Arguments for and against using a scope

BenH2016

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I prefer to hunt with open sights but would like to hear what everyone else prefers and why.

Firstly I prefer the added challenge of having to stalk in close to the quarry, though this is obviously something one could do with a scoped rifle too.

I like the mechanics of open sights and the fact that the shooter has to concentrate on rear sight, front sight and target all at the same time.

I feel a scope is just another thing that can go wrong, and don't like to have extra stuff to fuss about. With an open sighted rifle I can just fling that thing up on my shoulder and head out. When I've carried scoped rifles I always find myself babying the weapon and find it difficult to find a comfortable carry for long walks. The scope surely adds more weight, but is it enough to be noticeable?

Lastly I like the traditional flavour of an open sighted rifle. A classic straight stock with no scope just appeals more to me visually. Also I'm a stickler for the classics and tradition, to me an open sighted rifle just seems so much more romantic.

The argument for a scope that I just can't deny is that it gives the hunter more chance of a humane kill.

So those are some of my points of view and I look forward to hearing some of yours'
 

Red Leg

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Spent most of my professional life shooting open sights - military peep sights - what we would now refer to as "ghost rings". They and normal blade sights work. They work much better with younger eyes. I am in my mid sixties, and a blade sight is almost unusable - that is true for most people of my age (no, I did not say all). That lack of flexibility in vision to address three ranges (rear sight/front sight/target) almost simultaneously usually begins to deteriorate in our forties. Therefore, I use a telescopic sight for almost all of my shooting with the exception of a follow-up in close cover.

You mentioned that less can go wrong - in a sense that is true, if you discount any inherent inaccuracy with open sights as the range increases. Subtending half the target animal with the front sight is introducing a whole lot of "stuff that can go wrong" on an otherwise easy 150 meter shot.

Also not quite sure what you mean by a "classic straight stock". Older rifles, designed expressly or primarily for open sights tend to have quite a bit more drop at heel than modern rifles which have straighter combs to accommodate both open sights and scopes.

But, if you enjoy using open sights, and are physically able to use them effectively, then have at it. Just remember you are inevitably limiting range and practical field accuracy - at least with most modern hunting calibers. On a hunt in the back forty, that is likely no issue at all. On an extremely expensive guided hunt where you may have only one opportunity, with a less than ideal presentation, at the animal of a lifetime, that choice is more problematic. Add to that the now nearly universal rule that a drop of blood is the same as a kill, then the practical employment window for open sights becomes even smaller.
 

BenH2016

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@Red Leg thanks for joining the discussion.

I shot military peep sights at school, a long time ago now, and we could get very accurate with them shooting prone in competition.

I suppose eye sight will become a factor for me soon enough.

When I spoke of what can go wrong I really meant technically, i.e. equipment failure. Your interpretation though is very valid, and on my last hunt I passed on firing at a hartrbeest as the front sight blade was covering too much of the animal, due to distance.

I'm not sure what I meant by classic straight stock either. I just prefer the minimal look of a rifle without scope.

Your last point is extremely valid, with the amount that international clients have to pay for a trophy hunt one would want to give oneself the best chance possible.
 

Red Leg

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As I reread my post, it probably comes across more negatively than I intended. No doubt the result of aging eyes. :) One of my favorite guns is a pre-WWI William Evans Paradox. It is a SxS 12 bore which shoots lovely modified patterns when loaded with No. 6 shot, and will put four LxR/LxR conical 740 gr lead bullets into a three-inch circle at 100 meters. Obviously, it is not scoped and is a joy to carry. As recently as 2008 in Namibia, I rolled two warthogs and dumped a dozen sand grouse from the same waterhole with it. As you would well imagine, no scope will ever mar its sleek profile.
 

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For me the advantages of a scope are greater effective range, and a visually larger target. I don't shoot beyond 300 yards, my farthest in Namibia was 220 at a black wildebeest, but sometimes that's as close as you're getting (again, Black wildebeest). With just a 4X at 200 yards the target looks like 50 yards so you can focus on a smaller target spot. Even at closer ranges at low power you can see all the target clearly withouth a post and rear sight blocking some of the target.
The disadantages are the complexities mentioned andxpossibly overstepping your limits with confindence in technology. Also Possibly greater chances of failure, and if you aren't smart having it on a high power when it should be low. Good scopes, knowing your equipment and not overstepping your limits prevent most problems.

The advantages to open sights are simplicity and faster target aquisition. It does encourage you to limit your shots (positive or negative depending on your view). But, being mechanical it too can be knocked out of sight.

Honestly they each have their place.
 

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I'm 73 almost 74. Iron sights i.e. a front blade and a rear receiver in good light out to 100 or 125 yards is absolutely a non issue. At 200 yards I like the idea of a scope with a calibrated reticle like the Nikon Monarch with BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation). IMHO for DG up close and personal, iron / open sights would be the only way to go.
 

cls

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I'm 73 almost 74. Iron sights i.e. a front blade and a rear receiver in good light out to 100 or 125 yards is absolutely a non issue
Koodos to you for having good eyesight at your age but like @Red Leg says:
I am in my mid sixties, and a blade sight is almost unusable - that is true for most people of my age (no, I did not say all). That lack of flexibility in vision to address three ranges (rear sight/front sight/target) almost simultaneously usually begins to deteriorate in our forties.
I was out on the weekend getting ready for my upcoming buffalo hunt and decided I should try some open sights with my 416 and I had a hell of a time getting a good sight picture at 100 yds. Sure I could hit a 6" circle consistently but that's about it. Put a 2x6 VXR on there and I was shooting sub 3/4".
Just my 2 bits.
 

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Koodos to you for having good eyesight at your age but like @Red Leg says:

I was out on the weekend getting ready for my upcoming buffalo hunt and decided I should try some open sights with my 416 and I had a hell of a time getting a good sight picture at 100 yds. Sure I could hit a 6" circle consistently but that's about it. Put a 2x6 VXR on there and I was shooting sub 3/4".
Just my 2 bits.
And as I have noted on several other conversations, the single most important duty a client has on a dangerous game hunt is to place that first bullet as precisely and lethally as possible (frankly, it is just as important for the game animal on a PG hunt). But in the case of dangerous games, a number of other people are put at risk by inaccurate shot placement. Very often that bullet has to be threaded through a narrow window in the jess or into the shoulder of the correct animal among a jumble of dark shapes. Very few can do that sort of shooting consistently with open sights. Even fewer can do it the first time they are trying to poke a cape buffalo. I suspect I have put more rounds down range with open sights than most in our community, and I'll save whatever little expertise I have for follow-ups where speed is as important as precision.
 

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Desert Dog

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With today's variable power scopes, especially the ones that have TRUE 1-power low settings, iron sights really have no advantage. At 1 power, I find the scope to be faster than the iron sights, and can even use it with both eyes open (like a reflex sight in tactical shooting). Then, when precision comes into play, which it inevitably will, you can crank it up and shoot through small windows off the shooting sticks. I think you put yourself at a disadvantage if you plan on shooting out past 100 yards without a scope.
 
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BenH2016

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@Ryan 300 yds to my mind in a hunting situation is a long shot. Sure in competition I've shot at 800 with open sites but would never consider such a thing hunting. Yes there are certain species that due to habits and habitat just won't let let you get within a hundred yards, lechwe among others. It is for game like lechwe and wildebest that I have thought of one day setting up a long range rig that would require a good scope.

Ryan would you not have to bump your open sighted rifle pretty hard to knock the sights out?

@Shootist43 you have great eye sight for your age, I hope I can still be hunting in 34 years time, let alone shooting accurately with open sights out to 150 yds

@cls I am definitely motivated by tight groupings, I like to be able to use any equipment to maximum potential, and this does make me want to scope my rifle, but I do still think that practice and familiarity should get my open sight groupings tighter. Currently I can get 3 shots into a 2.5 inch group at 100 mtrs with my 30-06. I'd like to get that under an inch.

@Desert Dog in saying open sights have no advantage are you discounting the chance that your scope may malfunction under typical hunting conditions? I hear a lot that modern optics can handle rough conditions better and better, are they yet as hardy as irons?

Thanks to all of you for joining the discussion, the variety of opinion is what makes these forums for me.
 
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sheephunterab

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As typical of people my age, I need glasses to read but can see a fly on a sheep's butt at 200 yards with the naked eye. I need my glasses to see the sights but then the target is blurry and if I take my glasses off the sight is blurry. In low light its 100x worse. A scope solves all that for me.
 

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I agree, 300 is a long(er) shot, and not one I consider typical. I took a caribou last year at 270 or so because there was nothing in between myself and it. That rig has a 3-9X scope on it. I had a good rest on the top of my backpack frame so I knew I could take it, otherwise I wouldn't have. It is in the freezer. None of mine in Namibia were over 150 except my black wildebeest at around 220 yards. That took a lot of doing, they kept busting at 400-500. So I will admit I could have taken most of my animals with open sights, but I do think the scope allowed me to focus in on exact target to aim at in a couple cases.

Anymore either sight takes a good jolt to knock it out, but I agree that iron sights would be harder to.
 

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As a traditional blackpowder shooter, I absolutely relate in terms of both usability and sentiment.

Usability, there isn't an advantage in using a scope under 75 yards to me. I can easily hit a clay pigeon at 100 yards with iron sights, but it isn't as easy. Certainly anything over 100 gives a scope a clear advantage, at least for me. I will say though you may be able to see brush/branches through a scope that you wouldn't see with irons and that may allow you to determine if you squeeze one through that space. As I said though, I am very comfortable with irons up to 75 yards and prefer it. That doesn't help you when an animal is standing 150 yards away with a sign that says "shoot me".

Which leads me to the 2nd part of my post - sentiment. Hunting with iron sights is personally rewarding to me, as you. What you have to calculate though is how you feel about not getting an animal solely because of your decision to use iron sights. That happened to me on a big deer one time. I thought about getting an inline with a scope, and I probably will if our county goes back to a 4 points on a side rule. In the mean time, I have decided that I want to continue to shoot a traditional rifle.

Now, will I take that gun on an expensive out of state hunt? Black bear over bait, sure. A once in a life time moose hunt, umm...no. So that's what you have to decide. You live in Africa so if you don't get an animal there are opportunities in the future. However any hunt that has a lot of cost or difficulty in obtaining a permit, I'm using a scoped centerfire because I've now crossed that line of what I can accept.
 

Dr Ray

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I prefer to hunt with open sights but would like to hear what everyone else prefers and why.

Firstly I prefer the added challenge of having to stalk in close to the quarry, though this is obviously something one could do with a scoped rifle too.

I like the mechanics of open sights and the fact that the shooter has to concentrate on rear sight, front sight and target all at the same time.

I feel a scope is just another thing that can go wrong, and don't like to have extra stuff to fuss about. With an open sighted rifle I can just fling that thing up on my shoulder and head out. When I've carried scoped rifles I always find myself babying the weapon and find it difficult to find a comfortable carry for long walks. The scope surely adds more weight, but is it enough to be noticeable?

Lastly I like the traditional flavour of an open sighted rifle. A classic straight stock with no scope just appeals more to me visually. Also I'm a stickler for the classics and tradition, to me an open sighted rifle just seems so much more romantic.

The argument for a scope that I just can't deny is that it gives the hunter more chance of a humane kill.

So those are some of my points of view and I look forward to hearing some of yours'

I agree with your philosophy. However, the scope aids in the identification of your intended target particularly in bad light.
I honestly do not recall when I used open sights last. It was using a Winchester 30/30.
That was a long time ago!
 

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And never forget firearm rule #4:
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
I can't tell you how many times, especially during last year's early April hunt in the bushveld, I observed a good animal only to put the scope on him and see a calf or cow in the bushes behind my target. At 100 yards in the bush with iron sights, adherence to firearm rule #4 is not a certainty. Also, there has been several occasions where I thought I had a clean shot at 3 power, but when I cranked the scope up to 9, noticed numerous small branches and vines were in the way.

A safe ethical shot on the shooting range does not always translate to the field.

IMO, Quality optics have come a long way in the last 15 years. We now have military-grade components in hunting scopes and glass that we could only dream of in the last century. Most failed scopes in the field are from cheap products, or from the rifle taking a tumble that would probably damage iron sights.

Of course, with QD scope mounts, you can have your cake and eat it too.
 

BenH2016

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@Desert Dog your first point is something I hadn't thought of, and while binoculars would help determining if there was anything behind the target they may not help identifying obstructions in the bullets path.

And yes I have heard that optics have advanced considerably and while possibly not at resistant to bumps as irons they are by now quite dependable. But the cost! I'm not sure I could justify almost doubling the cost of my rifle to add a quality scope and rings.
 

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A very strong argument can be made that the scope on the rifle should be worth near the value of the rifle itself. After all, you can't hit what you can't see.

I have no problem with people wanting to use iron sights. I prefer a scope or, if the range is under 200 yards on the right game (i.e.: not chipmunks) a red dot. I think that red dots have really been a huge boon to hunters. On one of my rifles (9.3x62) my back up "scope" is this little Bushnell TRS 80 red dot. No power but I have no problem accurately hitting steel 8" gongs at 200 yards and sometimes further.

I think iron sights started to really fall out of favor when people started valuing "the perfect shot" over "any shot in the kill zone". Personally I've never shot better than about a 4" group at 100 with any type of iron sight, including ghost ring peeps. That's really a factor of my eyes. Put a scope on the same rifle and, rifle permitting, I'm shooting sub 1" groups. Consider that many African game have 12" kill zones and it begs the question: why not use irons?

For me it's simply confidence. I am more confident putting my shot exactly where I want it with a scoped or dotted right than with irons. Confidence in the field means an awful lot. The mental game of hunting is huge.

If you have the confidence for Irons, go for it. For me, I just don't. I'd rather have the confidence of a dot or scope, situationally dependent.

FWIW, on my first safari my shots on game were out to 320 yards. My kudu was 287 (*ranged). A good rifleman with irons could make that shot. For me, I was glad for my scope, even if it was set at 4x.

Good luck out there!
 

Dr Ray

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And never forget firearm rule #4:
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
I can't tell you how many times, especially during last year's early April hunt in the bushveld, I observed a good animal only to put the scope on him and see a calf or cow in the bushes behind my target. At 100 yards in the bush with iron sights, adherence to firearm rule #4 is not a certainty. Also, there has been several occasions where I thought I had a clean shot at 3 power, but when I cranked the scope up to 9, noticed numerous small branches and vines were in the way.

A safe ethical shot on the shooting range does not always translate to the field.

IMO, Quality optics have come a long way in the last 15 years. We now have military-grade components in hunting scopes and glass that we could only dream of in the last century. Most failed scopes in the field are from cheap products, or from the rifle taking a tumble that would probably damage iron sights.

Of course, with QD scope mounts, you can have your cake and eat it too.

My point too!
 

Shootist43

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Everyone is making valid points here. But... just for giggles, has anyone thought about why they put 100, 200 & 300 yard/meter express sights on high-end rifles and have been doing so for over a hundred years? Or why military rifles have iron sights calibrated out to six hundred yards. Or why they have service rifle competition at similar ranges with receiver sights? Not to mention the Palma Match which is shot at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards all with iron sights. BTW it generally takes a score of 440 or better out of a possible 450 -45 X to win the Palma Match.
 

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