How to Use Tang Type Rear Sights and Insert Type Front Sights

You are hereHome > Marksmanship > Black Powder Cartridge Rifle

Written by: Dick Trenk

Young eyes usually have little trouble using the rear tang sight which has a single pin hole or the “Hadley type” eye cup which has many pin holes of increasing sizes. The following instructions apply to both young and old eyes but there is need for special advice for older eyes.

One of the unusual things the human eye does well is to center a circle inside of a circle. For this reason when we look through a tang sight aperture we are looking through a circle at front sight insert called a “lollypop” which is a circle supported by a thin post or thin cross bars. Then, if these two circles are placed over a black bulls eye on the target, we have three circles, one within the other, the eye will get them properly centered with one another if we do some other things properly.

Those who are middle-aged and above are faced with normal changes in visual acuity. Most middle age (and older) eyes suffer from presbyopia, the hardening of the lens that does not allow it to flex as efficiently as it did when we were younger so the point at which we can focus moves further from our nose. Presbyopia is the technical term for “far-sightedness. This is a normal condition of aging. When it starts we notice a change in ability to read small print as well as read menus in dimly lit restaurants. This process is ongoing for a few years. Some of us will need to have our glass’s prescription changed every year or so for several years. These changes to our eyes tend to settle down so our eyes eventually stabilize.

The option of what prescription glasses to use is omitted from this discussion as your optometrist is the person to discuss that with. There are, however, simple strategies that one can integrate into their match shooting that will allow them to improve their scores through an improved sight picture.

First, always focus on the FRONT SIGHT so any corrective lenses should do just that. If the rear aperture and target are “fuzzy” that is fine, just put the fuzz-ball in the middle of the front sight.

The more light you can get into your eye the better your focus.

So, what that says is that the more light you can get into your eyes the better they will be able to focus on the front sight and target. With that in mind, tinted glasses are, in general, not a good thing for middle-age and old-age presbyopia types. Clear safety glasses are the way to go and clear glasses with high quality glass lenses are even better: the more the light transmission through the lens the better. You can see the difference between polycarbonate lenses and high quality glass lenses, the glass safety lenses offering better target definition.

The only time and only lens color that we should use is optic yellow when contrast is an issue. This typically is a good strategy in silhouette target shooting when the contrast between the darkness of the berm and dark animal is low. Optic yellow will increase the contrast without removing too much light from our eyeballs. Remember all tinted glasses remove light from our eyes and that is NOT a good thing.

The next strategy for improved scores through better front sight and target definition is the proper selection of the size of the FRONT and REAR aperture openings.

For “tired, old eyes” a front “lollypop” type aperture (ring on a post) is the way to go. It is too difficult to focus on a front post, cross hairs or pinhead and still be able to see the target reasonably well. Your eyeglasses prescription would need to be “over corrected” to see the front post or pinhead properly with the unintended consequence of reduced target focus and the resulting degraded target definition.

The most common area for sight picture improvement is to use a LARGER front aperture coupled with a SMALLER rear aperture. Most of us should be using a 0.110″ or larger front aperture for silhouette animals and target rifle bullseyes. The best way for us to improve our focus on the front sight is to “stop down” (reduce) the rear aperture. This will allow our eyes to naturally focus on the front sight better.

One should experiment with what works the best concerning front sight aperture diameter. For lower light conditions a larger aperture is typically better than when it is bright. During the sighting-in period you should FIRST adjust the rear aperture. If you are serious about match shooting you MUST have an adjustable rear aperture. First make sure you have the proper sized front aperture. Next, stop down (reduce)the rear sight aperture until the target is fuzzy and the rear aperture looks like it has black cobwebs in it.

Now open up the rear aperture one stop at a time until both the front sight and target “jump” into focus. Don’t open up the rear aperture any further or the front sight will start to be fuzzy. One is trying to set the rear aperture so that the front sight is still in focus and the target definition is the best it can be. If the rear aperture is opened more the front site will go out of focus, not a good thing. Once this is done DO NOT change the rear sight aperture during the string of fire because it is impossible to predict if the point of impact (POI) will change as a result of changing the aperture.

Finally, a high quality pair of clear-safety-glass glasses that are adjusted so the eye is looking through the center of the lens is a substantial help. As was stated above, high quality glass is superior to polycarbonate lenses as far as improving sight picture and any tint only serves to reduce the amount of light entering the eye. Only optic yellow is recommended to improve contrast between animal and berm or between the aiming black and the white part of the target when poor conditions exist.

Pedersoli offers various tang sights, hooded front sights, and steel insert cards which are seen on

The adjustable “Hadley type” eye cup is code USA463 and it has 8 different pin holes sizes. This type of multi-hole eyecup is the choice of advanced shooters everywhere.

Hooded front sights accept all Pedersoli inserts cards. The card USA408 provides 12 “lollypop” type rings plus 3 posts. The card USA424 provides 11 “lollypop” type rings plus 7 posts. The card USA425 provides 12 assorted types of aiming shapes including 3 “lollypop” type rings.

For serious match target use we recommend the Soule type tang sight and the code USA426 hooded front sight which has both a spirit level and windage adjustment feature.

Other more conventional “vernier adjustable elevation” tang sights provide accuracy and quality precision which is suitable for hunting and target work out to long ranges. All Pedersoli main dealers and their sub-dealers can order from their distributors who either have the item in stock or can get it very quickly in their monthly stock orders.

Select your tang sight staff length according to the distance you expect to shoot at.

Using common ammunition velocities the following ranges are generally obtained with the staff lengths listed:

4.0 inch will allow shooting to at least 1600 yards.
3.0 inch will allow shooting to at least 1100 yards
2.5 inch will allow shooting to at least 400 yards

Note: Depending upon how your tang is located in relation to your barrel, these distances may vary either longer or shorter. Since you cannot know what shooting you may want to do in the future, we suggest getting a long enough tang sight to handle future needs. They all will have the same close range setting capability.

For Davide Pedersoli & Co.
Dick Trenk
Competition Events Coordinator
(Permission to use some material from his own writings has been granted by Dan Theodore)