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Thread: Height of Front Sight Blade--Info Requested

  1. #1
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    Height of Front Sight Blade--Info Requested

    Hello y'all,

    Basically, I have this one, single, solitary report that the front sight blade on older revolvers is pretty tall because the manufacturers knew that larger, heavier bullets would recoil more and lift the barrel higher as the bullet traveled down the barrel. In a manner of speaking, you had to be aiming lower at the moment of ignition, so the barrel could rise during internal ballistic recoil, and you'd be dead on as the bullet exited the barrel.

    So, my question is, Is this true? Can anybody corroborate this, or cite an authority who does corroborate? Or, is this maybe something that was a theory from an earlier era, long since dispelled?

    I ask this because one of my revolvers has a really high front sight, but point of impact is about four inches low at 30'. It took me a while to notice that if I used a classic lollipop sight picture, the doggone gun wasn't even close to level, the muzzle pointed noticeably down, while I was going nuts trying to figure out why the point of impact was so low (of course, you don't notice this from behind the gun with a firing grip).

    And, yet, I've seen all sorts of handguns with much lower front sight blades that actually shoot to point of aim, or a lot closer than mine anyway. And, I've come across at least one point-shooting reference that recommended looking across the top of the gun rather than through the sights, which would tend to moot the height of the front sight blade, I'm thinking.

    So, I seem to have evidence that contradicts the stuff represented in the first paragraph, and I'm just trying to sort it all out.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Citizen; 08-06-2012 at 04:46 AM.
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  2. #2
    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Just how slowly does that bullet travel down the barrel? Or is this the revolver version of that (fairly) recent movie whwere they made the bullets curve around things to hit who/what was behind?

    I'm not even a real physicist, let alone a theoretical one, and I can see the report is high-grade BS.

    If the piece was calibrated for heavy bullets I would have expected to see the sight blade set to be a skosh low to allow for bullet drop. But just how much drop are you getting at 30 feet?!? That's more an artifact for long guns at much longer ranges.

    But none of that will effect the bullet meaningfully between ignition and leaving the barrel.

    stay safe.
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    Thanks, Skid.

    Any others?

    I should mention that my source for the info I'm trying to corroborate was a respectable authority, not Uncle Bubba.

    I should also mention that another source occurred to me while reading Skid's reply. An oblique comment that aligns with the recoil reasoning I'm trying to corroborate. This business about this particular revolver's high front site blade is ongoing for several years now. When I first discovered the very low point of impact, but before I noticed the front sight was much higher than the rear, I asked a gunshop manager about it. Now, before y'all jump on the standard (and proper) gun store reliability issue, let me say this fella is not the sort of fella who would sling around ad hoc opinions merely to seem authoritative. He was intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable.

    So, when I asked him about things that could cause a very low point of impact (bench rested, thank you), he replied to the effect that gun's manufacturer regulated that gun for a certain heavy bullet weight. Since we were talking about sights, I took it to mean he was referring to the manufacturer regulating the sights for a certain heavy bullet weight.

    For myself, I know how the darned thing kicks at lighter bullet weights, and I had no intention of getting that heavier bullet weight ammo and breaking my wrist. Not only was I not going test the report about how this gun's sights were regulated by the manufacturer, there was no way I was going to practice or regularly carry that type of cartridge in that gun. You see, I think it counter-productive to have to walk five feet to the rear and pick up the gun after each shot.
    So, I never tested his explanation.

    Thus, in a manner of speaking, you all are being roped into this discussion because I am too much of a wuss to test the explanation I received.
    Last edited by Citizen; 08-06-2012 at 01:41 PM.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    One of the gun magazines detailed this a few months back. They basically said the same thing you mentioned. The front sights put on a gun were designed with a certain weight ammo and the recoil is what determined how high the sight is.

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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Basically it is easier to take metal off a front sight than to add to it. Not everybody uses the standard sight picture, on one gun in particular I use a high blade because it is easier for front sight only point shooting. In fact most of my combat shooting I do not use the rear sights, unless it is for distance. With my aging sight it is also easier to elevate the front sight above the notch when using both sights. On my 1851 the bead was replaced by a high front sight blade for that very reason. Just file down the sight until it suits you.

  6. #6
    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snazuolu View Post
    One of the gun magazines detailed this a few months back. They basically said the same thing you mentioned. The front sights put on a gun were designed with a certain weight ammo and the recoil is what determined how high the sight is.
    If you can find a slow motion of a bullet exiting the barrel you will see this is false. The bullet moving down the barrel is part of the reaction to a action. It is not until it exits the barrel and the remaining powder is burned off that the rearward reaction takes place. I have used heavy bullets for years both in rifles and pistols. In my 45/70 push(recoil) is less with a heavier bullet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingWolf View Post
    If you can find a slow motion of a bullet exiting the barrel you will see this is false. The bullet moving down the barrel is part of the reaction to a action. It is not until it exits the barrel and the remaining powder is burned off that the rearward reaction takes place. I have used heavy bullets for years both in rifles and pistols. In my 45/70 push(recoil) is less with a heavier bullet.
    This exactly. Recoil doesn't happen until the bullet exits the barrel. It's basically the rocket effect of the gases exiting the barrel. Aside from bullet weight affecting how fast the gases expand/exit, it has no effect on recoil while it's in the barrel.
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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Maybe on these older revolvers they didn't realize that recoil was after exit, and so used the very logic Citizen proposed for higher sights. I am not into revolvers so I am not speaking from any sort of experience, if they don't do it anymore for larger calibers maybe they found out it just didn't work how they theorized?

    So there are my probably unnecessary and frivolous thoughts on the subject.
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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    SVG -

    Your "theory" works right up until the point the bullet exits the barrel. If the barrel is pointed below the desired point of impact there is nothing that barrel rise will do to elevate the actual point of impact since the bullet is now travelling independently of the barrel.

    stay safe.
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  10. #10
    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    SVG -

    Your "theory" works right up until the point the bullet exits the barrel. If the barrel is pointed below the desired point of impact there is nothing that barrel rise will do to elevate the actual point of impact since the bullet is now travelling independently of the barrel.

    stay safe.
    Agreed, I was saying in the old days maybe they didn't realize that. But they do now so they don't put big sights anymore.

    Come to think of it though my Ruger (Mark I) has big sights on it and its magazine fed and a .22. But it's pretty accurate.........I simply have no idea....would love to find out what folks come up with though.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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    Well, fellas, thanks for the thoughts so far. Here is a slow-mo video clearly showing the pistol moving rearward while the bullet is still making its way down the barrel. Get a soft pencil or something so you can touch a reference point on the image on your screen to really see how far the gun recoils while the bullet is still in the barrel.

    I'm not sure this totally validates the high sight/muzzle rise theory, but it is kinda surprising how much the gun moves while the bullet is in the barrel.

    ETA: Guess it would help if I actually included the link, eh? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otpFN...eature=related


    Here's another. At the 1:20 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaVhfQcqfGY


    Here's another. A shotgun. Pretty noticeable. Second gun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vloe_...ure=plpp_video

    Another at the :26 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIqnv...42AC9A702314D0
    Last edited by Citizen; 08-07-2012 at 12:23 AM.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

  12. #12
    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post
    Well, fellas, thanks for the thoughts so far. Here is a slow-mo video clearly showing the pistol moving rearward while the bullet is still making its way down the barrel. Get a soft pencil or something so you can touch a reference point on the image on your screen to really see how far the gun recoils while the bullet is still in the barrel.

    I'm not sure this totally validates the high sight/muzzle rise theory, but it is kinda surprising how much the gun moves while the bullet is in the barrel.

    ETA: Guess it would help if I actually included the link, eh?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otpFN...eature=related
    Being a revolver chambered differently could that effect muzzle movement, since they are not chambered in the barrel? Like I said I don't know much about revolvers actually to be fair I am not an expert on any firearm.....
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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    Quote Originally Posted by sudden valley gunner View Post
    Being a revolver chambered differently could that effect muzzle movement, since they are not chambered in the barrel? Like I said I don't know much about revolvers actually to be fair I am not an expert on any firearm.....
    I'm guessing that it would affect it only to the extent of lost velocity due to the gap between cylinder and barrel. I'm also now betting that the longer the barrel, the more the recoil movement before bullet exit.

    The last videos linked include little snubbie revolvers. Even those move a little bit before bullet exit. Its hard to tell how many fractions of an inch they move, but it seems like it might be enough to affect point of aim enough to maybe justify a noticeably taller front sight blade. Maybe. Its hard to be sure. But, the visible motion in the gun makes it at least plausible on the surface.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    With a 1911 the barrel stay locked up until the bullet exits, the barrel cannot move rearward. If it did it would unlock, IMO the revolver clearly showed that the recoil was after the bullet exited the barrel. Again almost all firearms especially revolvers shot low out of the box, filing the sight raises the point of aim. If it was reversed the sight would have to be silver soldered to raise the point of aim. The cap and ball revolvers shot notoriously high, except for the 1858 Army which had a higher front sight. There was reason for this, because the guns were close quarter weapons, and the sight was literally a brass shotgun bead. For longer ranges, 50 yards the groups are closer to point of aim. The 1858 was considered a better engineered firearm and more modern sights. I found mine to shoot quite low until filing the sight. Sights are natural higher on adjustable sight guns because~~rear sights are higher.

    I have been around guns and gunsmiths all my life, honestly it is the first time I have heard the recoil theory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingWolf View Post
    With a 1911 the barrel stay locked up until the bullet exits, the barrel cannot move rearward. If it did it would unlock, IMO the revolver clearly showed that the recoil was after the bullet exited the barrel. Again almost all firearms especially revolvers shot low out of the box, filing the sight raises the point of aim. If it was reversed the sight would have to be silver soldered to raise the point of aim. The cap and ball revolvers shot notoriously high, except for the 1858 Army which had a higher front sight. There was reason for this, because the guns were close quarter weapons, and the sight was literally a brass shotgun bead. For longer ranges, 50 yards the groups are closer to point of aim. The 1858 was considered a better engineered firearm and more modern sights. I found mine to shoot quite low until filing the sight. Sights are natural higher on adjustable sight guns because~~rear sights are higher.

    I have been around guns and gunsmiths all my life, honestly it is the first time I have heard the recoil theory.
    I disagree. When I use a pencil or something on the screen to act as a reference point, the revolvers, where the frame-rate was high enough to distinguish, clearly moved before the bullet exited.

    With that said, all I really know for sure is that the gun starts moving. Even the auto in the first linked video is moving before bullet exit-slide, barrel, and presumably frame are all moving rearward before exit. It is plausible to me that it might move enough to affect POA/POI. But, I'm not certain.

    Also, I'm not convinced cap-and-ball revolvers are good examples. First, black powder develops lower pressures and thus less velocity and recoil. And, .44 round balls weigh less than a conical bullet fired from, say, a 1930's Colt revolver using smokeless powder at a higher velocity. I've owned both a reproduction 1858 Remington and a Ruger Old Army. Neither one gave any noteworthy recoil firing round ball. I could believe it with a Peacemaker .45, though.
    Last edited by Citizen; 08-07-2012 at 03:47 AM.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    Regular Member 1245A Defender's Avatar
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    Well,,,

    well,,,

    Citizen,,,
    I do believe, that the front sight was made, Ambigiously tall,, on porpose....how is that spelled?
    They made it too tall,,,
    so you can file off a little, at a time, making it shorter,,
    untill the point of aim, coinsides with the point of impact...

    This must be true,,, I saw a movie where dannial boon bought a new rifle,, and sighted it by filing down his front blade to suit!
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1245A Defender View Post
    well,,,

    Citizen,,,
    I do believe, that the front sight was made, Ambigiously tall,, on porpose....how is that spelled?
    They made it too tall,,,
    so you can file off a little, at a time, making it shorter,,
    untill the point of aim, coinsides with the point of impact...

    This must be true,,, I saw a movie where dannial boon bought a new rifle,, and sighted it by filing down his front blade to suit!
    Thanks, Defender. I did know about sighting in by reducing the height of the front side blade. More what I'm looking for is that the front sight blade was deliberately high. Meaning the gun was regulated--already sighted mostly close--by making the front sight high, which is the report I have, as compared to making it high so it could be filed down. I've seen plenty of photos of peacemakers and older 20th century revolvers where the rounded front sight blade (as opposed to the later ramped sights) were not flattened on top by filing.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

  18. #18
    Campaign Veteran ak56's Avatar
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    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Basic high-school physics that I studied so long ago.

    That action starts at the moment the powder ignites.
    The force pushing the bullet down the barrel is also exerting an equal force backward on the gun. Your wrist is acting as a fulcrum (actually, other joints as well, but the wrist is of most import). Since the wrist is below the direction of force, the front of the gun will tend to rise. This starts happening at the moment the action (ignition) starts.

    To account for a 4" difference at 30' would only require a rise of 0.63 degrees of arc during the time that the bullet is traveling down the barrel.

    Remembering that in the earlier times, a single handed hold was popular, the typical rise would probably be more than with a more modern two-handed hold on the revolver.

    I say the theory that the manufacturer accounted for this with a higher front sight is plausible.
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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak56 View Post
    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Basic high-school physics that I studied so long ago.

    That action starts at the moment the powder ignites.
    The force pushing the bullet down the barrel is also exerting an equal force backward on the gun. Your wrist is acting as a fulcrum (actually, other joints as well, but the wrist is of most import). Since the wrist is below the direction of force, the front of the gun will tend to rise. This starts happening at the moment the action (ignition) starts.

    To account for a 4" difference at 30' would only require a rise of 0.63 degrees of arc during the time that the bullet is traveling down the barrel.

    Remembering that in the earlier times, a single handed hold was popular, the typical rise would probably be more than with a more modern two-handed hold on the revolver.

    I say the theory that the manufacturer accounted for this with a higher front sight is plausible.
    My calculations on the figures given means the end of the barrel on 4" would have have a movement under 3/64th's of an inch. Seems plausible to me.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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