On Iron Sights (Day 25)

“Iron Sights” is the term used to describe the process of looking down the barrel of a gun in order to aim more effectively. This is opposed to “firing from the hip”, which is shooting while just using the crosshairs (or an estimate of the centre of your screen) to aim.

Iron Sights became extremely popular, I think, around the time of the success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I haven’t done a scrap of research on that, to be clear, it’s a total guess.


In some ways, iron sights are more immersive and ‘realistic’ than aiming with crosshairs, if only because they’re diegetic.  They also present an interesting tactical decision to be made – take the time to lift your gun for precision aiming, or take the loss of accuracy to start firing immediately from the hip?

I assume that was always the idea behind iron sights, but in practice many games rely on it anyway, despite offering the option of hip fire.


Often, firing the hip is entirely worthless, but firing down the sights is pinpoint accurate. There’s no real decision to be made in many of these cases, because aiming is always best, even in split second moments.

How do you feel about iron sights? Do you prefer the crosshair-laden days of yore? Let me know in the comments!


3 responses to “On Iron Sights (Day 25)”

  1. Robert McPherson says :

    In terms of the dramatic change in accuracy keep in mind that using irons sights is also about properly bracing the gun, either against the shoulder for a long-arm or a braced shooting position for a handgun.

    • rowan2010 says :

      Oh yeah, I get that. My problem is that in a lot of games it’s just objectively better, and takes so little time to initiate that you should literally always do it – especially in console games with heavy aim assist.

      In those cases, it’s just another button arbitrarily added to the process of shooting.

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