Both standard rifle scopes and advanced weapon sights are a popular accessory for AR-15 users. These accessories are all well and good, but they are prone to malfunction or failure.
This makes a tried, trusted, belt and braces alternative a must-have. It can mean the difference between accurately hitting your target or missing it completely. That may not be the end of the world during target practice or while out hunting. However, it is essential in any life-threatening situation. This is where the best iron sights for AR-15 weapons really come into play.
Let’s get straight into six reviews of models that fit the bill and some. From there, a detailed buying guide will point beginners and the more experienced in the right direction.
Top 6 Best Iron Sights for AR-15 In 2023 Reviews
How times change! Iron sights were once THE primary sights for M16/AR-15 shooters. They have now become commonly known as BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights). However, this still does not change how important quality iron sights can be for those in need.
So, here are six excellent products that will not let you down, starting with the…
1 Magpul Industries MBUS Pro Flip Up Sights – 3 Models – Best Premium Iron Sight for AR-15
When it comes to firearms accessories, Magpul Industries are right up there with the best. Here’s an iron sight option that is top quality.
Full functionality and strength…
The three models stated come in a front sight, back sight, or a front and back sight set. It is the full set that will be looked at here.
All-steel built, they come with a melonite finish to ensure they last as long as your rifle does. The rectangular sight post is also selectable between Match and Standard widths. Measurements are .040-inch width for Match, .060-inch standard width, which provides maximum visibility.
AR-15 shooters are buying into an iron sight solution that delivers strength coupled with functionality. In fact, these are some of the strongest AR15 Iron Sights you can buy.
This set comprises a dual aperture, windage adjustable rear sight, and toolless elevation adjustable front sight. It is compatible with all 1913-Picatinny rail mount applications, including those with rail-height gas blocks.
When deployed, the Magpul MBUS PRO Tactical Rifle sight set uses positive detents in the up/down positions. When deployed, the elevation knob also maintains a standard AR sight height. A low profile design means that when in the stowed position, users won’t notice them until needed! Another great feature for those with IR aiming lasers and lights installed is that these sights are compatible with most models.
Specs include a rear aperture size of 0.19-inches, a height of 0.37-inches, and an objective aperture of 0.07 mm. Length comes in at 2.1-inches, ring height is 1.41-inches, and weight is just 1.8 ounces. Adjustment click value comes in 0.5 MOA (Minute Of Angle) steps.
Note on design…
All MBUS (Magpul Back Up Sights) Pro Front Sights are now factory-equipped with an enhanced front sight post. This means you don’t need to purchase one separately unless retrofitting an older MBUS Pro front sight version. Another thing to be aware of, these enhanced front sight posts are not compatible with standard MBUS polymer sights.
- Magpul’s renowned quality.
- All-metal build.
- As durable as they come.
- Flip-up design – won’t be noticed until needed.
- Compatible with IR aiming lasers/lights.
- An investment that needs consideration.
2 Troy Industries – AR-15 HK-Style Front & Rear Folding Battle Sight Set – Best Illuminated Iron Sight for AR-15
Yet another top-quality flip-up sight set comes from Troy Industries. These best AR-15 iron sights may be a significant investment, but top quality is a given.
When it’s up, it’s up; when down, it stays down!
This highly rugged flip-up sight set is honed from stainless steel and aluminum. They come in either Black or Dark Earth finishes. Once attached, shooters have a failsafe backup. Whether your primary optic or red dot sight goes down, this battle sight set is ready to spring into action.
The sight body easily flips up when you need it but stays locked down when not used. This is thanks to the powerful spring pressure and two locking detent balls. Equally, there will be no accidental sight bumping down until the spring-loaded, left side base button is pressed to retract it.
Included base clamps secure to any commercial (or military) Picatinny rail using just a standard flathead screwdriver. The sleek build also means there are no knobs or levers that jut out to catch on clothing, other equipment, or when trekking through brush. The well-thought-out design also comes with protective “ears” to shield posts and apertures from impact.
Here’s what you get from the front and rear sights…
Both are HK-Style, and each one has a length of 1.17-inches with a width of 1.25-inches. Height-wise, they are classed as high-extended, with the rear sight 1.85-inches and the front sight 1.9-inches. There is also a slight difference in weight. The rear weighs 1.8 ounces, the front 1.6 ounces.
The rear sight has two same-plane apertures. There is a large .190-inch aperture that provides shooters with a wide FOV (Field Of View). This can be used when confronted with CQB (Close Quarter Battle) situations. Then there is the .070-inch aperture which is calibrated for long-target engagement.
As for the front sight, it has a distinctive globe shape that aids in QTA (Quick Target Acquisition). This is crucial in any stressful situation where urgent action is required. There is also a self-illuminating tritium dot on the post. This is highly effective for precise shot placement when shooting in low-light conditions.
- Solidly built quality.
- Sleek build.
- Ease of flip up/lock down.
- Effective CQB and Long-Range.
- QTA is yours.
- Self-illuminating Tritium dot on post.
- A significant investment.
3 OpticsPlanet Exclusive Daniel Defense A1.5 Fixed Iron Sights, Front & Rear – 2 Models – Best Quality Iron Sight for AR-15
Daniel Defense presents this sturdy, made in the USA, AR-15 fixed sight set that will not let you down.
If it is really lightweight, you are after….
This quality front/rear sight set is machined from robust, tough-wearing aluminum, comes with a hard anodized finish, and meets Mil-Spec. While these features show durability, the combined weight of 2.8 ounces will be virtually unnoticeable.
Both front and rear sight portions perfectly complement each other through a streamlined, unobtrusive, and snag-free design. Each sight is of quality one-piece build and very easy to install on any Mil-Std-1913 rail. They are secured with a slotted fastener threaded to a self-locking stainless steel thread insert. Any shooter using a quality reflex optic will find this an excellent BUIS (Back Up Iron Sight) set.
Superb with compact lights…
Those shooters who use compact weapon lights that sit forward of the sight will see real benefits. It has a concave radius sitting on either side of the sight. This makes a convenient place to rest your thumb while ensuring ease of ambidextrous light activation. There will be no concerns either about impeding use of the charging handle.
- Daniel Defense renowned quality.
- Durable & Robust, yet very lightweight.
- Unobtrusive and snag-free.
- Complements forward sight lights.
- Ideal for those using primary reflex sights.
- Ease of install.
4 A.R.M.S. INC. – AR-15 Polymer Sight Set – Best Polymer Iron Sight for AR-15
This A.R.M.S. Inc AR-15 sight set may be made from polymer but do not let that put you off.
Long-range backup capability
In the event that your primary optic fails, this acceptably sturdy sight set has your back. In terms of long-range capability, it is seen as being among the best BUIS flip-up sets currently out there.
Anyone concerned with the material used during construction can be assured that these polymer sights are reinforced with steel. It should also be noted that all of the critical potential failure points are metal. The other benefit of such a construction comes with a lighter weight.
Quick as a flash…
It comes with an ultra-convenient pop-up tab feature and is easily pushed back down. When in the down position, the front sight measures just 0.6-inches, the rear sight 0.610-inches.The result is rapid transition from use of your primary to these quality backup sights.
While the front sights offer flexibility, it is the rear sight portion that will really interest shooters. It offers normal windage adjustment, and although there is no elevation adjustment, there is a neat feature to assist. That is a top slot on the rear aperture showing hash marks for holdovers. This gives the ability to zero the sights at 300 yards. From there, the holdover markings allow use for longer shots.
- Reinforced polymer construction.
- Great backup sight for magnified optics.
- Fast transition from primary to backup sight use.
- Solid choice for longer distance shooting.
- CQB effective use.
- Easy pop-up functionality.
- Very low profile when in the down position.
- Clear FOV when folded down.
- Even reinforced, they are still polymer.
5 FAB Defense Front and Rear Set of Flip-up Sights – 3 Models – Most Reliable Iron Sight for AR-15
This is the second AR-15 sight set made from durable polymer and metal.
Good choice for tactical and range use
The FAB Defense front and rear flip-up sight set comes in a choice of three colors: Black, FDE, or OD Green, and the durable build should suit all but the most demanding of shooters.
This high-quality iron sight set can be used with confidence either as a backup or primary sighting system. It offers consistently reliable deployment through an instant spring-locked mechanism. Ease of use in tactical situations and/or at the range is yours. This is through the positive detent locking feature that means toolless elevation adjustments are quick and easy.
Users will save precious target adjustment time but still have the ability to deliver precise shots whenever needed. The low profile design of each sight also means no snagging, regardless of the field situation you find yourself in.
- Robust enough for most shooters.
- As reliable as they come.
- Lightweight, low-profile.
- Three color choices.
- Ease of use in tactical situations.
- No tools required for adjustment.
- Snag-free design.
6 Midwest Industries Combat Rifle Sight Set – 2 Models – Lowest Profile Iron Sight for AR-15
The quality just keeps on coming. This Midwest Industries combat rifle sight set is another choice that ranks with the best iron sights for AR-15 use.
Quality, very lightweight build
Designed specifically for the AR-15 platform, this combat sight set is designed for AR-15, M16, and M4 weapon use. It comes in either an FDE or Black finish and is made from highly durable ordnance grade steel. As for the aluminum base, this keeps overall weight to a minimum. With a weight of just 1.4 ounces, they are designed to fit any rifle equipped with a Picatinny rail.
Using a standard A2 front sight post, the set pops up and folds down smoothly. This means consistent Mil-Spec height when in the up position and a low profile, .437-inch no-snag fit when folded down.
As low as you can go…
The super low profile is just .388-inches centerline when stored in the down position. It also means available room and ease of use for your primary optic. The included dual locking detent springs bring added reliability along with crisp positioning.
Don’t let the skeletonized look fool you; these are fully functional Mil-Spec battle sights. Rear sight windage adjustability comes from an easy-access, easy turn knob. Front sight adjustment is yours with the company’s A2 standard front sight post and included tool. Ease of zeroing is an added plus.
- Quality lightweight build.
- Will last as long as your weapon.
- Skeletonized design with full functionality.
- Good for close range and longer-distance targeting.
- Very low profile fit.
- Ease of adjustability.
Why Do You Need BUIS, and How Important Are They?
Do you really need BUIS? What is the importance of them? These two questions will depend upon your personal view and AR-15 use. But let me throw these quick thoughts in for consideration…
How important are BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights)?
Well, that really depends. For certain shooting applications, they are essential; for others, they are advisable.
Anyone who uses their rifle for tactical or home defense purposes is strongly advised to install BUIS. This is because if your primary optic fails for one of many reasons, your back up sights really could be a life-saver.
If your main application is target shooting or hunting, the need for BUIS is not so essential. However, it is advisable. Weigh-up the frustration, wasted time, and cost if you are out in the field and your primary optic fails. For example, this will be particularly annoying if it happens early in the hunting session.
Taking a belt and braces approach to any type of backup is never a bad thing. If a preferred choice fails, you have something to fall back on.
One other thing that appears to be getting lost in the mix with ‘modern’ shooters is the ability to use standalone iron sights. Just remember, being able to do so will add another string to your AR-15 expertise!
Best Iron Sights for AR-15 Buying Guide
The challenge is finding BUIS that suit your needs and at a price, you are prepared to pay. There is certainly no shortage of choice. Models are available in a wide variety of options at prices that vary significantly. This means you need to get the balance right.
So, take a look at these factors and prioritize them…
Durable, robust use
This is crucial. By the very nature of AR-15 use, you must expect knocks and drops. While your rifle is likely to withstand these, flimsy BUIS could very well not. Without a doubt, BUIS made from steel or quality aluminum are the most durable; however, they are generally more expensive.
Polymer models have come a long way in design, but they are not as sturdy as all-metal builds. Having said that, they will suffice for those who do not get too down and dirty! Just one thing to be aware of, anyone intending to mount on a gas block must go for metallic BUIS.
The mention of gas blocks brings us onto what elevation level you are after. The two major options are gas block and same plane sights, and there are advantages to both.
Using a gas block sight post means sound rifle installation regardless of elevation. It should also be noted that BUIS are generally larger than other options.
As for the same plane sight versions, they do what they say on the tin! I.e., They are installed on the same level as your primary optic.
Flip-Up or Fixed Sights?
Again, the terms are self-explanatory, but when fitted correctly, operation is different. Fixed BUIS sights stay firm when installed on your weapon. This means your front and rear sight sets are always engaged and allow for absolute co-witness. Fixed sight use also means it is one less step to worry about if you need to use them.
As for the best flip-up sights for AR-15, these stay flat on your rifle and only need to be engaged when required. They spring-up either through the use of a button or are manually raised. When not in use, simply push them back down. Many shooters find the ability to raise and lower iron sights quickly and with ease to be very convenient.
One other point, either type can be used as in-line sights or as offset sights. Again, your shooting style will dictate which is best.
Installation and adjustments
Regardless of the model of BUIS you choose, they should be easy to install and must fit securely to your weapon. When it comes to adjustability, some are classed as toolless, while others require a tool.
If you intend purchasing a model that requires a tool, do check to see if one is included. Also, if you have a primary optic and/or lights installed, double-check that the BUIS model you purchase is fully compatible. Most models are, but compatibility should still be checked.
Price and a word of caution
Price will always be a consideration. BUIS models come in from low double digit dollar prices to noticeable treble digit dollar prices. Do consider what you see as being a reasonable budget for your needs. It stands to reason that occasional, fair-weather shooters don’t need to spend as much as those who spend a lot of time in the field.
The word of caution comes from a fact that is sad but true! There are a good number of counterfeit models out there. This is particularly the case with higher-cost versions. If you see such models being offered at very low prices, it is a sure bet that you are looking at fakes.
The age old saying “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” stands tall here. So save angst and frustration by purchasing from a reputable source.
Looking for Some Excellent Scope Options for Your AR?
Then it’s well worth checking out our informative reviews of the Best AR-15 ACOG Scopes, the Best Scopes for AR-15, the Best AR15 Carry Handle Scopes, the Best AR-10 Scopes, the Best Scopes for AR15 under 100 Dollars, as well as the Best Night Vision Scopes for AR-15 you can buy in 2023.
So, Which of These Best Iron Sights for AR-15 Should You Buy?
The jury may be out on the importance of installing BUIS on your AR-15. However, those that really need them will purchase and install without hesitation. While those on the fence should take into account the potential frustration caused if their primary weapon optic goes down.
With purchase and use in mind, all six models that I reviewed are quality. But, one BUIS set that really stands out in terms of design, reliability, and cost is the…
This made-in-the-USA BUIS set has a robust, sturdy aluminum build, hard-anodized finish, and is Mil-Spec rated. It also comes in at just 2.8 ounces. Ease of installation is yours, and the design allows for snag-free use in any conditions. They are also fully compatible with primary reflex optics and installed weapon lights.
Once fitted, shooters will be confident in the knowledge that these best AR15 iron sights will perform when needed.
Happy and safe shooting.