Back Up Sights For The AR

Our good friends over at shared this recently and gave us permission to re-print it. If you are not aware of Anderson MFG also known as Anderson Rifles then you will really enjoy the review we are working on. They make some really quality products and have developed an incredible coating for weapon parts that we will go into in the upcoming article.

I was guilty of this at onetime and learned my lesson very quickly.
For now please enjoy this article originally written by Tiger McKee

In carbine classes almost every rifle is equipped with a red-dot type sight system and that’s great. Dots offer tremendous advantages over standard or “iron” sights. The problem? From an informal survey with students I’ve discovered many people running AR’s, especially new shooters – this includes law enforcement personnel too – have never used the BUS (back-up sights) on their rifle. The BUS aren’t even zeroed. During a recent class the shooter’s dot failed. He switched to the BUS. At sixty-five yards his shots were fifteen feet high. (The rear sight was mounted on the rail of another mount.) On the range this is no big deal. For defensive applications it’s mandatory have a functioning BUS and know how to use it.

It’s essential to know how to use iron sights, and not just the aperture type sights on AR’s. There are a lot of long-guns out there; proportionally few of them are outfitted with dots. You may not always have the option of fighting with your rifle. Anything mechanical can break. Batteries and electronics stop functioning. You always need a plan “B.” When the dot disappears the BUS allow you to keep shooting.
There are several options for BUS. I prefer fixed sights. The dot disappears. All I have to do is lower my cheek-weld slightly to visually acquire the BUS. There are flip-up sights that stay out of the way until you need them. Practicing popping up the sights is mandatory. There won’t be time to fumble your way through it or look at the rifle – plus it’s dark so you can’t see anyway. My concern with flippers is that there may not even be time to pop ’em up.

I would leave the front sight up. If the dot does go down you can use the window of the dot as a rear aperture. The round tubes of Aimpoints are perfect for this. By positioning the front sight laterally in the center of the window and at the proper height you can make decent hits at extended ranges. To determine where to hold the front sight in the window look through it with the dot on, aligning the dot on the front sight. Note the height of the front sight in the window. With my dot/mount the front sight appears in the bottom 1/3 portion of the window.

Regardless of the type sights they need to be zeroed. There are a lot of opinions when it comes to what distance to zero your rifle. No matter what zero you choose fire the rifle at various distances, like from three to at least one hundred yards to determine the difference between your point of aim vs. the bullet’s point of impact.
Once you have the BUS zeroed practice transitioning back and forth between the dot and the BUS. Fire a couple of shots with the dot, then ignore it and work the BUS. Start with the BUS, then turn the dot on. Remember a visual adjustment is required. With dots you focus on the target, placing the dot where it needs to be. When you shift to the BUS the visual focus shifts to the front sight.

Dots will fail. The most common cause is batteries. Don’t wait for your battery to die. Replace them regularly, no matter what the advertised life is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s battery, mechanical or electronic failure you have to stay in the fight. Have a plan “B,” practice it regularly, and stay prepared for the unexpected.

Tiger McKee

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.