Don’t get me wrong, I like a high-quality red dot sight on a .50 Beowulf.
But. Do I really need it?
Most of us don’t have just one gun. And putting quality glass on every one we own gets pretty expensive. So it makes sense to be logical in our decisions.
My 6.5 Grendels, with their long-range surgical precision, get quality magnified scopes. That makes sense. And I’m willing to spend my money on a quality rifle (why throw away the potential of the cartridge with a cheap gun that lacks accuracy) and a quality scope (why put a cheap scope on a quality gun? The gun won’t shoot better than its sighting system).
But a .50 Beowulf has both ballistics and purpose that place it squarely in the realm of iron sights.
Optics vs. Irons
It seems every rifle I see today has some kind of glass on it. That’s not a bad thing, but I also see that people are trying to replace a lack of skill with technology. It doesn’t work. A good optic doesn’t make a good shooter. It just makes a bad shooter with a good optic. But a good shooter gains some advantage from an optical sight.
However, it appears that most shooters don’t realize that iron sights are still relevant, accurate, and advantageous.
Iron sights are accurate
A practiced shooter can be exceptionally accurate with iron sights. If you can shoot well with both iron sights and red dot sights, you should be able to be just about as accurate with either system. As far as practical accuracy goes, there really is no difference.
Iron sights are fast
A red dot sight has an edge over iron sights in speed and ease of target acquisition, but only slightly. With good aperture sights, sight alignment is a matter of simply placing the front sight on the target.
Iron sights are reliable
The right iron sights are extremely durable. There is no glass to break, no delicate electronics, no batteries to die, no fragile adjustment systems. It’s hard to damage iron sights.
Iron sights are streamlined
A rifle with iron sights is lighter, better balanced, and more compact than a rifle with an optical sight or scope. It fits better in a truck, airplane, boat, or on a horse. It carries upright on a sling instead of trying to flip upside down.
Iron sights are effective
Sharpshooters in the civil war reliably hit men at over 800 yards with muzzle-loading rifles. Buffalo hunters in the old west dropped bison at 1,000 yards with their single shot .50 Express rifles (the Beowulf has superior ballistics). Annie Oakley split bullets on axe blades to hit the wicks of two candles at once. Alvin York used long-range precision fire from his bolt-action rifle to silence German machine guns. Simo Hayha was possibly the best sniper in history. What did they all have in common? They all used iron sights.
Most dangerous game rifles still wear iron sights. Hunters who live where conditions are tough and primitive tend to reject optics in favor of iron sights.
Anything you do with a red dot, and a lot of what you do with a scope, can be done just as effectively with iron sights.
Iron sights are inexpensive
When it comes to optics, you pay for quality. Quality craftsmanship costs money. You can easily outfit four or five rifles with iron sights for the average cost of a quality red dot sight.
Iron sights let you buy a better gun
If you are considering buying a cheapo 11.7×42 rifle instead of a .50 Beowulf in order to save a few bucks to spend on an optic, just stop.
Spend the money on a reliable, quality rifle, a set of iron sights, some ammo, and put the rest back in your pocket.
Advantages of optics
A magnified optic has several advantages over iron sights. By magnifying the target and using a precise reticle, it allows a more precise aim point on a distant target. It also places the target on the same focal plane as the sighting system. But most people will never shoot a .50 Beowulf at ranges that require magnification, and within 250 or 300 yards, practical accuracy is just as good with iron sights.
A reflex or red dot sight has advantages over irons in that parallax is reduced, a precise, illuminated reticle can be used, and target and reticle are on the same focal plane. These combine to make fast, reflexive shooting easier.
But if you are a skilled shooter, you can be just as effective with Iron sights at a fraction of the cost. If you are not a skilled shooter, buying an optic won’t make you better. Just get some ammo instead and practice with your irons.