by Jeff Johnston - Friday, January 7, 2011
For states like Colorado where open sights are mandated for muzzleloaders, I recommend replacing your rifle’s factory open sights—if it came with any at all—with a quality set of steel Ghost Ring sights from XS Sight Systems. The truth is, many of today’s factory standard iron sights, with their glowing plastic, er, fiber-optic alignment systems, are not really iron sights at all. They look good on the rifle’s list of features on the neon hangtag at the BassPro counter, but then you realize that your 100-yard groups don’t have nearly the appeal. They are great for plinking but lack precision and durability. More than once I’ve torn a plastic fiber-optic front sight from my rifle during normal hunting conditions. That’s why I depend on XS’s Tritium Big Dot sight on my Kahr PM9 carry gun, but that’s another matter, and a different sight. The point is, I don’t skimp on my hunting tools or carry guns, and both of them wear XS sights.
As a group, we have become less adept with open sights over the years. At first it may seem counter-intuitive to think that a peep sight is more accurate than a good ol’ blade and V. Before I proved otherwise to myself on the range, my mind reasoned that the ring would allow room for the blade to wander within, thereby reducing precision. But as nearly every rifleman who has ever tried a peep sight has found, it’s actually the most precise and consistent—and the simplest open sight system available. Just ask the 600-yard maniacs at Camp Perry what type of sight they use for the High Power event.
XS’ peep sight is simple and made of steel, so it’s extremely tough. You don’t have to worry about knocking this thing out of zero during a pickup ride.
The ghost ring—so called because the eye does not focus on it and it thereby forms a gray ring in the peripheral vision of the sight picture—works by using the human’s natural tendency to center an object in a circle. The term “ghost ring” has since become known simply as a larger, more open aperture used for quick-shooting or low-light scenarios such as combat. Jeff Cooper, the guru himself, swore by the ghost ring. While hunting is a far cry from combat, game animals seldom stand stationary for long, and they generally appear at dawn and dusk. Cooper knew something about hunting too, and he used a ghost ring frequently.
The large Ghost Ring is ideal for hunting because it allows in more light and therefore can be used long after small-aperture peep sights go completely dark. Like most open sights, it’s a far cry from a magnified optical scope, but it’s the next best thing. I consistently put bullets into a 6-inch circle at 100 yards with a CVA muzzleloader, and I delivered a bullet on a mule deer 127 yards away without even consciously thinking about the sights. “A 6-inch circle?” you say. “Big whoop.” Yes, 6 inches, for me, is about all I can expect from a muzzleloader without an optic; any further than that and I’m going to get closer.
XS Ghost Ring Hunter sights come with detailed installation instructions. The rear aperture installs on your rifle’s scope mount holes—or a rail—and threads up or down for fine elevation adjustments. The front blade sight comes in two parts. First screw the ramp/dovetail to the barrel using your rifle’s sight mounting holes, then tap the blade into the dovetail. I had to use a sight pusher to install the blade but I liked that fact because it gave me confidence that the blade was not going to move once I had it in place. And these guys from Texas are really into customer service. If you have a question, just call or email them.
Although a set of XS sights are not cheap at $90, it’s perhaps the best thing you can add to your hunting rifle if you hunt in a state that requires open sights. Go to xssights.com.
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