How to Adjust Buckhorn Sights

by Joe Shead
Many lever-action rifles come from the factory with buckhorn sights.

Many lever-action rifles come from the factory with buckhorn sights.

A buckhorn sight is a type of iron sight, designed for use on a rifle. Many old lever-action rifles came with buckhorn sights. A buckhorn sight consists of a straight post mounted on the front of the barrel, and a notched metal blade toward the rear of the barrel. The notched blade has wide ears that flare out and curve back in at the top, similar to the shape of a deer's antlers; thus the name buckhorn. Styles of buckhorn sights vary. Some are adjustable, while others are not.

Adjusting Buckhorn Sights

1. Fire three shots at a target to establish a group.

2. Move the rear sight in the direction you want your bullet to travel to hit the bulls-eye. For example; if you hit above your target, you want the bullet to travel lower, so lower the rear sight. Tighten the spring-loaded elevation screw -- if the rear sight has one -- with a hex wrench or screwdriver to lower the rear sight. Some rear sights slide up and down along a rail. For this style of sight, loosen the screw, then slide the sight down to lower the point of impact and re-tighten.

3. Adjust the windage in the same manner -- by moving the rear sight in the direction you want the point of impact to move. Some rear sights move horizontally when you turn an adjustment screw. If so, turn the adjustment screw right to move right, and left to move left. Other styles are designed to be hammered to the side with a brass punch and mallet. Hammer the rear sight in the appropriate direction.

4. Shoot three more shots to find out how far the point of impact moved. Adjusting buckhorn sights isn't an exact science, so only trial and error will get you on target. Repeat the process if necessary.

Using a Fixed-Position Buckhorn Sight for Changes in Elevation

1. Aim the buckhorn sight by aligning the front post flush with the top of the notch in the rear sight for normal shooting distances. This is the standard way to aim a buckhorn sight.

2. Align the front post in the center of the buckhorn, halfway between the top of the notch and the top of the buckhorn sight, for shooting slightly longer distances.

3. Align the front post with the top of the buckhorn, where it sweeps back in toward the center at the top of the sight, for shooting at even longer distances.

Items you will need

  • Ammunition
  • Target
  • Screwdriver
  • Hex wrench
  • Brass punch
  • Mallet

Tip

  • Examine the rifle and consult the owner's manual to learn whether your rifle's buckhorn sights are adjustable. Some adjustable styles have spring-loaded screws that can be adjusted with a screwdriver or hex wrench to change elevation. Some models can be adjusted for windage by drifting the rear sight sideways with a mallet and brass punch. The buckhorn sight can be sighted along at different points to shoot farther distances when the sight itself is not adjustable. Practice shooting while aiming at the three points mentioned in section 2 to learn exactly how much aiming at each point changes the point of impact prior to shooting at a live target. Without practice, the point of impact is merely a guess.

Warning

  • Consult the rifle's owner's manual to see if the rear sight can be adjusted with a brass punch and mallet before attempting to do so. If it's not designed that way, hammering on the sight could damage it. Use a soft brass punch to avoid scratching the steel sight surface. Exercise caution when shooting at a target at a shooting range. Follow all range rules for safety.

About the Author

Joe Shead is a freelance writer specializing in outdoor writing. He has written for numerous national and regional outdoor magazines on various topics from hunting to fishing to his pet subject, shed antler hunting.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images