I know how important it is to find the right type of gun sight.
If you choose the wrong one, all you’ll be getting is poor accuracy and miss when it counts.
But don’t sweat it.
Here, I’ll be going over every type of gun sight you’ll come across on the market and what each of them excels at.
In no time, you’ll know which ones are right for you and which ones you don’t need to waste time thinking about.
For specific scope recommendations after reading this see our post on the best holographic sights of 2023.
- Selecting the right gun sight is absolutely important, but the common choice for most people might not be the right one for you.
- Each gun sight is designed with a specific purpose and shooting style in mind.
- Choose the right gun sight for your preferences and shooting needs.
The Different Types of Gun Sights
Open Sights/Iron Sights
I find iron sights, also known as open sights, to be the most basic type of gun sight. It’s also the most common. They usually consist of a front post and a rear notch, which you align to aim at your target.
I particularly enjoy the increased sight picture provided by these sights, but wind corrections and precise alignment can be challenging.
Iron sights, while simple, require practice to master them.
Peep sights are another variation of iron sights. What you’d do is look through a small hole in the rear sight and center the front sight on the target. The sight radius is longer in peep sights, which helps improve accuracy.
Fiber Optic Sights
Fiber optic sights use brightly colored fibers to create a visible sight picture. I find these helpful in low-light situations, although they do not glow as tritium does.
That said, these sights work great for fast target acquisition, are superior to iron sights in accuracy (even at longer ranges), and work better in bright light than night sights.
These are basically upgraded iron sights that glow.
Reflex sights are great for fast target acquisition with both eyes open. The illuminated reticle really makes aiming easier in various lighting conditions, and it’s best suited for short-range applications.
Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights also use an illumination reticle, which provides a clear aiming point for targeting. These sights do not have magnification, making them ideal for close-range shooting as well.
Think quick tactical shots.
Quite a simple concept, laser sights project a laser beam onto the target. I find these sights especially useful for low-light conditions. Green lasers tend to be more visible than red lasers.
Holographic sights are similar to reflex sights, but they use laser-generated reticles in combination with holographic technology instead of just standard illumination.
So, what you end up with is a reticle that looks like it’s on the same plane level as the target. I find it convenient that they can also co-witness with iron sights if necessary. It doesn’t retain any magnification, but it does pair really well with magnifiers.
Telescopic sights, or scopes, are used for close to long-range shooting. They offer magnification, precision, and adjustments for windage and elevation.
With these scopes, you’ll find tons of different options that can do the job at any distance you may need, whether that’s 100 yards or 1 mile away. Typically, I use the duplex reticle in rifle scopes. Simple, straightforward, and great for hunting.
Thermal and Night Vision
These sights are designed for low-light or nighttime use. Thermal sights detect heat signatures, while night vision sights amplify the existing light.
Depending on the application and budget, these sights can be quite useful for specific shooting scenarios.
Which Is the Right One for You?
When it comes to choosing the right gun sight for me, I consider a few key factors: application, budget, and my shooting preferences.
For example, if I’m mainly using my firearm for long-range shooting, I might opt for a high-quality scope. However, if my primary focus is home defense, a red dot sight or holographic sight could be a better fit.
Budget plays a role too. Mid-range scopes can offer good value, while high-end options can be a considerable investment. Be sure to keep in mind that sometimes you get what you pay for.
Zeroing in on a sight also depends on how much practice you’re willing to put in. Iron sights require more skill and practice, while electronic sights can offer faster target acquisition and easier use.
Ultimately, the right gun sight for you depends on your personal preferences and shooting goals. I highly recommend exploring different options and finding what works best for your individual needs before making huge investments in one type of sight.
Types of Open Sights
Now, let’s clear up some confusion you might have.
Open sights, sometimes called “iron sights,” are critical for accurate shooting.
Typically, there are two main types: notch sights and peep or aperture sights.
Notch sights consist of a rear sight and a front post, and aligning these helps the shooter aim. Peep sights have a circular rear aperture which naturally centers the front sight, providing increased precision.
Both types require a keen eye and steady hand, but they can significantly enhance your shooting accuracy once you’ve mastered their use. Choosing between them boils down to personal preference and situational requirements.
Types of Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights are an exceptional aiming tool, mainly used for rapid target acquisition.
They generally fall into two types: exposed and tube sights.
Exposed sights, or mini reflex sights, have an LED projected onto a lens, giving you an aiming point. They’re compact and excellent for handguns.
Tube sights, on the other hand, are more akin to traditional scopes but with an illuminated reticle. They often have protective housing and can handle more robust environments.
Both types offer unlimited eye relief and can significantly improve shooting speed and accuracy, especially in dynamic situations.#
Check out more of the differences between these two optics and another sight commonly compared to them, the holographic sight:
For more reading see our article on reflex vs holo sights.
What does iron sight mean?
Iron sight refers to a simple sighting system on firearms. It involves aligning a front post with a rear notch to aim at the target accurately.
What are the different sights for guns?
There are various different sights for guns, including iron sights, reflex sights, holographic sights, red dot sights, thermal scopes, night vision scopes, and telescopic sights. Each type offers different aiming advantages.
What is the most common gun sight?
The most common gun sight is the iron sight, as it’s found on most firearms. It’s simple, reliable, and doesn’t require batteries or electronics.
What are the different types of rear sights?
The two main different types of rear sights you can find are notch sights and aperture (peep) sights. Notch sights have a V-shaped or U-shaped cut, while aperture sights have a small hole.
What are the two types of sights?
The two primary types of sights are open sights and closed sights. Open sights consist of a front post and a rear notch, while closed sights enclose the aiming elements.
Alice Jones Webb is a writer, life-long hunter, experienced shooter, and mother of 4 up-and-coming shooting and outdoor enthusiasts. Her opinions are respected around the industry and have been featured on leading firearm publications such as PewPewTactical.com, Recoilweb.com and MuckRack.com, amongst amongst others. She grew up flinging arrows and bullets at Virginia whitetails, turkey, and game birds, but her favorite hunting experience is chasing bull elk in the Colorado backcountry. Never one to sit still and look pretty, Alice is also a self-defense instructor and competitive archer. She currently resides in rural North Carolina with her children, non-hunting husband, and a well-stocked chest freezer. Contact me at: