How to Aim with Iron Sights – Step-By-Step-Guide

Being able to aim and shoot accurately with iron sights is an essential skill that every gun owner and marksman should know. However, it is a skill that takes a lot of time, patience, and dedicated practice, and even veteran gun owners can sometimes struggle with it, preferring to rely on their scope of choice. That being said, it is a skill that is well worth the time and effort and learning how to aim with iron sights will significantly improve your shooting skills in the long run. Here is a basic rundown of the technique.

To aim accurately, you must ensure a straight line between the rear sight, front sight, and target center. As a rule of thumb, ensure that the front sight is in focus, as this is the single biggest thing that will improve your accuracy.

Lining up a perfect shot takes time and focus and involves a few steps several steps: sight alignment, breath control, trigger control, and finally the follow-through. 

All of these techniques are important for all types of shooting, whether you are using a scope or iron sighs, but learning to perfect them with iron sights will also dramatically improve your scope shooting and your marksmanship overall in the long run.

Sight Alignment

This refers to the importance of having proper alignment between the front and rear sights. As discussed previously, this will vary a lot depending on the exact sight setup. However, the most important thing to remember is that you are aiming in two dimensions: up and down and left to right. Keeping your front and rear sights aligned in both dimensions is the first step to proper sight alignment.

Breath Control

Controlling your breath is one of the most important skills in shooting, no matter what sights you are using. When practicing breath control, you are trying to take the shot when your body is at its stillest, which is the moment when your lungs are fully empty of breath.

Take in a full breath of air before you shoot and then slowly exhale. When you are empty of breath, and before you take the next one, take the shot.

Trigger Control

Any movement from the shooter has the potential to misalign the iron sights, and this includes pulling the trigger. Without proper care, even this smallest of movements can throw off your shot. Squeeze the trigger in one smooth motion, keeping your sights aligned. It should almost be a surprise when the gun fires.

Follow Through

Even after you have fired your shot, you should continue to stay in your chosen shooting position. Hold the trigger for a moment before releasing it in the same smooth way that you pulled it.

Adjusting Your Sights

Everyone has slightly different eyesight, so it is very important to ensure that your iron sights are sighted correctly before you begin shooting. The adjustments that can commonly be made are grouped into two categories, called windage for the left to right, and elevation for up and down. Start by firing a small grouping of three to four shots. Check your target to see where they land and adjust your sights accordingly.

For example, if your shots are landing too high, then you may need to lower the sights a little. If they are too much to the left, move your sights to the right. Make small adjustments before firing the next group. Most sights come with adjustment dials or tools, but you might need to invest in a sight pusher to ensure they are completely on target.

Once your gun is sighted properly to you, you shouldn’t need to readjust them again, but make sure you make the correct adjustments as soon as possible. If you can, ask someone with more knowledge to check them for you, as having badly aligned iron sights can seriously harm your shooting down the road.

Common Types of Iron Sights

While iron sights can come in many shapes and forms, they can be broadly categorized into two forms: open sights and peep or aperture sights, referring to the type of rear sight. When using an open sight, position the middle of the front sight in the middle of the rear sight.

Each specific open rear sight will take some getting used to, as they come in many shapes. Most will feature a notch in the rear sight, which may be square, triangle, or even V-shaped. However, no matter the shape of the front sight, always make sure that the middle of the front sight is positioned in the middle of the rear sight.

Aiming with aperture rear sights is a little more involved, as there are no indexing points on the sights to ensure they are centered properly. A little trial and error will be required to get the sights properly lined up.

Pros and Cons of Using Iron Sights

Using iron sights instead of a scope may be largely a personal decision that can only be made by the individual marksman, however, there are some definite pros and cons to using them:


  • Lower weight
  • Better durability
  • Much cheaper than more complex alternatives
  • Improved shooting in the long run


  • Unsuitable for long distances
  • Harder to adjust
  • Difficult to use in low light conditions


In conclusion, learning how to aim with iron sights can be a challenge at first. They are much simpler than more modern, high-tech alternatives, but they take more practice to get right. However, that being said, learning to use iron sights can greatly improve your shooting in the long term, especially if you are just beginning your shooting journey and are trying to build up experience. They can also be very rewarding to use, just for their simplicity and the great feeling that comes from not having to rely on complex scopes or dots.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.