One of the most popular accessories for the AR (and other MSRs) is the red dot or reflex sight. And for good reason…they help you get on target quickly for accurate shot placement in competition and in self-defense and tactical situations. In fact, I’m betting it’s probably one of the first things you’re considering adding to your new build.
There are a lot of different reflex sights to choose from. But regardless, whether you decide to go with an open reflex sight or closed tube red dot sight, mounting either optic is the same.
Fortunately, reflex sights don’t require much of a learning curve to master. They don’t magnify, so there’s no adjusting for distance. It’s pretty much mount, zero and go.
Unlike traditional riflescopes, reflex sights have an unlimited eye relief, so there is no right or wrong place to mount your sight. Further, your target and your dot stay the same size no matter where you put your sight on your rifle. Technically, you can put it anywhere along the rail your little heart desires. With that being said, most people strongly suggest you keep it mounted on the receiver part of the rail and not the handguard part of the rail. Now, there are placements that might raise a few eyebrows—like as close to the barrel as possible—but don’t worry, you aren’t going to look like a tool even if your sight is in the most extreme-forward position. As Ryan Gresham points out the video below, Scout rifle (without free-float rails) shooters prefer this position.
Even though I say there is no right or wrong answer to this question, you will find that a little further back than center is the most common placement of a reflex sight. Seems like for most, the sweet spot is above the ejection port. Why is this? The further away from the stock, the less balanced the rifle feels and the more likely your sight won’t stay zeroed.
There are advantages to both forward and backward positioning of your reflex sight. Forward is closest to the muzzle, while backward is closest to your face.
The further away from your eye you mount your sight, the smaller the window appears. This might make it more difficult to find the illuminated red dot reticle. (Like everything in the gun industry, though, some will argue the opposite.) However, you will be able to see way more of your surroundings allowing you to retain a high level of situational awareness and see more potential threats. The closer you mount your red dot to your eye, the wider field of view your optic provides but you lose the situational awareness.
Or, if you have a magnifier, you will need to mount your reflex sight forward enough to leave room for the magnifier.
Ryan Gresham from Gun Talk explains red dot mounting in the video below.
At the end of the day, it is what makes you the most comfortable, confident and accurate. Experiment with different placement and you’ll find the best mounting position for you.
Do you already have a reflex sight? Tell us where you have it mounted in the comment section.
Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member
At one point in time, people used rocks and spears to hunt. Then, according to historians, way more knowledgeable than I, gunpowder was invented in ancient China. The earliest written reference to a mixture of three powders possibly describing gunpowder was found in the 142 AD Cantong Gi text Book of the Kinship of Three written by alchemist Wei Boyang.
The first firearms, like basic designs such as the fire lance, were developed long after this text was written. The oldest surviving firearm is the Heilongjiang hand cannon dated to 1288, which centuries later developed into the matchlock, and later, the flintlock and eventually cartridge-based firearms.
Despite many other issues, the Achilles heel of the first firearms was the smooth bore and lack of sighting systems. Eventually, some of these problems were remedied with the invention of the first primitive sights circa 1450 and rifling in 1498 in Germany. Although not commonplace until much later, the ideas were there.
Fast forward to 1975 to the birth of the red dot sight when the first electronic sight was marketed by Aimpoint AB in Sweden. That’s the humble beginnings of the modern red dot sight. It was large, it was bulky, but since then, red dot sights have gone micro.
Now, let me introduce you to one of the smallest red dot sights on the market—the Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec. Don’t let the size fool you, it’s designed to take a beating and keep on going.
Here is what the people at Sightmark have to say about it:
“Built for law enforcement officers and professionals, the compact Mini Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight is the perfect optic for competition shooting, hunting and LE applications on shotguns, pistols and AR’s. The kit includes a low-profile mount for shotguns and pistols along with a riser mount for AR platform rifles. This rugged optic is 100% waterproof and features a durable aluminum housing with a steel protective shield. Doubling the battery life of the competition, the Mini Shot M-Spec’s extremely low-power consumption provides 300 to 30,000 hours of battery life on one CR1632 battery, while its 12-hour auto shutoff prevents the unit from running out of batteries while you’re not using it. Easy windage and elevation click adjustments make zeroing the 3 MOA red dot reticle a breeze, even without any special tools. Ten brightness levels give shooters perfect reticle options from low-light situations to the brightest days. An ambidextrous digital switch allows the M-Spec to be easily turned on and off by both left- and right-handed shooters.”
The primary features are:
100% waterproof and dustproof
Up to 30,000-hour battery life on the lowest setting
Steel protective shield
3 MOA red dot reticle
10 reticle brightness levels
2-night vision brightness settings
I received the Mini Shot as a part of the Wolfhound 6×44 HS-223 Prismatic Sight with Mini Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight combination unit. With the removal of a couple of screws, I was able to remove the Mini Shot M-Spec from the Wolfhound and mount it on my GLOCK 17 within a couple of minutes. The M-Spec mini reflex sight mounts easily, the buttons feel perfect and the red dot is bright and crisp.
On the range, the weight of the Mini Shot isn’t noticeable, and the small size mates easily with my issued GLOCK 17. Speaking of mounting—one of the questions that I had when these first came to market was the mounting system. It is the same mounting pattern as the Docter optic, which is Plate 01 on the GLOCK MOS system.
I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to sighting in a red dot on a pistol. I don’t use a sandbag or a rest to dial it in—which for me is at 10 yards. Shoot, adjust, shoot, adjust…. until the round hits the mark. While it’s not the most technically proficient method, it’s more fun—at least for me with 9mm being as cheap as it is now.
Once the sight was set, and the brightness of the dot was adjusted where I wanted it, it was time for a few drills. One of which a red dot equipped pistol excels at is the infamous Dot Torture originally designed by David Blinder. The version I typically use is the variant designed by Todd Green, which provides the directions below each dot…. much easier for me to follow.
I didn’t run the drill for time, I ran it at 4 yards (12 feet) and ran it clean, which proved the accuracy of the sight for me.
Without a doubt, this sight is a steal at $199 MSRP, and its closest comparison in the market is the Vortex Venom. However, the Mini Shot M-Spec comes in at 13% lower price point and offers double the battery life on the highest setting over the Venom. That’s more ammo for more trigger time and training, which is one of the most important things in the shooting world.
I have previous experience with the Trijicon RMR, Burris Fastfire 2/3, Vortex Venom and now the Mini Shot M-Spec. What I can tell you after finally getting my hands on the Mini Shot, is that you shouldn’t fall for some of the other companies’ hype. That isn’t Sightmark. Sightmark designs the same products, giving you the same features, if not more features, at a lower price point.
All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK. Unfortunately, just not the one I had for review. After a few days on the GLOCK, it had to get put back on the Wolfhound and sent back home to Texas.
That reminds me, it proudly wears the stars and bars on its left side with “Designed in Texas, USA,” which I think is neat as half of my bloodline hailing from the Lone Star State.
One thing to emphasize. The Mini Shot M-Spec also has a 12-hour auto-shutoff feature to help with that wonderful battery run time. When you find your optic turned off when you know you’d left it on, don’t panic and start looking for another battery—Sightmark has you covered.
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.
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 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.
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.
(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/11/16) – Sightmark will return to the industry’s largest trade show (Booth #11924), SHOT Show 2019, scheduled for January 22 – 25 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sightmark will unveil new product offerings for 2019, as well as showcase their premium line of optics like the Citadel and Latitude riflescopes and Ultra Shot RAM Series red dot sights.
SHOT Show is the largest trade show and exhibit for shooting sports, hunting and outdoor accessories. This is your best opportunity to explore manufacturers product lines in addition to their latest product from over 2,000 exhibitors. Talk with suppliers and customers to expand your business and knowledge to improve your sales.
For more information about SHOT Show 2019, visit shotshow.org.
(MANSFIELD, TEXAS 2018/11/13) – Sightmark introduces its newest products, the 30mm Bubble Level Ring (SM19044) and 34mm Bubble Level Ring (SM19045). Bubble rings are designed to indicate whether a riflescope is mounted properly and level on the firearm.
Sightmark’s Bubble Level Rings are crafted out of aircraft-grade aluminum for a lightweight, durable design. Quickly attach the bubble ring to your riflescope with the single bolt attachment, helping to evenly distribute pressure when tightened. The bubble ring features a highly visible center line that easily ensures the bubble is properly centered, eliminating an offset riflescope.
Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member
In this world, there is always a compromise. You can’t have this without giving up that. An item usually does one thing brilliantly and so-so at the others. Thanks to the forward thinkers at Sightmark, they’ve come up with several ways to combat this problem. Sightmark gives you three ways to attack this issue—a fixed red dot sight with a separate magnifier, a 1-4x or 1-6x variable magnification optic, or two fixed optics mated together such as the Wolfhound 6×44 with Mini Shot M-Spec Kit (SM13026LQDK.)
With this kit, you have a CQB sighting system up top with the Mini Shot M-Spec red dot sight and an extended range fixed magnification optic below with holdovers out to 900 yards via its advanced horseshoe reticle and holdovers. Truly, the best of both worlds.
Admittedly, this type of setup is not proprietary to Sightmark, as Trijicon has a similar setup with its 6×48 ACOG paired with their own RMR mounted up top. The ACOG is battle-proven from conflicts around the world and comes with a price point to reflect that—being more than double what the Sightmark’s Wolfhound/Mini Shot M-Spec kit. With the consumer in mind, Sightmark designed a combo unit that is rugged and user-customizable. They do this by having the Wolfhound’s reticle being user-adjustable with the shooter’s choice of either a red or green reticle via battery-powered illumination as opposed to the ACOG being fiber optic/tritium based which, in certain lighting conditions, may wash out. The Wolfhound is also submergible to 10 feet which means that unless you are SCUBA diving with your AR-15, the amount of water that the average person comes in contact with is absolutely no problem for this optic combo.
To quote Sightmark:
“Together, the Wolfhound 6×44 prismatic sight and Mini Shot M-Spec reflex sight kit are designed to keep shooters on target no matter the situation. Ballistically matched to .223 (55 and 62 grain ammunition) the Wolfhound 6×44 features an advanced horseshoe reticle with holdovers from 300 to 900 yards while the Mini Shot M-Spec provides an easy to find 3 MOA reticle and parallax correction for effortless transitions between short- and long-range targets. Both optics also boast impressive battery life: Upwards of 4,000 for the Wolfhound and up to 30,000 hours on the Mini Shot M-Spec. The combination offers quick target acquisition from either sight and is truly a multi-tasking optic setup ideal for professional use, competition shooting, hunting and recreational plinking.”
I can tell you, my first impression upon opening the box was that this thing is rugged and robust as everything it promises. The rubber armor on the Wolfhound offers protection from impact and helps prevent zero loss for the optical prism system. The LQD mount is solid and has zero movement when mounted on my rifle. In addition to the Wolfhound, this was my first time getting my hands on the Mini Shot M-Spec which I have been patiently waiting to test out (that separate review will come later).
As mentioned, mounting the setup was a breeze and then it was off to the range. I used a 36-meter zero for the Mini Shot and a standard 100-yard zero on the Wolfhound for the holdovers to be accurate. I used the Sightmark .223/5.56 NATO boresight (SM39001) to get me nearly there and then dialed it in with live fire. Using 62-grain Remington Premier Match (R223R6) ammo, an MOA sized group was easily accomplished from a bench. Due to my range limitations, I was unable to push it past 200 yards. I have absolute confidence in the optic’s ability to do what it says via the holdovers, but remember ammunition and skill have a lot to do in the long-range shots this reticle is designed to accommodate. If you’re going out there and using target/plinking budget ammo, you can’t reasonably expect to make 600-, 700-, 800- or 900-yard shots using a holdover. The glass is nice and clear due to being fully multi-coated to provide the highest light transmission across the visible spectrum. In addition to the quality of the glass itself, the rear diopter is adjustable for the individual shooter’s eye enabling it to be perfect for YOU. The Wolfhound’s center aiming dot is a 0.5 MOA enabling the pinpoint accuracy out to 300 yards. For anything close quarters, the horseshoe also allows quick target acquisition in the event you do not choose to transition to the Mini Shot.
Now, the Mini Shot M-Spec is the business. The dot is crisp even on the highest setting which, for some red dot sights, causes issues, but not on this one. The transition from the bottom-mounted Wolfhound to the top-mounted Mini Shot is about an inch of eye movement. It is nearly seamless moving from one to the other and using the top-mounted Mini Shot, such as in a building clearing type environment, allows a comfortable head position as you’re moving through the structure. It really is the best of both worlds neatly packaged together.
The overall length is 2.3 inches shorter and over a 1 pound lighter than its competition and provides more comfortable eye relief. It comes with a separate mount for the Mini Shot, rubber lens covers, a honeycomb filter (kill flash) for the front lens of the optic, a battery and a limited lifetime warranty.
If this type of setup has been something you’ve been looking for, go to www.sightmark.com and check this kit out. You owe it to yourself to check it out before looking at the competition. There’s a LOTof training ammo available for purchase with that extra cash you will be saving.
(MANSFIELD, TEXAS) – Sightmark is registered and ready to attend the Dallas Safari Club Convention 2019, scheduled for January 17 – 20, at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Sightmark will feature their top-of-the-line optics like the Ultra Shot RAM Series, Citadel Riflescopes and many more!
Active since 1972, the Dallas Safari Club has been the union point for hunters, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. The international organization offers members a variety of options: annual conventions and expos, annual sporting clay events, monthly meetings, world-class publications and a grant-in-aid program that contributes millions of dollars each year to programs and projects that promote their mission to conserve wildlife and lands while educating the youth and public and protect the rights and interest of hunters worldwide.
When it comes to the way a gun looks, it is truly a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There aren’t cultural beauty standards for this type of stuff, so the curves on the Smith & Wesson Model 60 revolver aren’t perceived by most gun folks to be any more attractive than the boxy GLOCK. Apart from the Liberator and Hi-Point, the way a gun looks is pretty much subjective. Traditionally, guns were blued, steel and wood but since polymer started reigning supreme, most guns now come in a wide variety of finishes—if you decide to send in your gun for Duracoating, you can have your gun look like whatever you want it to. Light, dark, patterned—you name it, you can get it!
I think the popularity of Duracoat comes from each of our desire to personalize or individualize our firearms, especially black rifles. Most popular semiauto concealed carry guns only come in one finish from the factory—black. Duracoating, colored accessories and furniture is a way to make it ours.
Some colors are more popular, or at least more marketed than others—there hasn’t been a shortage of pink, purple, or Tiffany Blue firearms marketed toward women and there are plenty of OD green, FDE and some urban gray to choose from if black gets boring. The most popular of these alternative colors is the Flat Dark Earth (FDE) which has remained an in-demand color for firearms and firearm accessories for years.
Proof is in the pudding—GLOCK’s anticipated 2018 release of the 19X is GLOCK’s first time to release a factory gun in a different color other than black. Because there are no standard specifications for FDE color matching, you’ll find it called different things. GLOCK calls its finish Coyote Brown. You’ll also find it called Desert Tan and Coyote Tan with lighter and darker variants. You can see and discuss the differences on this AR15.com thread.
What is Flat Dark Earth?
FDE is an earth-toned color resembling the soil and sand found in the desert, most often in the Middle East. Militaries around the world have incorporated this muted, khaki color in their uniforms forever. In fact, “khaki” is the Persian word for the soil’s color in what is now Pakistan. Tan-based camo was officially adopted by the United States military in 1977. It looked like cookie dough and was nicknamed “chocolate chip.” It wasn’t very successful in real life desert climates, though, so in the 1990s, the military introduced the Desert Camo Uniform (DCU) when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
What are the Advantages of FDE vs. Black?
There are a few advantages to FDE vs. black. This earth-toned tan or sand color is practical and subdued and less easier to spot than black. Scratches and marring are less obvious. It doesn’t get as hot in the summertime cooking under the sun at the gun range. It is aesthetically pleasing to many and most of its popularity is due to it being a color SOCOM and Special Forces utilize. And, like some FDE fans like to say, “just like red sports cars, FDE firearms are more accurate.” 😉
Sightmark introduced Flat Dark Earth products in 2014 to meet customer demands. Many AR-15 owners like to match the furniture to the optic for cohesion. Unlike some manufacturers, Sightmark meticulously color-matched the Ultra Shot M-Spec line of reflex sights and the LoPro laser light combo to the extremely popular Magpul’s FDE. It also matches the FDE factory finish on the Tavor.
Sightmark’s Executive Vice President of Sales Jeff Murray says, “There have been many different colors of ‘tan’ called everything from Coyote Brown, Military Tan and the more popular FDE. Magpul really made this movement commercial some years ago when they started offering all their aftermarket parts in this color. Tens of thousands of AR-type rifles are sold every year and I think people just got tired of matte black, so with the U.S. Government starting to source some rifles in this color and Magpul making their furniture in FDE, it was a natural step for optics companies to start offering other color options. Sightmark has been very pleased with the sales of our flat dark earth finishes and is always looking at new functional and fun colors to adapt to our optics.”
What is your favorite alternative firearms finish? What other Sightmark products would you like to see in flat dark earth…or another color? Talk to us in the comment section!
(Mansfield, TEXAS 2018/10/22) – Sightmark will attend the 2018 CATO Training Conference, scheduled for November 5 – 8, at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada. Sightmark will feature its top-of-the-line red dot and reflex sights, like the Ultra Shot M-Spec and the Wolverine, as well as other optics.
The California Association of Tactical Officers or CATO is a non-profit, non-political group based out of Los Angeles, California. CATO’s goal is to expand professionalism and knowledge of special weapons within its members across the state.
Sightmark manufactures award-winning products including riflescopes, gun sights, laser sights, night vision, flashlights, boresights and other cutting edge, premium shooting accessories. Inspired by military and law enforcement technology, Sightmark products are designed for competition, target shooting, home defense, hunting, personal safety and other tactical applications.
(MANSFIELD, TX 10/17/18) – Sightmark is set to leave its mark at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show. The show is scheduled February 2 – 10 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Sightmark will display new products like the likes of RAM Ultra Shot Series, Citadel Riflescopes and Accudot Boresights.
The Great American Outdoor Show celebrates outdoor traditions enjoyed by millions in the United States of America. Over 1,000 exhibitors will showcase their products, ranging from guided hunts and fishing gear to firearms and accessories, all in a 650,000 square foot exhibit hall. Apart from the trade show, GAOS will also host country concerts, fundraising dinners, speaking events and many more fun events!
For more information visit greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.