I have an interest in sextants and how they work, mostly from reading the Horatio Hornblower novels.

I know that sextants are still sold, and while I am sure that are not nearly as precise as GPS is nowadays it would still be a fun project to learn how to use them.

What should a beginner look for when purchasing their first sextant?

  • 3
    Look for one that has a good GPS antenna. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 10:54
  • coteyr's answer has exposed an ambiguity which I was not even aware of: apparently a navigator's sextant and an astronomer's sextant are different devices. I am assuming you mean a navigator's sextant, the one with the mirrors that is more complicated than merely reading off a protractor.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:05
  • It appears that an astronomer's sextant is little more than a partial quadrant: essentially a protractor for measuring angles in the sky that only goes up to 60 degrees rather than the quadrant's usual 90.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:06
  • Navigator's sextant: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextant
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


Low cost, or flash. Or make your own, they are "easy" to make.

When learning how to use one (there is a reason they are still sold) it doesn't have to be precise. You just need something to practice with. https://www.popsci.com/make-sextant-from-junk

They are very easy to use and very easy to make. If you are just looking to learn, these really simple ones should get you started.

  • 1
    While not strictly an integral part of the question, it would still make this good answer even better if you could give a short description of a self-made sextant in the answer itself. Looking at the link it's super simple, so it should be doable in very few sentences.
    – imsodin
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 10:02
  • My first reaction to this was "Aren't you talking about a quadrant?" However, on further approach, it appears that a navigation sextant and an astronomical sextant are not quite the same device.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.