The invention of iron sights made rifles accurate and precise and transformed them from mere metal spraying sticks to an invincible weapon. Iron sights are still used and are important to teach shooters the basics of aiming. Technology has replaced them to a wide extent with increasingly powerful scopes, but the importance of sights has still not faded.
Here we’ll be talking about the importance of an iron sight and how can you choose one for your AR-15. We will also review some of the best AR-15 iron sights available on the market to help you make a choice.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Iron Sights for the AR-15
Troy Industries Inc. AR-15 HK-Style Front Sight Set
Diamondhead USA Inc. AR-15 Integrated Sighting System
Magpul AR-15 Mbus Gen 2 Sight Set
Ozark Armament Flip Up Backup Battle Sights
FAB Defense Front and Rear Set of Flip Up Sights
Aren’t Sights Outdated?
Sights are still not a thing of the past. Technology might have given us planes to fly, but we still need legs and must learn to walk. The same is the case with iron sights. There are a ton of different types of optics out there. Ranging from AOC, MARS, red dot sights - you name it.
It doesn’t matter what optics you use. But you still should learn the basics of sight calibration and aiming (creating sight pictures and all that stuff).
An iron sight is helpful in teaching an amateur the basics of aiming and shooting. The latest optics are great for sighting distant targets properly, but you still need to learn basic aiming skills.
Coming to the more logical part, using iron sights is an undoubtedly reliable backup for your AR-15. We know optics are somewhat delicate and they are susceptible to breakdowns. Maybe your optic’s battery dies or gets broken during a hunting trip. But you can still use iron sights to aim and shoot targets precisely, even if you may not achieve the same range.
Iron sights need no electric power to operate and are tough as a rock to bear even the most rigorous thrashing - important factors for any shooter, but especially if you’re planning to use the rifle in a SHTF situation - or a zombie apocalypse. Your sights are going to be there and stay in place even in situations where other devices may fail.
Wrapping it up, we can say iron sights are a good backup, teach you to rely on basic shooting skills and are of course are less expensive than optics.
What to look for in Iron Sights
Before choosing an iron sight for your AR-15, there are several important factors you might consider. A balanced combination of these characteristics will result in a reliable and durable iron sight for your rifle.
Flip-up or Fixed
As the name suggests, a flip-up sight can be flipped up when needed and folded down when not. On the other hand, a fixed sight stays erect all the time. Flip-up sights are the most common ones manufactured these days. They can be used in conjunction with optics since you can fold them down to keep them out of your way. Fixed sights, on the other hand, are more durable and tough.
Stainless steel, aluminum and polymer are the three most commonly-used materials for manufacturing sights. Steel sights are extremely tough and long-lasting but heavier in weight. Polymer is lightweight but not very durable. Aluminum falls in the middle with the strength of a metal and light weight of a polymer. But using stainless steel sights is however recommended for durability.
Often all sights manufactured from these materials are referred to as “iron sights” even when they’re actually polymer or aluminum.
Ease of Use and Visibility
Some iron sights might require you to use an allen wrench, screwdriver or even coins to make adjustments in windage and elevation. You must prefer choosing sights which have a knob or a gear to make adjustments using your bare hands.
Another important factor is the visibility. There are hi-vis and tritium posts available on the market which glow in the dark and offer better visibility with or without NOD’s.
Aperture and Iron Sight Style
Aperture, which is also known as the peephole, is used to aim at targets and helps in creating a proper sight picture. Iron sights may feature different aperture styles such as a diamond aperture, hollow aperture and others.
Apart from that, iron sights of different styles are also available on the market. This specifically refers to 45-degree (offset) sights which can be used by tilting the rifle and are very useful when transitioning between long-range and short-range shots.
Quick Take - The Best AR-15 Iron Sights
These are our recommendations for the best iron sights forthe AR-15:
Reviews of the Best Iron Sights for the AR-15
Let’s have a look at a few sights that could make your shooting more accurate and fun.
This iron sight set from the renowned manufacturer Troy Industries Inc. is an HK-style same-plane sight. The sight features a flip mechanism which locks it in place. The spring-loaded button on the sides prevents the rear sight from accidentally flipping up or down when not needed. The rear features two different aperture styles. The large one provides a wide field of view for close range targets whereas the smaller aperture helps in shooting long-range targets.
These sights can be attached to any standard Picatinny rail using a flathead screwdriver. These sights are also available in a self-illuminating tritium dot variant for shooting in low-light conditions.
- Spring-loaded mechanism to prevent accidental flipping
- HK-Style rear with two same-plane apertures
- Globe-shaped front sight for quicker target acquisition
- No protruding knobs
- Easy to Install
- High Price
- Compatible only with Picatinny rails
This integrated sighting system features a diamondhead aperture which provides specific reference points to help you center eyes on the target instantly. These sights are made of 6061 T6 aluminum and have a type III hardcoat anodized matte black finish.
This is a same-plane iron sight featuring a flip-up design operated by a manual mechanism which also helps the sights remain zeroed in. The front sight has angled ears to protect the A2-type post and serve as a visual reference point. The rear sight features dual same-plane short- and long-range apertures. Overall, the iron sight features an amazing design providing you features close to an optic.
- Accurate and easy to aim
- Easy to Adjust
- Lightweight aluminum design with quality construction
- Diamondhead aperture
- Angled ears on front sight
- High Price (although reasonable for this design)
- Fits only Picatinny rails
- Manual flipping system
This Mbus Gen 2 sight set from Magpul is an amazing pair of sights for your AR-15. It has been manufactured using injection-molded reinforced polymer. This means it’s both lightweight and sturdy enough to last a few years.
This sight set features a spring-loaded ambidextrous mechanism which can be used to fold down the sights with a simple button push. This is a same-plane sight which takes less than one inch of space on your Picatinny rail and locks securely with a steel crossbolt.
The windage-adjustable rear sight has two apertures. This is a low-profile foldable sight which can be used precisely in conjunction with other mounted optics.
- Easy to install, aesthetically pleasing and tough
- Ambidextrous one-touch operation
- Good for hunting, target practice and competitions
- Low profile design
- Works only with standard Picatinny rails
- Not compatible with railed gas blocks or MOE handguard
Ozark Armament offers this super-cheap alternative if your sights are just going to be BUIS. These flip-up sights have been manufactured from milled aluminum and have a spring loaded mechanism for quick deployment. These are same-plane sights which can be mounted on the rail of your AR-15. The rear sight has click adjustments for windage and features both precision and CQB apertures.
The package includes an allen wrench which can be used to install the sight on the rail of your AR-15. These iron sights are an amazing option if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and still need a good piece of aiming equipment. The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty on this product and the customer support from Ozark is outstanding.
- Very Low Price
- Lightweight and durable aluminum body
- Easy to install and operate
- Both precision and CQB apertures on rear sight
- One-year warranty and outstanding customer support
- Doesn’t include an elevation adjustment tool
- Fits only Picatinny rails
These FAB Defense sights are made of a combination of metal and polymer and feature a foldable design. They are lightweight and durable due to the material combination and offer ambidextrous deployment and control.
The spring-based locking mechanism keeps the sights in place when flipped up or down. There are finger adjustments for elevation on the front post and windage on the rear.
These same-plane mounting sights do not occupy much space on the rails and can be operated easily and quickly. The low-profile design does not meddle with other mounted optics. It’s compatible only with mil-spec Picatinny rails.
- Metal and polymer combination of materials
- Finger adjustments for windage and elevation
- Low profile
- Spring-based locking mechanism
- Ambidextrous operation
- Polymer components won’t last long
- Fits only mil-spec Picatinny rails
Gas Block vs Same Plane Sights
AR-15 iron sights come in a couple of varieties, namely gas block sights and same-plane sights. Their name itself suggests their position on your rifle.
The basic principle is that you need to have the front and back posts at the same height to aim correctly.
In gas block sights, the front post is mounted on the gas block on the muzzle and the rear post is mounted on its usual position (on top of receiver’s rear end). The front post is almost a quarter-inch longer than the rear one to compensate the drop between the receiver and muzzle’s height.
On the other hand, posts in same plane sights are of the same height and are mounted at the same level. The front post is mounted on the top forward end of the rail/handguard and the rear post is mounted in its usual position.
Using a gas block sight might save you some space on your rails as compared to same-plane sights. In the end, using either of these with your AR-15 is only a matter of personal discretion.
Iron sights are an important component of an AR-15 which not only help in teaching the basics of shooting to amateurs but also serves as a backup. Iron sights are durable and stronger than optics and will serve as your backup if batteries dry out or your optics get damaged.
Before choosing an iron sight for your AR-15, you should consider several factors such as material, aperture type, ease of use, visibility, design (flip up or fixed), mounting options and type (gas block or same plane).