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Tips for sighting in a rifle or handgun with open sights

When you punch paper with an open-sighted rifle or handgun, is your point of impact too high, too low, too far right or too far left?  What if your shots print all over the paper?  These tips will help aline your sights with the bulls eye.

Handguns are important additions to the arsenal of shooting enthusiasts. They’re fun for plinking, deadly for self defense and challenging for hunting. A rifle with open sights has its advantages over scoped rifles in dense woodlands, at close quarters, or when swinging on running game. Whatever the case, accuracy is paramount.

Rifles and handguns with open sights are more difficult to sight-in than those with scopes. In many cases, sighting adjustments are made with the rear sight. Consider a situation where the bullet group prints too high or too low. That can be corrected by moving the rear sight in the same direction you want the bullet group to go. If the bullet group is too high, lower the rear sight. If the group is too low, then raise the rear sight.

If your bullets punch too far to the left of the bullseye, then move the rear sight to the right. If the point of impact is too far to the right, then move the rear sight to the left. The rule is the same for both vertical and lateral adjustiments. Just move the rear sight in the same direction you want to move the point of impact.

The magnitude of adjustment depends on the gun, barrel length, caliber, target distance, bullet weight/shape and powder charge. Remember that your gun will print differently with changes in hand-loads or manufactured ammunition. Muzzleloaders are especially sensitive to changes in bullet design and powder charge.

If the paper appears to peppered with buckshot, the most common cause is shooter error, which is caused by unsteadiness, flinching, improper sight picture or poor positioning. In a smaller percentage of cases, the gun may be a poor shooter or the ammo may not be a good match with the gun.

It’s helpful to use a sighting sled when sighting in a rifle or sandbags for a handgun. Use the same ammunition on the range as will be used in the field. Be mindful of wind and shooter fatigue. Then watch your groups shrink and your satisfaction grow.

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