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The Best Backup Iron Sights (BUIS)

Michael Crites

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For most of us, our rifles are only as effective as our optics. But if your optics are powered by batteries, as are all red dot and other electrical sights, then those batteries will eventually run dry (often at the worst time) leaving you without any sights whatsoever.

Backup iron sights, or BUIS, are a great alternative to using another electrical optic. These sights will never fail you because of lack of power and can often be sprung up or engaged only when necessary.

 They’re also great additions for rifles that would otherwise only use long-distance optics, like scopes, as those won’t offer you any kind of fixed sight.

Today, let’s break down the best backup iron sights on the market.

In This Article:

BUIS Comparison

Below is my list of the best backup iron sights for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.

Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of BUIS.

BUIS Reviews

1. Best Overall: Magpul MBUS

Sale
Magpul MBUS PRO Steel Backup Sights, Front Sight Black
The MBUS (Magpul Back-Up Sight) is a low-cost, color injection molded, folding back-up sight. It is constructed of tough, impact resistant polymer to provide light weight and resistance to operational abuse.
PSA PA-15 Looking Down MOE Sights
The MBUS fit atop an AR like they were made for it (because, well, they were.)

These flip-up backup iron sights from Magpul are some of the most expensive on the list – you’ll pay twice as much as you might for any of the other sets on this list. Still, Magpul is a premium name in firearm accessories, and these are a great choice – giving you the opportunity to purchase both sights as a set for a single sight for use with a shotgun or pistol.

Activation is very natural — the MBUS use a dual-paddle activation switch along with a top push-button, so you have multiple ways to get them up and in place.

I found the activating left-side paddle most natural with my support hand thumb and preferred the MBUS activation methods to other BUIS. The polymer is easier on the thumb than metal and the release mechanism is straightforward and snappy.

Best AR-15s - PSA PA-15 Magpul MOE BUIS Front Sight
The MBUS fold perfectly flat and use multiple activation switches -- here you can see the left toggle switch, which I found easy to activate with my support hand thumb.

What we liked:

What we didn't:

PSA PA-15 Magpul MOE Rear Sight Collapsed
The rear sight uses the same activation buttons as the front sight - here you can see the top button which uses downward pressure to activate the sight.

The sights are made with a durable polymer that keeps the weight quite low at just 0.08 pounds per sight. The sights are spring-loaded for easy activation and they feature knobs to adjust for windage and elevation. They will, however, require tools.

The sights are also pretty easy to mount since you can combine them with most Picatinny rails on the market. You can’t mount these to a railed gas block, however, as the excess heat will melt the polymer over time.

PSA PA-15 Magpul MOE Rear Sight Open
Rear MBUS popped up and ready for action.

2. Runner-Up: Tacticon Flip-up Iron Sights

Tacticon Flip Up Iron Sights for Rifle Includes Front Sight Adjustment Tool | Rapid Transition...
  • ✔ FRONT SIGHT ADJUSTMENT TOOL INCLUDED! This front sight elevation tool is included! It sells for...
  • ✔ COMES WITH WOODEN CASE AND FRONT SIGHT ADJUSTMENT TOOL - Keep the sight adjustment tool and the...
  • ✔ PUSH BUTTON FLIP UP WITH EASE - Simply the press of a button and your iron sights will pop up...

These first backup iron sights are a flip-up set that can be engaged quickly and separately – use either of them according to your needs at the time with the press of a button.

Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Open Peep
Super quick install on the Tacticon BUIS - took me all of 5 minutes. Large peep was very open. I found the large button (right, bottom) easy to engage. Left side knob controls for left/right calibration.

Both front and rear iron sights on the Tacticons offer elevation and windage adjustments, and the set even comes with a tool you need to change those settings for added accuracy at a distance.

Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Tight Peep - Mounted
Small peep was tight enough for solid groups at 30-50 yards but the overall wight of the rear sight felt a little too chunky for my taste.

What we liked:

What we didn't:

Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Front Sight Mounted Alt
The front sight post is a little crude and pretty large. The large button (right) engages the sight. Again, its noticeably wider than the rail.

One of the best features of the Tacticon Armament Flip Up Iron Sights is the ease of deploying them. A large push-button release quickly engages the sights, snapping them into position.

Also – mounting is with an allen wrench so you’re not stuck fiddling with a knob. It took me all of 5 minutes to install them on my DDM4.

Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Front Sight Mounted
I was happy to see the front sight folded pretty flat -- if not fully low profile.

Both sights are made of hardened aircraft-grade aluminum alloy to ensure top-tier durability. Furthermore, the set comes with a high-quality wooden box for storage and for an added touch of class.

LIke I said -- the front sight post is pretty large. This is on a 16-inch DDM4 barrel.
Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Front Sight Flat
The front sight folded, side view. Here you can see the allen wrench slot for mounting.
Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Rear Sight Not Totally Flat Atl
Rear sight not exactly flat.
Back-up Iron Sights - Tacticon - Rear Sight Not Totally Flat
Rear sight folds better with the tight peep folded back.

The sights also offer a black anodized finish that protects against corrosive damage and ensure they’re up to the task no matter how much moisture, dust, or dirt get worked into them. The sights are fully refundable – so if you aren’t satisfied the lifetime warranty ensures you can return them no questions asked.

All-in for less than $50 I think these are hard to beat.

3. Budget Option: Feyachi Flip-Ups

Feyachi Flip Up Rear Front and Iron Sights Best Backup fits Picatinny & Weaver Rails Black
  • Machined from lightweight and extremely durable aluminum, Mil-Spec hard anodized
  • Calibrated and matched together as a set, Designed for same plane with low profile rear sight
  • Flip-up design with spring load push button, allowing for quick deployment Rear sight Windage...

These budget-friendly backup iron sights from Feyachi are easy to install for just about everyone. They’re made with lightweight and durable aluminum and feature a mil-spec, hard-anodized finish for added corrosive resistance

What we liked:

What we didn't:

The sights are made with same-plane mounting and feature a low profile, so your sight picture won’t be compromised by their addition. They use a spring-loaded push-button so you can quickly deploy both sights. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage, while the front can adjust for elevation.

We also like that the sights combined only weigh 1.5 ounces, making these some of the smallest and easiest to install on the market. The tool you need to adjust for windage and elevation is included with this budget-friendly set.

4. Also Great: Ozark Armament

Sale
Ozark Armament Flip Up Battle Sights - Best Military Grade Battle Sights with All Metal Construction...
  • MILITARY GRADE METAL CONSTRUCTION: Constructed of metal for a lifetime of use, Tight tolerances...
  • FUNCTIONAL, PRACTICAL, AND FULLY ADJUSTABLE: Provides a perfect co-witness with any standard height...
  • ADAPTABLE, MULTIFUNCTION USE: Designed to easily fit any situation with a small aperture and large...

These flip-up backup iron sights from Ozark Armament are made with heavy-duty aluminum and have a spring-loaded button on each base. This allows you to deploy them quickly and easily and in the heat of an engagement. Combined, the sights are fully adjustable for both windage and elevation.

What we liked:

What we didn't:

More importantly, these produce some of the lowest profiles when pushed down. Thus, they’re a great choice for combining with heavier and bulkier optics, like rifle scopes, so you can capably handle any accuracy needs for both close quarters and long-distance engagements.

The sights come with a full one-year warranty and are set to last for a lifetime anyway, thanks to the durability of their construction and aluminum material. The only downside is the mounting difficulty, as these can be tricky to install on your rifle without a little assistance and a few advanced tools.

5. Honorable Mention: Dagger Defense

Dagger Defense -Combat Vet Owned Company- Tactical flip up BUIS Picatinny Rail Mounted Backup Iron...
  • Tactical picatinny rail mounted BUIS
  • Aluminum alloy in black matte finish
  • Spring loaded flip up feature

This last set up backup iron sights is a great choice if you have an AR-15 rifle of any type.

It’s an incredibly low-profile set, and it offers orientations of either left or right angles at 45°, depending on your aiming needs. These sights can mount on even large rifles and in combination with other optics, so feel free to use them with bulkier scopes.

What we liked:

What we didn't:

The dials are particularly nice since you can adjust for windage and elevation without having to use a tool. The sights are also exceptional since they work well for left or right-handed shooters: a rarity in the industry.

Though they weigh 3.4 ounces combined (and are thus a little heavy in comparison to other sights), they’re made with durable steel and aircraft-grade aluminum to ensure a lifetime of performance.

Why Do You Need Backup Iron Sights?

Let’s face it – the majority of rifle manufacturers these days will assume that you’ll go out and buy a red dot or another optic to mount on the weapon’s rail.

There are tons of manufacturers that simply don’t produce their firearms with pre-installed classic iron sights like they used to.

But while red dot sights and other optics are fantastic – what happens if the battery on your primary optic runs out or the sight breaks? In that case, iron sights can be a tried-and-true secondary sight option that allow you to retain close-quarters accuracy.

Backup iron sights are just that: backups. But they’re crucial if you really want to be ready for everything.

What to Look for in Backup Iron Sights

Different iron sights are engineered for different purposes and offer a variety of features. Consider the following factors to make sure that you pick a pair of iron sights that are perfect for your needs.

Flip-Up or Fixed?

Backup iron sights will come in either flip up or fixed orientations. Flip-up backup iron sights can be collapsed and more easily combined with other optics, like red dot sights via co-witnessing. Pairing your BUIS with a red dot gives you another level of familiarity by forcing you into regularly using the front sight post. However, fixed backup iron sights never need to be engaged and both front and rear sights are always ready to go. Either option can work, but flip-ups are better if you do plan to combine backup iron sights with other optics regularly.

Gas Block or Same-Plane Sight

Gas block backup iron sights feature a post that will let you mount your sights at varying elevations. Meanwhile, same-plane sights will have both backup iron sights mounted on the same level. Gas block sights are usually a little bigger, but this ultimately a matter of personal preference.

Easy to Install

Some backup iron sights are considerably easier to install than others, which may require the assistance of a gunsmith or complex tools. Go for backup iron sights that are easy to install if you want to handle everything yourself and/or you like tinkering with your setup from time to time.

Durability

Lastly, be sure to consider durability before purchasing a pair of backup iron sights. Long-lasting iron sights are usually well worth the higher asking price since you won’t need to get a replacement as quickly and quality hardware is worth its weight in gold – often holding up much better if you’re a tinkerer. 

Wrap Up

All in all, the Magpul MBUS Flip Up Backup Sights are the best backup iron sights on the market.

They’re top tier- due to their build quality, flexibility, and durability, and the included lifetime warranty. Although those sights are excellent, each of the above backup iron sights is offers something unique.

Go with the sights that best suit your budget and rifle’s needs and you won’t be disappointed. 

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