Red-dot, amber chevron, amber circle, holographic, collimator or reflex. Call them what you want, but these sights have made an impact on the tactical world for good reason: They are just plain faster than traditional iron sights. It took a while for both the military and police to accept these sighting systems and put them into play, but they’ve certainly proven themselves on the mean streets—whether Baghdad or Boston.
Some sights, like the Trijicon® Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) and EOTech Holographic Weapon Sight (HWS) are used by our troops in all branches of the U.S. military. With advances in this technology, sights have gotten smaller and smaller while still providing plenty of options for the operator. Let’s have a look at the latest and greatest. EOTech
I have used an EOTech sight on my primary carbine for several years. With a 65 Minute of Angle (MOA) outer ring and a one MOA center dot, I find the red reticle quick to use. With multiple brightness settings, it is accurate out to 150 yards or more. New from EOTech this year, but not available for testing, is the line of new transverse single 123 battery XPS3 holographic sights.
The “transverse” means that the single battery runs sideways to the barrel for compactness. This single battery design has reduced the length of the sight overall to only 3.75 inches. In addition, the battery run time has been extended well past other N size battery sights in the EOTech line. We look forward to testing EOTech’s new products soon.
Sig Sauer introduced its STS-081 Mini Red Dot sight last year. The STS-081 offers 11 daylight settings with a 4-M.O.A. and comes complete with a permanent M1913 Picatinny rail mount affixed. Powered by one 3volt CR2032 lithium battery, Sig Sauer claims a run life of as much as 8,000 hours of operation. With a big rotary dial actuating switch and a durable finish, the STS-081 costs less than some of its competitors but is still a rugged and reliable design from the Swiss gun manufacturer.
Insight Tech Gear
Insight Tech Gear has recently released its new Mini Red-Dot Sight (MRDS). The MRDS is a small one. It is just 1-7/8 inches long and 1 inch wide with a weight of only 0.8 ounces. This little red-dot still delivers on performance with five different settings (one auto setting and four manual dot brightness settings) from the single push button switch.
According to Insight, the single 1632 battery provided can power the MRDS for up to one year in auto-mode. The MRDS comes complete with a protective cover. Lest you think the MRDS is dainty, I will tell you that I mounted this sight on a double barrel shotgun (Stoeger’s new Double Defense), and the Mini Red-Dot Sight stayed lit and stayed on.
Aimpoint, manufacturer of the COMPM3, as well as other sights, went small with the Micro T-1 and Micro H-1. These miniature (2.4-inch x 1.6-inch) sights weigh only 3.0 oz. yet deliver a four minute of angle (MOA) red dot with (in the case of the T-1) 12 different settings—four night vision settings and eight daylight settings. And all of these features are provided from a single battery that can last five years! The T-1 is the sturdier of the two with an anodized non-reflective finish, and it is submersible to 80 feet.
The H-1 is less expensive but does not offer night vision capabilities. Although it is only submersible to 15 feet, it still delivers excellent sighting. Both the T-1 and H-1 were simple to install on the Larue mounts provided, and they offer the sturdiness and options we’ve come to expect from Aimpoint.
Trijicon supplied several new sights for testing. Tactical Response magazine previously tested the ACOG in both 4X and 1X magnification. My impression of the four power scope was that it would be good for assignments where shots beyond 100 yards were expected, but that the sight was not appropriate for CQB. Just prior to working on that evaluation, I saw a photo of a SpecOps operator with a small red-dot sight mounted on top of his 4X ACOG. I inquired but at the time such a set-up was not commercially available. Well, that’s no longer the case.
ACOG Model TA31F-RMR sports a Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight on a mount above the ACOG tube. The RMR portion is only 1.8 inches in length by 1.1 inches wide, but it provides a red 4-MOA dot. A standard cheek weld aligns your eye with the ACOG sight, which has an illuminated (Tritium and fiber optic) red chevron reticle. A black line with the number 4, and below that the number 6, provides aiming points for 400 and 600 meters respectively.
If making entry in a building or dealing with closer threats (25 meters for instance), just raise your head slightly so you have a stock weld with the side of your chin, and you’ll now be able to pick up the battery-powered 4-MOA red-dot. A police officer from my agency deployed with the Army reserves in Afghanistan reports that he has seen this sight in use with several SpecOps personnel.
Trijicon just introduced its new Ruggedized Miniature Reflex Model RM03-RMR, which is powered by the radioactive isotope Tritium and fiber optic. The RM03 (like the TA31F-RMR) has a lifetime warranty, is rugged (and according to Trijicon is built to the same toughness standards as the ACOG) and yet is very lightweight (1.2 ounces). The 1.8-inch long by 1.1-inch wide sight was securely mounted on top of my flattop Doublestar® Star-15 carbine, and with the RM-34 Tall Picatinny Rail Mount it allowed a co-witnessing with my iron sights.
All of the sights tested were rugged enough to be attached to a 12 gauge shotgun and were able to withstand the recoil. All were installed on an AR platform for testing (Armalite, Doublestar and Rock River carbines). Several of the micro and mini sights, Sig Sauer and Safariland SOPSC-2 for instance, required the addition of risers to be able to clear the front sight tower. These risers may be in addition to the Picatinny rail mounts.
Most sight manufacturers sell mounting hardware as well. Users should remember to use Locktite® Blue when installing. It is a wise idea to put pen marks on the mount and upper receiver of your carbine after installation. This allows you to place the red-dot back in the correct place on the rail if you have to remove it. This theoretically means you are back on zero (it’s always worth confirming with a fired group to make sure).
Back-up iron sights (BUIS) are mandatory because all electronic or mechanical devices are subject to malfunction or failure. I like BUIS that are in the lower one-third of the collimator sight field so that the field of view is not cluttered.
Zeroing and Use
All of the red-dot sights were easily zeroed. To make things easy if co-witnessing is possible, a rough alignment can be done by using the iron sights and placing the dot or chevron on top of the front sight. I use a 50-yard zero for my 5.56 carbines. Most of the sights tested had half-MOA adjustments, which means that at 50 yards, one click moves the impact point ¼ inch. With most of these sights, that would mean one click equals ½ inch at 100 yards. Remember to check the owner’s manual to verify.
As a carbine instructor, I am amazed at the number of students who don’t understand that the red-dot is used alone and does not require alignment with the front sight for shooting. Once the sight is zeroed, keep both eyes open and place the reticle where you want the bullet to impact. Once trigger control is learned, it is quicker to align three things (target, red-dot, your eye) than aligning four (target, front sight, rear sight, your eye).
Will the use of a red-dot make a poor shooter a better shot? No. Should students still be taught to use the iron sights? Yes. But once the basics are mastered, using red-dot sights can reduce time to target, and that is a good thing in a shooting situation. Red-dot sights are indeed getting smaller and lighter in weight while still providing a solid aiming point.
Kevin R. Davis is a full-time police officer with 27 years experience and is assigned to his agency’s training bureau. He is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency’s SWAT team. Kevin welcomes your comments at email@example.com or visit his Web site at www.advancedtacticalconcepts.com.