Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What are the sight options on double rifles?

Dear Cal:
What are the sight options on double rifles?
Hugh Addams USA

If you are asking this question, then a double is in your future! Sights on a double can be as simple or as complex as one wants. No matter what type of sight is chosen, always remember the range limitations of a double rifle.

Your basic choices for a rear sight are: leaf, both fixed and multiple leaves, peep or aperture, and telescope. The leaf sights are traditional albeit a bit optimistic. Most rifles in the big game category had one fixed sight for 100 yards and two folding leaves for 200 and 300 yards. In all of my double rifle shooting, I have yet to use anything but the first leaf. (I once saw a Boswell [or Bonehill?] .577 bpe with leaves to 500 yards and a tangent to 1200 yards)! The advantage of the leaf sight with a wide, shallow V is that it is quick to get on target, nearly indestructible, and looks so at home on a double. A disadvantage that has risen its head several times in literature is that the folding leaves tend to pop up when not needed and cause the shot to fly high.

The peep or aperture sight, so common on the Winchester and other American lever actions and early bolt actions (such as those made by Griffin and Howe), is perhaps the quickest sight to place on target accurately. The eye naturally centers the object to be shot at in the center of the circle. The eye only needs to focus on the front bead and the target--not the bead, target, and rear sight. A major disadvantage of the peep sight on a double rifle is that has to be mounted close to the eye thereby interfering with the top lever. On hammer doubles, the sight was too close to, and between, the hammers and interfered with the manual cocking of the hammers. A minor complaint is that the peep can fill with dirt or other debris at the most inopportune time.

The telescope sight. Well I’m a bit torn on this one. A scope looks out of place on a double, at least for me. And, they are not needed on the larger calibers (.450 and up) used for hunting dangerous game--the shots are too close and the brush too thick. However, on smaller calibers (.450-400 and down) they are a definite help for failing or old eyes (such as the pair I own). I have a Swarvoski 1 1/4-4x on my .450-400 Harrison and Hussey boxlock ejector and took a hippo, croc, leopard and lion in Tanzania with it, a sable in Zim, numerous plains game in South Africa, and game in Alaska. The scope was not needed on the hippo but that is the rile I had in my hands. For the lion and croc it was an advantage. The leopard would not have been shot without the scope. The light was on its last and I could not see Mr. Spots until I looked through the scope. The clear picture and light gathering qualities of a good scope are a plus. On the negative side is the added weight, a scope alters the balance, the non-traditional looks, the delicate nature of the scope, and the shooter has to hold his cheek high off the stock to get a proper sight picture. Last of all, add a scope to a double and the bullet placement may change and re-regulation will be needed.

In conclusion and on a personal note, if a scope must be mounted on a double rifle, purchase a German or Austrian ‘scope. The light gathering qualities are far superior to anything else on the market and they look the best on a fine English double rifle.

Good shooting,

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