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Proper Sight Picture for Buckhorn Sights?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Flynt, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. Flynt

    Flynt Well-Known Member

    I got a nice used Marlin 336 the other day, which introduced me to buckhorn sights -- I guess this is a "semi-buckhorn" -- for the first time. I assumed that the proper sight picture was where the front bead rested in the small notch in the center of the rear sight. In other words, my rear sight makes a U shape, except there's a small part cut out in the very center -- just the right size for the bead to rest in. However, I saw an illustration for a smilar sight, and it showed the front post higher -- above the notch in the center. (I hope I'm doing a decent job of drawing a verbal picture of all of this, and not making it confusing.)

    Anyway, I'm seeking enlightenment as to what is the proper sight picture for a semi-buckhorn. Thanks.
  2. plinky

    plinky Well-Known Member

    Here's a Wiki page on iron sights generally:


    About 1/4 of the way down are examples of sight pictures. I'd say that E represents your sights pretty well. This is the textbook example although it applies poorly IMHO to any target except a round dot of known size and range. I may be misunderstanding, but this always looked to me like a target sight picture where the intended POI is well above the sights. Good strictly for paper targets but difficult in the field.

    I really don't like open sights at all compared to an aperture sight. An open sight picture is fuzzier and you are forced by the rear sight to have the intended POI above the front sight bead. I prefer a peep rear sight with factory front bead on my Marlin. When shooting targets at 100yd, I center the bead on a 9" white target of the picnic variety and center the plate in the rear aperture (virtually automatic). Out to 150 yds, I don't feel that a scope would offer much more precision and the POI barely ever strays from under the front bead. In other words, as long as a deer is within max range and I center the bead in his vital zone, he is mine...no calculations needed.

    I know this goes beyond what you asked but it has worked well for me and I thought you might want to spend a few more bucks to improve your rifle greatly. Just my thoughts. :)
  3. Flynt

    Flynt Well-Known Member


    That's great information, all of which leads me in the direction of installing an aperture sight on my 336. What kind do you use? Thanks.
  4. Cypress

    Cypress Well-Known Member

    I grew up taught to shoot with a fine bead (the front sight barely showing in the rear). I admit that I haven't shot open sights in a while but this still sems to be the most accurate way for me to use open sights.
  5. plinky

    plinky Well-Known Member


    My rifle has a Lyman 66 now but I used a Williams for a while that would serve the same purpose but didn't have quite as good adjustment knobs.

    These both screw into the factory holes on the side of the reciever but I think I've seen some that use the scope mount holes on top as well. I would expect that the factory drilling varies by the age of the rifle. HTH
  6. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

    Semi-buckhorn (and even more so the full buckhorn) rear sights - in their day - were criticized for obscuring the target (game). And, as the Wicki- article says, beads were criticized because differences in ambient light could send shots off-target in any direction or combination of directions. 19th century targetshooters wasted no time in switching to aperture sights or aperture/post sight - all in dull finishes. Hunters kept using beads on rifles until the era of scopes arrived. The "hood" often offered on front sights (a la Marlin 336) was/is to protect the rather delicate front bead sight but also to reduce the effect of differences in ambient light.

    Since the arrival of affordable/reliable scopes, hunters have generally been indoctrinated to sighting to Point-of-Aim. But even as late as the 1960s there was still plenty of discussion and use of "the 6 o'clock hold"... meaning your irons (open rear and bead or post front) were set so you held at the bottom of your target (like the 6 on a clock face) and your shots impacted in the center of your target. Some very accurate target shooting can be done with this sight picture - as in 5-shot, one-hole groups with a .22 at 50ft.

    Hunters used the "6 o'clock hold" sighting method specifically to allow greater visibility of their quarry during the moments of shooting... and also to simplify and hasten the aiming. In those innocent days hunters were not conditioned to think they should put their bullet into the rear third of the left ventricle - they wanted to "hit the vitals". It sounds odd today but it actually works as well now as in yesteryear.

    Consider a .44 magnum pistol. Today, many people would probably sight it in to hit P.O.A. at maybe 100yds., and then concern themselves with rise and drop. But it can be sighted in to be "zero'd" at 150yds. which - today might seem silly, but it isn't.

    With such a setting the 180gr. HP will be...

    2.5 " high at 25yds.
    4.7" high at 50yds.
    5.8" high at 75yds
    5.5" high at 100yds.
    2.7" high at 125yds.
    "zero'd" at 150 yds.

    ... which is to say you can us the same "6 o'clock hold" on a deer (along bottom line of the chest) at any distance from about 30yds. to 120yds. and expect a hit in the vitals.

    the "in the field" effectiveness (quickness and clarity) is helped by the facts that you don't need to take much time to "decide where to hold", the bottom line of the chest is quick and easy to pick out even if you have to guess at it due to tall grass, and the front leg becomes your quick/easy left-right reference.

    Since I grew up with the "6 o'clock hold" it has been natural for me to use it when hunting with my iron-sighted Ruger Super Blackhawk and it has worked very well for me on deer. It is certainly the quickest sight picture to acquire with the SBH. My Single-Six revolver is arranged the same and a hold on the midline or between the front legs of a groundhog puts a .22 magnum in lethal spots every time. Yet it doesn't blot out the vitals area thus allowing me to see when the animal makes some small, last-second change in posture that requires an adjustment of aim. If using irons on a rifle the aperture/post arrangement is (IMO) the way to go.

    As a trivia note - the "new" ghost ring" sight concept is not new at all. Writers from the first half of the 20th century often advised hunters to remove the disc from their Williams aperture sights and just use the hole left by its' removal in order to speed up sight picture acquisition. Works like a charm.

  7. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher Well-Known Member

    I like to see the front bead sitting in the middle of the rear sight notch. I want the portion of the target I am shooting at sitting just at the top of the bead.
    Other folks do it diffeent. What really matters is your being consistant with your sight picture.

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