Traditional shotgun sights were simple. They usually consisted of a single bead at the end of the shotgun barrel. In recent years, gun manufacturers and aftermarket gun parts companies have produced a widening array of shotgun sights. This is a response to a trend toward specialization in modern shotguns. Whereas traditionally most hunters owned a single shotgun to hunt flying birds, turkey and deer, hunters today often own different guns for each species, complete with species-specific sights.
A single bead at the end of the barrel is the most basic type of shotgun sight. The hunter sights down the barrel and covers the target with the bead. The bead sight can be used with or without a ventilated rib. A ventilated rib is simply a rail along the top of the barrel that a hunter sights along. It helps to aim, but is not necessary. Bead sights are ideal when shooting at fast-flying targets, such as birds or clay targets.
A double-bead shotgun sight has a bead at the end of the barrel like a single-bead shotgun and a smaller bead located about halfway down the barrel. The shooter aligns the small rear bead behind the larger front bead. The benefit of this system is that it forces the shooter to keep his cheek tight to the shotgun stock. Some shooters tend to lift their heads, subconsciously watching to see if the target is hit before pulling the trigger. This bad habit hurts accuracy. Double-bead sights can be used with or without a ventilated rib, although most double-bead sights come on a ventilated rib. They are also used for flying birds and clay targets.
Post and Blade Sight
Rifle sights, open sights and iron sights are synonymous terms for post and blade sights. This is the type of sighting system that comes with an unscoped rifle. The sighting system consists of a rear notched blade and a front post. To aim, the shooter aligns the post in the notched blade and flush with the top of the blade. Unlike with single-bead and double-bead sights, the shooter can adjust the windage and elevation of this sight. Post and blade sights may be made of iron. They often are made with fiber optic cable for better aiming in low-light conditions. Post and blade sights are used for stationary targets, such as deer and turkeys. Hunters generally shoot turkeys while the birds are standing, not flying.
Red Dot Scope
A red dot scope is a type of short scope mounted over the shotgun receiver. It generally does not have magnification, although it may. The scope has a holographic red dot illuminated inside the tube. It does not project a red dot onto the target. The shooter aligns the red dot on the target and shoots. Red dot scopes are used on stationary targets.
The use of scopes on shotguns has grown in popularity as more deer hunters use shotguns for deer hunting, either because rifles are illegal where they're hunting or because shotguns are more versatile and can be used for other species. Like a red dot scope, a regular scope mounts over the receiver. Scopes generally have magnification. Sighting styles vary, but most scopes have some sort of internal crosshair sighting system. The point of impact is where the vertical wire crosses the horizontal wire in the center of the scope. Scopes are used for shooting stationary targets.
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.