TACTICAL TRAINING: Maintain the Ability to Shoot With Iron Sights

If you can’t remember the last time you saw this then its time to take the EOTECH off your rifle and hit the range

During some pre-deployment training I was going through for a gig some time ago I had to qualify at the range with a pistol and rifle along with a group of other guys.  None of the guys I was with were worried about not qualifying, they were all ex-‘this and that’s’ so doing a simple “loot and shoot” weapons qual was a ‘no biggie’ for them.

That is until we go to the range, and 30% of them flunked the rifle quals like a mo-fo, I am not talking about not qualifying by a few rounds – most of their targets looked like someone blasted it with a shotgun full of buckshot from the hip.

Even after retrying a couple of times less than half of them passed, the other half, took the “slow plane of shame” back home while waving bye-bye to a six-figure job. And the guys who passed on the first try didn’t do a hell of a lot better; about a quarter of them still had targets that looked like Helen Keller was shooting at it.

Like I said above, all of these guys were former military, law enforcement, contractors and a few greener guys with some solid weapons training under their belts.

So why did they do so miserably at the range?

Simple – Iron Sights

Most of these guys have been using some sort of optic for so long they had completely forgotten how to shoot with iron sights – and when they had to run and gun with iron sights it was just pitiful.

You should have seen the looks on some of their faces when the instructors started handing out M-4’s with straight-up factory iron sights. The mumbling started right away; “open sights, are you serious?” and “fuck man, I didn’t know we weren’t using optics”, one guy even asked “who’s issuing the ACOG’s?”

Not much more I can add to this article except these two things:

1. If you are considering a career in security contracting learn (or re-learn) how to shoot without optics. As Bubba M. would say “there are no golden connex’s in the suck” so don’t expect to get issued a rifle with a shiny new EoTech.

2. Even if you are not planning a career in security contracting you may want to spend some time on the range or in a training course shooting from open sights. Just saying.

And how did I do? Well, I have never used optics on my rifles so “top of the class on the M-4 baby”

—————————————————————————————

~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns with iron sights and writing poorly written articles

Be Sociable, Share!

35 thoughts on “TACTICAL TRAINING: Maintain the Ability to Shoot With Iron Sights”

  1. So god damn true. Technology is nice but what happens when you trip and bust your red-dot to pieces? Take a time out? Dont think so.
    Do not underestimate the importance of knowing how to handle your weapon with or with out bling.

      (Quote This Comment)

  2. Very true. Always be prepared for a “worst case scenario”. After all it might just save you life.

      (Quote This Comment)

  3. Iron sights are the base of any weapons platform. Personally, I won’t even buy a hunting rifle if it doesn’t have iron sights on it…and most don’t! You never know when that primary optic is going down for the count – whether the seal goes and the glass fogs or the whole thing gets run over or crushed – you can always fall back on the irons – so long as you have them and you know how to use them.

      (Quote This Comment)

  4. P.S.> Where is the eye patch on my pirate avatar?

      (Quote This Comment)

  5. Honestly, I don’t use optics much at all. Except shooting prairie dogs at 300 yards with my (no, my ex-wife’s) Rem 700. I really don’t even use iron sights either. I just shoot. Check out Roger Phillips, the SI instructor of the Point Shooting Progressions class…. this crap works. It’s stupid. At least out to 20 yards or so. Then it’s Gabe Suarez’s “cave man eotech” which is look through the AK front sight hoop and blast it. If you can’t shoot minute of hadji at 100 yards with iron sights, you just need to either go home or buy yourself six sets of optics and hang them on your tactically very cool multi-rail handguard.
    James, great article.

      (Quote This Comment)

  6. James,

    I have friends who competitive shoot through CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) and they are iron sight die hards. As it has been said by many “Batteries die, scopes crack and technology breaks, but you can rely on old iron sights.”

      (Quote This Comment)

  7. Wow… too bad they did not keep up with their basic skills. But to be honest, 6 figure jobs, and the contracting company could not issue them a thousand dollars worth of glass?

    Next thing you’ll know, people are going to have to use a map and a protractor, and dump the vehicles for foot patrols.

    But back to reality. Glass breaks, batteries run dry, and if you cannot use your iron sights, then you forgot that there is a Mr. Murphy lurking around the corner, waiting to fuck your day up.

      (Quote This Comment)

  8. Only “High Speed” optical enhancement I own for the M4 is an illuminated front sight.

    Too many things to go wrong, things cost a fortune and it’s not like I’m doing CQB every day. (which is why god gave us grenades anyway)

      (Quote This Comment)

  9. Bravo, James. I agree whole-heartedly that maintaining your skill with irons is essential. K.I.S.S. definitely applies. I always favor balance though, and would warn any well rounded operator to make sure that a K.I.S.S. attitude doesn’t make you a S.I.S.S. (stuck in simplistic stupidity).

      (Quote This Comment)

  10. I still see a lots of people without backup sights…

      (Quote This Comment)

  11. Here’ the thing – I have NEVER been issued an optic on a job. It’s usually some broke-ass, monkey-humped AK 47 with a splintered stock and bent front sight post.

    Be ready to encounter iron sights and marginal field equipment, and definitely have your own fixes to settle the debate.

    As well, if you bring your own gear in country, never fly through Amman. Your shit won’t make it out of the airport – this includes nice optics that the Jordanian Police must have a penchant for.

    it is what it is… get out and train.

      (Quote This Comment)

  12. I would like to say that I am shocked James. But I can’t, people rely way too much on tech. I have seen guys transfer to their sidearm simple because they optic got smashed. To which I yelled use your iron sights dumbass, to some it didn’t even occur to them that they still had them on the rifle. Now me, I prefer eotech and keep my irons up as well. Why? Just in case the batteries crap out I have them up and ready. Or in case it gets smashed, hit, whatever I can rip it off and not have to worry about flipping my irons up. To me it just makes sense.

    Sadly it isn’t just guns. I just took a survival course not too long ago and one of the guys in my group was an ex so and so and what have you. And his GPS crapped out on him. He was literally stumped as to what to do next. Until I chimed in with ya ever heard of Land nav asshole. He then struggled with the topo map, couldn’t find true north etc etc etc.

    Be it guns, map reading, DeTac, whatever and what have you. If you don’t use it you lose it. These are all perishable skills and they do get rusty fast. Most people don’t understand or forget it.

    Oh and congrats on top of the class. That had to feel good.

    And MatthewLS I am going to have to use that S.I.S.S.

      (Quote This Comment)

  13. Wow… too bad they did not keep up with their basic skills.But to be honest, 6 figure jobs, and the contracting company could not issue them a thousand dollars worth of glass?

    You are lucky to get t-shirts the way some PMC’s are

    And getting nice glass from a PMC in Fuckastan? Not likely – oddly the larger and wealthier the PMC is: the cheaper the gear is. Hell – The biggest PMC in Iraq issues Chinese knock-off nylon gear.

    Personally I have never been issued optics (not that I use them anyway), the guys I know that do use em’ in-country shelled out the cash themselves.

    I have also been issued an AK before a mission that I have never fired, a Glock 19 that was full-auto only (yes, a converted full-auto Glock 19) and grenades that had “3 to 6 second fuse I think dude, just toss one in a sand berm and count” – learn the Cave Man basics before getting into contracting.

    Oh and congrats on top of the class. That had to feel good.

    I didn’t get the no1 slot, but I was in the top 5 – the “old timers” shot the fuck out of their iron sights

    ~James G

      (Quote This Comment)

  14. Good post and I whole heartily agree. I have yet to shoot a test for employment that allowed me to use a red dot or reflex sight. Everything was irons.

    For contracts, I bring my own sights as well. I bring my own optics and I bring my own flip up rear sight. It also pays to have some spare front sight posts, for the various M-4/AR’s you might get issued. (I have been issued rifles with bent front sights) You never know what that company might issue you, and in my experience, most stuff that they give you is junk. That’s unless you are working on the high end gigs. I also take spare parts and a couple of tools to work on my own stuff as well.

    I also bring a sling and a cleaning kit, because companies always go cheap with that stuff as well–meaning they don’t provide a sling or cleaning kit. lol Or if they do give you a sling, it sucks. I like the VTAC or Blue Force Gear adjustable two points, with quick detach hardware to go with.

      (Quote This Comment)

  15. I had to make a sling out of 550 cord and a canvas strap on a gig once

    ~James G

      (Quote This Comment)

  16. Totally agree. If you can shoot with iron sites, you can shoot with almost any other optic. This is the basics – learn ‘em.

      (Quote This Comment)

  17. Hey James, checkout the Appleseed Project next time you are state side. I think you will really enjoy it. They are a non-profit org that teach traditional rifle skills, preach knowledge over gear, and press open sights.

      (Quote This Comment)

  18. Here’ the thing – I have NEVER been issued an optic on a job. It’s usually some broke-ass, monkey-humped AK 47 with a splintered stock and bent front sight post.

    LOL – if you don’t have a press, how else are you going to adjust the sight on that thing?

      (Quote This Comment)

  19. Don’t use optics, never have for exactly the reasons you have posted. I practice a few times per month and hit what I aim at, even at my age with corrected vision.

    So god damn true. Technology is nice but what happens when you trip and bust your red-dot to pieces? Take a time out? Dont think so.Do not underestimate the importance of knowing how to handle your weapon with or with out bling.  (Quote This Comment)

      (Quote This Comment)

  20. No optics till you can shoot bull on hand and off hand without optics.

    The way I learned, the way my son’s going to learn.

    Too many people out there today rely on optics, even for hunting. Sorry, if it’s under 100 or less and bigger than a ground hog, DEFINITELY NO optics. ANYTHING under 50 yards same thing.

    I can see the use for optics, quick site picture, etc, sniper, long distance, shots that count, etc, but even with optics on a weapon, make sure you still know how to use them without. Never know when that battery’s going to die and you’re a million miles from no where. Great article James.

      (Quote This Comment)

    1. Wow! 100 + miles in a day and what a great place to have a beer. I can hear the content in your wrinitg and also excitement for what will come next. You have accomplished an amazing ride through beautiful country and now can enjoy other spots at a more leisurely pace. there are so many interesting places from where you are now to the east coast enjoy and I will look forward to the reports as well. Coco will be sitting proud in that front seat I am sure,

        (Quote This Comment)

  21. Some Soldiers (Infantry Soldiers) are coming out of basic and AIT with no idea what an iron sight is. Now days they are getting issue CCOs on the m4s and some Drill Sergeants just have them zero the red dot. It’s pretty sad that guys are being sent out to the force in a time of war and don’t even know how to use their weapons.

      (Quote This Comment)

  22. @ Grey Ghost:

    The Appleseed Project looks like a great group. But I tend to stay away from any firearm related group because all they seem to be able to talk about is politics, and that shit is so boring

    ~James G

      (Quote This Comment)

    1. Oddly enough, the only politics they preach are that they do not talk about politics. They only focus on marksmanship and a little revolutionary war history.

      I rolled my eyes at the history at first, but it was pretty cool after I started listening/drank the Kool Aid.

        (Quote This Comment)

      1. Sweet, then I will have to look them up when I get back stateside

        ~James G

          (Quote This Comment)

  23. Amen, James. Amen. You, too, JasonA.

      (Quote This Comment)

  24. :-) damn g36…

      (Quote This Comment)

  25. Training over tools is the base of Mindset. More with less. My experience is that if it can break,it will, at the worst possible time.- George

      (Quote This Comment)

  26. Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Call me old fashioned, but, the Marine Corps taught me to shoot a man sized target at 500 yards with iron sights and I refuse to let that skill atrophy. Went to Iraq twice and had an ACOG both times but I kept my iron sights in my camelback AT ALL TIMES. I switched over to them many times. High speed this and that is ok, but I prefer to be very skilled with basic equipment that is more reliable than very skilled with high speed gear that is more easily broken or rendered ineffective. The Marine Corps drilled it into my head: “Brilliance in the basics.”

      (Quote This Comment)

  27. Right you are!

    Recently I had the opportunity to work and shoot in a rifle FTX. Most of the shooters were SWAT/ERT-types with all kinds of high-speed optics on their M-4/M-16 rifles. A surprising amount didn’t do all that well, but what really surprised me was what happened as the match drew to a close.

    Despite having worked the range as a safety officer all day, being slightly dehydrated and definitely tired, I flashed back to my BCT days in 1980. SFC Finch yelling at me for one thing or another as I shot from the prone position at Ft. Dix, NJ.

    I out-shot most of these highly-trained guys and gals using an AR-15 with iron sights.

    Considering I only shoot rifle once or twice a year, I was really impressed with my Army rifle training!

      (Quote This Comment)

  28. Roy, not a surprise. Teams have a lot to work on. Most qualify 2-3 times a year. We had to maintain 90% or above on all our weapons, pistols, shotguns, sub-guns, and M4′s. But we used the departmental qualification which is neither relevant or realistic to patrol much less SWAT. These quals involve little to know tactics.

    I find the same as you did, when I get a rifle in my hands I go right back to BRM that I learned in the Army.- George

      (Quote This Comment)

  29. No military/contractor/LE experience here, just a 57 yo guy who owns an AR and an AK for the enjoyment of shooting AND “just in case”. I’ve been lured by the bling but have avoided the same. I concentrate my practice on hitting center of mass from both 25 and 50 yds, what I figure would be an operational distance for my “just in case” purposes, from a different positions. Last visit to the range, I consistently put all 20 rounds on target with the AR from a standing position in 30 seconds. I also practice the double tap and one with my CZ-75 9mm from 25 feet and closer. I figure I’m ready.

      (Quote This Comment)

  30. Wow… too bad they did not keep up with their basic skills. But to be honest, 6 figure jobs, and the contracting company could not issue them a thousand dollars worth of glass?Next thing you’ll know, people are going to have to use a map and a protractor, and dump the vehicles for foot patrols.But back to reality. Glass breaks, batteries run dry, and if you cannot use your iron sights, then you forgot that there is a Mr. Murphy lurking around the corner, waiting to fuck your day up.  (Quote This Comment)

    It’s also a good idea to be able to use simple things like a map, compass and protractor. GPS doesnt work everywhere all the time and the same principles apply; batteries run dry, shit breaks…etc. Being able to navigate without the aid of high-tech devices is just as important as being able to shoot. And lets not forget how much more effective foot patrols can be as opposed to a vehicle mounted patrol. When youre speeding by at 35+ mph, you miss details that you would pick up on if you were on foot. You also may actually be MORE vulnerable in a vehicle in a particularly hot zone. IED’s and RPG’s come to mind. Unless you’re rolling around in a Stryker or something, the simplest ANFO IED could fuck your day up. Also, a foot patrol in a hostile area shows the locals that you’re confident. It also opens up a line of communication and a chance to establish relationships with the indigenous people. You never know when a tip or intel from a local shopkeeper could save your ass.

      (Quote This Comment)

  31. James,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head again (or was it the 10 ring). I remember how excited I was when I was finally issued an M68 (Aimpoint). I thought “man, now I’m going to be HSLD just like the Rangers!” The only guy in our platoon who had used the M68 previously “helped” us boresight. He must have been related to Helen Keller, because the point of aim was so far off, no one hit anything. I slapped my iron sights back on and shot expert without breaking a sweat. We went to JRTC the next week, and after the second day in the field, the stupid battery died. I dug in the bottom of my ruck and slapped the iron sights back on. When I went to training for my first civilian overseas job, everyone was freaking out because they gave us M4′s with iron sights. I tied for top shooter. Almost half the group failed the first iteration. I would have freaked out if they’d given us CCO’s.

      (Quote This Comment)

  32. WHat I like even better is when you get issued a rifle and 10 rounds to BZO. Granted, you should be able to get in the black with 10 rounds….if the front sight is not sunk or the rear elevation is not froze.

    Now I am in-charge of in-country firearms and qualifications, and we BZO until “I” am happy these guys have a solid BZO. You would be amazed how appreciative the guys are.

    That always chapped my brown-eye. Send me in a warzone, to risk my life, but don’t let me get a solid BZO on my rifle while you have an armory full of ammo and all the time in the world….dem raggedly MFer’s.

    Optics have there place most definitely, but everyone must have a solid and second nature foundation in the use of iron sights. every weapon I own has backups.

    Every Marine is a riflemen.

    Also, it is kinda like driving. I am SO THANKFUL my father taught me to drive on a standard. Not to mention I grew up around tractors and heavy equipment like cherry pickers, fork lifts, etc. Youwould be amazed how many guys here do not know how to drive a stick. I am not the most mechabically inclined guy in the hooch, but damn.

    Back to the basics. Technology is great, and it is a force multiplier when used in the proper application, but there has to be low-tech fall backs.

    Which reminds me, I need to break out my Basic Land Nav MCI. I am rusty as hell on that stuff.

      (Quote This Comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Upload Files

You can include images or files in your comment by selecting them below. Once you select a file, it will be uploaded and a link to it added to your comment. You can upload as many images or files as you like and they will all be added to your comment.