I have always liked peep sights for iron sights. There are many advantages to them. They only require focusing on the front sight, the eye automatically centers the front sight in the hole of the rear sight, making sighting faster and more accurate. They allow you to see more of the target. This is why the U.S. military transitioned to peep sights with the 03A3 Springfield rifle. I shot my second deer with one of those and the issue peep sights when I was 14. My father was deadly on running deer in the North Wisconsin woods. He used a tang mounted peep on his model 99 Savage for many years, before he transitioned to a Weaver scope.
Another advantage of peep sights is that they keep down the weight of the rifle. Telescopic sights can add another pound or so to the package.
For new shooters, it is easier to explain that they need to look through a peep sight, than to explain the sight picture that open sights require. Older eyes often have an easier time focusing on the front sight, and not worrying much about the rear sight. Peep sights tend to be more reliable, in all weather situations, than scope sights, especially inexpensive scope sights.
I have a scope on most of my rifles, but I like the idea of a peep on .22s. There are many older, inexpensive .22 rifles that do not have the 3/8 inch groove mounting system that is ubiquitous today; and either were not drilled and tapped for scope mounts; or for which the scope mounts are expensive or unavailable.
For many inexpensive .22 rifles, the available tang or receiver mounted peep sights cost more than the rifle, and more than many scopes.
Marble Arms has a solution. They are called Bullseye sights. The sight is different from traditional peep sights, in that it is mounted in the usual rear 3/8 inch dovetail on the barrel, replacing the existing open sight. The sights are inexpensive, listed as $16.99 at Brownells and Midway.
I have a Springfield 86-C rifle, made before WWII, which was missing the elevator on the rear sight. I paid $40 for it at a gun “buyback” in Phoenix. It does not have a scope mount groove and the original side mount scope system is not available for 1 inch scopes. The missing elevator gave me a reason to replace the open sight with a Marble Arms Bullseye sight.
Installing a sight in the 3/8 inch dovetail slot takes a bit of fitting. A modified file makes it easy. I found some good advice on how to install sights in 3/8 inch dovetails on the Internet. This site is for muzzle loaders, but the same procedures apply to any rifle with a 3/8 inch dovetail:
File the sight, not the barrel: when fitting a new sight to an existing dovetail, do not enlarge the slot in the barrel. Sights are intentionally made oversize, while barrel dovetails are intentionally made undersize, to allow hand fitting.
Remember that the dovetails almost always are meant to be driven out from the left to the right (looking from the butt toward the muzzle), and installed from the right. You will need a triangular file with one edge smooth to file the sight base without changing the angle or taking off material above the sight base.
Brownell's offers a professional 60 degree sight base file. for $49.99. This is to keep the file cutting only the side you want cut, while maintaining the proper angle on the dovetail slot, or on the sight. Instead of the Brownell's file, which I am sure is a great tool, I took a Harbor Freight triangular file and ground the cutting edges flat on one side, using a belt sander. This worked well for me.
You want a snug fit, but you should not have to apply a lot of force to get the sight into the slot, only moderate tapping. Use a brass rod, or even a dowel, between the hammer and the sight. Do not tap the sight directly with the hammer.
The Bullseye sights come in three sizes: 2.5 inches; 1.5 inches; and fixed, which is 7/16 inches.
Marble Arms graciously sent me all three Bullseye sights for this review, as I was not sure which sight would fit my rifle.
I measured the long version against the sight on the rifle. It was very close.
I removed the rear sight. Make sure you tap from left to right! I had to file the sight base to fit it. I filed one side of the base of the sight, and cut a very slight taper to the left. With about 15 minutes work of filing and trying, I fitted the sight and tapped it in close to center. It looked good.
But looks can be deceptive. I did not count on the additional length required for the elevator on the Marble sight. Notice that the elevator bumps up against the receiver. Make sure that you have at least an inch from the back of the sight to move the elevator without interference.
I took the rifle to the pistol range at the ranch and sighted it for 50 yards. I shot some of the Aguila Sniper Sub Sonic 60 grain loads into a 2 inch group. Maybe I was lucky, but I only needed to adjust the windage once.
I tried some CCI Quiet .22 cartridges, and they were right on at 25 yards, with less than an inch group.
Two inches at 50 yards is only so-so for a good .22, but the sight worked better than ordinary iron sights for me. It was faster and easier to get on target. My eyes are old enough that they do not focus on the rear sight easily. I think someone with better eyes could wring more accuracy out of this sight/rifle combination, but it is decent hunting accuracy for a 75 year old 22. The rifle balances very well, and is light and easy to carry.
I tried bulk .22 Federal Champions, CCI Standard Velocity, and Remington Golden Bullets. They all shot about 2 inch groups, indicating that the limiting factor is my eyes.
I enjoy the bullseye sight on my old rifle. I like the way it looks and handles. The Bullseye sight adds just over 1/4 inch to the height of the rifle. If you want a scope on your rifle as well as the Bullseye sight, the extra height may limit how low a scope can be mounted.
I refinished the stock, but that is for another article.
If you want an inexpensive peep style sight for your rifle, the Marble Bullseye sight will do the job.
c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch
About Dean Weingarten;
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.