Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member
It eventually happens to us all.
One day, your range day just doesn’t go right. One day, you miss the shot on that deer you’ve been seeing on your game cam.
It may be your life, the life of a loved one, or the life of a stranger you are trying to help that hangs in the balance of the shot you don’t trust yourself to take.
The common denominator? Your eyesight. It may be low-light vision loss, or it may be just a loss of clarity in your vision itself. Vision impairment can present itself in a myriad of ways and is specific to each one of us.
Luckily for us, we live in a time of rapidly advancing technology in the field of firearms and firearm optics—like advanced red dot and reflex sights—and have companies bringing products to the market to help us fight back against our eyes as they betray us.
According to the American Optometric Association, adults between 19 and 40 typically have healthy eyes and vision and only suffer from visual issues due to visual stress and eye injuries. When it comes to vision, 40 is where we tend to hit the wall. The odds aren’t in our favor and eventually, nearly every one of us will need to fight back against our aging eyes. That help is just a few keystrokes away at Sightmark.com.
Let me introduce two products to you that the folks at Sightmark have that may alleviate those problems. First up is the Ultra Shot Pro Spec NVG QD (SM14002.)
Directly from Sightmark.com:
“One of the most feature-rich members in the Sightmark® Reflex Sight line, the Ultra Shot Pro Spec Night Vision QD provides shooters accuracy and durability to enhance any shooting experience. Equipped with a night vision mode, shooters can mount the device in front of a night vision monocular to create a co-witnessed riflescope set up. Its four reticle patterns allow for maximum customization and precision accuracy day or night. The featured double-pane glass lens system eliminates parallax and retains accuracy when fired from the periphery of the lens. Users can quickly and effectively adapt their firearm to the situation at hand with the included quick-detach mount. Its Interlok™ internal locking system holds zero extremely well, so the shooter does not have to continually re-adjust the sight in the field.”
I chose this model for two specific features—night-vision compatibility and the quick-detach mount. This model has two NVG settings (Gen 1-2 and Gen 3+) in addition to three standard brightness settings. It has four selectable reticles, and I opt for the circle/dot configuration. That’s home sweet home for me. The LQD (locking quick detach) was not yet released when I purchased my Ultra Shot. For my specific use (tactical law enforcement), I would have opted for the ability to physically lock the QD lever. I’ve had over 50 entries (with it mounted) between real-world missions and training and the non-locking QD has not been an issue.
For those with weakening eyes, you can rest assured that the bright red circle will enable you to put the bullets where you want them. No more squinting and eye strain to focus on that front sight. The circle/dot reticle that I use is a 50 MOA circle with a 3 MOA dot. It is also parallax-free, so once it’s zeroed, wherever the dot is in the lens, is where bullet impact on the target will be.
Now on to the newest product in this combo—the XT-3 Tactical Magnifier. It is a 3x magnifier with a locking quick-detach mount that flips to the side. Neat, right?
In their own words directly from Sightmark:
“Designed to mount behind a reflex sight or red dot to increase magnification, the Sightmark XT-3 Tactical Magnifier allows shooters to engage targets at further distances with a 23mm objective lens and 3x magnification. Compact and lightweight, the Sightmark XT-3 features a flip-to-side mount, providing rapid transition between your gun’s optic system, and 4-inch eye relief, improving overall comfort for shooters. External adjustments eliminate the need for tools for reticle alignment while fully multi-coated optics and rubber armored housing increase the XT-3 Magnifier’s image clarity and durability. EOTech® and Aimpoint® compatible, the Sightmark XT-3 is quickly mounted and removed via a locking, quick detach mount.”
So, even if I haven’t sold you on the Ultra Shot, Sightmark has designed its magnifier to be compatible with the optics from other manufacturers that you may already own. Sightmark is here to help us, the end-user. By bringing down overall costs, enjoying our lifestyle and hobby doesn’t break the bank. Just because something costs more doesn’t necessarily make it better.
I had the XT-3 mounted on my rifle for roughly three weeks. During that time, it was used on several tactical incidents—an 8-hour range training day, and a 3-day advanced firearms instructor class. During the tactical incidents, the magnifier was mounted and flipped to the side during residential entries as it was not needed. On the range day, the magnifier was used in a limited capacity but at the end of the day, I was able to take a comparison photograph to show you the difference between the standard view through the Ultra Shot and then with the XT-3 flipped down into position. The photograph speaks for itself.
My time during the three-day instructor class is where I was able to push the magnifier, and myself, during training drills. In one drill, we began at the 50-yard line with an empty weapon and 3 magazines. One magazine was loaded with 10 rounds and 2 were loaded with 5 rounds each. On the beep of the shot timer, the shooter loaded the 10-round magazine and then 5 shots were fired standing from the 50-yard line. The shooter then sprinted up to the 25-yard line and fired 5 more rounds while utilizing cover. At that point, the shooter dropped to a kneeling position while reloading and then fired an additional 5 rounds from cover before reloading a second time. The shooter then sprinted back down to the 50-yard line, assumed a prone position behind cover and fired an additional 5 rounds. On my first run, I ran this drill in roughly 30 seconds with a slight miss. I was switching between the magnifier and non-magnified optic during positions. I account my miss to rushing shots for the timer. On my second run, I ran the optic with the magnifier the entire time and ran the drill quicker in just under 28 seconds with zero misses.
I will be the first to admit that a 3x magnifier was not 100% necessary at 25 yards, however, the magnifier didn’t slow me down when acquiring my target and getting hits on paper where they needed to be.
In the end, you will have to decide as to whether the magnifier is for you. This was my first experience running a magnifier on a red dot type sight. It’s definitely a game-changer, and for under a pound of added weight to your rifle, it’s hard to beat.
The XT-3 is something to think about. With more time, I think I would’ve been pushing myself to run the XT-3 full time, except for engagements 25 yards and in.
Get out there, make your mark, and enjoy the rights granted to you by our Second Amendment. Stay safe and happy hunting.
Jamie Trahan is a career law enforcement officer with over 17 years of experience and works for a Sheriff’s Office in southern Louisiana. His full-time assignment is as a Detective in the Crime Scene Investigations Unit where he holds the rank of Lieutenant. He is also the entry team leader for the SWAT team, a member of the department’s Honor Guard and an LA POST Firearms Instructor. He is a member of the National Tactical Police Officer’s Association and the Louisiana Tactical Police Officer’s Association. First and foremost, he is a husband to his wife, Tara, and a father to his two sons, Luke and Liam. He is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights for all law-abiding citizens of this great country. He plans to pass the love of shooting on to his sons in the hopes that after he is gone and they are spending time with their own children, that they will reflect back upon the memories of what Jamie taught them as they are teaching their own, just like Jamie’s father taught him.