Protect What You Love: Sight-in on Home Defense

By Kevin Reese  February 17, 2020​​

Protect What You Love: Sight-in on Home Defense

it’s a function of prevention, avoidance & The Subconscious 

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Sun Tzu’s ageless adage, adopted by Marine Corps drill instructors everywhere, still rings true today and not just amidst ranks of uniformed troops; substitute “war” with “defensive situations” and you’re left with similar common-sense ideology in the civilian world. While practice doesn’t necessarily “make perfect” when operating in survival mode, it certainly offers a calming of the storm, so to speak, while trapped in its vortex.

In this context, training isn’t a function of simply educating; it’s a function of prevention, avoidance or, ultimately, committing survivor tactics to our subconscious—not processing what needs to be done but doing it automatically and without hesitation. Training also means incorporating the right
tools — the ones you are likely to use when chaos kicks in your door.

Personal defense expert, Rob Pincus, coined a phrase I have adopted, “Protect what you love.” This simple phrase embodies the reason we should take self-defense seriously and to what measure we are willing to commit ourselves to it, both in dynamic training and doing it with the right equipment. To that end, your defense weapons, whatever they may be, must be there when you need them and be the right tools for the job. 

Latest And Greatest Personal Defense Go-To's

AR-style pistol-cartridge carbines have become exceptionally popular for home defense over the past couple of years and rightly so. My latest, greatest in-home go-to is a new Lead Star Arms PCC9 carbine designed to use standard double-stack Glock magazines and 9mm ammo. Atop the PCC9, you’ll find a Sightmark RAM Series Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight. The Ultra Shot M-Spec delivers a crisp, parallax-corrected field of view, even in low light, an adjustable circle-dot reticle, easy-to-use digital controls and long battery life. The Ultra Shot’s rugged M-Spec durability lets me know that if necessary, I can beat the offender senseless with my carbine and it will still hold zero for some Saturday morning trigger time.

For me, a carbine like Lead Star’s PCC9 9mm and the Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight, or another quality red dot sight, are a perfect combo for personal defense in the home, especially at longer distances; of course, my current concealed-carry gun, a Glock 17 9mm (same ammo and magazines) is also close at hand. With respect to red dot sights, as well as reflex sights like the Ultra Shot M-Spec, these types of optics are perfect for self-defense firearms in the home because they facilitate rapid target acquisition, often even in low light.

For my personal home defense, the Lead Star Arms Barrage PCC9, Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight and a road-hard-hung-up-wet Glock 17C, combined with dynamic training, deliver big on the confidence I need to achieve an effective balance of speed and precision if and when a threat darkens our doorway—balance and speed being a focus foundational to the Intuitive Defensive Training I received from Mr. Pincus himself (www.icetraining.us). 

The Solution:

The Liberty Pole had it right when it asked readers, “How many times have you read, 'An unidentified woman, heavily armed with a semi-automatic weapon was raped by a man wielding a knife?’” The question itself carries a lot of weight unless you qualify it with a lack of training and the right tools for the job. Let’s face it, lack of defensive knowledge manifested in ineffective subconscious responses have resulted in hundreds of thousands of victimized firearm owners. Be ready and equipped to—as Pincus puts it—protect what you love.

Learn more about Sightmark’s RAM Series Ultra Shot Reflex Sights and other red dot optics at www.sightmark.com.


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Kevin Reese is an award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, Marine Corps veteran, avid long-range shooter and passionate bowhunter. He continues to work actively as an industry voice for our shooting sports, personal defense and outdoor heritage, and contributes to numerous magazines, published nationally and internationally, and high-traffic digital platforms. Kevin resides in Texas with his wife, Kelly, and son, Jacob, a highly competitive swimmer. He spends most weekends hunting, at his local shooting range or poolside cheering for his son.


Kevin Reese blogger


WHAT OPTIC IS BEST FOR HOME DEFENSE?

the best sights for home defense


What Optic is Best for Home Defense?

We each have our own unique situation dictating which home defense weapon works best for us. Some gun owners have kids. Some live in apartments. Some have disabilities. Whatever works best for you weapon wise is what I recommend you stick to—be it shotgun, revolver, SBR or whatever. If you can shoot it under duress, then good. However, there are good, better and best tools for the job and the optic or sights on your home protection gun are certainly categorized as such.Fight or Flight Response chart

When identifying the best self-defense optic, we must consider the circumstances in which we’ll be using the optic. This helps rule out optics that aren’t the best for the job.

When experts design a course of fire to train for self-defense, most look to police-involved shooting statistics. This helps give a clearer picture of what the “average” self-defense shooting looks like. For example, what distance do most self-defense shootings occur? We know the answer to be, statistically, within seven yards. We also know that most occur when it’s dark.

Knowing just these two facts means we can eliminate magnified scopes because they are made for longer shooting distances. For home defense, we need the best optic for close-up (CQB) distances. Further, because most crime happens at night, we need an optic that is easy to see in low light. Therefore, we can logically conclude that an illuminated reticle or glow-in-the-dark sight is best.

Now, let’s look at what happens to our bodies when we perceive a threat…

Our bodies respond to potential threats by releasing cortisol and adrenaline in preparation for us to either fight or flee. The result is physiological and beyond our control. Our heart rate increases, we get tunnel vision, lose our hearing and we may shake.

Shooting a gun well is a learned skill. One that takes regular practice. In fight or flight mode, we need hand/eye coordination and dexterity to operate our gun properly. Considering this, we need an optic that is easy to use, with a reticle we can quickly see.

And finally, because our lives depend on it, this optic needs to be reliable and accurate.

Put all together, the best sights for home defense must be:

  • Illuminated
  • Reliable
  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
  • Provide quick target acquisition
  • No or low magnification

Our Favorites:

Mini Shot M-Spec

The Mini red dot sight includes a riser mount for AR-15s and low-profile, quick-detach mount.
The Mini red dot sight includes a riser mount for AR-15s and low-profile, quick-detach mount.

Like all reflex sights, the Mini Shot M-Spec red dot sight allows you to shoot properly with both eyes open. Called the Bindon Aiming Concept, keeping both eyes open while using an optic or firearm sight allows the dominant eye to focus on the illuminated reticle, while the weaker eye remains focused on the target, as well as what’s around it. This is the natural way we see the world. Our brain processes the images, keeping the target of our focus magnified or highlighted.

With a very short learning curve, reflex sights allow you to get on target within seconds of drawing your weapon. As soon as you see the red dot on the target, you can take a precise shot, providing a tactical advantage because red dots are designed for when speed and accuracy both equally matter—like in a self-defense situation.

Sightmark’s mini red dot features the most popular dot size—3 MOA—the perfect size for accuracy for up-close-and-personal to mid-range. There are 10 brightness adjustments for all lighting conditions from broad daylight to darkness, ambidextrous controls and a 12-hour automatic shut-off to get the most of its battery life. With double the battery life of its competitors at 30,000 hours, its built-in steel protective shield and durable aluminum construction make the Sightmark Mini Shot meet all the requirements needed for a good self-defense optic.

The Mini Shot includes mounts for a pistol and AR-15.

The Mini Shot M-Spec is available in four different models:

Click here to read a review on the Mini Shot.

LoPro Laser Light Combo

The Sightmark LoPro AR-15 light and laser combo is now available in Dark Earth
These low-profile laser and light combos work just as well for professionals as they do civilians.

For home defense, it’s imperative to have a flashlight at the ready—either handheld or weapon-mounted, you need light to identify targets in the dark.

The LoPro AR-15 green laser light combo frees up your hands, so you have better control over your rifle, as well frees up rail space by pairing both a laser and bright tactical light in one compact unit.

Click here to read a review on the LoPro AR-15 laser light combo. 

Utilizing a bright green Class IIIa laser, the 1.5” dot is visible up to 50 yards during the day and up to 600 yards at night. The white LED light has three modes—50 lumens on low, 150 lumens on medium and a maximum of 300 lumens on high. Operation is via easy-to-reach digital controls or a pressure pad switch. Each LoPro allows use of your iron sights and does not impede a red dot sight. Two different size models are available—compact and sub-compact.

The LoPro standard is 4.49 inches long, 2.83 inches wide, 1.53 inches tall and weighs 13.2 ounces. The LoPro Mini is 3.5 inches long, 2.1 inches wide, 1.4 inches tall and weighs only 7 ounces.

Find the right one for you:

For more about the LoPro and benefits of a laser, click here. 

Element Red Dot Sight

Sightmark meets customers' demands with the new, upgraded Element red dot sight
Sightmark meets customers’ demands with the new, upgraded Element red dot sight

The 1x magnification of the Element is good for those who have astigmatism or other eye problems which make acquiring an illuminated red dot more difficult. A tube-style red dot sight, the Element is night-vision compatible and features a 2 MOA dot with 9 brightness settings for very precise shooting at distances further than close quarters.

Made for shotguns and MSRs, the Element is as tough as it is lightweight. It is nitrogen-filled, fogproof, shockproof and waterproof up to 3 feet for 1 hour. It is 4.4 inches long and weighs only 9.8 ounces.

To read more about the benefits of low magnification scopes, click here. 

ReadyFire LW-R5

For full-sized pistols, this red handgun laser is compact and mounts on a Weaver or Picatinny rail between the trigger guard and muzzle for perfect placement and has a 300-yard range at night.
Made for full-sized pistols, the laser is compact with a 300-yard beam throw at night.

Though the use of handgun lasers is personal preference, there is no denying proper use helps owners aim faster in low-light, high-stress situations.

The ReadyFire LW-R5 full-size pistol laser fits any railed full-sized semiautomatic pistol. It features a red Class IIIa laser with a 20-yard effective range during the day and a 300-yard effective range at night. An easy slide switch actives the laser. Mount it between the trigger guard and muzzle for quick target acquisition. It weighs only 2.3 ounces and measures 2.4 inches long with a 1.1-inch height and weight.

Click here to read more about the benefits of laser sights. 

Whether or not you decide between a reflex, red dot or laser sight, there are plenty of options to choose from for your AR, SBR, pistol or shotgun.

Which optic do you run on your self-defense gun? Tell us which ones and why in the comment section.

Sightmark’s Best Tactical Scopes

At Sightmark, we design each optic to meet a specific need in the shooting world—whether that be for plinking, 3-Gun competition, hunting or high-stakes professional work. Each scope or red dot sight incorporates meticulously thought-out features specific to that optic’s purpose.

Some use the word “tactical” as a meaningless buzz word to sell products. With many military veterans on our team, as well as retired and active law enforcement, we don’t throw words like “tactical” and “MIL-SPEC” around. When we market something as such, we mean it. When we use the word “tactical,” we’re referring to any feature inspired by a military design. From precision sniper accuracy to quick target acquisition in CQB, Sightmark makes purpose-driven reflex sights, as well as long-range magnified riflescopes for true tactical use.

What is a Tactical Scope?

From CQB to extreme long-range, Sightmark makes a tactical scope, red dot sight or long-range optic for that.
From CQB to extreme long-range, Sightmark makes an optic for that.

It used to be easier to distinguish between a hunting scope and a tactical scope, yet recently, the lines are blurring. A traditional hunting scope used to be characterized by being simpler than a tactical scope, with moderate magnification range, a simple crosshair reticle, low-profile turrets and construction that withstands recoil and bad weather but not necessarily rated for the type of abuse a tactical scope endures.

A close- to mid-range tactical scope typically has a second focal plane, range-finding (milliradian) reticles, large target turrets with audible click adjustments, and must be durable for rough use in harsh environments.

Hunters are beginning to see the benefits of tactical-style features and demanding superb low-light performance, range-estimating reticles and large windage and elevation turrets.

You really can’t distinguish between a tactical and non-tactical scope just by looking at it. You can though, deduce use when looking at the scope’s specifications. Because the most effective shots for hunting are at a limited range, most hunting scopes will not go past 10x magnification but tactical scopes, especially those designed for long-range shooting can have powerful magnifications.

As noted above, Sightmark makes tactical optics for CQB to long-range. Here are the top five tactical scopes:

AR Riflescopes

The AR series of riflescopes
The AR series of riflescopes

The AR and M1 series of riflescopes are specifically designed for AR-15s and other Modern Sporting Rifles with a rugged hard-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum tube that is shockproof, (nitrogen-filled) fogproof and IP67 waterproof-rated and feature illuminated reticles.

The AR scopes are available in varying magnifications from 1-4x to 5-10x with 20mm, 32mm and 40mm objectives. You can choose between a.300 Blackout, .223, or .308 Winchester second focal plane reticle, all of which compensate for bullet drop.

Unique to this series of tactical scopes is the rapid power rotation eyepiece for quick target acquisition, especially when there are fast-moving targets. Ten brightness adjustments transition this scope smoothly from low-light to bright-light environments.

Large, exposed pop-up locking turrets keep your scope zeroed.

Perfect for close to mid-ranges, the AR scopes provide tactical shooters with precision accuracy and fast, positive target acquisition.

Find your AR scope by clicking here.

Pinnacle 5-30×50 TMD Riflescope

For extreme long-range distances, the 5-30x50mm Pinnacle riflescope will make your shot count out to 1,000 yards and further.
For extreme long-range distances, the 5-30x50mm Pinnacle riflescope will make your shot count out to 1,000 yards and further.

For extreme long-range distances, the 5-30x50mm Pinnacle riflescope will make your shot count out to 1,000 yards and further. Zero stop elevation easily helps you set a stopping point at a certain range, meaning a return to zero every single time you use your scope.

The combination of the 34mm tube and 50mm objective lens increases elevation adjustment range, light transmission and field of view for a clear image, as well as more accurate long-range shot placement.

An advanced TMD-HW first focal plane illuminated (red or green) tactical MIL reticle helps estimate range and holdovers for bullet drop, crosswind and moving targets.

The Pinnacle boasts a tested and recommended rating from the National Tactical Officers Association.

Click here to start becoming a sharpshooter!

Ultra Shot M-Spec LQD Sight

The Ultra Shot reflex sight has a 2 MOA dot and 2,000-hour battery life.
The Ultra Shot reflex sight has a 2 MOA dot and 2,000-hour battery life.

With a tactical 2 MOA dot, the Ultra Shot M-Spec (MIL-SPEC) reflex red dot sight is made for the AR-15 and other Modern Sporting Rifles and has 10 brightness settings, is night-vision compatible and has a patented integrated sunshade.

Guaranteed with a lifetime warranty, the Ultra Shot is shockproof, dustproof, IP68 waterproof-rated, recoil-rated up to .338 Winchester Magnum and constructed of lightweight yet rugged 6061-T6 aluminum.

Specialized features include up to 2,000-hour battery life, a battery-saving automatic on and off activation, digital controls and a locking quick-detach Picatinny mount.

Read more about the Ultra Shot here.

Citadel 1-6x24mm CR1

The 1-6x magnification range makes the Citadel CR1 ideal for close quarters one-shot accuracy, as well as quick acquisition of targets at mid-range distances.
The 1-6x magnification range makes the Citadel CR1 ideal for both CQB and mid-range.

The 1-6x magnification range makes the Citadel CR1 ideal for close-quarters one-shot accuracy, as well as quick acquisition of targets at mid-range distances. It features a second focal plane BDC reticle calibrated for 55-grain .223 ammo with red illumination to aid in low-light situations and ½ MOA click adjustments.

Built for rough use, the Citadel is constructed of aluminum and is IP67 waterproof—submersible to 1 meter for 1 hour, plus shockproof and fogproof.

Included are a throw lever and flip-up lens caps.

Click here to check out the Citadel.

Mini Shot M-SPEC LQD

The Mini red dot sight includes a riser mount for AR-15s and low-profile, quick-detach mount.
The Mini red dot sight includes a riser mount for AR-15s and low-profile, quick-detach mount.

 

For a versatile reflex sight, the Mini Shot M-SPEC transitions smoothly from pistols to your tactical shotgun or rifle. Included is a low-profile quick-detach mount, as well as a riser mount for your AR-15.

The most popular dot size, the 3 MOA dot is the sweet spot between CQB and mid-range, making the Mini Shot accurate for any tactical situation you encounter. It has double the battery life of the competition with up to an impressive 30,000 hours battery life. The 12-hour automatic shutoff means you don’t have to worry about failure when you need speed and precision the most.

The Mini red dot features 1 MOA windage and elevation click adjustments for easy zeroing, 10 brightness adjustments for both indoor and outdoor environments and ambidextrous digital controls.

The Sightmark Mini Shot M-SPEC LQD red dot sight has been field-tested through the National Tactical Officers Association and comes recommended for law enforcement and professional use.

Click here to buy the Mini Shot.

From CQB to extreme long-range, Sightmark has an optic for when failure isn’t an option.

What type of tactical features do you look for in an optic? Tell us in the comment section.

 

Sightmark M-Spec Mini Red Dot Sight for Pistol Review

Though far from a traditionalist, I learned to safely shoot guns with—and still usually prefer—iron sights. I began shooting at summer camp with BB guns, moved on to a Marlin .22 when my big brother came of age and even after graduating to the big girl guns—big-bore revolvers, 1911s and MIL-SURP rifles, I never shot with anything but irons. At the time, who I was learning from and training with weren’t into anything high-tech (this was before the AR-15 became so popular) and we used most of our money on ammo. The fanciest I ever got when I first started shooting firearms regularly were Meprolight tritium/fiber optic night sights. It was only when I began working in the firearms industry did I get a chance to start experimenting with all sorts of different optics.

Mini red dot sights are becoming increasingly popular for self-defense handguns.
Mini red dot sights are becoming increasingly popular for self-defense handguns.

Sent to me for T&E or borrowed from a friend for the same reason, from Chinese EOTech knock-offs to high-end thermal imagers, I’ve had the opportunity to try it all! However, it took me years to take the leap and spend my dollars buying optics. My first was a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38 Special revolver with integrated laser—yes, it was 2010 when I made my first optics purchase by own choice. (Like mentioned above, I’m a late adopter.)

The more I got into gun culture, the newer products and the latest technology I was interested in testing. I’m willing to give anything that makes me a better, more accurate shooter a chance. Smoother triggers, adjustable stocks and red dot sights are my favorite accessories that make shooting more pleasurable and make me more confident.

Reflex and red dot sights are a very common accessory to put on your AR-15 but not so much on handguns unless you compete. Yet, in the last few years, most optic manufacturers have been making smaller and lighter weight red dot sights for pistols. A red dot sight on your concealed carry or home defense gun is a considerable alternative to the laser sight.

The Benefits of Pistol Reflex Sights

  • Faster target acquisition
  • Forces you to focus on your target, not your sights
  • Shoot with both eyes open, keeping you more situationally aware with a wider field of view
  • Increased accuracy, better groups

The latest red dot I’ve worked with is the Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec FMS.

Sightmark's M-Spec mini red dot sight has a 3 MOA dot and 10 brightness adjustments
The M-Spec mini red dot has a 3 MOA dot and 10 brightness adjustments.

Specifications and features:

  • 3 MOA dot
  • 1-10 brightness adjustments
  • Unlimited eye relief
  • 110 MOA windage and elevation adjustment range
  • 25 yards parallax setting
  • 6061-T6 aluminum housing
  • Up to .375 H&H recoil proof
  • IP67-rated, waterproof up to 3’ for 1 hour
  • Nitrogen-filled and fogproof
  • AR red anti-scratch lens coating
  • Weaver/Picatinny quick-detach mount
  • CR1632 batteries with 300 to 30,000-hours battery life
  • -22 to 122 F operating temperature
  • 73” long
  • 14” wide
  • 34” tall
  • 2” tall with riser mount
  • Weighs 3 ounces

The Mini Shot came pre-sighted and mounted on a full-sized Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 9mm. It mounts to Picatinny or Weaver rails with a low-profile locking, quick-detach mount. Also included is an AR-15 riser mount. The reflex sight’s ultra-compact size and lightweight made no difference in the balance and feel of the gun. The 3 MOA dot is perfect for close (CQB) ranges typical of self-defense. As someone with astigmatism, this dot size is easy for me to acquire, especially with the brightness turned up. The brightness does not change the size of the dot, yet makes it appear to cover more of the target and is quicker and easier to acquire for follow-up shots.

I shot at an indoor range from two different distances—5 feet and 8 yards, shooting about 125 rounds.

The compact size of the Sightmark M-Spec mini red dot sight does not disrupt the pistol's balance, nor add noticeable weight.
Sightmark’s M-Spec mini red dot sight is compact and efficient.

Operation and Controls

The Mini Shot is activated by digital controls located on either side of the sight for ambidextrous use. Up and down arrow buttons indicate which way to adjust for brightness. There are 10 brightness levels which seamlessly switch one-handed. To turn the Mini reflex sight off, you must press the down arrow for five seconds. If you accidentally leave the unit on, it automatically shuts off at 12 hours.

For such a compact optic, the display window is wide and offers plenty of field of view. I started with a low brightness setting better for low-light environments at eight yards. I was shooting low left. Turning up the brightness to the mid 7-8 level increased my accuracy. The midranges are best for indoor lighting and outside on a cloudy day. I suspect due to my poor eyesight on top of my astigmatism, the brighter dot is best for me no matter the circumstances.

After a bit of a shaky start and getting used to how to manipulate the M&P 2.0’s clicky trigger, I was rockin and rollin.’ Bringing in my target to a true self-defense five-foot distance, I shot from the low ready, firing as quickly as the range allowed and as fast as I could reacquire my dot after firing—a couple of seconds between shots at most. This casual self-defense drill proved my groups excellent—less than 1 MOA, punching holes in holes.

I know I say this repeatedly but anything that empowers you to make you a better and more confident shooter, I encourage and though nothing replaces competently using your iron sights when electronics fail, optics like lasers and red dots truly do help you shoot where you aim…and that’s pretty important when forced to stop a bad guy.

Do you run a red dot sight on your handgun? What do you like best and the least about it? Customer reviews and suggestions are how we improve our products, so talk to us in the comment section!

Click here to purchase the M-Spec!

The Mini Shot is also available in Dark Earth, with a quick-detach lever and riser mount. Click here to pick the right one for you.

 

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!

Dark Earth is Coming to the Ultra Shot Series!

(Mansfield, Texas 2019/02/06) – Introducing Sightmark’s new Ultra Shot RAM Series in Dark Earth finish. Inspired by the military, the RAM series is ideal for close-range target shooting and law enforcement, perfect for both the AR platform and shotgun. Sightmark will offer three different models with the new Dark Earth finish with the R-, A- and M-Spec.

Sightmark’s new Ultra Shot RAM series of reflex sights will soon be available in a dark earth finish
The new Ultra Shot RAM series reflex sights will soon be available in FDE

Suited for fast, accurate action at the range, the R-Spec Dark Earth (SM26031DE) delivers a clear field of view with an advanced, anti-reflective and scratch-resistant lens, along with four red and green reticle options.

The A-Spec Dark Earth (SM26032DE) features the same benefits as the R-Spec with the addition of six-night vision settings, allowing the optic to be used with night vision devices and goggles.

The elite sight of the RAM series, the M-Spec LQD Dark Earth (SM26034DE) and M-Spec FMS (SM26035DE) is designed for law enforcement, hunting and competitive shooting. A retractable sunshade reduces glare and helps protect your optic from inclement weather.

The new RAM series Dark Earth are expected to arrive Q1 2019.

MSRP:

SM26031DE – $155.99

SM26032DE – $179.99

SM26034DE – $299.97

SM26035DE – $239.97

Click here to purchase an Ultra Shot reflex sight.

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 used 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.

The Core Shot A-Spec is not a red dot sight. It is an open reflex sight.
The Core Shot A-Spec is not a red dot sight. It is an open reflex sight.
After 1,000 rounds, the Wolverine holds zero and didn't malfunction once.
The Wolverine 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.

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 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.

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.

What ‘s the difference between a reflex sight and a red dot sight?

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. 

Sightmark M-Spec Mini Red Dot Sight Review

Written by Jamie Trahan, 18-year Law Enforcement Officer and Sightmark Pro Staff Member

The M-Spec mini dot has 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.
The M-Spec mini dot has 3 MOA dot perfect for close-up to mid-range work.

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.

The Mini Shot M-Spec is the perfect size for the GLOCK 17 and the weight isn’t noticeable.
The Mini Shot M-Spec is the perfect size for the GLOCK 17 and the weight isn’t noticeable.

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.

Click here to download your free TDA Dot Torture drill target.

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.

All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK.
All said and done, the Mini Shot M-Spec will find a permanent home on my duty GLOCK.

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.

Author’s note:

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.

Click here to check out and buy the Mini Shot.

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 Sightmark red dot sight sight aiming at a target down range.
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.

The Sightmark M-Spec has multiple reticles, this one is a 2 MOA center dot with a 65 MOA circle dot crosshair
A 4 MOA dot is best for close ranges, while a 2 MOA dot is best for longer ranges.

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.

Sightmark Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec Kit Doesn’t Compromise!

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.)

The Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec are the best of both worlds.
The Wolfhound and Mini Shot M-Spec are the best of both worlds.

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 LOT of training ammo available for purchase with that extra cash you will be saving.