Going Back To Open Sights

stug

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I had started writing this with the intention of sending it to a magazine for publishing, but I forgot my camera so have no photos of the stag I shot.


Back to Basics
I have always been one to follow the latest trends. I bought my first rifle back in the 1980’s, a sporterised Swedish mauser in 6.5x55. I only managed to shoot one pig and lots of goats with it before I sold it and bought a Remington 700 in 30/06. A number of deer fell to the ‘06 and there was nothing wrong with it. It had blued steel and a walnut stock and never let me down. But like all young men I wanted bigger and better, synthetic stocks and stainless steel were the latest fashion accessories and I wanted them.

Eventually I bought another Remington, still in 30/06 but this one had a slim stainless steel barrel and synthetic stock. I still have it, but not much of it is left. It has a new barrel and is on its third stock, this one is carbon fibre. No need to get up close and see the whites of their eyes, deer out to 600 yards are as good as in the bag. Laser range finders, high powered scopes and ballistic apps on smart phones mean a shot this far away is a sure thing.

I’m now in my early 40’s and time for a mid-life crisis. I could get a mistress or convertible but instead I decided to look back, not forward, for once.
I shot my first deer in July 1987. It was on a Waikato NZDA organised hunt to Waihaha in Pureora. I was 16 and the ink on my firearms licence was only just dry. We walked in on a Friday night and I carried my father’s .303 jungle carbine. I had never fired it before but had been given the drill about how it worked. No telescopic sights adorned this beast, only aperture sights, the always up battle sight with the large aperture for the gloom of the jungle and the flip up aperture for the long shots.

The next morning I filled up the 10 shot mag with 20 year old CAC 180gr bullets, look out deer! I attached myself to Phil and his GSP Jacques. Phil had helped my friend shoot his first deer earlier in the year, so I figured Phil was the man to help me. He gave me some advice on how to hunt with my rifle safely, bolt pushed forward and safety on holding the bolt in place.

Amazingly, 6 hours later I had shot my first deer! Coming over a rise I had seen a yearling standing broadside on in the open bush, taking off the safety and closing the bolt I pointed the rifle in the general direction of the deer and yanked the trigger. Not surprisingly I missed! Luckily the deer only moved a step or two and quartered away from me. Taking a bit more time with the second shot I put the blade of the front sight behind the front leg and squeezed the trigger. This time the shot connected and the deer ran off.

Stopping where the deer had stood I asked Phil if we should look for blood, but Jacques was on the deer’s trail and within 40 metres he found it. I was hooked! I never hunted with Phil again and it took me 4 years to get my next deer.



There is something about blued steel, walnut and classic rifle design that captures your imagination. Hopefully by returning to some of the features of my first hunt I would recapture some of the exhilaration and excitement of 30 years ago.

Mauser, the name means a lot to firearms enthusiasts. To some Paul Mauser’s original design hasn’t been improved on. I don’t know if I buy in to that, but the name and especially Mauser Oberndorf mean big game hunting. I managed to track down a Mauser Oberndorf Type B in 9.3x62. This rifle was made in 1924 and had spent most of its time in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. The blueing is worn and the stock has marks all over it. Carrying this rifle you know you are holding history in your hands. It has shot most of the African game, probably buffalo and maybe elephant. One day I will take it back to Africa and reacquaint it with kudu, impala, wildebeest and hopefully a bushbuck.



The rifle is designed perfectly for open sights; it has a lot more drop at the heel compared to a modern rifle. Yours eyes naturally look right down the barrel and line up the sights. The wide V of the rear sight giving a wide field of view, perfect for elephant at 10 yards. The fore-end is slim and fits snugly in your hand. The sling swivel is on the barrel so that it does not contact your hand under recoil and so the rifle sits lower on the shoulder when being carried. This is not the sort of rifle that you shoot lying prone, off a bipod. At only 7.5 pounds, no recoil pad and firing a 286 grain projectile it certainly gets your attention when you pull the trigger.
The ammunition that came with the rifle was factory Norma 286gr soft point. This ammo doesn’t break any speed records, a leisurely 2200 fps, but a 286gr projectile at this velocity doesn’t take prisoners. Norma obviously prescribed to the momentum theory rather than explosive expansion. But then what would you want on a raking shot at a departing buffalo?



I’ve managed to replicate this load using ADI 2208 and 286gr prvi partisan projectiles. It is possible to get the 286gr going quite a bit faster using BLC2, but it shoots too high with the open sights.

I am going to have to dig out the old bush stalking skills and get personal with the animals again. I am sure they will show the whites of their eyes when they see the size of the hole down the barrel.

My first trip out with the 9.3 was to Kaikoura, not really bush stalking but I can’t shoot anything with it if I leave it in the gun cabinet. One billy goat paused and looked at us at 70 odd yards. A quick rest over the pack on a rock and a single shot through the shoulder had him tumbling down towards us. Not quite a cape buffalo, but I was on the board with the 9.3.



The next trip was 7 days in the Kaimanawas after sika. My bush stalking skills were put to the test, but no sika were sighted. One unfortunate possum fell to a 286gr handload.

I didn’t get the opportunity to go out much over the roar, one day trip got us close to some deer, but I didn’t get a look at them.
Then I had an overnight trip to an area I normally take my magnum , as shots are usually across gullies at 300yds. But I figured with the right opportunity and sticking close to the bush edge I might get a shot around 100yds.

The first night I saw 4 deer, 2stags and 2 hinds, but they were over a kilometre away so I just watched them. The next morning my plans to hunt the bush edge were scuppered due to a tail wind. I changed plans and headed out onto a spot that let me see down into several basins. My binoculars quickly found 2 stags about 700yds away feeding out in the open, trying to put on condition after the roar. I quickly moved about 100 yds down the hill towards them and stopped to check they were still there. I picked up one in the thick scrub heading back in to the bush and couldn’t see the other one.

I carried on glassing to see if anything else was out and quickly picked a third stag on the other side of the gully and only 300 yds away. If I could get down into the gully without being seen I might be able to close the gap. Staying crouched I hoped if he saw me he wouldn’t be too alarmed. But after 50 yds he saw me and quickly moved off. I followed him, hoping he might stop just over the ridge. Half way across the face I looked back down where the first two stags had been and saw a deer standing on the ridge. Putting the glasses on it I saw it was a hind, and then noticed one of the stags feeding in amongst the scrub.

I snuck back to the gully, trying not to roll too many rocks. I had lost sight of the stag but hadn’t seen him move off so I carried on. Part way down I took off my gaiters as they made a lot of noise if rubbed through a bush. Eventually I was down close to the stag, but the wind was switching and I wasn’t holding my breath on seeing him. I finally got to the ridge without seeing him, perhaps I should have brought my scoped Brno 7x57.

On the ridge I sat down and got the glasses out again, amazingly there was another stag in the next gully. He was the same height as me but about 250yds away. Keeping low I snuck through the scrub towards him. I had a place in mind where I could shoot from and was hoping he kept feeding. He looked up once and I froze, but soon he was feeding again. I carried on sneaking along and was about 5 yds from a small stump I could use as a rest when my pack scrapped against a bush. The stag immediately looked in my direction, bugger! I was crouched down partially obscured behind some bushes so figured if I waited long enough he would keep feeding. Where he was standing I could see his shoulder, neck and head. He kept staring trying to make out what I was.

Bugger it I‘m close enough. Sitting down I shuffled sideways and rested my elbows on knees and sighted on his shoulder. Front sight, front sight, front sight. Keeping the sight on the centre of his shoulder I squeezed off the shot. As the rifle recoiled I lost sight of the stag, but heard the satisfying slap of the bullet hitting the stag. Catching sight of the stag I saw him cart wheeling down through the scrub. I let out a loud woohoo! It had taken a little while, but I finally had shot a deer with my 9.3x62.

I made my way across to him and found he was a small 8 pointer, he was a bit skinny from the roar but should make some good sausages.
Putting the rifle back in the gun cabinet I look at my open sighted .404 jeffery, now I need to shoot a deer with that one.
 

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CAustin

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Good read sir! Thanks for sharing!
 

Clayton

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A good read for sure. Yes I to own some S/S & Plastic "fun guns" but I'm still moved by Walnut & Old Iron. And if I weren't half blind I'd still be shooting open sights. Optics will let you reach out there. No denying that. Thanks for the post.
 

sierraone

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A good read for sure. Yes I to own some S/S & Plastic "fun guns" but I'm still moved by Walnut & Old Iron. And if I weren't half blind I'd still be shooting open sights. Optics will let you reach out there. No denying that. Thanks for the post.
Agree with you. The only way I would buy a ss and synthetic is if I hunted Alaska on a regular basis, and I am too old for that now. Walnut and blue steel is my only interest! And yes I need scopes now also!
 

Rem1903a3

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A good read for sure. Yes I to own some S/S & Plastic "fun guns" but I'm still moved by Walnut & Old Iron. And if I weren't half blind I'd still be shooting open sights. Optics will let you reach out there. No denying that. Thanks for the post.
Check out a appiture rear sight,the hole increases actuity,and for some that can't shoot a rear sights with a notch or v ,a appiture makes irons fun, doable again .
 

Ironhorse375

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Nicely done sir. Brings back memories of my first mule deer. With a 250-3000 savage with peep sight and 100 grain bullet I was able to take the button buck Muley. That was 48 years ago and like most of us we now have optics atop our rifles. But maybe these old eyes will try that again next hunt...
 

Shootist43

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Nice old gun and a great story. I have several rifles that still wear iron sights, although I must admit that they are either peep/receiver sights or Tang sights. During daylight hours I can still see well enough to be deadly on deer but dawn and dusk are a problem
 

IdaRam

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Well written and enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing. (y)
I've been an enthusiastic open sight shooter all my life, starting with a BB gun at age 6 and progressing to shooting handgun metallic silhouettes competitively when I was about 12. I've shot competitively on and off in various disciplines ever since.
37 years later there is still a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in being able to hit the mark with an open sight firearm, whether it be long gun or handgun.
I'm headed to South Africa in July and this time my .44 Mag revolver (used to be my dad's) will be going along with me. It will have to wear an optic to get through SAPS but won't stay weighed down with any of that new fangled nonsense for long :D
On the handgun menu this trip - Impala, warthog, zebra, steenbok, duiker, jackal & baboon. Hoping for Serval, Caracal, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and Klipspringer with a rifle as well.
Deteriorating eyesight can certainly make shooting open sights a bit more of a challenge, but good technique and regular practice can really extend the years and enjoyment of open sight shooting. I'm near sighted, -4.25 correction with astigmatism, and I still manage to consistently shoot 2"-3" five shot groups at 50 yards with my open sight revolver. Low light conditions are what give me the most trouble, but a fiber optic front sight helps.
Focus on that all important front sight, whether it be handgun or rifle, will make or break your shooting every time! ;)
And I totally agree with the above comment. An aperture rear sight is usually much better for older eyes.
 

rinehart0050

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Great read- Thank you for sharing.

Regarding open sites rifle hunting, some of my favorite videos are by an open sites hunter- Henrik Lott

Here are some of his videos:
 

rinehart0050

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Cheers @rinehart0050 , yes I 've watched all those videos, they definetly inspired me to get out with opensights.

I suspect I may be headed down the same road! I hunted my lion with an open site CZ550 in 416 rigby. I really enjoyed the challenge of getting close. Interestingly, all the other animals we hunted on our safari were also taken within open site range- nothing further than maybe 150 yds. Made me think that lugging that big scope along may have been unnecessary.

Now I just need to decide if I want to go with a bolt action open site rifle or save up for a double...
 

Milan

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I too am contemplating getting back to open sights. Like many here, aging eyes have been preventing me from doing that. But I'm still trying to have open sights on all my rifles and now I sight them in for up close and all my scopes are on QD mounts for the longer distances.
 

Forrest Halley

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My .458 Lott has somewhat forced open sights upon me. My .375 Model 70 Safari Express has nice open sights. I do not mind them at all. Of course the limits must be understood and embraced.
 
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I had started writing this with the intention of sending it to a magazine for publishing, but I forgot my camera so have no photos of the stag I shot.


Back to Basics
I have always been one to follow the latest trends. I bought my first rifle back in the 1980’s, a sporterised Swedish mauser in 6.5x55. I only managed to shoot one pig and lots of goats with it before I sold it and bought a Remington 700 in 30/06. A number of deer fell to the ‘06 and there was nothing wrong with it. It had blued steel and a walnut stock and never let me down. But like all young men I wanted bigger and better, synthetic stocks and stainless steel were the latest fashion accessories and I wanted them.

Eventually I bought another Remington, still in 30/06 but this one had a slim stainless steel barrel and synthetic stock. I still have it, but not much of it is left. It has a new barrel and is on its third stock, this one is carbon fibre. No need to get up close and see the whites of their eyes, deer out to 600 yards are as good as in the bag. Laser range finders, high powered scopes and ballistic apps on smart phones mean a shot this far away is a sure thing.

I’m now in my early 40’s and time for a mid-life crisis. I could get a mistress or convertible but instead I decided to look back, not forward, for once.
I shot my first deer in July 1987. It was on a Waikato NZDA organised hunt to Waihaha in Pureora. I was 16 and the ink on my firearms licence was only just dry. We walked in on a Friday night and I carried my father’s .303 jungle carbine. I had never fired it before but had been given the drill about how it worked. No telescopic sights adorned this beast, only aperture sights, the always up battle sight with the large aperture for the gloom of the jungle and the flip up aperture for the long shots.

The next morning I filled up the 10 shot mag with 20 year old CAC 180gr bullets, look out deer! I attached myself to Phil and his GSP Jacques. Phil had helped my friend shoot his first deer earlier in the year, so I figured Phil was the man to help me. He gave me some advice on how to hunt with my rifle safely, bolt pushed forward and safety on holding the bolt in place.

Amazingly, 6 hours later I had shot my first deer! Coming over a rise I had seen a yearling standing broadside on in the open bush, taking off the safety and closing the bolt I pointed the rifle in the general direction of the deer and yanked the trigger. Not surprisingly I missed! Luckily the deer only moved a step or two and quartered away from me. Taking a bit more time with the second shot I put the blade of the front sight behind the front leg and squeezed the trigger. This time the shot connected and the deer ran off.

Stopping where the deer had stood I asked Phil if we should look for blood, but Jacques was on the deer’s trail and within 40 metres he found it. I was hooked! I never hunted with Phil again and it took me 4 years to get my next deer.



There is something about blued steel, walnut and classic rifle design that captures your imagination. Hopefully by returning to some of the features of my first hunt I would recapture some of the exhilaration and excitement of 30 years ago.

Mauser, the name means a lot to firearms enthusiasts. To some Paul Mauser’s original design hasn’t been improved on. I don’t know if I buy in to that, but the name and especially Mauser Oberndorf mean big game hunting. I managed to track down a Mauser Oberndorf Type B in 9.3x62. This rifle was made in 1924 and had spent most of its time in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. The blueing is worn and the stock has marks all over it. Carrying this rifle you know you are holding history in your hands. It has shot most of the African game, probably buffalo and maybe elephant. One day I will take it back to Africa and reacquaint it with kudu, impala, wildebeest and hopefully a bushbuck.



The rifle is designed perfectly for open sights; it has a lot more drop at the heel compared to a modern rifle. Yours eyes naturally look right down the barrel and line up the sights. The wide V of the rear sight giving a wide field of view, perfect for elephant at 10 yards. The fore-end is slim and fits snugly in your hand. The sling swivel is on the barrel so that it does not contact your hand under recoil and so the rifle sits lower on the shoulder when being carried. This is not the sort of rifle that you shoot lying prone, off a bipod. At only 7.5 pounds, no recoil pad and firing a 286 grain projectile it certainly gets your attention when you pull the trigger.
The ammunition that came with the rifle was factory Norma 286gr soft point. This ammo doesn’t break any speed records, a leisurely 2200 fps, but a 286gr projectile at this velocity doesn’t take prisoners. Norma obviously prescribed to the momentum theory rather than explosive expansion. But then what would you want on a raking shot at a departing buffalo?



I’ve managed to replicate this load using ADI 2208 and 286gr prvi partisan projectiles. It is possible to get the 286gr going quite a bit faster using BLC2, but it shoots too high with the open sights.

I am going to have to dig out the old bush stalking skills and get personal with the animals again. I am sure they will show the whites of their eyes when they see the size of the hole down the barrel.

My first trip out with the 9.3 was to Kaikoura, not really bush stalking but I can’t shoot anything with it if I leave it in the gun cabinet. One billy goat paused and looked at us at 70 odd yards. A quick rest over the pack on a rock and a single shot through the shoulder had him tumbling down towards us. Not quite a cape buffalo, but I was on the board with the 9.3.



The next trip was 7 days in the Kaimanawas after sika. My bush stalking skills were put to the test, but no sika were sighted. One unfortunate possum fell to a 286gr handload.

I didn’t get the opportunity to go out much over the roar, one day trip got us close to some deer, but I didn’t get a look at them.
Then I had an overnight trip to an area I normally take my magnum , as shots are usually across gullies at 300yds. But I figured with the right opportunity and sticking close to the bush edge I might get a shot around 100yds.

The first night I saw 4 deer, 2stags and 2 hinds, but they were over a kilometre away so I just watched them. The next morning my plans to hunt the bush edge were scuppered due to a tail wind. I changed plans and headed out onto a spot that let me see down into several basins. My binoculars quickly found 2 stags about 700yds away feeding out in the open, trying to put on condition after the roar. I quickly moved about 100 yds down the hill towards them and stopped to check they were still there. I picked up one in the thick scrub heading back in to the bush and couldn’t see the other one.

I carried on glassing to see if anything else was out and quickly picked a third stag on the other side of the gully and only 300 yds away. If I could get down into the gully without being seen I might be able to close the gap. Staying crouched I hoped if he saw me he wouldn’t be too alarmed. But after 50 yds he saw me and quickly moved off. I followed him, hoping he might stop just over the ridge. Half way across the face I looked back down where the first two stags had been and saw a deer standing on the ridge. Putting the glasses on it I saw it was a hind, and then noticed one of the stags feeding in amongst the scrub.

I snuck back to the gully, trying not to roll too many rocks. I had lost sight of the stag but hadn’t seen him move off so I carried on. Part way down I took off my gaiters as they made a lot of noise if rubbed through a bush. Eventually I was down close to the stag, but the wind was switching and I wasn’t holding my breath on seeing him. I finally got to the ridge without seeing him, perhaps I should have brought my scoped Brno 7x57.

On the ridge I sat down and got the glasses out again, amazingly there was another stag in the next gully. He was the same height as me but about 250yds away. Keeping low I snuck through the scrub towards him. I had a place in mind where I could shoot from and was hoping he kept feeding. He looked up once and I froze, but soon he was feeding again. I carried on sneaking along and was about 5 yds from a small stump I could use as a rest when my pack scrapped against a bush. The stag immediately looked in my direction, bugger! I was crouched down partially obscured behind some bushes so figured if I waited long enough he would keep feeding. Where he was standing I could see his shoulder, neck and head. He kept staring trying to make out what I was.

Bugger it I‘m close enough. Sitting down I shuffled sideways and rested my elbows on knees and sighted on his shoulder. Front sight, front sight, front sight. Keeping the sight on the centre of his shoulder I squeezed off the shot. As the rifle recoiled I lost sight of the stag, but heard the satisfying slap of the bullet hitting the stag. Catching sight of the stag I saw him cart wheeling down through the scrub. I let out a loud woohoo! It had taken a little while, but I finally had shot a deer with my 9.3x62.

I made my way across to him and found he was a small 8 pointer, he was a bit skinny from the roar but should make some good sausages.
Putting the rifle back in the gun cabinet I look at my open sighted .404 jeffery, now I need to shoot a deer with that one.
@stuff
At my age I have trouble with open sights but changed the old opens for a set of fibre optic sights for my old Winchester 92. Easy as now out the red dot between the 2 green dots and go bang. I can get inch and a half 5 shot groups out of the old girl now whereas before couldn't line the sights and target up.
Great fun going back to basics
Bib
 

Professor Mawla

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I find that every hunter of dangerous game should Master the skill of shooting with open iron sights .
B494EB3A-3DF0-48CB-8D02-2F3DE0DF8CBC.jpeg

While I invariably use the telescopic sights on my .458 Winchester Magnum to take the first shot , I always remove the telescopic sight when I need to spoor wounded game animals . For instinctive close quarters shooting , open iron sights with a wide V back sight and uncovered ivory bead fore sight are the most practical .

Since we also often hunt by having beats conducted , learning to shoot with open iron sights is a very vital skill .
 

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leslie hetrick

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the older remington 721-722,s have the right drop for open sights and i use the in thick cover and bad weather.
 
 

 

 

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