April 04, 2008
A Savage Attack on Scopes
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
A young (he sounds young) reader, whom we will call Mr. F, sent me a copy of a letter to gun writer Bryce Towsley, tearing poor old Bryce a new one over some things he wrote in the November 07 issue of The American Rifleman. Bryce, it seems, had the gall to state that factory iron sights are worthless and a waste of money. Mr. F disagrees with that, because he uses them, and his dad uses them, and because scopes run contrary to the American spirit, which is grounded in the use of open sights.
He also stated that Bryce's article "…dripped with sarcasm, arrogance, and foolishness." I've made a career out of sarcasm, arrogance, and foolishness, so I'm with Bryce on this one.
Are factory iron sights worthless? Yes, almost without exception. Thompson/Center puts very good iron sights on their .22 rifles, and Blaser uses outstanding open sights on its $14,000 double rifle, but aside from those and a few target guns, most factory iron sights are not worth a barrel of old hog s**t. There are wonderful iron sights available, but they are not issued at the factory.
Is it virtuous to hunt with open factory sights when scopes are available? In one sense yes, because it makes accurate shooting more difficult and you have to get closer, which is sporting. However, if you are an older hunter, if you can't use a scope you probably can't aim and so you probably can't hunt. If you shoot badly because you can't see well, it is the animal that pays. Also, the constantly declining rate of hunter fatalities is due, at least in part, to the almost universal use of scopes. If you can see what you're shooting at, you will probably not mistake a man for a deer.
Is the use of scopes contrary to the American spirit? The American spirit says that the minute someone invents something more effective you buy it and discard whatever you had been using. This has been going on since we used matchlocks. Even the armed forces, who are usually way behind the curve, have dropped iron sights in favor of red dots, lasers, and scopes.
Finally, Mr. F says that the dependence on technology has reached the tipping point; that all this gadgetry has become "…crutches, and both woodcraft and hunting ethics have been the victims." I think he has something here; I have said much the same thing myself.
I commend Mr. F for his spirited letter, and thank him for letting me use it.