A Sight to See

Rimfire Rasslin’: Peeps, Posts, And
The Search For The Perfect Picture

By Payton Miller

Getting an iron-sighted .22 to hit point-of-aim can sometimes turn into an adventure in shade-tree gunsmithing. Mine began with my son’s purchase of a new Ruger 10/22. I decided to “help” with the initial regulation and shoot-in project. This means our initial trip to the range with it was fully in accordance with my time-proven, lazy man’s guideline for zeroing any .22 rimfire.

“We’ll take along a box of every brand of .22 Long Rifle I can lay my hands on,” I told him. “It’s easier if we figure out first what shoots tightest and closest to the sights at 25 yards. That way we won’t have to do too much monkey-motion with the sights.” My well-reasoned argument, however, was rendered moot when I was informed my son had rat-holed several thousand rounds of Winchester’s “bulk-package” copper-plated 36-grain high-velocity HP’s. This stuff, I was told in no uncertain terms, was what we were gonna dance with exclusively.

Now there’s a reason Ruger sells as many 10/22’s as they do. They’re bombproof, reasonably priced, reliable, and feature the company’s rotary magazine (which, in my view, would justify the company’s existence, even if they offered the world little else).

It took a single 10-round magazine for both of us to decide the issue open sights just weren’t going to cut it. I’m sure there are folks who can do just fine with them. But neither of us qualify. The sights—consisting of a small elevation-adjustable folding leaf rear with a U-notch and a small brass bead front proved too small for either of us to (1) acquire rapidly and (2) see well enough to permit a reasonably consistent point of aim on a bull’s-eye target at anything much past 25 yards or so.

At this point, you may be asking “Why didn’t you just stick a scope or red-dot sight on the thing and call it good?”

Take a peep! The Skinner 10/22 aperture mount is high enough it wasn’t necessary to remove
the Ruger folding leaf rear, but if you wish to, Skinner offers slot blanks to fill the
dovetail notch for aesthetic purposes. The company also offers a variety of aperture sizes.

Although elevation adjustable, the 10/22 folding-leaf rear (below) isn’t all that much
larger and easier for older eyes to acquire than the fixed open rear on this
Depression-era Model 58 Winchester.

But as stone-age as it sounds, we wanted iron. Which left us with aperture sights. Our choices in this regard consisted of traditional side-mounted Williams or Lyman target-type arrangements, or a simpler top-mounted “ghost ring” one—which, wishing to avoid as much size and complexity as possible, we went for. The choice was obvious.

A Skinner Express aperture rear—once you’ve settled on the screw-in aperture size you want—pretty much leaves you the luxury of ignoring it to concentrate on the front sight. It’s the way peep sights are supposed to work.

Besides their excellent aperture rear (plus rail), the Skinner 10/22 kit we got was remarkably well thought-out, offering various options including a brass blade front, a steel one and a fiber-optic orange bead arrangement, plus apertures of varying sizes. At the insistence of my son (after all, it was his rifle), we first installed the fiber-optic front.

At 25 yards—while busily dipping into a “555”-round Winchester carton—we found the windage to be fine, but the gun was shooting well over 3 inches high and the rear aperture stem was cranked down to the max and effectively bottomed out. Plus, the sunlight was excruciatingly bright, turning the orange fiber-optic element into a fireball.

When it comes to aperture sights, the “bead or flat-top-blade front” question is less important
on a close-range big-game rifle, but for paper punching or small game hunting with a .22, the
blade is better.

Although blacking out the top of the fiber-optic rod helped cut down the glare and lower the
point of impact, it still wasn’t enough. It’s a good setup for close-range small game, however.

A later conversation with Editor Jeff yielded a suggestion that helped somewhat: “Oh, I’ve had the same problem with fiber-optic beads. What you want to do is take a black Magic Marker and black out the top of the orange “noodle.” That’ll cut the brightness down and you won’t be ‘shooting away’ from the glare as much.”
It did help, and the point of impact was lowered considerably.

Still, we weren’t altogether happy with the fiber-optic unit. Both of us prefer a 6 o’clock hold. And for this, a flat-top post really can’t be beat. With a bead—brass, plastic, ivory—it’s kind of like forming a Figure 8, “balancing a circle on a circle,” to shoot well on paper with a bead/aperture arrangement. So we opted for the Skinner-supplied brass blade—it gave us beautiful 5-shot groups, but again too high.

My shooting buddy Thomas Mackie had a solution. “Let’s swap it out for the steel blade. It’s the same height as the brass one, but it’s made of the right stuff for me to make it taller.” Which he did by the simple expedient of welding a 1/8-inch bronze fill on top, and then—very carefully—smoothing it out.

Our next grouping was now OK windage wise, but too low by about 2 inches. No problem. We now had the luxury of raising our Skinner aperture by a full turn (after first loosening the locking screw) that brought things right where they needed to be.

We could have simply asked for a taller front sight from Skinner, which we could’ve filed down if need be. Which is the route we’d have had to take with no Thomas and no welding torch. But one file stroke too many and we would’ve been right back where we started. Thanks, but no thanks. Whenever humanly possible, it’s usually better to handle elevation issues with the upward turn of a screw instead of the downward scrape of a file.

The first group with the “too short” brass front blade shot unacceptably high at 25 yards (above).
With the second, taller front blade installed, the gun shot about 2 inches too low, but one full
turn on the threaded rear aperture stem (below), brought things up to where they should be at 25
yards. The “slight right bias” will be fixed by tapping or pushing the rear sight.

Federal’s new Train + Protect ammo delivered excellent 25 yards results (above) from this
SIG 1911. Train + Protect loads (below) include a 115-grain 9mm and a 230-grain .45 ACP. Both
feature the company’s Versatile HP bullet.

Federal Premium Train + Protect

Recently we had the opportunity to group and chrono Federal’s new Train + Protect handgun ammo in 9mm and .45 ACP. Both feature Versatile HP (VHP) bullets in 115- and 230-grain weights respectively. Neither is a +P offering. We shot both from 5-inch barreled pistols—a 9mm Springfield XD Tactical and a SIG 1911 .45 ACP. The 9mm averaged 1,224 fps, the .45 ACP 836 fps. The Extreme Spread figures on both were impressive indeed—36 fps for the 9mm and 29 fps for the .45 ACP. Our average groups at 25 yards were at 2 inches for the 9mm and slightly less for the .45.

Federal is not the first ammo outfit to create a dual-purpose line of training/defensive ammo, however previous offerings in this area have employed FMJ and JHP bullets with the same weights and (claimed) points of impact. This new stuff skirts the “two-fer” issue by simply using a JHP straight across.

Obviously, the dual practice/defensive nature of the Train + Protect line calls for a kindlier and gentler retail than what you’d expect for the kind of super-premium Doomsday stuff in the 20-round boxes. It does. A 50-round box of the 9mm lists at $30.95 and the .45 ACP at $35.95. And we’ve already seen the 9mm stuff going for a hair under 20 bucks a box at few discount ammo outlets.


These silver-plated miniatures of famous firearms are nifty and not too expensive.

Iconic Miniatures

If classic handguns set your heart to pounding, you’ll probably be interested in a series of precision-manufactured, 3-dimensional mini replicas. They’re injection-molded from zinc and silver electroplated to show their 3-dimensional detail. Each comes in a velvet presentation box with a gold ID tag inside for each model. Currently there are 12. Shown here are the P-08 Luger and Colt Model 1911 (with a penny for scale). Prices range from $19.95 to $24.95. For ordering details, visit www.firearmsassurefreedom.com. The small company is web only at this point.

Federal Premium Ammunition
900 Ehlen,
Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 379-1732
www.federalpremium.com
Skinner Sights
P.O. Box 1810,
St. Ignatius, MT
(406) 531-5113
www.skinnersights.com

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