educated and experienced opinion). If your shotgun has ghost rings, don't worry, leave them...but I don't think they are optimal nor as fast as the previous options. There has been a move to add red dot sights tot he shotgun. While I don't think this is actually necessary, I am not against it. I think a forward mounted Aimpoint is far more useful than ghost rings.

Titus
September 11, 2008, 11:05 AM
As you suggest, the rifle sights should make any inconsistencies in sight alignment more obvious, but with the peep/GR sights, if you're focusing on the sight alignment there's a good chance you might not be letting the rear sight do its thing.

Fred Fuller
September 11, 2008, 12:50 PM
"For those who came in late, a "ghost-ring" is that form of aperture sight which features a large aperture and a thin rim. The idea is that when the aperture is placed reasonably close to the eye and the shooter looks at the front sight, the rim disappears, as with a ghost. This does not impair aiming precision, but it vastly improves speed of acquisition. The older form of aperture sight, which featured a pinhole, presumably for increased precision, was terribly slow to use. The rear sight we had on the 03 Springfield was wrong in practically every respect, and while the A3 version of the rifle was proletarianized in some respects, its sight was much better.

The first man to extol the ghost-ring, as far as I can read, was Karamojo Bell of Africa, though Townsend Whelen acquired the idea about the same time. I certainly did not invent the idea, but I believe that I did invent the term, and I find it amazing that for 60 odd years no manufacturer sought to put a good metallic sight on his rifle, assuming evidently that no one would use iron sights anyway and telescopes would be the only thing of interest. It is true today that the optical or telescope sight is practically universal, but this is not entirely a good thing. In the first place, telescopic sights are not necessary for about 90 percent of sport shooting. I took Scout One with me to Central America in 1968 and used the ghost-ring exclusively on that occasion - with total success. The glass sight is inappropriate for use on rifles intended for dangerous game. One should not regard one incident as definitive, but I once got into a rather tricky situation on a lion, because all I had on that rifle at the time was a telescope and I could not pick out a proper aiming point at short range in a hurry, due to a limited field of view. My experience on buffalo, while not extensive in the classic sense, is enough to convince me that a good ghost-ring is what is needed, and a telescope is out of place. Regardless of how well made they may be, telescope sights break. Also they are vulnerable to dust, mud and snow in a way that the ghost-ring is not.

The ghost-ring is not quicker than the telescopic sight, when the latter is properly used, but it is distinctly quicker than any open sight, even the Express Sight from Africa. It is a Good Thing, and should be more widely appreciated, but considering the general nature of firearms design progress over the last half century, I do not expect much in this regard. We have awfully good firearms, cartridges and sights today, but we do not do any better with them in the field than our grandfathers did. It is always the shooter, not the weapon that makes a difference." - http://www.molonlabe.net/Commentaries/jeff9_3.html

The above of course is from the now silenced pen of Jeff Cooper. Cooper was a lot of things to a lot of people, but in regard to the practical utilization of firearms he knew his stuff, and his history.

I like GRs. I have used them for a good while, my first was a set of surplus GI 'night sights' for the M-16 that I came by in the late 1970s and installed on my then- AR-15 SP-1. These featured a rear aperture of about 1/4"/.250" and a front post that was a bit wider than the original because it contained a tritium vial set in the upright position.

It took a bit of adjusting because I was accustomed to the original aperture, but when I learned to use them properly I never looked back. I still have that rear aperture, though the front sight has gone on to other owners with one or another of the rifles it was installed on- it had dimmed considerably over the years. I found more of the wide rear apertures and have put them in every AR I have used personally since the late '70s.

And I like GRs on shotguns too. It is a matter of personal preference, as with most things, but I have no trouble hitting with them. The trick is to ignore the rear ring and concentrate on the tip top of the front post, letting your eye take care of centering it up in the aperture. Which it will do instantly and naturally, if you don't let your brain interfere. Perch your target on top of the post and squeeze, that's it.

The GR can be as precise as the shooter using it. Once some years ago, my neigbor's youngest son came to complain that a tree had captured his kite and would not give it back. Sure enough, the errant kite was in an old oak some 60-70 feet up, with the yoke string caught on a single twig. I arranged myself so the twig was in line with the length of my AR's front sight post in the wide aperture of the rear sight, and squeezed off one shot. Down it all came. The young man took it as a matter of course, with all the misplaced confidence of the young in the old, but it was not a bad shot overall.

lpl

Landlocked Pirate
September 11, 2008, 01:00 PM
Lee, I'm thinking that I read a post of yours a while back in which you stated that you keep two 870 Expresses around with 20" rifle-sighted barrels for defense purposes. Am I right, and if so, are they of the ghost-ring type?

Fred Fuller
September 11, 2008, 01:40 PM
There are several 12 ga. 870 'house guns' deployed outside the safe here, as long as someone is home. All those are fitted to my wife, and they have 12.5" LOP stocks, full length or field type forearms, and 18- 20" barrels with factory rifle type sights. I can use those with fair facility if necessary.

"My" 870s are in various configurations, some with factory standard length stocks and some shortened, some with LE or short forearms and some with field length, some with magazine extensions and some without, some with SureFire fore-ends, some with other lights and some with no lights at all, all currently have 18-21" barrels, some with single bead sights, a couple with 21" VR 'turkey' barrels with double beads, some with rifle type sights, and a couple with GRs. I'll be putting a set of MMC GRs on the 1976 Wingmaster Magnum that's "my" next project gun, when I get around to finishing it as part of my teaching from the family 'smith.

There are a bunch of 870s here, mostly 12 ga., some Wingmasters, a couple of ex-Police Wingmasters, one 870P trade-in and the rest Express guns, none were ever bought new... only the 28 ga. has a 'field' or bird barrel installed, IIRC it's a 25" VR fixed MOD barrel. The two 20 ga. 870s have 21" VR Youth barrels and 13" LOP stocks from the factory. It would take a while to do an accurate inventory, I'm afraid, and a couple of 870s that 'belong' here are living with someone else right now. It's fair to say I don't really know how many 870s we have all together. As Dave says, they may not reproduce but they do multiply, and I have a hard time not bringing home a poor Cinderella 870 that's a real deal when i find one.

lpl

JohnBT
September 11, 2008, 02:03 PM
Years ago a buddy showed up with a short-barreled Benelli with a ghost ring sight. There were four of us there and not a soul had a bit of experience with ghost rings on a shotgun. To make a long story short, we shot up a bunch of slugs at 100 yards and were making fist-sized groups right off the bat.

I'd used peep sights on rifles some, but that was about it for our experience until we ran across this shotgun.

John

Old Grump
September 11, 2008, 02:55 PM
rifle sights preferred, peep sight with the small aperture preferred even more and have had them installed on my Win94 32spcl to appease my old eyes. Ghost rings don't do it for me. Maybe its a vision thing or just years of competitive rifle shooting that made me more accustomed to finer sights than ghost rings can provide.

357wheelgunner
September 11, 2008, 06:43 PM
I really like the Express sights on my 870P 20" barrel. I will be picking up some XS Big Dot tritium inserts for the stock express sights soon.

I've fired shotguns with GR sights and didn't see the point. I can hit a torso sized target at 100 yards with the standard express sights. I'm really not concerned about accuracy past that, it's a friggin shotgun for crying out loud...

H2O MAN
September 11, 2008, 06:57 PM
I absolutely love the GR combat sights on my HK/Benelli M1 Super 90.
100 yard head shots into a pumpkin with slugs is a breeze with them.

Bix
September 11, 2008, 07:05 PM
I've used the XS rifle sights in a couple classes and I like them alot. I also like GRs (I used a GR-equipped 590 to win a nice Robar package at a match last year). I prefer the Big Dot sight picture, but they both work for me and I don't see a big performance variance.

The main advantage I see in rifle sights over ghost rings is that they maintain the versitility of the platform. I can slap a bird barrel on one of my 870s and it becomes a loaner clay gun. The more I can do with the gun, the more I will shoot it. The more I shoot it -- the more I shoot it :).

Landlocked Pirate
September 11, 2008, 07:36 PM
I've fired shotguns with GR sights and didn't see the point. I can hit a torso sized target at 100 yards with the standard express sights. I'm really not concerned about accuracy past that, it's a friggin shotgun for crying out loud...

The main advantage I see in rifle sights over ghost rings is that they maintain the versitility of the platform. I can slap a bird barrel on one of my 870s and it becomes a loaner clay gun. The more I can do with the gun, the more I will shoot it. The more I shoot it -- the more I shoot it

These points make good sense to me.

Personally, I've never fired a shotgun with any type of sight except a front bead, but even with a bead I've found that I can be surprisingly accurate with slugs out to reasonable ranges. Still, I'm thinking about ordering a rifle-sighted barrel for my 870 Express for a little more precise aiming.

waterhouse
September 11, 2008, 08:23 PM
I've had someone time me while trying out basically identical 870s, except one had rifle sights and the other ghost ring.

I found I made faster acceptable hits with the GR. It just takes me longer to use the rifle sights and get them lined up. When shooting a pie plate at a distance for speed, the rifle sight shots were an inch or 2 closer to the center of the plate than those from the GR, but all shots were on the plate.

If I take a few seconds longer and really concentrate using the GR, I can make hits similar to those of the rifle sights.

I guess what I'm saying is, when I'm trying to shoot fast, the rifle sights are slower for me and slightly more accurate than GR. The accuracy difference was not enough that I worried, so I prefer GR.

This is obviously a personal preference.
I have since sold off my RS barrels. In fact, I traded one of my RS 870s to a guy who had GR on his and had decided he preferred RS.

The main advantage I see in rifle sights over ghost rings is that they maintain the versitility of the platform. I can slap a bird barrel on one of my 870s and it becomes a loaner clay gun.

While it takes a little longer (about a minute) I can unscrew my rear ghost sight from the receiver and slap on a long barrel and have a loaner gun as well.

Regolith
September 11, 2008, 10:39 PM
water....yes, but then you have to re-sight in the gun everytime you change out the barrel.

I like rifle sights, but that's because I'm used to them. I've never used ghost rings. Beads are nice too, but they're not as good for distance shooting. They are a bit faster up close, but within 10-15 yards I don't really use the rear sights anyway; I ignore them and simply use the front post. It's just as accurate at that range, and almost as fast as a bead.

NonConformist
September 11, 2008, 10:41 PM
I prefer beads or Benelli type rifle sights on Shotguns

I have no need for ghosts on a 12ga. if Im going to shoot a solid piece of lead ill use a rifle!

Dave McCracken
September 11, 2008, 10:42 PM
The sights here on my two "Serious" 870s are Old School. Lyman and Wiliams peep sights with apertures removed. The first was the Lyman, installed around 1980. The Williams was in the mid 80s. Both have been used for....

3 gun.

Venison acquisition, often close and sudden. Betwen the two, at least 25 deer.

Slug work in general. The worst of the two groups OK Brenekkes inside 4" CTC at 100 yards.

Defense. Number One is zeroed for the buck of choice load, Two for slugs.

The aperture discs are around here somewhere, but I haven't seen them in years. Nor have I missed them.

Back when I trained for the state, Number One got passed around after getting the peep. A number of instructors agreed it was faster than open sights and not much slower than a plain bead.

The front sights are painted. Number One has a yellow back to show up well against most surfaces. Number Two has white, which stands out against a deer's shoulder. This was researched and tested.

But, don't listen to me, Lee or even Mr Suarez. Go SHOOT your shotgun and see what works best for you.

9mmepiphany
September 11, 2008, 11:05 PM
i've found that folks who don't find GR sights faster and more accurate than rifle sights on a shotgun are...trying too hard.

you don't aim with GRs like you do with rifle sights...you just look through them

Gordon
September 11, 2008, 11:44 PM
Since I prefer slugs the last few years in a combat shotgun for most scenarios,I too have been drifting away from the ghost rings of the early 80s toward tritium express sights. The big V groove of express sights seems just as fast to me, and is easily overlooked (literally) with buckshot and focus is on the Big Dot. But for 25 to 100 yards with a slug, I hold tighter and more accurate groups with the RS picture. So of my 3 870s for combat ; the oldest wingmaster has a Robar fabricated ghost ring and is retired after 20+ faithful years. The Police Magnum from early 90s is fitted with the Rem 18" IC Police RS barrel with AO tritium express inserts,it is my SHTF gunfight gun.I have another FS 870 Wingmaster Magnum that has a LEO folding stock and a tritium bead for vehicle duty. My wife has an Ithaca 20ga 37 Ultralight Deer Slayer with factory RS and loves it. I have a Benni Nova and an M1 Super 90 with factory GR sights and they work OK. I also have an 1100 12 ga. mag with the factory RS 21" barrel that is scoped which is really for deer hunting. And the A-5 lightweight (?!) 12 ga I have cut down and put on ghost ring that I play with but stands loaded and ready!

kcshooter
September 11, 2008, 11:58 PM
I guess I'm the serious minority here, but I still go with a single bead, and really have no problem getting hits exactly where I want them to be. I thought the rifle sights on a rifled slug barrel would be great for slugs but within 35-50yds I'm accurate enough even with slugs that I don't need them. Since this post is about defensive shotguns, I don't really see the point.

jad0110
September 13, 2008, 10:46 PM
And I like GRs on shotguns too. It is a matter of personal preference, as with most things, but I have no trouble hitting with them. The trick is to ignore the rear ring and concentrate on the tip top of the front post, letting your eye take care of centering it up in the aperture. Which it will do instantly and naturally, if you don't let your brain interfere. Perch your target on top of the post and squeeze, that's it.

I agree 100%. It does take some getting used to (like keeping both eyes open and focusing on a pistol's front sight), but GRs do work for me. But so does a front bead. In the end, I went with GRs on my 590 because at the time I did not have a rifle in my collection, and I figured the GRs would at least allow me to shoot slugs out to 100 yds better than a bead. So I did it for the versatility.

As for rifle sights on a shotgun, I don't have any experience with them.

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