Guns Rifles

Shooting Tip: Blacken Your Iron Sights With Pitch Pine

Aram von Benedikt Avatar

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Shooting well with iron sights can be a tricky business, but plenty of big bucks have fallen, numerous battlefields have been claimed, and scores of shooting competitions have been won using good old iron sights.

Whether you are sighting in a rifle before heading for the woods, or preparing for a competition, this tip will improve your game.

One of the big problems associated with iron sights is that they can get worn and shiny — during normal use the finish gets worn off. When this happens the sights become hard to see against some backgrounds, and worse yet, they can reflect the light of the sun, creating tiny but intense spots of glare on the corners of the sight. This can make it difficult to get a true sight picture. Check out the picture above — the sight on the right is blackened, the one on the left isn’t.

Years ago an old military sharpshooter taught me to blacken my iron sights with soot from a flame. I started blackening my front and rear sights just before walking into a competition. This made my sights perfectly crisp in front of the white background of a target, and better yet, eliminated glare from the sun entirely. My scores improved noticeably.

Sights can be blackened easily using a sliver of pitch pine (wood that is naturally impregnated with pine pitch). Just find a place out of the wind, verify that your firearm is unloaded, and hold or set it with the sights down. Light one end of your pitch pine sliver. Once it gets going good, a fine black smoke will curl upward from the flame.

Wave the flame gently below the sight, making sure that the smoke is able to access all parts of the sight. A thin black layer will form wherever the smoke contacts. Do both front and rear sights in this manner. When you are done shooting the soot will wipe away quite easily.

Pitch Pine, sometimes called “fatwood” can be found in the stumps of pine trees that have died or have been harvested. Not all stumps have this pitch pine, so you may have to hunt around a bit for the right stump. It’s also available on ebay by searching for pitch pine or fatwood. Good luck and good shooting.