I have seen many arguments online about the necessity of back up sights on a rifle using optics. The general concensious seems to be that they are needed on military rifles, but not on civilian rifles. This is not the case.
In the military people work in teams and are almost never alone. Should a rifle go down it is not really an issue as you still have many other people capable of continuing the fight. For the civilian and the police officer this is often not the same. If someone wakes up in their home and finds the battery dead in their reflex sighted rifle it helps to have iron sights. However if a Marine’s optics fails, he is only reducing his squads fighting ability by 1/13 its firepower.
So do you need back up irons? First needs to consider if the rifle is a toy, or a tool for fighting. If it is a toy, back up sights are not necessary. If it is a fighting tool, look at its role and how it is set up. If you are running battery powered optics or magnified optics on quick detach mounts, I would suggest back up sights. So if you need to use a wrench to remove your optic, back up sights may not be practical for you and you may be better off switching to a different weapon.
“Damn, the batteries are dead.” Is not an uncommon saying at the range I work at. Not only among cheap optics with poor battery life, but often about Eotechs. Batteries discharge, cheap batteries and cheap optics drain even faster. Even the best optics can be broken. On the range this is just an annoyance, for the Soldier or Marine it means that their buddies will have to take up the slack. However if you, as a lone civilian or law enforcement officer, have this happen in the fight, the results can be costly.
I highly recommend back up sights on the individuals fighting rifle. If you are fighting by your self, being able to keep your weapon in the fight is crucial.
On that note, also make sure to keep your back up sights zeroed.
Today an Out Of Battery (OOB) failure, in a P22 with Remington ammo, broke the frame and sprayed debris into the shooters face. Fortunately the boy who was shooting this pistol was wearing his eye protection.
Today I got to try shooting a .308 FN SCAR. Recoil was pleasant in that light rifle. Sight picture similar to an AR15s, the rear sight resembling a KAC 2-600m rear sight.
Much to my surprise, the owner of the rifle (new out of the box) was not on paper at 100 yards. When he set up a target at 25 meters we had to nearly bottom out the front sight to get it to zero. Once zeroed, the owner of the rifle had no other issues with it.
For rifles like the AR15 I prefer to have my optics on quick detach (QD) mounts. These are useful for a number of reasons including, the ability to quickly remove a damaged optic, quick access to iron sights, and being able to switch optics for different roles. Accessories also benefit from being QD so I can add and remove bulky bipods, lights, forward grips easily. The only real downside to quality QD mounts is the price. For me, the price is easily justifiable when I can take off the Aimpoint from one of my AR15s, and put on an NightForce scope and a bipod, and retaining my previous zero.
For optics mounts, I recommend LaRue Tactical. Their mounts have worked well for me. Recently I have been using ADM mounts on my bipods and while I find I have to adjust the mount to fit each rifle’s rail each time I move it, it works well. I didn’t like the new Surefire throw lever on their newer lights as I would accidentally bump it and it would come loose. I do not recommend ARMS mounts due to their being either too loose or too tight on various brands of uppers.
Every so often on firearms forums I see people talk about how great the L85/SA80 is, and how much of a shame it is that no one sells them in the United States. They then proceed to claim that if someone were to offer a semi-auto version, they could make a fortune off all the guaranteed sales.
To put it bluntly, they are wrong. When I was in the Corps, I got to cross train with the Royal Marines. They got to try out our M16A2s, and we tried their SA80s. We have the better rifle. Most of the appeal of of the SA80 is due to our not being able to buy one. Other then that, it is crude, heavy, bulky. The SA80 is around 11 pounds unloaded with SUSAT optic. While it balances well when shouldered, that is still plenty of extra weight to carry. This rifle isn’t all that good looking too, the design is rude and crude. Mag changes are slow and awkward, more so then other bullpups. If these were to be sold in the U.S., some people would buy them for fun or collection, but most would turn it down due to its weight, poor appearance and controls, and the higher cost of a less common rifle.
While not gun related, I would like to take a moment to thank WordPress for making it so easy to start a blog. The process has been quick and they have good guides to get you started. Changing and editing settings, getting a domain, and all these other little things are handle simply and efficiently. If you are thinking about starting a blog, look into WordPress.com.
We have a multitude of wonderful options in muzzle devices now for our rifles. However I have been seeing some odd trends that disturb me. First I run into many people running muzzle breaks on short barreled rifle (SBR) variants. These short 5.56 rifles only gain marginal recoil reduction, and the cost of a large increase of flash and blast, almost always annoyingly so. Several of the owners of these short rifles tell me that their rifle is their home defense gun. I do hope that they never need to fire those rifles indoors with out hearing protection. Pronged flash hiders are also coming back into style. These tend to be more effective then closed ended flash hiders, but many will ring like a bell when tapped or as the rifle is discharged. Sometimes prongs can be bent, or they can bloom like a flower. I recommend against pronged flash hiders on full length rifles, and on firearms that are going to be used in think brush. However these pronged flash hiders are an excellent choice for the sub-16 inch .30 cal rifle and for SBRs as they mitigate flash and blast better then many of the enclosed flash hiders. One last note, some flash hiders have sharp edges, points, and/or barbs for use as a impact weapon. I highly recommend against these as standard flash hiders work well in that role, and the expensive specialized ones end up just cutting holes in your range bags and cases.
Got to shoot a Ruger SR556 last Saturday. Recoil was smooth and pleasant, the narrow railed hand guard felt nice in the hand. However when I field stripped it, I found metal shavings under the rear take down pin all the way up under the bolt catch. Bolt carrier tilt was shaving metal from the buffer tube. While shooting the Ruger rifle was nice, it looks like they have not worked out all the kinks yet.