Types of Gun Sights

4th Jan 2022

Updated February 8, 2022

Both beginner and experienced shooters understand the importance of being as accurate as possible when using a firearm. However, to achieve bullseye accuracy, it is crucial to understand the different types of gun sights and how to use each of them.

While some sight devices are more advanced than others, the general purpose of using one is to align the shooter’s eye with the bore for precision aim at the target.

To help you better understand this topic, we’ve put together this guide to explain the most common gun sight types and how to determine which one is right for you.

The 5 Main Types of Sights

Although there are several different sight variations, each falls within one of these five categories. The five primary types of gun sights are:

Iron or Open Sights

An iron sight, sometimes referred to as an open sight, is typically the standard on pistols, rifles and shotguns. Most guns that you buy from a manufacturer will come with the basic iron sight.

This type of sight system consists of two different components:

  • Front sight: Also called a front post, this signal sight is located near the end of the muzzle and is often shaped as a blade with a flat top. The shooter typically uses this piece for aiming.
  • Rear sight: Sometimes referred to as the rear notch, this is a double sight found closer to the back of the firearm — common styles include a square notch and a U shape. Using this sight allows the shooter to gauge elevation and windage to point the barrel as straight at the target as possible.

Essentially, the shooter tries to place the front sight in the gap in the rear sight. When it's done correctly, you should see the front post evenly distributed between the sides of the rear notch with the flat tops of both pieces aligned.

Peep Sights

Like the open sight, a peep sight also allows shooters to aim using a rear and front component. However, the difference comes with the look of the rear. Rather than a notch, this type of sight consists of a circular "lens" that you look through.

With its circular lens style, using a peep sight provides more accuracy than using the standard open sight. All the shooter has to do is align the front sight with the center of the rear peep. This style provides an easier way to perfect your aim compared to using an open sight since the circular shape helps you focus your view.

Usually, you can see the most accuracy when using a peep sight on a rifle. However, these sight types can also be configured to other firearms as well.

Telescopic Sights (Scopes)

If you are looking to see further and achieve accuracy at greater distances, the use of a telescopic sight, commonly known as a scope, is the right choice for your shooting needs. These sights are commonly found on the rifles of hunters, target shooters and snipers.

When looking through a telescopic sight, the shooter can see a magnified view of their target to pick a more specific point of aim. Depending on the type of telescopic sight, you may be able to adjust the magnification to accommodate longer shots.

A scope will contain a reticle such as a set of crosshairs that the shooter places where they want the bullet to impact. Before using a telescopic sight, you must go through the process of zeroing it, or moving the reticle to align with the rifle's bore so the projectile will impact the correct location.

Reflex Sights

The use of a reflex sight provides increased accuracy at medium to short distances. Using a wide field of view, it projects a red dot onto its reflective glass, which the shooter places on the target for easy aim. In other words, much like a scope's reticle, the red LED indicates where the bullet will impact once the sight is zeroed.

Typically, reflex sights have three main adjustment settings:

  • Day time
  • Brightness level
  • Night vision mode

This type of sight is beneficial for those looking for more accuracy and speed with their aim. Additionally, the shooter can aim with both eyes open, making it easy to see the entire field of view. However, red dot sights do require a power source.

Moreover, you can choose between open and closed sight options:

  • Closed reflex sight: With a closed sight, the light source is enclosed within a protective covering, making it better for shooting in less than ideal weather conditions.
  • Open reflex sight: The light source is not enclosed and is therefore susceptible to conditions that may affect dot visibility, but it allows for faster target acquisition.

Laser Sights

Laser sights serve as another type of aiming device used to increase a shooter’s accuracy. A laser is mounted in line with the barrel and projects a light onto the target. This dot of light provides shooters with an easy view of exactly where they are aiming the firearm.

Depending on your specific application, you can choose between two standard laser colors:

  • Red lasers: Typically, this is the more affordable version since it consumes less power. However, this laser color is less effective in the daytime because the sun masks the red light.
  • Green lasers: Green lasers are a better option for daytime shooting, but they do require more power and tend to cost more.

Laser sights provide an ideal solution for rapid-fire situations and are more accurate than the basic iron sight. However, it is essential to remember to “zero in” your sight before using it to avoid accuracy issues.

How Do I Know Which Sight Is Right for Me and My Gun?

When determining which sight is best for your gun, it is crucial to consider a few different things. For starters, are you an experienced or novice shooter? Moreover, what type of result are you looking to get from purchasing a firearm sight? Will you be shooting from long distance or close range?

If you’re looking for a simple and cost-effective option for shooting at shorter ranges, the iron and peep sights match that criteria. These sights provide enough accuracy to help shooters achieve precision and are used on nearly all types of firearms. With practice, shooters can make some incredible shots with iron sights alone.

When choosing a sight for hunting or precision target shooting, many shooters go straight to telescopic sights. The magnification adjustments on a quality scope make it easier to achieve accuracy at greater distances, making this the ideal solution for precision shooting. The use of crosshairs helps with aiming the firearm, making it easier to lock onto a target. However, telescopic sights are among the most expensive types.

Lastly, reflex and laser sights are an ideal choice for short- to medium-range shooting. With both varieties, shooters can aim using a light projected on the target, which allows for increased precision and rapid target acquisition. However, both of these types of gun sights require a power source.

Choose Wing Tactical for Gun Sights You Can Trust

Though there are many components that go into making a gun accurate, the sights are perhaps the most important piece when it comes to actually making the shot. At Wing Tactical, we stock many types of quality gun sights to help you find the perfect setup for your firearm. Our skilled team only selects components we would use on our own guns.

Browse our gun sights today to see how we can help you give yourself an edge when it comes to accuracy. We also have an extensive inventory of other firearm components to help you put together the perfect tack driver.

Still not sure which is the right type of sight for your firearm?  Feel free to contact our team with any questions about our products or how to choose the right type of gun sight for your shooting needs.