The K.I.S.S. Fallacy.

I am a big fan of Keeping It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.).  But I hate when the idea is used wrongly.  K.I.S.S. should be used to help prevent failure both in equipment and operator, not as an excuse to save money or reduce capability.
With regarding firearms, I often see the argument for K.I.S.S. used when a fighting long arm is set up with only iron sights, and no accessories.  Now if your gun is only a toy, set it up however you have the most fun with it.  But if you intend to fight with a firearm, wouldn’t it be foolish to not give your self every advantage you can get when your life is on the line?
A basic iron sighted AR is often shown when the term K.I.S.S. starts getting thrown around.
We know guns are expensive. It can hurt to have to open the checkbook again to cover the cost of an optic.  But are iron sights really a better choice for a fighting weapon?  I’ve seen people say that iron sights never fail.  I don’t know about you guys but I’ve bent several front sight posts.  To get to my main argument on sights, I think it is clear that optics are far simpler to use than iron sights.
When you put a gun into the hands of a complete novice, you will see that they are much quicker and more confident with an optic.  Especially something simple like a red dot or duplex reticle.  Many of us may say that it is better to start training someone with iron sights, but the benefit of any optic becomes extraordinarily clear when you put a firearm in the hands of a novice.  Those advantages don’t disappear when you put that same firearm in the hands of an experienced shooter.  Optics provide greater speed, target identification, and just general ease of use over iron sights.  Really, trying to argue otherwise is foolhardy.
Once I had someone tell me that scopes were only for people too lazy to shoot with iron sights.  I asked him if our U.S. Military Snipers were too lazy to use iron sights and he sorta hemmed and hawed with out giving me any sort of real response to that question.
It would be foolish to say that it is quicker and easier to “center a front sight in a rear sight while focusing on the front sight not the target or the rear sight” instead of just putting an optic’s reticle on a target.
Some extremely useful tools are very complicated. For example would be pairing night vision with an IR aiming laser. This is not only complicated but very expensive. It has many potential points of failure.  It would be easy to point out that both a Night Vision Device (NVD) and an IR laser each would need their own batteries.  Each have their own controls.  An IR laser would need to be zeroed.  A NVD would need to be focused.  It takes a great deal of work to run a setup like that, but it is what makes the difference between stumbling around blind in the dark or being an apex predator that owns the night.
A bicycle would be the K.I.S.S. alternative to an automobile.  I think most of us would gladly pay the additional cost and risk the additional points of failure just so we could have the much greater capability of the automobile.
Think about weapons the same way. Sure there are plenty of stuff we don’t need, but some are massive force multipliers should we need that capability.  Not ever gun needs a scope, bipod, light, or laser but there are some guns where you would be massively improving their capabilities and ease of use by adding some of these things.
Don’t try and set up the simplest/cheapest firearm, but make the firearm that excels at the job it needs to do.


  1. I have iron sites and a scope on a few rifles,back ups a nice thing and as I get a bit longer in the tooth even with “corrective lens” me eye sight not as great as when younger.

    Of course,I also besides cars/trucks have a bicycle.

    • I’m not saying that bikes aren’t good or that it is wrong to like bikes. I am saying it is wrong to argue that is bike is ALWAYS better than a car because it is simpler.

  2. Oh, man, I could write a Tolstoy-length piece on this subject and how “KISS” becomes corrupted to “make it as cheap as possible.”

  3. Howard,did not believe you were “anti bike”,I just mention as like to have all avenues covered,hence irons and scope/bike and cars/trucks,you get the idea.

  4. Keeping it K.I.S.S.?
    Go with a matchlock, you can put one together for $20 or so with parts bought at the local hardware store and even make your own powder!
    Lots of choices for your projectiles too, old nuts and bolts you have in that coffee an at the back of your work bench, pea gravel…

  5. I think KISS started off as either a rebellion against gucci gear loading a rifle down or as a “cool thing to do” by guys who couldn’t afford the gucci gear.

    Either way, I’m a fan of the “Minimum Capable Carbine” concept, which includes a reliable optic, light, and sling.

    I’ve fallen into the trap of KISS before, but it was honestly a bit of a gun hipster phase. I still have an iron sighted rifle, but I recognize it as what it is and not some “better way.”

    • I have a lot of complex feelings about the way iron sights are treated by younger shooters and the ultimate primacy of optics now. Optics are such a force multiplier that only a fool would denounce them or not use them. But I fear we are losing something and a traditional skill and ability with irons because of that. even service rifle now allows optics. which is fine, but its going to become a lost art damned shortly

  6. A later thought:

    Something that might not “register” with the younger shooting/gun crowd about the optics vs. iron sights debate with older shooters is this:

    40+ years ago, many consumer-grade were notoriously unreliable.

    Oh, they’d claim to be water-sealed, but you’d dunk them in the bathroom sink and see a steady stream of bubbles come out of them. You’d put them on a heavier-recoiling magnum and you could see the zero walk all over the place – I even had a scope in the early 80’s, which, when mounted on a “mountain rifle light” ’06, had the reticle obviously come loose inside the scope.

    There were all manner of issues with the less expensive scopes 40+ years ago.

    Leupold commanded a premium because of their no-BS warranty – and quality. Being able to send a Leupold back to the factory and they’d fix it – for nothing other than the shipping cost to send it to them – was a huge reason why so many people who could afford the price chose Leupold as their scope of choice (modulo the specialized scopes like the Unertls). The European scopes were ferociously priced out of the range of most shooters in the US, and they were both rare in the market and difficult to support.

    So for that generation of shooters, yes, iron sights were the KISS option. You knew with a good set of irons that you could diagnose almost any issue with them yourself, in the field. I remember older hunters in the 70’s commenting on guys who had no irons on their hunting rifles as back-ups for their scopes as being “very optimistic” or “very delicate hunters.”

    Now, we have several optics outfits that are making excellent optical sights, and there are optics that are so much more reliable than anything from 40 years ago, it’s as if the new optics have descended from another planet. I’ll give one example: The Trijicon ACOG. I have one. When I look back and think about scopes 40 years ago, the ACOG is like space-age optical hardware. It’s absurdly clear, has an excellent reticle for the application, and is very, very reliable.

    Would I trade off a ACOG for irons? Not likely. The ACOG is so reliable, that I don’t have any irons on the AR that wears the ACOG. Is the ACOG actually simple? Hell yes. Put it on the rifle, use mil-spec ammo, zero at 100 meters and after that, the reticle is so easy to run that “it just works.” That’s simple. Cheap? Hell no. Reliable? Yes. Simple to use? Very much so. Worthy of the appellation KISS? Yes.

    • my earliest scopes were weaver k4s and the like and the old redfield 5 star optics. Leupold set a new level with US optics back then, I still have some leupolds I use all the time from that era

  7. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” is attributed to Einstein. It’s a nice summation of the actual KISS principle, I think.

    And Colin Chapman of Lotus said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” Lotuses are not economy cars: All that added lightness doesn’t come cheap.

    -John M.

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