With the advent of reliable and affordable rifle optics, the art of aiming a rifle solely by aligning the front post with the rear aperture of its iron sights is quickly becoming as quaint as dialing a rotary phone to make a call. At the range, it seems that most every rifle is equipped with some sort of enhanced aiming device. While we don’t believe it’s a bad thing to be able to get quick, accurate shots through the lenses of an optic, one should be prepared in case that optic ever quits on you. If your optic loses power, gets damaged, is knocked off its zero or any other catastrophic scenario happens, you’d better have another way to aim your rifle.

For rifles fitted with Picatinny top rails, such as those of the AR variety or even some bolt-action rifle chassis, having backup iron sights, also known as BUIS, is as easy as picking out a set and slapping them on. While manufacturers make both fixed iron sights and folding iron sights, this buyer’s guide is dedicated to the latter.

Flip-up backup iron sights are usually folded in their down position to be stowed away until needed—there they stay out of view of optics, are less prone to snagging on other gear or clothing, and are generally more protected from accidental damage. Many manufacturers offer their own versions of flip-up BUIS, giving us consumers an all-you-can-eat buffet of options. The front sight on all BUIS systems adjusts the elevation of your shot, while most rear BUIS adjust the windage. To go above and beyond, some rear sights can also be quickly adjusted for elevation, allowing more accuracy when shooting at different distances.

Generally, front and rear backup iron sights from different companies can be paired up so if you like a certain brand’s front but another’s rear sight, have at it. Although, we believe it’s best not to mix and match, because some sights are made to work in unison with their partner sight. To be sure, always consult the manufacturer for details.

It’s also worth noting that while most sights clamp onto Picatinny rails, some front sights double as gas blocks for AR-pattern rifles, becoming a two-in-one option. Along with the Picatinny riders, we have a couple of the gas-block types in this guide for you to check out as well.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some beloved standards as well as some of the newest flip-up backup iron sights on the market today.


Bobro Engineering

Emtan Karmiel LTD

Knight’s Armament



Midwest Industries

Mission First Tactical

Troy Industries

Yankee Hill Machine

Precision Reflex


Wilson Combat



11 Next-Gen Sights to Maximize Your Gun’s Performance

Using Fiber-Optic Front Sights On Your Everyday Carry Pistol

Zeroing In: 14 Next-Gen Sights and Optics

AK Upgrades: 14 Top Optics, Sights & Lasers

11 Back Up Iron Sights That Keep You in the Fight

8 Reflex-Ready Handguns Right Out of the Box


This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of BALLISTIC™. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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