How many times have you heard that? I know I’ve been told it over and over again. It’s used as an excuse for missing a target, or the base for criticizing the AK. My favorite is when it’s been used as a retort against all the positive traits of an AK, as if it’s worth forgoing the strengths of the platform solely because, “it has a short sight radius”.
Sight radius is the length between the front and rear sight. They do not have any effect on the accuracy of a firearm; that is all up to ballistics and the internal workings of the gun. A longer sight radius DOES, however, make it easier to be accurate with a firearm. Think of it as leverage for your eye. If you hold a long pencil in front of you and move your fingers just enough to change the direction its pointing, and then repeat that action with a short pencil using the same amount of effort you’ll find the short pencil swings farther (in degrees) than the longer one did. Now try that again with your eye looking down the length of the pencil. That’s where sight radius length becomes important. The adjustments you can make are more finite with a longer sight radius. This is very noticeable on pistols. Part of being more accurate with a 5”-barreled pistol than a 3.5”-barreled at seven yards is how much sight movement you get on such a stubby pistol.
Where the sights are along the plane of the barrel may impact ergonomics, but length is what’s important. After a few years of AK-dominated shooting it became apparent to me that the rifle’s sight radius doesn’t seem all that shorter than an AR’s, so I did a little experiment. Check out the results below.