are important to the modern law en- forcement patrol rifl e. Picking which one is right for the individual offi cer or specialized unit can be diffi cult considering all the choices on the market today. When doing so, it’s important to carefully consider the intended role of the optic and the fea- tures that will be needed as well as those that are not. Time and money can be saved, and the right optic se- lected, with an informed purchase.


Reticle The term ‘red dot sight,’ is a bit of a mis- nomer. A red dot sight (RDS) may be red, green, blue or amber reticle, and a red reticle with a green option is very common. Is there a difference? Green generally causes less eye strain and is more readily seen in normal light. In the past, green optics have been accused of being hard on battery life, but that is be- coming less true as technology advances. Red stands out a bit better and is gener- ally considered better for low-light work. Amber is relatively new to the scene but does seem to be fi nding some traction. Reticles might be dots, deltas, rings or

some combination thereof. Some are sim- ple and some are a little more ‘busy.’ The more complicated reticles can be used to compensate for mechanical offset, bullet drop, and for distance estimation. Reti- cles also come in different sizes. Larger dots are considered more apt for quick target acquisition while smaller ones are preferred for more precise shots.

Activation In order to use an RDS, the optic must be turned on at some point. I have one qual- ity unit that requires pushing and holding the activation switch for a few seconds for activation. That procedure has gotten a little stressful a few times when arriv- ing at calls where the carbine might have been needed quickly. Better options have no need for activation at all. One RDS is designed to be ‘off’ until its protective shroud is removed. After a few minutes, it turns back off unless it’s jostled.

Diminutive dot optics are especially well-suited for short-barrel rifles and AR pattern pistols.

Some other optics have battery lives

that are measured not in hours, but in months or even years. The owner must only change the battery in the optic twice a year as if it was a smoke detector. An- other great option is a passive system, which doesn’t require a battery at all. These dual-illuminated optics use fi ber optics to power the dot in normal light and tritium for low light.


Something else to be considered is the size of the optic. One of the most popular sights in use over the last decade or so is 5 inches long and weighs nearly three- quarters of a pound. Compare that to some mini red dot sights (MRDS), which are less than 2 inches long and weigh just over an ounce with a battery in place. There are options of almost every con- ceivable size in between. The larger sights have a big ‘window,’

which many shooters prefer. Smaller units are less likely to get snagged com- ing out of the car or on the rifl e sling. They are also easier to wield when used on short barrel rifl es or AR-15 style pis- tols, which are skyrocketing in popular- ity. It should be noted that mini red dot sights will often require a riser or a taller mount when used on an AR-15 plat- form. Risers add to the height of a MRDS mount. Pistol height mounts often will not allow an AR-15 to properly zero.

Co-Witness Speaking of risers, co-witness is another decision that must be made prior to pur- chase. Depending on the height of the mount, one may choose a true (absolute) co-witness or a lower one-third co-wit- ness. With a true co-witness, the optic and the back-up iron sights (BUIS) line together on the same plane. This setup is common for shooters who prefer to keep their BUIS in the down position. With a 1/3rd co-witness, the iron

sights align in the lower third of the optic, keeping the dot unobstructed. The shooter must only raise and lower his/her head to switch from one sight to the other. This setup is more common among shooters who prefer their iron sights to be constantly up. The mount height for a true co-witness is between 1.4 inches and 1.5 inches to the center of the dot. A lower-third mount height is about 1.7 inches to the center of the dot.

Magnifi cation Generally, when we think of RDS, mag- nifi cation is a secondary consideration. Prismatic sights are similar to RDS but use non-illuminated etched glass and often come with a 2x-5x magnifi cation. That means they do not necessarily re- quire a battery. Most have the option of illuminated reticles but aren’t required during normal daylight. For those who use standard RDS and would like the 43

ood quality optics

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