Shooting Mystery is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Aim with Iron Sights: Complete Rifle & Pistol Guide

How to Aim with Iron Sights

What makes a true marksman is the ability to hit a target using different sighting devices.

It might be intimidating and tedious to set up and zero iron sights but in reality, it just takes patience and a few adjustments.

When iron sights are zeroed, you’ll be hitting apples off people’s heads without any effort! Let’s get started on how to aim with iron sights!

How to Aim with Iron Sights: Step-by-Step Procedure


Step 1: Sight Alignment

Sight alignment is the first thing you want to check before you fire any shot. It’s crucial to hitting your target so make sure your gun has the right sight alignment of its front and rear sights.

When your eye is directly lined up with the front sight, imagine a line that connects the centers of the front sight and rear sight. This should be leveled and kept at equal distance from all sides of the sights at all times. (You can also adjust sight radius.)

If the imaginary line has too much gap on the left, it will throw you off your aim. ALWAYS FOCUS on your front sight, keeping in mind that you should see a portion of the top of the blade sight, with equal distance to your rear sight.

You should be able to see an even and level line extending to the rear sights.

For pistols or rifles with open sights, the proper alignment would be having the center of the front sight in equal distance from both sides of the rear sight notch.

What about the rear sight eyepiece?

If your rifle has a rear sight eyepiece which is an aperture or a peep sight, the top of the front sight should be in the center of the aperture.

This means the imaginary middle point at the top of the front sight should be in the middle of the aperture sight or peep sight.

But if both sights are apertures, the center or middle point of the front aperture should also be right in the middle of the rear aperture. Thus, your rear sight should center in the middle of the front sight.

For shotguns, you can take a look at our Guide on Shotgun Bead Sights for more information.

Step 2: Sight Picture

Remember, your eye focus should be on the front sight.

If you look at an object or thing, the other elements become blurry, right? Our eyes can only process 1 sight picture or focus at a time.

When using iron sights, keep in mind to focus on the FRONT. There are three common sight pictures you can focus on that aid in precision shooting:

Center of Mass

This refers to a misalignment of Point of Aim (POA) and Point of Impact (POI) when a shot is fired.

The bullet lands a few inches away from the POI. This calls for an adjustment in one iron sight or both. Once the sights are aligned, the middle of the top front sight should point at the center of the target.

Line of White

This is more helpful when the target is black or of dark color. Some like to put a white dot or line on their front or rear sights, which would leave their focus on the white dot when aiming.

When the dot is aligned to the sights and target, fire a shot or… waste all your bullets like we did.

Six O’Clock Hold

A usual technique commonly used is the six o’clock hold. It requires the shooter to point the gun below the bullseye, effectively lowering the angle of the gun.

First, scan the area and lock in on the position of your target.

Aim your front sight at the target. Once you have confirmed your sight picture, check your sight alignment, then try a batch of shots to see if you have the correct aim.

More Useful Tips to Help You Land a Hole-in-One With Iron Sights

More Useful Tips

#1 Breath Control

Aside from a pair of aligned iron sights, it’s important to pay attention to your breathing.

When shooting, keep your body as calm as possible. You can do this by being mindful and controlling your breathing.

Pro tip and fact for target shooters: Know what separates Good Deadpool from Bad Deadpool? Poor. Lousy. Breathing.

Take a breath and slowly exhale before you position your firearm. Raise your rifle to eye level and point to your target. When you’re at your most relaxed state, that’s when you pull the trigger.

#2 Trigger and Hold Control

Secondary to breath control is how you hold your gun and the trigger.

You should have a good grip on your firearm. When purchasing, whether it’s an AR 15 or a pistol, it’s important to try it on your hand to know if the fit is comfortable or not.

The common trigger placement when holding rifles or handguns is having the pad of your first joint of your index finger on the trigger.


Because it gives the shooter a controlled but smooth trigger press when firing a shot.

For instance, if a shooter has his or her fingertip on the trigger, there is more risk of sliding and pulling it accidentally.

#3 Know Your Ammo

Ammo isn’t just ammo. It’s more than that and useful when aiming.

Once you become familiar with the trajectory and recoil of certain ammo, it’s much easier to focus and hit your POA. During practice sessions, note the difference between or among ammunitions.

Remember: Ammo also affects the iron sight zero. The weight, bullet-style, and velocity all play a factor in making sure that POA and POI meet.

Why Choose Iron Sights


Nowadays, shooters rush to buy and invest in high-tech accessories such as magnification optics, scopes, and red dot optics.

There’s no problem with that. But save some dignity for yourself too!

Iron sights are a good option for rifles that are often overlooked. Before we go through the step-by-step guide on how to aim iron sights, let’s quickly go through the pros of iron sights.

Aside from the unique gratification, one gets from being able to hit a target through the use of iron sights, there are some advantages to using them as well:

  • They are one of, if not the most, cost-efficient sighting device any shooter can have. Most are usually built-in or come together with the gun. If not, they are very cheap. Unlike a scope, magnification optics, or red dot sights, they can last long without changing batteries or lenses. This leads to the next advantage: durability.
  • Iron sights can withstand almost any impact or weather without acquiring much damage. They are highly durable, as evidenced by the weapons used in world wars or in the army.
  • They are the top option to increase mobility. Iron sights are easy to carry and are lightweight when installed on a gun or on firearms. Their design and weight make it easy for any shooter to move from a place to another, even with full ammo. They are a trusty option for short distance to mid-range shooting. You can set them to be used as backup iron sights (BUIS)!

Since the iron sights are adjustable, the design provides a horizontal reference point and vertical baseline as well which can help increase accuracy for every shot.

You can check out some of our top iron sights for your AR15 if you’re interested.

What to Expect When Using Iron Sights

Although it has a lot of advantages, the common reason why iron sights can be difficult is due to what is known as a “plane of focus”.

There is a bit of a challenge when it comes to sight alignment, compared to when using red dots or a gun with a specialized scope.

Here’s a better explanation: A regular magnification scope only requires having the target within the crosshairs, limiting the focus on a single target.

Since the crosshairs lie on the same plane, this makes them more convenient to use and direct.

With red dot scopes, the shooter only needs to place the dot over the desired area or a part of the target. Red dots also come in handy over long distances or when the location or area has low visibility.

With iron sights, the challenging part is having three focal points – the poster blade or blade sight (front sight) and the rear sight at the back counts as two points.

So in other words…

Red dots are for rookies. kidding. But seriously, if you can aim well with a regular scope, then a red dot would be FAR EASIER.



We hope we have provided you with useful information on how to aim with iron sights.

The next step?

Grab your rifle and your choice of ammo and head to the nearest shooting range to practice your iron sights.

See if you can top Deadpool’s score.



May 4, 2022 - Made minor revisions to content
March 8, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
September 16, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, updated article title

About the author