The AR 15 world is flooded with optics, sights, and irons. This is the best time to be a new black rifle builder, but all those options can be intimidating. An important decision to make is what sight system will you use on your rifle. We're talking about iron sights, because every good battle rifle needs one. It comes down to choosing either fixed or folding, and there is a lot of debate over which is the superior choice for the AR 15.
Fixed AR 15 Sight
We can’t lie when we say we actually prefer a fixed front sight. The traditional A2-style front sight has stayed popular for a reason, and it's even a popular choice on our customer-favorite 10.5" pistol upper. It’s dependable, easy to adjust, and it's tough as nails. Its position allows for perfect co-witnessing with AR-height optics. Its height is what all AR sights are based on, and it’s been successful with the military since Vietnam.
A lot about the original M16A2's design has fallen out of favor: The full 20-inch barrel, the full sized stock, a carry handle, plastic handguards, and more. But that fixed front AR 15 sight is still around and it's still a dependable option for a front sight for a reason.
You may have trouble finding a solid fixed rear sight. The Daniel Defense A1.5 is one of the better options out there. The advantage comes from the fact these fixed sights aren’t worried about being compact. They offer finer adjustments, and often come with separate peep sights for close and long range. The downside is they typically get in the way of optics and they crowd the sight picture.
Folding AR 15 Sight Advantages
Folding AR 15 sights have become the new hotness. They've continued growing in popularity over the last decade. As the world shifted from fighting wars with iron sights to optics the need for iron sights shrunk. The optic is the primary sighting system today. Folding AR 15 iron sights like the Magpul MBUIS are designed to function as backup sights to an optic.
These nifty little sights fold out of the way to giveyou an unobstructed view through your sight. If the optic goes down, the sights pop up with the push of a button and you can stay in the fight or the hunt. They allow users to take advantage of a long sight radius, which makes shooting accurately easier. To take advantage of this longer sight radius, you need a full-length rail system, like the 13" handguard found on our popular 16" rifle upper or a gas block with a Picatinny top rail.
Folding sights tend to be more fragile. The front sight is often placed in the same area where someone might grab your weapon. This location makes it the least protected when being carried as well.
A Mixed Approach?
Why not use the best of both worlds? We’ve stopped trying to justify one over the other and said to Hell with it. We like to use a fixed front sight, of the A2 design, and a rear folding sight. We particularly like the Magpul BUIS. This combo affords a rugged, strong front sight that can take abuse like a champ. At the same time, one can fold the rear sight out of the way and enjoy an unobstructed sight picture through any optic.
Some shooters say you can’t compromise. Those shooters will be either stuck in the past, or always looking for a better mousetrap. Use what works for you. For our needs, we like a combination of both fixed and folding. Compromise is the king of ingenuity.