Noob iron sights/scope question


July 14, 2009, 07:25 AM
I'm wondering what range iron sights are effective vs scopes. Lets say you take a good marksman with a good rifle (say .308 or 30-06) with iron sights. What is the longest range he/she could expect to reliably hit a deer? How about with an average priced scope? How about a good scope?

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July 14, 2009, 09:37 AM
I have known guys that could hit a deer at 300yards. Not me. Your eyes real good??Army shooters hit targets at 600 to qualify with open sites. Average scope and good scope ?? The main different is how well you can see at low light, with the sun in your eye,in the rain . You don't have to spend a fortune for a good scope ,there are some deals to be had 200 bucks retail can do the job well. Shop sales on some web pages like at nachez and midway,those type places. Two things you did forget, GOOD binos ,10x40 range to see if the animal is worth shooting and at least a 1000 yard range finder if shooting at longer distances like out to 400 yards so you don't miss. Have to be that good to reflect on a deer or bush at 400 yards. You do want to besure you can kill not hit a deer so for most ,i bet 150 yards in the woods would be a long range to shoot open sites with good eye site.

July 14, 2009, 11:16 AM
Irons obscure the target, also. That's a practical limitation for hunting.

Sure, you can see an elk well enough to aim with irons at 300 yards in daylight. But the sights usually cover a lot of the elk. It's hard to see where you're shooting, exactly.

Some iron sights are made for this kind of shooting, but they block more light.

In general, a scope makes sense on a .308 or .30-06 in 2009. Otherwise, you have a rifle that shoots a lot farther and better than you can aim it.:)

Art Eatman
July 14, 2009, 11:27 AM
The main importance of a scope is that at first and last legal shooting light, you can readily tell the difference between Bambi and another hunter. Less likely to shoot a cactus deer or a stump deer. :)

Iron sights take more practice to achieve a high level of skill, compared to scopes. With skill, and adequate light, they'll work quite well at the more common shooting distances of deer hunting.

July 15, 2009, 02:50 AM
I'm not questioning scopes here. Specially since I'll prob be needing to use one soon because my eyes are getting old. I do have good binoculars btw. As you guys pointed out scopes are good for low light and identifying what you shoot at. That's a definite plus. Safer too I bet. Also they are necessary to get the full potential out of your rifle.
I was wondering tho if you have guns (like a mosin nagant, or pistol caliber carbine/lever action, both of which I currently want) that might not have such a long effective range the iron sights might be all you need.
I'm still curious about the usual effective range of iron sights for hunting. My impression was that it was about 100 to 200 yards. Is that right?

July 15, 2009, 08:01 AM
It depends on the shooter. Don't they, or they use to, do 1000 yard competitions with iron sighted Springfield 1903's and M1 Garands?

I would say that a competent shooter with practice, I would prefer peeps over reg. buck horn sights, could shoot deer out to at least 300 yards.

I know that I can kill a buck out to 150 yards with my M94 30-30 that's equipped with a Williams peep sight. I have scoped rifles but I find for hunting in the Maine woods, where 100 yard shot is hard to find, that little lightweight 30-30 is the perfect setup for here. I shoot it a lot and I am confident on a kill out to 150 yards.

I also think it defeats the purpose of a lever gun when scopes are added to them. They are suppose to be kept lightweight fast and maneuverable for close in work. If you need a scope then get a nice bolt gun. That's just my opinion and probably doesn't mean much.

Art Eatman
July 15, 2009, 10:00 AM
My uncle's attitude about an '03 was (back when his eyes were good) that anything inside of 300 yards belonged to him.

We had a kid in Basic, on the range with the Garand, who was fussing back and forth with a sergeant about military positions and the sling. "That's not the way I learned to shoot!" Finally, a coyote jumped up some 300 yards out. The kid leaped to his feet, shot the coyote and turned to the sergeant, "See? THAT'S what I mean!"

So if you know what you're doing, I figure that hunting to 300 yards is quite within reason for iron sights.

July 15, 2009, 09:41 PM
I personally wouldn't shoot any farther than about 100yds with iron sights. I just don't think I'm that good! Your distance may vary, but under no circumstances would I shoot any farther away than I can positively, beyond doubt identify what I'm shooting at. Again, for me, that's about 100 yards sans scope.

The primary difference between a good scope and a great scope is clarity of image at any magnification and the amount of light it lets in. Pricier scopes use better glass - less distortion, more light, which is especially important at dawn and dusk, or any other periods of low light. Objective size matters not; quality lenses are key. An expensive (Zeiss, etc.) 40mm scope will see better than a 50mm Tasco. For top quality at a reasonable price my two scope choices are the 3-9x40mm Nikon Buckmasters and the 2.5-10x50mm Nikon Monarch. I don't personally need any more magnification that these scopes provide. With these scopes, shots to 400yds and maybe beyond become a real possibility for me!

July 15, 2009, 10:47 PM
i learned on iron sights then went to peep then to scope.

i prefer to have iron sights on my rifles. they are perfect for up close shots. I usually have see thru rings or quik detach rings on my rifles that are scoped and have iron sights.

in wooded areas you never know when you will see a deer.

I shot my deer last year at 20 feet behind me and had to put the gun on my right shoulder and look thorugh the scope with my left eye enough to see fur and pull triger with left thmb (and I am a right handed shooter).

if i had iron sights on that gun i would have just lined up the sights and pulled the trigger, no need for the scope.

see the video if you don't believe me. (

July 15, 2009, 10:58 PM
I find low power scopes are faster for quick shots on running or close game. Simple fact, 1.5 or 2x is the low power I speak of, 3x max. That's why I like the 2x10x40 Weaver I have on my .308. No lining up two points in the plain, just put the crosshairs on target and bang.

I'm still pretty decent with irons, though, despite aging eyes. I'm good enough to shoot 36 of 40 at IHMSA with a 10" 7mmTCU contender and iron sights. Funny thing, I could clear the rams pretty easy at 200 yards, but those 150 yard turkeys gave me fits. With a rifle, I can still get down to about a 1.5 to 2 MOA at 100 yards off the bench if the gun will do it. I'm still minute of deer shoulder well past 200 yards, but if I'm going to be shooting that far, OF COURSE I'm takin' a scope sighted gun. To 100-150 yards, about all I can see where I hunt, anyway, I don't mind the irons. However, I have taken deer there at the crack of dawn when I couldn't have seen iron sights. Scopes are quite handy for the hunter. I am going to carry my Hawken Hunter Carbine a lot this season, though. It has open sights as a black powder rifle should. Scopes are an abomination on a rifled musket. :D

July 16, 2009, 10:32 AM
This is great info. Thanks a million guys. If I get a mosin and a 44mag I'll keep them unscoped, and then I'll just have to get a scoped 308/30-06 for the longer ranges.
nevertoomanyguns it's your opinion that I asked for and it's worth buckets. Thanks.
universalfrost nice buck, btw are see through or quick detach rings more fragile?

July 16, 2009, 11:10 AM
the warne quick detachable rings are rock solid and no shift in zero. see thru rings have not had a problem with yet, but get a good set of weaver branded ones or talleys, don't waste your cash on the cheaper ones.

thanks for the props onthe buck. it is a coues which is one of the smallest subspecies of whitetail with most mature bucks field dressing under 90lbs. normal shots onthese guys are across canyons and ravines at 2-400 yards so i was glassing the other side of the canyon when this guy comes wandering up and all i heard was astomp and a snort and there he was. they call them grey ghosts and for a darn good reason. the tinks deer dander is why he didn't smell me and the doe bleet can is what held him in place while i moved to get a shot. he had his tail up initially but a few bleats from the can and he dropped it and was just trying to figure out what kinda doe I was !lol!!!

i am gunning for his daddy this archery season ( I am guessing that buck will gross 120+ fromthe rack i saw last year) and B/C only requires 110 for coues bucks.

anyway, iron sights are a must in brushy areas. if you hunt a combination of the 2 get the seethru or quick detach rings.

the gun I used last year (S&W i-bolt in 30/06) now has iron sights on it (actually fiber tipped) courtesy of my local gunsmith and has the warne quick detach rings and a nikon buckmaster 3-9x40 scope (the realtree camo dipped version). i keep my scopes at lowest setting when wandering in the woods or in the stand/blind.

July 16, 2009, 11:26 AM
Hey universalfrost how much did it cost to put iron sights on the 30-06? Did you have to change the stock? Are the sights on there real strong?

July 16, 2009, 11:45 AM
cost was 20 bucks to drill and tap the barrel. sights are williams firesights on remington 700 bases that i had laying around from an old 700 barrel that had the same contour as the i-bolt's. I have the factory fugly synthetic stock, but just ordered a laminate sporter stock with barrel channel inlet only (no action inlet) from richards. The long action i-bolt is close to a remmy 700 action inlet, but has a hint of a mauser bottom inlet so it wouldn't fit the spare remmy 700 or mauser 98 stocks i had laying around. a little work with a dramel and a chisel and should have a nice laminate stock and can ditch the synthetic.

July 19, 2009, 09:42 PM
Thanks everyone for the advice.

July 19, 2009, 10:11 PM
Gonna get a Mosin ?
I use a Finned Mosin, an M-39 out to 300 yards. 300 yards is not hard, but its usually only when Caribou have me figured and its now or never , as they are gonna leave.

I have good eyes, lotsa practise and the M-39 is probly the most accurat version of the Mosin there is.

Maybe Mosins are more accurate than they should be allowed:evil:

July 20, 2009, 08:46 PM
Hi caribou. I was originally thinking of getting a nice Remchester for me but I realized that I may need to get two more for the kids eventually.(as well as .22's and maybe shotguns) The scary part was ammo costs. So now I'm thinking Mosin. I think it's even worthwhile to put some money into the rifle cause it's the ammo that will really cost in the long run. Besides Mosins look so cool, at the worst I can hang it on the wall with my dad's dress sword.
I've read your and other posts so I know that the Mosins are good for hunting.
What do you think of the .303 for up north?

July 20, 2009, 10:49 PM
Can you find ammo that is not FMJ that is affordable? Surplus ammo is great for plinking, and varmints, but shooting anything larger with FMJ is just wrong (and illegal in most states). I have shot hundreds of surplus rounds thru a "Mosy" but would only use it for big game with soft points.

July 30, 2009, 09:56 AM
The plan is to use the surplus for practice and such and buy other ammo for hunting. Tho Caribou says that the surplus ammo he uses is good for hunting cause it tumbles once it hits. I don't know, I don't want to break any law or get on the wrong side of the fish and game people (let alone making the animal suffer too much) so I'll play it safe.

July 30, 2009, 11:28 AM
Readyrod, i highly recommend that you don't shoot FMJ on an animal. it is illegal in all the states and just plain unethical for a clean quick kill.

even wolf makes some soft points for the 7.62x54r that is somewhat cheap. Mosins (unliess a finn) are minute of barn at best. If you have your heart set on a milsurp rifle get an enfield no 4 mk1 or II and then buy some dies for it. Remington and a few others still load for it and it is an excellent choice for elk on down and really a smooth slick action.

otherwsie an yugo mauser or a czech mauser is hard to beat and the 8mm mauser cartridge is equal to an 30/06 (factory loads are weak and not up to the full potential) but they are still effective on just about all north american animals. if you handload then you can load it past the 30/06 levels.

also foregot to mention the K31. Most will say this is the most accurate mass produced and issued rifle out there. Mine all shoot sub moa with the surplus swiss GP11 or my handloads (you can use 284 winchester brass and .30 bullets). I get privi factory loaded ammo and shoot it for plinking then reload the brass with some 150 gr SP Hornady interlocks (standard .30 cal bullets) behind a nice load of varget or IMR4895. supremely accurate and the k31 straight pull action is super smooth, super fast and won't fail you.

I have a spare k31 i might be willing to part with (a really nice one that is an older import and has a super nice stock, not one of the ones nowadays that the stock is beat up, the new ones still shoot great, but look bad on the buttstock). Price would be in the $275 range though due to it being nicer than the current ones selling for 250ish

otherwise save $250 bucks and get a mossberg ATR from wally world. slick little guns for a cheap price, but decent quality and function well. I would recommend you get it in 30/06. or save a few more bucks and get a stevens 200.


July 30, 2009, 12:46 PM
Army shooters hit targets at 600 to qualify with open sites.

negative. the army shoots out to 300 yards for their qual. The Marines shoot out to 500.

Tim the student
July 30, 2009, 01:03 PM
negative. the army shoots out to 300 yards for their qual. The Marines shoot out to 500

Additionally, the target (at least in the Army) is a man sized silhouette, where a hit is a hit, doesn't matter if you hit bellybutton area, shoulder, or the center of the forehead.

July 31, 2009, 08:44 AM
I'm not planning to use fmj for hunting just practice.
Universalfrost, thanks for the advice, I'll definitely keep it in mind. The reason I was thinking mosin was because I find that when I get into something and want to do it a lot its the cost of doing it that is more important than the cost of setting myself up. The mosin ammo is so cheap that I can spend more for a nice rifle and still come out ahead. Thanks for the offer for the k31 but I can't buy a gun until I get back to Canada. I'm in Japan now. I'm asking all these questions now so I'll know exactly what to get when I get home. I really can't wait.

July 31, 2009, 12:12 PM
ok, if you are in canada then an enfield is a no brainer. lots of ammo around for it and lots of experienced smiths around in case you have a problem with it.

I have taken 2 elk with an old no4 mkI using factory loaded remington SP's . This was back in the early 90's in south dakota when an getting drawn for an elk tag was a once in a lifetime thing and i got drawn twice in a row. the old enfield was all i had that was large enough for elk and it did the job. My no 4 had the rear peap sight that you could flip for 100 or 300 meters. worked great for a 113 yard shot (paced it off) the first year and a 168 yard shot the next year. Both 1 shot kills with the remington core-lokt bullets. Brass is easy to get commercially as are bullets, surplus ammo is kinda limited, but still in supply down here at most online ammo stores and in canada I have personaly seen it on the shelves in lots of shops. The .303 brit round in Canada is close to the 30/06 round down here in the states.
If you get an enfield get a no4 mkI or mkII. The no1 is very dated. The no5 is just a stripped down no4 (to make it lighter and shorter) and will really punish your shoulder.

My old enfield I ended up selling (to a board member on TFL who is also here on THR), but i regreted it. luckily he just recently had it for sale and i have dibs on it once he finds the extra mag for it. anyway, lots you can do with an enfield.

August 1, 2009, 12:30 AM
218 yards with iron sights on this young Black Wildebeest bull. Oh yeah and those double rifle aren't good past 25 yards either. I know because I read about it on the internet.;)

Iron sights are as good as you want to get with them. But in low light there is nothing that beats a scope.

dagger dog
August 1, 2009, 07:52 AM
Just laughing at Arts, cactus, and stump deer!

This story is kind of a (?urban? or I guess rural would be more appropriate) myth, about the old hermit that used to nail a nice size rack to a sycamore log there in the woods, he always had plenty of LEAD for his reloading!

August 2, 2009, 05:29 AM
negative. the army shoots out to 300 yards for their qual. The Marines shoot out to 500.

My quals went out to 400 with a SAW and irons (well, rear peep, front post). That would be the same as using a good supported position in the field (using a branch as a rest). My grandfather was doing 8 inch groups at 400 yards with a M1 Garand (with witnesses) and he was a very good marksman. He had more accurate guns that he shot when he wanted score kept. With a scope and a good rifle, it will probably take your range past what is ethical to shoot. You can pass that mark pretty easily with a good set of irons too.

August 2, 2009, 05:48 AM
I can shoot a 3 inch group at 1,000 yards with my scoped RWS 34. If I use the factory RWS 34's iron sights the group expands to around a 5 inch group at that yardage. Now, if the rifle diesels groups get spread all over the place. :) Okay...just kidding.

The coyote ART EATMAN was speaking of must have been the dumbest coyote who ever lived. I grew up around pig farms and coyotes were not tolerated even though they were frequent visitors. I've never seen a wild coyote who stuck around long after the first sound of gunfire. And at a military gun range with repeated discharges? That coyote must have been retarded or deaf! And talk about the odds of the coyote showing up at the right time for the recruit to demonstrate his shooting prowess to his know-it-all military range instructor! What were the odds of that?

Past 50 yards I have to use a scope to obtain the accuracy I feel comfortable hunting with. However, I have seen some guys do some rather amazing shooting with iron sights.

August 2, 2009, 07:45 AM
Most people misunderstand a scopes purpose. With good light, good sights and someone who knows what they are doing there will be little difference in group size between irons and scopes at most ranges.

A scope helps you be more accurate with less practice at ALL ranges. Scopes are a tremendous aid in low light and put everything on 1 focal plane. With irons the target, front and rear sights are 3 diffeent distances from the eye. It is impossible for the eye to focus on all 3 at once.

Most of my hunting is done in thick woods at less than 50 yards. I have to find small openings in brush and put my bullet through them right at first or last light. I would argue that a scope is much more helpful for this shot than a 300 yard shot at an Elk standing in the open in bright light.

August 2, 2009, 08:09 AM
My trouble is my eyes jmr40. No amount of light, good sights or "knowing what one is doing" will fix that. Unless you are smarter than my eye doctor and can fix me? I wish you could! My grandpa went blind and now my grandmother is legally blind but she can still recognize me sometimes. And I'm only sucks. I can still focus with a scope but the front sight is too blurry most of the time even with glasses to improve my open sight shooting. It's funny though, sometimes my eyes clear up and I can focus again for a short period of time. I'm not legally blind and still pass a drivers test but I cannot focus on that damn front sight enough to know exactly where I am aiming...frustrating!

Art Eatman
August 2, 2009, 11:42 AM
Somewhere between the ages of forty and fifty, the majority of all people lose the ability to maintain focus on rear sight/front sight/target. Usually, either the rear sight or the target is somewhat blurred.

However, aging beats the alternative, and there are beaucoup folks out there who will sell you a scope.

August 3, 2009, 10:22 AM
Universalfrost, I checked the 303 ammo at the Sportsman Guide and it isn't so cheap. At least in the US. If the ammo isn't cheap I'd rather do as you suggested and get a 30-06 Stevens. The real attraction to the Mosin is the cheap ammo. (which may dry up at some point anyway)
H&Hhunter, thanks for the picture. You have no idea how much I want to go back to Africa. A few months ago I dreamed I was there, and then the alarm went off and I had to go to work, bummer. Just a wild guess but did you use a .375 on that thing???
I'll probably have to rethink the mosin thing as some of the advantages of scopes that everyone has mentioned are pretty good. I'll have to check out about putting a scope on a mosin. Any suggestions?

Art Eatman
August 3, 2009, 11:06 AM
"I'll have to check out about putting a scope on a mosin. Any suggestions?"

Yeah. Start a thread in the Rifle Country forum.

August 4, 2009, 10:15 AM
Yea sorry, I can actually search the mosin scope question, I seem to remember it being discussed in another thread.

Harve Curry
August 4, 2009, 11:11 AM
With my 1881 Marlin 45-70 my limit is about 200 yards. I keep the sight up's and holds on a card taped to the stock. I practice out to 300 yards on paper but hunting conditions (eyes, being steady) limit me to 200 yards. I use a full buck horn ladder rear sight made by Smith.
This deer was from cross sticks at 168 yards across open ground. I watched him for 4 hours before getting the shot.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
August 4, 2009, 11:28 AM
As has been mentioned, scopes help not *just* with distance shooting (although they do help with that too) - but principally with low light shooting and target ID at most any distance.

And as mentioned, the answer depends on the skill of the shooter, the eyes of the shooter (how good or old), and the type of iron sight used. But very generally, you might could say that someone with older eyes (over 40) like me are comfortable shooting a whitetail deer sized vital zone (10" across let's say) with typical "buckhorn" sights, and average skill, at only around 100-125 yards; maybe 150 (but less in low light!). But I am comfortable with a good scope & rifle shooting a whitetail at up to 275 yards or more under the right conditions (good rest, very little wind), and that's even in low light. So that's a very significant difference for me, that a scope adds to the practical hunting range (about TWICE). Yes, I would probably hit the deer in the vitals and kill it cleanly with irons at even around 200 yards, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable trying it.

With a larger kill zone, such as an elk, just add around 30-50 yards to all ranges, irons or scopes.

August 5, 2009, 01:28 AM
Just a wild guess but did you use a .375 on that thing???


Nope I used a .470NE double rifle which is the rifle in the picture.

August 5, 2009, 01:54 AM
well i think if your gonna have open sights go with a 30 30 marlin or winchester if you want a scope go with a bolt action 243 270 3006 etc...

August 5, 2009, 09:23 PM
I was thinking of getting a pistol caliber lever action for short range smaller size game hunting. A lot of the bush where I plan to move to is thick and I was thinking that a 100 or so yard bullet would be a good match with iron sights. With the larger capacity and somewhat fast firing of a lever action I could use it for hd/sd seeing as I'll be in Canada where the gun laws make handguns much less useful. Plus I'm thinking that they'll eventually ban semi autos.
In the clearcuts and the high country tho the ranges are longer and I'm now thinking, from the advice you guys are giving, I should get a proper hunting rig with a scope and maybe have iron sights for backup.

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