All Your Red Dot and Reflex Sight Questions Answered!

A red dot sight is a generic term for a type of non-magnified optic that uses electronics to display an illuminated reticle, typically a dot or a circle with a dot, onto a glass lens. Red dot and reflex sights are used in low-light situations to acquire targets quickly. Sightmark sells both red dot and reflex sights—yes, there’s a difference between the two!

We’ve gathered our most common questions about red dot sights and answered them here, as well as provide in-depth information in other blog posts to help you pick out the right sight for you.

Are Red Dot Sights Better Than Iron Sights?

A red dot sight is a generic term for a type of non-magnified optic that uses electronics to display an illuminated reticle, typically a dot or a circle with dot, onto a glass lens and are used for quick target acquisition and work well for low-light situations.
A red dot sight is a generic term for a type of non-magnified optic that uses electronics to display an illuminated reticle.
A red dot sight is a generic term for a type of non-magnified optic that uses electronics to display an illuminated reticle.

Highly skilled marksmen are just as fast and accurate with iron sights as they are red dot sights; however, for the regular shooter (non-professional/non-competitor), red dot sights are better than iron sights—especially when speed and precision top priority.

Red dot sights utilize a highly visible illuminated red or green reticle designed to be aimed with both eyes open. The red dot sight aids in point and shoot accuracy because users just focus on the red dot meeting the desired location on the target. Iron sights require users to align them by focusing on the target, as well as front sight and rear sights. It typically takes longer to aim with iron sights than it does with red dot or reflex sights.

Note: Though red dot sights are an excellent self-defense tool for close quarters, a great optic for turkey and predator hunting in low-light and necessary for competition, you should never solely depend on your electronic optics just in case batteries or other components fail. Learning how to use your iron sights correctly is a skill every shooter should master.

How do I Use a Red Dot Sight?

Easy windage and elevation click adjustments on the Sightmark Mini Shot M-SPEC mini red dot pistol sight make zeroing the 3 MOA red dot reticle a breeze
The M-Spec micro red dot sight has a 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.
The M-Spec micro red dot sight has a 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.

To use a red dot sight, mount it to your firearm and sight it in using a laser bore sight. Once your point of impact matches your point of aim, you are ready to start using your red dot sight.

While looking at your target, bring your gun up ready to fire. Keeping both eyes open, look through the red dot sight’s objective lens. The reticle will appear on the target as you bring your firearm up to the ready position. When the reticle appears on the area of the target you want to hit, pull the trigger. It is as simple as that!

For more detailed instructions on using a red dot or reflex sight for the first time, click here. 

What is the Difference Between a Reflex Sight vs. Red Dot?

The red dot sight aids in point and shoot accuracy because users just focus on the red dot meeting the desired location on the target. Iron sights require users to align them by focusing on the target, as well as front sight and rear sights. It typically takes longer to aim with iron sights than it does with red dot or reflex sights.
The red dot sight aids in point and shoot accuracy.
A reflex sight is a non-magnified optic that uses reflective glass to align light from an LED to project an illuminated aiming point on the lens. A reflective lens coating displays the illuminated dot only to you. It is not visible on the other side of the objective lens.

There are two types of reflex sights—an open reflex sight and a tube red dot sight. Open reflex sights are technically not a red dot sight, even though they do have illuminated red reticles. A true red dot sight has a tube-style housing which protects its glass better than open-style reflex sights.

Is it a red dot or a reflex sight? Learn more and test your knowledge by clicking here. 

What Does MOA Mean on a Red Dot Sight?

Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster but will be less precise because the dot will cover a broader area on the target.
Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster. 3 MOA is the most popular.
Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster. 3 MOA is the most popular.

MOA stands for Minute of Angle—a unit used for angular measurement of a circle. 1 MOA equals 1.047 inches at 100 yards. This means an illuminated MOA reticle will appear to be 1 inch in diameter on top of a target 100 yards from you. Small dot or circle reticles, like 1 or 2 MOA are utilized for very precise shots but are more difficult to see. Larger dots are much quicker to acquire but may cover too much of your target to be as accurate. Most people prefer a 3 MOA for close- to mid-range shooting distances.

We walk you through the best dot sizes for you in the article “What Size MOA Red Dot Should I Buy?” Click here to read it. 

Where do you Mount a Reflex Sight on an AR-15?

The best place to mount a reflex or red dot sight on your AR is above the ejection port.
The best place to mount a reflex or red dot sight on your AR is above the ejection port.

Because red dot and reflex sights have unlimited eye relief, there isn’t necessarily a wrong or right place to mount your optic. (Note: You shouldn’t mount your sight on the handguard rail.) Also, the dot or circle dot reticle and target stay the same size no matter where you mount your sight, so you can mount it anywhere along the gun’s rail that is most comfortable for you.

The most common place to mount a reflex sight on an AR-15 is a little closer to you than in the center of the rifle’s receiver. A good starting point is mounting it right above the rifle’s ejection port. From there, you can experiment with moving forward and backward to find where the sight works best for you.

To read more about where to mount your reflex or red dot sight on your AR-15 or other Modern Sporting Rifle, click here. 

Are Red Dot Sights Accurate?

Sightmark M-Spec reflex red dot sight
A red dot sight uses a reflective glass lens to gather light from an LED which projects an illuminated reticle.

When sighted-in properly and used correctly, red dot sights are incredibly accurate. They help with quick target acquisition and increased accuracy in low-light situations.

To learn how to use red dot and reflex sights accurately, click here. 

EOTech is one of very few companies that makes a true holographic sight. The model 512 is a classic and one of the company’s most popular.
The classic model 512 EOTech HWS sight.

What is the Difference Between a Red Dot and Holographic Sight?

Reflex and red dot sights use a reflector system, which utilizes a reflective glass lens to project an illuminated image superimposed on the field of view. A reflective glass lens is used to collimate light from a light-emitting diode (LED) to serve as an aiming point while allowing the user to see the field of view simultaneously.

Holographic sights use a laser transmission hologram to produce an illuminated reticle or dot. The hologram is illuminated via a laser diode instead of an LED.

Who makes holographic sights?

Very few manufacturers make true holographic sights—the most notable is EOTech. Vortex also makes a holographic sight.

Do you have a question about red dot, reflex or holographic sights? Ask us in the comment section and we will do our very best to answer it!

Click here to shop red dot and reflex sights!

Riflescope Glossary: What is MOA, FOV and POI?

Have you ever found yourself sitting around the campfire, at the gun range, or out in the field confused about the conversation? Then you probably need to read this. This is scope verbiage for dummies.

I can certainly understand why someone would be lost when hearing acronyms like FOV, POI, and MOA. Even someone who has been around firearms and the outdoors their whole life can find themselves tongue-tied when these riflescope terms come up. I have simplified some of the most common terms any hunter, long-range shooter and firearm owner should recognize and comprehend.

Let’s start with what’s already been mentioned: FOV, POI and MOA.

Field of View (FOV)

The field of view (FOV) is the area visible inside your scope.
The field of view (FOV) is the area visible inside your scope.

The field of view is the observable area that a human can view through an optic device. For example, when you look through a scope, any kind of scope, the area that is confined to what you are actually observing through the end of that scope is your field of view or FOV. The FOV can be measured in degrees or linear field.

Point of Impact (POI)

Woman adjusting a Sightmark riflescope
The POI shows a relationship between where you are aiming and where the bullet is going to hit.

The point of impact is where the bullet or laser hits the target. This is where the most impact will be had by pulling the trigger to fire or by aiming the laser downrange. This is especially useful for shotgun operators since a shotgun is designed to project a scattered pattern rather than a single shot. Your POI also shows a relationship between where you are aiming and where the bullet is going to hit. This can tell a rifle operator how far off their gun is from accurately being sighted in.

Minute of Angle (MOA)

A woman and man hunting
Minute-of-angle (MOA) is 1.047 inches at 100 yards and usually adjustable at 1/8- or 1/4-MOA per click,

You will hear this term most in long-range shooting. Minute of angle is often used to describe the size of the target. 1 MOA on a target that is 500 yards away is 5.” But let’s say the MOA on this target is actually 2. This means the target is 10″ in diameter. However, how much 1 MOA affects your POI, depends on the distance of the target. For example, there is a target sitting at 100 yards. An adjustment of 1 MOA on that target will move your POI 1.” This directly correlates in much higher distances as well. Let’s say there is a target at 1,000 yards. 1 MOA adjustment will now move this POI 10.” This helps shooters to more accurately hit their mark when shooting long-range because the bullet drops after firing due to factors such as wind, upwards or downwards angles, and gravity.

Objective Lens

The objective lens is the lens at the end of the scope.
The objective lens is the lens at the end of the scope.

This is the lens at the end of the scope. Not the lens that you look through, but the lens on the other end of the optic. For example, anytime you see 1-9×30, this means that scope can magnify from 1 to 9 and the diameter of the objective lens is 30 millimeters.

Reticle

Sighmark Pinnacle scope reticle example.
Sightmark Pinnacle scope reticle example.

A reticle is anything in the scope that helps you aim. In its simplest form, a crosshair is a reticle. A reticle can be etched onto the glass. This allows for the reticle to change in size as the scope magnifies (something also known as first focal plane) or to change color based on user preference. A reticle can also be fixed by being made from wire. You can tell whether a reticle is fixed or not by looking through the scope—if the crosshair is fixed at each edge of the scope, it is most likely not etched onto the glass lens.

Eye Relief

The eye relief is the distance between the eyepiece of the scope and your eye where you can see the full field of view.
The eye relief is the distance between the eyepiece of the scope and your eye where you can see the full field of view.

This is the distance between the eyepiece of the scope and where the eye sees the full FOV with no dark edge around the image. If you are looking through a scope and there is a dark circle around the image, scoot your head closer to the sight. If you look through a scope and can’t see any dark edges, move your head back a little. Find that sweet spot where you can rest your cheek comfortably against the stock of the gun and see through the scope without any dark edges, but if you moved even a centimeter forwards, you would see a black circle distorting your FOV. If you take anything away from this article, I would suggest this be it. The repercussions of not allowing yourself enough eye relief can lead to something called “scope eye” or “scope bite.” This is when a shooter is too close to the end of a scope and the gun’s recoil causes the scope to hit the shooter and slices their eyebrow open and/or gives them a black eye.

Second Focal Plane

The Sightmark Citadel LR2 riflescope's reticle is a good example of a first focal plane reticle.
The Citadel LR2’s first focal plane reticle.

As mentioned earlier, the first focal plane is when the reticle gets bigger as the operator zooms in, and gets smaller as the operator zooms out. The reticle adjusts in size as the scope magnifies. A second focal plane is the opposite of this—the reticle is fixed in size no matter how magnified the scope can be.

I hope the understanding of these common terms help you get involved in the conversation and also helps you understand how your firearm can work better for you!

What riflescope or optics terms do you not fully understand? Leave your questions in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them!

About Faith

Faith was born and raised in Ennis, Texas, a rural town just south of Dallas. Faith was a Marketing Intern with Sellmark Corporation and currently a senior at Baylor University, graduating soon with a degree in Marketing, with a focus on Data Analytics. Faith grew up hunting mostly deer, dove, and hog. Faith still spends her free time outdoors, as well as reading and coaching Crossfit.

The Best Tactical, Hunting, and EDC Flashlights

A tactical light should be a part of your every day carry (EDC)
A flashlight is an essential piece of your EDC.

For those who are self-defense minded and ascribe to Col. Jeff Cooper’s Situational Awareness color codes, a flashlight (or two…or few…) is an essential piece of your everyday carry (EDC) gear. Anyone who spends any time outdoors has a flashlight or two. Even those who don’t want anything to do with firearms or roughing it in the woods should have a flashlight in their emergency kit, on the nightstand and in the car or for those late night/early morning jog or dog walks. We’re vulnerable in the dark and a flashlight not only helps us light our way at night, they help us positively identify hazards in the dark—whether those hazards are stationary and we’re avoiding a nasty bruise or fall or we’re having to identify a life or death threat in our home, in a parking garage or in a dark alley.

There is a seemingly endless amount of the types of flashlights available—spotlights, night vision flashlights, camping and hiking lights, hunting flashlights, hand-held, head-mount, shop, keychain, tactical…the list goes on. In the firearms community, we’re mostly concerned with three types—hunting, tactical and EDC flashlights. EDC and tactical flashlights are very similar, while hunting lights generally offer a few additional features that many EDC and tac lights don’t have.

EDC/Everyday Carry Lights

The best EDC flashlights are compact and lightweight, yet don’t compromise brightness for size.
The best EDC flashlights are compact and lightweight, yet don’t compromise brightness for size.

The best EDC flashlights are compact and lightweight, yet don’t compromise brightness for size. An EDC light still needs to identify threats, aid in changing a tire or looking under the hood or help in a survival situation. Because you carry this light every day, construction must be durable and battery type and life is a serious consideration.

When shopping for an EDC flashlight, pay attention to the bulb type, the lumens (how bright the bulb is), focus adjustments (if it’s an option), brightness levels, and operation, as well as how it can be carried (lanyard loop, belt clip, etc.)

Sightmark’s SS280 tactical flashlight makes the grade from both the National Tactical Officers Association and the North American Hunting Club. With multiple lumen functions, this bright white Cree LED has three settings—100 lumens, 280 lumens and strobe mode. Strobe is preferred by many experts in self-defense situations, as well as a vital signaling tool in a survival or emergency situation. It has an IP67 waterproof rating and is made of aircraft-grade aluminum with a Type II MIL-Spec anodized finish. Included is a red, green and blue lens filter, which means this handheld flashlight works well for tactical purposes, reading a map at night, hunting and preserving night vision.

Click here to pick out your flashlight.

Tactical Flashlights

Tactical flashlights are designed for professional use in law enforcement, military and security. Civilians who own firearms to protect themselves, their families and their homes realize the usefulness of these types of lights and generally buy one for the bedside or to mount on their firearm. In many cases, they own both. Tactical flashlights have a very specific purpose—identify suspects or threats in low-light situations. They need to be bright enough to temporarily blind a person and bigger, heftier ones like MagLite, may be used as a blunt-force weapon if necessary. Like many EDC flashlights, tac lights will have a glass-breaking bezel and some type of strobe function.

The most important features of a tactical flashlight are its ability to be mounted to a firearm, its lumens and battery life. You really don’t want your tactical light to fail when you need it most.

Law enforcement and military use tactical lights every day.
Law enforcement and military use tactical lights every day.

Sightmark’s Q5 Triple Duty Tactical Flashlight is the perfect crossover between tactical and EDC. Tested and recommended by the National Tactical Officers Association and voted Editor’s Choice Award by Outdoor Life magazine, the Q5 is light enough to carry every day at 4.9 ounces and bright enough to serve on your home-defense rifle. It has a 280-lumen CREE LED bulb which casts a clean, bright white beam. LEDs are more efficient, brighter and conserve battery life better than incandescent bulbs. 280 is plenty to identify and stun bad guys. Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum with a MIL-SPEC Type II anodized finish, the Q5 tactical light can be dropped without incident and is submersible to 1 meter for up to 1 hour. Operation is via a two-stage push button on the tail cap or the included pressure pad. There is a three-prong glass-breaking bezel, as well as on the tail cap. The Q5 takes 2 (CR123A) batteries that last up to 1-1/2 hours continuous use. Included is the pressure pad, offset rifle mount and lanyard.

Hunting Lights

Hunters, especially predator hunters, utilize flashlights to track and spot hog and coyote at night. Hunting lights are often hand-held spotlights, headlamps or weapon-mounted and offer colored lenses or filters to preserve your vision at night and not spook game. Red filters are used to protect your night vision, while green is becoming more popular because we can see green light better than we can red light.

Hunters, especially predator hunters, utilize flashlights to track and spot hog and coyote at night.
Hunters, especially predator hunters, utilize flashlights to track and spot hog and coyote at night.

One Sightmark flashlight that really yields itself to multi-purposes is the Triple Duty H840 tactical flashlight kit. Either handheld or weapon-mountable, this light has three Cree LEDs for 840 super-bright lumens. It includes green, red and blue filters, which help with blood tracking. Like the T6, it is constructed of rugged, yet lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum and is Type II MIL-SPEC anodized. The H840 is also submersible to 1 meter for up to 1 hour.

Sightmark also has a super bright spotlight for extreme tactical use or for hunting, camping, hiking and other outdoor adventures with 3,000 lumens.

Sightmark has the best flashlights for any tactical, hunting or self-defense need. Besides the ones listed here, there weapon-mounted laser and light combos, IR illuminators and more handheld/rifle-mount lights online. Check them out here.

What are your good-to flashlights? What type of flashlight is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section.

Marathon Hunting Never Looked So Good

Merriarm-Webster suggests marathons aren’t just for runners; in fact, by the trusted source’s definition, a marathon is “something characterized by great length or concentrated effort.” Always one to box things up with labels, then I had to take up marathon hunting. Of course, I’m also one to stir pots so responses to inquiries were immediate… and effectively repetitive, “What’s marathon hunting?”

The Sightmark Wraith allow you to hunt during the day and at night.
Have you hunted from the day into the night?

In the context of long stalks and even longer sits, marathon is practiced by countless hunters, predominately during deer season and especially during the rut; however, there is another side to marathon hunting most hunters have never considered—hunting daylight into nighttime. Yes, it’s a thing and last I checked (2017), 17 states permitted this transition during deer hunting season. Hunters could legally transition from hunting deer during daylight shooting hours to hogs, predators and varmints, or some combination thereof, at night. To this end, here in Texas, some of us literally turned hunts into 24-hour pursuits—yes, we load up on energy drinks.

While numerous states allow marathon hunting, doing so took some effort, especially in terms of optics. Hunters committed to hunting during the day and continuing into the night often had to change rifles from one topped with a traditional day optic to some type of electro-optic, i.e. traditional or digital night vision, or even thermal. Others literally changed optics, checked accuracy, and then returned to the hunt. Of course, outside of traditional hunting seasons, hunting regulations from state to state are often even more lax when it comes to electro-optics, including using them 24 hours per day and effectively eliminating any need to switch firearms or optics.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.
The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, and 50mm objective lens.

Admittedly, optics suitable for handling a 24-hour task have been few, far between and expensive, until now. The Sightmark Wraith solves our 24-hour electro-optic problem once and for all without breaking the bank. At an MSRP of $599, hunters can jump into a digital optic providing true HD, full-color digital imaging by day and with the touch of a button, tried-and-true traditional green or black-white digital night vision for post-sunset pursuits. Even better, the Sightmark Wraith boasts up to 1080 HD photo and video capture with a 1280×720 resolution FLCOS display.

The Sightmark Wraith features 1-8 digital zoom, 4-32x magnification, CMOS sensor, 50mm objective lens, ¼-MOA windage and elevation adjustment values and SD card media storage compatible with up to 64gb cards. Photo and video files are self-contained in easy-to-use .jpg and .mp4 formats. The Wraith’s battery life is up to 4.5 hours and can also be powered with a micro-USB cable. The Wraith also includes up to 10 reticles in 9 colors for a customized display and can detect targets out to 200 yards with the included 850nm LED IR illuminator. All this to close with good news. Marathon hunting is hard work. It’s good to finally see a true 24-hour optic up to the task.

Click here to check out the Wraith digital day/night scope!

Citadel Riflescopes: Task Oriented Accuracy… Elevated

Picking the right scope can seem pretty daunting, especially when the folks around you offer their “expert” opinions, and downright scary when you see some of the price tags. Sticking to a budget is a no brainer. My Pop always quipped, “I don’t care if it’s 20 bucks. If you can’t afford it, it’s no deal… might as well be $2,000.” He said this more than once, in fact, often. While truth certainly lies in “you get what you pay for,” you can get awfully close to unaffordable with very little difference in performance if you pay attention to features, warranty and, of course, the purpose for your purchase.

A perfect example of affordable riflescopes with all the features of high-end optics and a lifetime warranty is the Sightmark Citadel lineup.
The Sightmark Citadel line of scopes includes many high-end features.

Riflescopes come at quite a range of pricing, reliability and features, the latter being key. Operating from within your financial arena as foundational to your options, the purpose your prospective riflescope should be the paramount concern. Do you need magnification? What distances do you expect to shoot? Do you expect to use holdovers? Do you prefer MOA, MRAD or perhaps IPHY? Will your riflescope be used for up-close-and-personal target engagement, long-range challenges or mid-range fun? Maybe a bit of a mix?

A perfect example of affordable riflescopes with all the features of high-end optics and a lifetime warranty is the Sightmark Citadel lineup. Citadel riflescopes rise above get-what-you-pay-for optic performance like a fortress on a hill; even better, Citadel scopes deliver big on peace-of-mind with Sightmark’s lifetime warranty and are available in five models, 1-6×24 CR1, 1-10x24CR1, 3-18x50LR1, 3-18×50 LR2 and 5-30×56 LR2, that run the gamut of shooting distances for the lion’s share of recreational plinkers, competitive shooters and long-range precision marksmen.

Citadel 1-6×24 CR1 and 1-10×24 CR1 are tactical-inspired scopes with 24mm objective lenses on 30mm tube platforms. As the Citadel name implies, 1-6×24 and 1-10×24 models include a base magnification of 1x and max of 6x or 10x. With 6x, I can get on target out to 500 yards, even a bit more, quite easily and at 10x, close to 1,000 yards—that may be a stretch for others but, to each their own, as they say. Citadel 1-6×24 and 1-10×24 also feature fine-etched, second-focal-plane, red-illuminated CR1 reticles complete with 11 brightness settings and bullet-drop-compensation, calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammunition with a 100-yard zero, out to 600 yards. Adjustments are MOA with ½-MOA per click windage and elevation, up to 120 MOA total range.

Citadel riflescopes come in tactical and long-range models.
The Citadel line ranges from tactical scopes to long-range.

Citadel 3-18×50 LR2 and 5-30×56 LR2 riflescopes are identical, save the magnification ranges and objective lens sizes. Both feature mil-dash first-focal-plane reticles and .1 Mil windage and elevation adjustments. The Citadel 3-18×50 LR1 Riflescope is identical to the 3-18×50 LR2 with one exception, instead of MRAD, the LR1 model is based on MOA, including MOA reticle subtensions and ¼ MOA-per-click windage and elevation turret adjustments.

Citadel LR models are designed to take you long-range, even to extreme distances, while base magnifications of 3x or 5x are still comfortable at closer yardage. Designed, however, with long-range shooters in mind, Citadel 3-18×50 and 5-30×56 LR model riflescopes include enhancements most precision marksmen simply won’t consider going without. Those features include hard-anodized 30mm tubes and fine-etched, red-illuminated, first-focal-plane LR1 or LR2 reticles complete with 11 brightness settings, subtension lines and lower-half “Christmas tree” style reference grids, perfect for elevation and windage holdovers. Glass is exceptionally clear and offers razor-sharp fields of view on all Citadel models. Citadel LR model riflescopes are designed to help you get on target out to 1,000 yards and well beyond. Some of that help also comes from fine-tuning your sight picture with adjustable diopter and parallax.

When it comes down to it, you can’t hit what you can’t see—common sense advice I’ve heard, essentially from day one, from parents, mentors and even drill instructors and primary marksmanship instructors alike. With Sightmark Citadel riflescopes, you won’t have that problem; in fact, you’ll even have some extra cash for ammo. What could be better?

Click here to check out the Citadel line of scopes.

Don’t know what type of riflescope you need? Click here to learn more about MIL-Dash vs. MOA.

What is the farthest distance you’ve shot? Share your long-range experiences below.

 

 

Wave of the Future: High-Tech Hunting Optics

My introduction to digital optics doesn’t seem so long ago… but it was. In fact, it was over 40 years ago. My feet barely touched the floor of the theater and I’m sure I was covered in popcorn crumbs—my lips and teeth rosy from Red Vines and Dr. Pepper. My father may not have been excited to see Star Wars IV: The Last Hope (1977) but I sure was and since then I’ve often recalled the moment when Luke Skywalker uses his digital MB450 macrobinocular to observe Tuscan Raiders deep in Tattooine’s Jundlan Wastes.

Luke Skywalker in Start Wars IV: The Last Hope using his MB450 macrobinocular
Luke Skywalker’s MB450 macrobinocular

Just a few years later, laden with popcorn crumbs with Red Vines by my side again, I watched young Skywalker use his Model 1000 macrobinocular to observe AT-AT Walkers on the ice-planet Hoth advancing across an open tundra toward Echo Base in Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back (1983.)

Heck, we even see a feeble attempt at thermal imagery through a riflescope in Navy SEALS (1990,) although it was simply over-exposed, sepia-filtered footage with no signs of heat signatures or a reticle. Of course, I was still in the Marine Corps in the early 90s and had heard of thermal imaging… but I had never seen the technology—it was rare technology for enlisted Jarheads to say the least.

Fast-forwarding to the past decade or so, we saw digital optics in multiple grades and forms leap off Hollywood screens and into the hands of wanting consumers who had more mad-money to blow in a month than I made in a year. Digital optics, more specifically traditional night vision and ridiculously expensive thermal devices were showing up in the hands of more law enforcement officers, predator hunters, contractors and even niche sasquatch and ghost hunting enthusiasts. Before people knew it, Hollywood was in the game again, this time with legitimate products and original footage. Soon after, outdoor television jumped on board and we began seeing isolated night vision footage on hunts.

The Sightmark Wraith transitions from day to night vision smoothly.
The Sightmark Wraith transitions from day to night vision smoothly.

The trend continued and just five years ago, we began seeing massive drops in price points, stellar production improvements, and more compact product designs—technological advances that not only make digital optics more affordable but much more desirable, too. While traditional night vision seemed to maintain a higher price point than most people wanted to pay, say $5,000 – $10,000, digital night vision snuck in at a fraction of the cost with similar Gen 1 to Gen 2 detection ranges and image resolution performance—in 2015, the Sightmark Photon XT came in at about $600 with Gen 1+ quality while the Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455 jumped in with Gen 3 performance and a price point around $1,500. Thermal also became affordable with some thermal monoculars selling for as low as $3,500 with 240 to 384 microbolometer resolution sensors.

Today’s a good day to be in the digital optic game. While law enforcement and consumer use of thermal imaging optics has exploded, so has usage of seriously affordable digital night vision and more recently digital riflescopes offering crisp imaging around the clock. Costs of thermal riflescopes, monoculars and binoculars, Pulsar branded optics as examples, have dropped to between $1,800 and $8,000 while features have continually and dramatically improved, including 640×480 microbolometer sensor resolution, picture-in-picture, built-in video and WiFi, stored rifle and load profiles, rangefinding technology, customizable reticles, multiple color palettes and more. Even devices costing 4 times as much just 5 years ago did not include these features.

For most hardworking folks with smaller budgets, digital riflescopes have taken their place among the most popular options for affordable, multi-tasking optics with similar user-friendly features as today’s thermal devices. Their recent unveilings capitalize on the advanced technology showcased in recent digital light vision offerings. While thermal and digital night vision can certainly be used during daylight hours, imaging is generally pared down to hues of like tints and colors like blacks, whites and grays. Thermal may offer color palette options but digital night vision has always been the vanilla black and white you see today. Digital riflescopes give you much more than a black and white world. They give you full color.

When it comes to the latest technological advancement of digital riflescopes, color imaging, the Sightmark Wraith goes yet a step further, offering full-color 1080 HD imaging. From dawn to dusk, see the world in your field of view as it was meant to be, clear, crisp and vibrant. When the sunsets, the Wraith makes transitioning to black and white imaging, and even green imaging, as simple and immediate and pushing a single button. If you have ever hunted during the day and had to change optics or rifle systems altogether to continue night hunting, you understand just how valuable and convenient a feature like this can be.

The Sightmark Wraith allow you to hunt during the day and at night.
Have you hunted from the day into the night?

Of course, the Wraith offers more, including features only recently added to today’s higher-priced digital optics like multiple reticle types and colors, built-in video, durable water-resistant construction, manual and distance focusing, a Weaver and Picatinny rail mounting system and upgradeable firmware. The Wraith also boasts 4x base magnification, up to 32x, and a detachable infrared illuminator. A third-party illuminator, like stand-alone IR illuminators from Pulsar, can be mounted easily to stretch your night vision detection range out to seriously respectable distances—skilled nighttime predator hunter, Bob Abbott recently shared footage to social media of a clearly visible fox milling around a field in the dark over 420 yards away—not too shabby for a $500 digital riflescope!

And this is where we are in 2019—a great time to be alive and amazing time to jump into digital riflescopes. Are digital riflescopes going to rule the world? Considering the many iterations of digital now at play in the world of optics, I would have to say yes. Digital technology has effectively invaded virtually every optic type available today—this doesn’t mean every model from every manufacturer. This means we see digital reflex sights, prism sights, red dots, low-powered fixed and variable magnification scopes, high-powered precision rifle scopes, rangefinders and spotting scopes, monoculars and binoculars and yes, most obviously, the optics considered in this article.

As these optics relate to more niche use, including low-light, nighttime and 24-hour activities, many of us agree, digital optics, in some form including illuminated reticles, most certainly due rule the optic world. And yes, I do believe it won’t be long before enthusiasts willing to jump into the digital fray find out these optics absolutely do rule!

Do you use a digital optic? Do you think digital optics will rule the world? Comment below!

Open or Tube Reflex Sights—Which Type of Red Dot Sight Should I Buy?

The red dot sight is extremely compatible with AR-15s and other Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR) and is the optic of choice for most MSR owners. These sights are the fastest way to get on target accurately and for AR shooters, this is exactly what we need. Unless you are precision shooting at longer ranges, fast target acquisition and a shot that hits where you aim are all you need in competition shooting, plinking, home defense and even predator and varmint hunting. The reflex or red dot sight is the way to go for close quarters (CQB) to medium ranges, where speed is your top priority.

Before we continue, we need to get something straight—a “red dot sight” has become the term most use when referring to a non-magnified electronic sight that projects an illuminated dot (or other shapes) reticle on a target. However, the term is used incorrectly.

 

Sightmark Core Shot A-Spec FMS red dot sight
This is not a red dot sight. It is an open reflex sight.

 

 

And this is a tube red dot sight.

Both open and tube sights are reflex sights, but an open reflex sight is technically not a red dot sight.

Now, most people aren’t going to make fun of you if you refer to either as a red dot sight and will know exactly what you’re talking about, but since we (Sightmark) make both reflex and red dot sights, we’re nerdy about them and use the correct terms.

Open and tube reflex sights operate the same way. This is how they are set apart from holographic and prismatic sights—which aren’t actually red dot or reflex sights at all.

Reflex sights are called so because of the way they work. They work by using a reflective glass lens to align light from an LED to project an aiming point on a glass objective lens. Due to a special reflective coating on the lens, the illuminated red dot is visible only to you and does not go through the other side of the lens. The dot is never actually projected on the target, it only appears that way to the viewer.

Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view.
Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view.

The internal operation is the same for tube red dot and reflex sights; however, when you put a tube red dot sight and a reflex sight next to each other (as shown above,) they look nothing alike. Both are excellent optics with very few disadvantages, yet they do have slightly different specs and features that might make you prefer one over the other.

Reflex and tube dot sights are non-magnified (as mentioned above,) have an unlimited eye relief—meaning you can mount it anywhere along your rail without the worry of scope bite—and work on the Bindon Aiming Concept, meaning you shoot using the sight with both eyes open.

One of the biggest differences between a reflex/open sight and a red dot is the field of view. Reflex sights, due to their heads-up display (HUD) design allow for a wider field of view. The field of view is how much of the image you can see in the window or objective lens. Reflex sights let you clearly see the target as well as what’s around it, giving you a tactical advantage by allowing you to retain your situational awareness.

Reflex sights are also just a hair faster at target acquisition because the dot isn’t as confined in the head’s up display as in the tube style. Some might find, especially competitors or those hunting birds, that peripheral vision is obstructed or limited using a tube red dot sight when transitioning targets.

Reflex sights are more susceptible to the elements, though. Red dots have an enclosed housing protecting the internals. Also, reflex sights have an exposed light path so if anything blocks that path, you lose the reticle. To compensate for this, we’ve added an extendable hood on our new M-Spec reflex sight to help reduce the risk of losing your reticle.

Where the tube red dot has the reflex beat is how bright the reticle is compared with reticles on open sights.

For which one is better, I can’t tell you. Our military uses both tube and open sights, so both have their place. Depending on your usage and firearm, you will find that you prefer one over the other. As a general rule, most people put a tube red dot on their shotguns, a mini reflex sight on their handguns and either on their AR-15.

Which type of sight do you prefer? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.

Click here to shop Sightmark reflex and red dot sights. 

Cant IS a Word in Long Range Shooting

When it comes to long-range shooting, luck is most decidedly not in the cards. Lobbing hundreds of rounds down range and employing some semblance of Kentucky is sure to result in a hit or two somewhere in the mix—it certainly doesn’t demonstrate one’s ability to tackle precision shooting…or maybe it does—but not in a good way. At the risk of raining on someone’s parade, using volume of fire to ring long-range steel does nothing to showcase marksmanship unless that volume is put into practice, not raining lead hoping something hits.

Long-range shooting takes skill and practice but also the right rig. Using Sightmark’s bubble level ring helps with cant.
It takes skill and practice to shoot long-range. A Sightmark bubble level ring helps, too.

To be clear, a shooter’s skill, rig, ballistic and environmental conditions either combine to score a hit at distance or not. Some latitude may apply, good or bad, in any of those long-range shooting elements; however, where weaknesses reside, greater strengths in other areas must compensate—weather conditions may be worse one day while the rig and ammunition capabilities are essentially fixed variables. This means a stronger skill set is required to compensate for the weakness in environmental attributes, i.e. wind, rain, etc.

Fortunately, while some elements like your rig and ammo may be unchangeable on the firing line, they certainly can be strengthened to enhance your skill set and overall accuracy, the use of a cant indicator as an example. Cant is a silent long-range killer, responsible for lack of accuracy more than people care to talk about… and more often than not, people don’t talk about it at all. In a world of cause and effect, perhaps they don’t talk about it because they’ve never been talked to about it and now, here we are talking about it. At close- to mid-range, including those gangster kill shots you see on TV, may not make much of a difference but stretch your shooting to respectable distances and it can quickly become a problem.

Marine Corps snipers not only talk about cant, but they are also trained to understand its effect and correct it; in fact, the Marine Corps sniper addresses it pretty directly, stating just 1 degree of cant shifts point of impact as much as 6 inches at 1,000 yards. Six inches may not seem like much but it can easily mean the difference between success and catastrophic failure at long-range, especially when you consider those other pesky variables like wind, humidity, altitude, spin drift, the shooter’s skill set and yes, the capabilities of both rifle setup and ammo.

The bubble level rings provides cant information to help you be as accurate as possible.
The Sightmark bubble level ring has a highly visible center line for accuracy.

Six inches may just be six inches or compounded with other issues that take you off target altogether (and may be have been a hit given the shooter got those six inches back.) Precision military shooting aside, ask a competitive long-range shooter chasing points on a target face if six inches matters—believe me, it does. There’s a reason Scott McRee, owner of McRees Precision and the producer of world-class precision rifle chassis, embeds a patented M-Lev cant indicator in each of his stocks. It’s important stuff.

Fortunately, somewhere between going without and buying one of McRee’s chassis, a much more affordable option can certainly be had in rail or optic-mounted cant indicators. The Sightmark Bubble Level Ring is a perfect solution, offering precision cant-indicator accuracy, rugged reliability, simple installation, a lifetime warranty and a price point you simply can’t ignore.

Sightmark offers the aircraft-grade aluminum Bubble Level Ring in 30mm and 34mm sizes for quick, single-bolt attachment to your riflescope with evenly disbursed pressure. At the heart of this simple, effective cant indicator lies an embedded horizontal bubble level complete with a high visibility center-line. When mounted, the Bubble Level Ring provides instant moment-of-truth cant information to ensure your shots are as accurate as your skill, environmental conditions, ballistics and the rest of your rig’s capabilities allow. At 1,000 yards, the value in getting six inches back can be, well, invaluable—quite a trade-off considering MSRP on the Sightmark Bubble Level Ring is just $23.99 and includes a lifetime warranty. But what do I know? I’m just an aging Devil Dog with a passion for going long with lead.

The Bubble Level Ring is available in 30mm and 34mm.

Click Here for the 30mm and Click Here for the 34mm.

What Size MOA Red Dot Should I Buy?

Though it may seem a bit overwhelming at first with how many red dot sights there are to choose from, when it comes down to it, there aren’t really that many differences in red dot and reflex sights. Picking a red dot sight is easier than choosing a magnified riflescope—which can feel like the options are endless. After breaking down a few features, buying a reflex sight should be a simple process.

View through a red dot sight aiming at a Sightmark package.
Red dot or reflex sights range in dot sizes from 1 to up to 8 or 9 MOA.

Red dot and reflex sights are relatively simple and after deciding on how much you want to spend (your budget) and the type of reflex sight you want (open or tube,) which features suit your needs—

size, type of illumination, weight, construction, etc.—it will come down to deciding which size dot is best.

Good for rifles, pistols and shotguns, dot sights are a highly effective aiming tool for CQB, close to medium ranges, competition and self-defense. The biggest advantage of a red dot over any other optic or sight is the ability to acquire and hit a target incredibly quick. The size of the dot directly relates to how quickly you can locate the dot in the unit’s head’s up display and how much target area the dot covers. Both these things can significantly affect your accuracy.

What is MOA?

The smaller the dot, the harder it is to see. The larger the dot, the easier to see but less precise.
The smaller the dot, the harder it is to see. The larger the dot, the easier to see but less precise.

The illuminated red or green dot of a red dot/reflex sight is measured in MOA—minutes of angle, a unit for angular measurement of a circle. 1 MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards, which we round down to 1 inch. Meaning, the circle (red dot) will appear to be 1 inch in diameter on a target 100 yards out. Therefore, the smaller the dot’s MOA, the harder to see. A larger MOA dot will be incredibly easy to see but may cover too much of the target at further distances to get an accurate shot.

Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster but will be less precise because the dot will cover a broader area on the target.

Red Dot MOA Size Comparison

1 MOA dots are usually found on “tactical” sights and provide a very precise aiming dot. Yet, those with less than perfect eyesight can struggle with locating the dot, not only on the unit itself but the target as well. To compensate, many 1 MOA red dot sights will be encircled by a larger 60 MOA circle, which also helps with close-range targets. 3, 4, and 5 MOA dots are quicker to acquire due to their larger size and are best for close range targets. Big dots are perfect for speed competition, steel shooting and for those with astigmatism. The most common dot size ranges from 3 to 5 MOA.

A 4 MOA dot is best for close ranges, while a 2 MOA dot is best for longer ranges.
A 4 MOA dot is best for close ranges, while a 2 MOA dot is best for longer ranges.
Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster but will be less precise because the dot will cover a broader area on the target.
Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster.

3 MOA is probably the most popular dot size for both target shooting and self-defense, as the dot is clear, and accuracy is still precise at both close and mid ranges. Still allowing rapid target acquisition in self-defense range, a 3 MOA red dot with an adjustable brightness feature will aid in accuracy when shooting out farther because smaller dots appear larger on brighter settings. Competitors that require speed prefer bigger dots like 6, 6.5 or even a very large 8 MOA dot. People who use red dots for handguns at close distances also prefer bigger dots.

We designed the Ultra Shot and previous red dot sights with the dot size that was available at the time. Since then, there have been significant advances in optic quality. Our newest models, like the M-Spec, incorporate the most innovative technology available in reflex sights. About five years ago, we asked AR15.com and Sightmark Pro Staff members which types of reticles they preferred. Sightmark Product Development Director Jonathan Horton says, “Most of our red dots are 3 or 5 MOA which is easy to acquire and still have on-target accuracy at 50 or 100 yards, even with a magnifier. Going bigger is good for short range but you’re covering a lot of your target anything over 50 yards.  If we do a smaller aiming dot than 3, it does provide better accuracy out to 100 but we usually design larger circle (circle-dot) around the dot for better acquisition at close range.”

Most shooters purchase a red dot sight for its original intention—quick target acquisition in a self-defense situation. However, turkey hunters and fast-paced competitive shooters also appreciate the accuracy a reflex sight offers. At the end of the day, choosing the size of the illuminated dot reticle depends on your primary use and firearm you need the red dot for.

What dot size do you like and why? Tell us in the comment section.

To learn how to use a red dot sight and read more about their benefits, click here.

Click here to shop Red Dot Sights.

Do You Need a Laser Light Combo for Your AR-15?

Scan any gun forum or blog about weapon-mounted tactical lights and you’ll quickly find two schools of thought—handheld vs. weapon-mounted. Like the .45 v. 9mm debate, those on either side strongly oppose the other. The handheld light folks believe that a weapon-mounted light means you’ll sweep your loved ones and possibly shoot them. The weapon-mounted fans tell those guys that they just don’t know how to handle their weapon properly. Though the handheld folks do have a valid argument against the safe use of a weapon-mounted tactical light, the pros of its use outweigh the cons. With the right light, you can even defeat the one thing weapon-mounted lights have going against them. Like many debates based on opinion, a happy middle ground can be reached between both parties.

Why do you Need a Tactical Light?

To positively identify targets in a home defense situation, use a weapon-mounted tactical light like this one from Sightmark.
A tactical light is an essential piece of self-defense gear.

Most self-defense situations happen at night or in low-light. It is imperative to positively identify a potential threat before making the decision to raise your gun and fire. After being sure of your target, bright lights, especially on strobe mode, can disorient or distract a threat, buying you time.

The Case for a Handheld Flashlight

A handheld flashlight allows you to search the house, positively identify the potential target as a friend or foe and decide to engage without ever having to point the muzzle of your firearm at an innocent. (Remember, one of the Golden Rules of Firearms Safety is to never point a gun at something you aren’t willing to destroy.)

However, with the right weapon-mounted light, you’ll be able to either keep both hands on your rifle or leave one hand free without ever having the barrel pointed at a family member. The key is picking out a light with enough lumens to light up the room while your rifle is at low-ready (never needing to raise your barrel until you have to.)

The pros of a weapon-mounted light outweigh the cons. Here’s why:

  1. You have the use of both hands.

Manipulating a firearm while also gripping a handheld flashlight takes extensive training and practice. A weapon-mounted light allows you the use of both hands, which might the be only way you might be able to operate your firearm after the adrenaline dump has seized your dexterity. Further, a free hand could be used to open and close doors, call the police, hold on to the dog, or push children out of harm’s way.

  1. You aren’t wasting time fumbling for multiple things in the dark under stress.

When something goes bump in the night, the last thing I want to be doing is fumbling for multiple things on the nightstand—gun, eyeglasses, light, phone, etc. This just gives the bad guy time to know he’s woken me up. Further, you know you won’t leave it behind because its attached to your firearm.

  1. Your focus remains on the sight picture and your situational awareness.

Trying to manipulate a gun and a flashlight takes some practiced skill. When things get crazy, will you be able to concentrate on your target while also trying to operate the gun and the flashlight at the same time? A weapon-mounted light takes away one less thing you need to worry about and allows you to focus your full attention on your surroundings.

What to Look for in a Weapon Mounted Light

Brightness

Your light needs to be bright enough to stun, or at least disorient someone. For inside the home, that’s at least 100 lumens. You don’t want to burn the retinas out of your eyes in case of reflection, so don’t go too bright or you won’t have any chance of preserving your night vision and then both you and the perp are screwed.

A light and laser combo like the Sightmark LoPro is the ultimate AR-15 accessory.
A light and laser combo like the Sightmark LoPro is the ultimate AR-15 accessory.

Size

The last thing you want to do is have a bulky, hard-to-maneuver rifle. A low-profile and lightweight light gives you plenty of room to add reflex sights, scopes and other accessories.

Ease of Use

The weapon light needs to be as easy and as intuitive as possible to operate. In times of duress, you won’t be able to remember complex steps, so easy-access buttons are essential.

Runtime

I forget to turn off my battery-powered optics more than not. A long battery life, automatic shut off and battery-save features are important considerations. The last thing you want during an engagement is for your light to fail because of a short run time.

Best of Both Worlds

I prefer a laser/light combo like the LoPro. I can quickly identify targets and just as quickly place an accurate shot on center mass. It has the perfect amount of light, adjustable from 5 to 300 lumens with 3 modes that operate via a knurled twist knob on the LED’s lamp head—dim, bright and strobe modes. Strobe mode disorients, helping mask your location, as well as act as a signal to others. Ambidextrous buttons on either side of the unit, as well as an included pressure pad activate the light and laser. The green Class IIIa laser has a 600-yard range at night and is also visible up to 50 yards in bright day light.

A light is an essential piece of self-defense gear. The best tactic is to employ both.

See.

There is a happy medium!

Do you utilize a tactical light? Are you handheld or weapon-mounted? Tell us which one and why in the comment section.

Click here to check out the LoPro series of tactical lights and lasers.