Red Dot or iron sights?


March 10, 2012, 09:26 PM
Putting a AR together, can't decide to put a Red Dot on it or just go with Iron Sights for now and maybe a RD later.

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March 10, 2012, 09:28 PM
Iron sights are always going to work, no matter what.

Not always, no matter what.

If nothing else, go with good folding irons now and leave them on as BUS (Back-up Iron Sights) when you do get a red-dot later.


March 10, 2012, 09:29 PM
both. but get the irons first and add the red dot when $ allows.

March 10, 2012, 09:51 PM
I personally have an inherent distrust of anything gun-related which requires batteries to work. They have an annoying habit of going flat at the most inopportune times. Not saying there's anything wrong with a decent red dot sight, they actually have several advantages. But a tactical rifle without iron sights of one kind or another strikes me as next to useless.

Kinda interested in some of the tritium/fiber-optic reflex sights by Trijicon and Meprolight, though. Fast acquisition AND no batteries? Sounds like just the ticket for a CQB rifle. Apart from the price, of course.

March 10, 2012, 09:56 PM
gotta learn the basics before ya start playing with the electronic gadgets,which are prone to failure at the most inoportune moments.if your going to mess with the fancy stuff,look at the tridjicon stuff the uses batteries to fail or leak.

March 10, 2012, 10:01 PM
Master the iron sights and dont worry of buyng red dots for now. They look cool but the basic marksmanship satrts with the irons.

March 10, 2012, 11:45 PM
Despite what everyone else seems to think I would go with a red dot , it's faster to use and usually more accurate. The Trijicons with the tritium fiber optic would be good (but expensive), I've been using a Burris 332, a 3 power red dot with holdover marks to 600 yards, when the batteries go dead you still have a black reticle, and it's also inexpensive. Some of the standard red dots (the expensive ones) that use batteries have a 10,000 hour life, just change it out every Christmas and you'll be set.

If red dots are so unreliable I wonder why all those army boys let their M16's wear them?

Gadgets? Come on guys, it's the 21st C. already, nobody uses flintlocks anymore you know.

This is what I use for 3 gun now, and it's also on standby as my HD rifle. My AR57 upper only uses a red dot also, as well as my HK USC (although it still has the factory iron sights on it).

March 10, 2012, 11:51 PM
I would agree with the advise of going with irons first then buying a quality red dot when the money allows.

I am a believer in red dot sights, it's almost like cheating. You really find an appreciation for them in low light conditions and where snap shooting happens often.

March 10, 2012, 11:56 PM
OK, found good price on Magpul Gen 1 front and rear flip sights! Will get them first and will look into and save some $$$ to get a good dot later!!

Zach S
March 11, 2012, 12:09 AM
I'm not a fan of magpul BUIS, not as a primary sight anyway. They're plastic. To me, that's like having a flat and using the temporary spare until you buy tires again.

For primary sights, I'd buy something a little more robust.

M2 Carbine
March 11, 2012, 12:25 AM
Iron sights, Red Dot, laser and light. All bases covered.:)

It's said that about 70% of defense shootings take place in low light and dark.
So, it would seem the iron sights are worthless two thirds of the time.

A Red Dot or laser will allow you to still aim when it's like this.

And a (good) laser/light will allow you to keep your AR on target when it's like this.

March 11, 2012, 01:28 AM
open sights and green laser. Green Is almost flashlight bright.

March 11, 2012, 04:12 AM
I started out with regular a2 sights. Went to red dot. Went back to a2 trijicon AR sights. Sold the red dot.

March 11, 2012, 08:24 AM
Good optics beat good irons everytime. The military has tested this enough to prove that soldiers hit much more often, at all ranges, under all conditions, with some type of optic on their rifle than with irons. If you buy quality they are proving to be just as reliable.

I think dots have their place, but to me the most useful optics are the small 1-4X scopes used on many of the AR's. They are quicker to pick up the target at any range and make shots in low light much easier because you can see the target better when on low powers. At the higher magnification they aid long range precision. They also cost less than a quality dot sight.

That said, I'd not want an AR that didn't also have iron sights as backup. And I'd learn how to use them. So you might be better off for now to stay with the irons. After you shoot a while longer you can make a better informed decision as to what will be better for you.

March 11, 2012, 08:37 AM
No one asked the question so I will.

What do you plan to use the rifle for? If defending the home is one of the planned uses, then you either need a set of irons or a red dot from EO Tech or Aimpoint. If those are out of your price range currently, go with irons. Regardless of which type of sight(s) you choose if home defense is one of the planned uses, a quality light is a must.

March 11, 2012, 12:04 PM
Plinking and maybe some 3 gun or something like that. Home Defense? Naa, Don't need a high powered round to go thru 3 apartments, will stick to 45acp or 9mm for that.

March 11, 2012, 12:11 PM
Home Defense? Naa, Don't need a high powered round to go thru 3 apartments, will stick to 45acp or 9mm for that.

You're totally right, if you want to shoot though 3 apartments use the 9mm or .45, those will stay together though more walls than a light jacketed .223 that starts to fall apart as soon as it hits anything.

The beauty of using a rifle for HD is it's the least penetrating weapon (given good ammo selection) but also offers the best accuracy and more firepower than pistols or shotguns.


March 11, 2012, 02:15 PM
Iron sights all the way and learn to be proficient with them. Yes, modern technology can be a wonderful thing but don't get caught with your pants down when it fails. If you can't find your way without a GPS or cook without a microwave, you probably need to embrace a little "old tech". Save your money and get a "good" red dot later on.

So, it would seem the iron sights are worthless two thirds of the time.
Really, you get into defensive shootings every day? :rolleyes:

March 11, 2012, 02:19 PM
If you go the dot route, get an Aimpoint. Battery life for those is measured in the tens of thousands of hours, they work in all conditions from bright light to pitch dark, and they're faster to hit with.

The US military has shown that there are optics that can stand up to rough field conditions and still work. The days of all scopes being fragile are over.

March 11, 2012, 02:40 PM
I agree on the Aimpoint. However, it is not that scopes are fragile. It is not that modern red dots are fragile. It is that no matter how robust they are proven to be, they can still fail. They do fail. They still have electronics and they still run on batteries. Cheap optics fail faster. Iron sights rarely fail and most shooters and sportsmen have probably never experienced an iron sight failure. I have a boxful of busted el cheapo scopes that all gave up the ghost and left me optionless. I have more rifles equipped with irons than scopes and more time on iron sights than optics. I have only ever had one iron sight failure. Which was a Lyman 66 that bent and came apart when the rifle was knocked over right on the sight.

Lee D
March 11, 2012, 02:53 PM
fwiw, i taught both my daughters to use irons efficiently before they were allowed to step up to a gun with optics(red dot or a traditional scope) did my dad with me.
its a shame nowadays people seem to want to skip steps and just jump into the "tacticool" niche befor learning proper rifle skills. i blame video games LOL
(just an observation, my comment was not intended for the OP)

March 11, 2012, 02:56 PM
Makers of red dots and what not are saturating their ads in gun magazines and Outdoor TV shows of the merits of hitting better with their products. This has been the trend to condition new shooters going on for the last 12 yrs. Yeah buy our products --- tactical lights and red dots to hit the badguys at night. The combination of AR carbine platform , lightrail systems, etc to have the advantage is the message. But in real life the handguns and shotguns still remain as king of home defense. LOL

March 11, 2012, 03:07 PM
how do you figure a shotgun is king over a carbine for HD?

the handgun is easier to tote around and have at hand, but most, if not everyone can still hit better with a rifle.

OP, go with the irons and learn the platform before adding an optic. i shot my 6920 for 3 years before adding a red dot. and irons are still effective with a weapon light when things go dark.

March 11, 2012, 03:20 PM
Red dot sights are getting better and better all the time. Most of you have probably seen Larry Vickers' torture test with that DD AR. It had an Aimpoint Micro on it and it survived everything up to the blast test which cracked the lens. Such a blast could have easily broken or damaged the front sight post or the rear aperture of a standard iron sight. The battery life is something like 4 years for the micro.

It's 2012. Get a red dot.

March 11, 2012, 03:29 PM
Maybe a slightly different take on the question. I personally believe it is an age thing about as much as anything. Iron sights were great when I was young and had better vision. Now all my firearms sport some kind of optic not because I like optics but because I want to be able to see and hit what I am aiming at. The only weapon I presently have without and optic is my SKS and I just cannot bring myself to mess with an optic for it.. Iron sights are simple and effective; red dots and scopes cover you in situations where irons are not your best choice.

March 11, 2012, 03:38 PM
At my age iron sights are really hard to use, the AR sights are among the few I can use at all. When I was young I had no use for optics, but now they are pretty much essential. Most of my guns now have red dots with iron BUIS if possible.

March 11, 2012, 03:40 PM
My AR15 has a removable carry handle with a A2 iron sight in it. It has "F" marked front iron sight. I do plan on putting an optic of some sort on it someday. Right now I just want to get use to shooting it at all ranges with the iron sights. I haven't had an AR in 4 years so I'm just getting familiar with the iron sights again. I might replace the factory rear aperture or the front post with tritium sights.

When I do get an optic, I'm going to go with a mount that either has a A2 sight in it, or a stand alone A2 sight and then a quick detachable mount for the optic. I want my optic to co-witnesses with my iron sights so I'll always have the iron sights without having to do anything. Just lower my face a little on the the butt stock and fire away. Just my $.02, YMMV.


March 11, 2012, 03:51 PM
First, what purpose is your gun serving? Is it a range toy where malfunctions will only result in annoyance? Is it a patrol rifle for an LE job where your life depends on it? Is it a home defense firearm where your life depends on it? A proper red dot will treat you better than a cheaper one. You improve your chances of success if the optic used is rugged enough to survive bumps and spills. If it's a range toy, it doesn't really matter and you can save a buck or two. If you're staking your life on it, you have to ask what the price of your life is worth and if buying the best is a worthwhile investment.

People that speak about "red dots failing, stick with irons" are correct but I often see that line of reasoning stop right there because they're simply repeating adages without thinking over the philosophy behind that statement. Red dots and lasers and lights have been around for decades on low-recoil 5.56mm platforms. They work but occasionally fail (some more than others, often being proportional to the cost of the hardware) but it's not a reason to dismiss them completely. Technology gives you an advantage, and you take every advantage you can get. It is important to realize is that guns and ammo work but occasionally fail too! This is why we practice failure drills and how to get ourselves out of a bind. It doesn't mean I'm going to depend on a knife because a gun fails to fire. Knives occasionally fail, doesn't mean I'm going to depend on my fists over a knife or gun.

If you're going to take the "it might fail" mentality, you need to apply it to everything on the firearm and make sure you're proficient with fixing anything that fails. Get rid of the weak links and know what to do if things go south. There are people that run the most expensive hardware but feed their gun cheap, underpowered .223 crap with incorrect buffer weights. Get rid of that weak link and run full power ammo. If you're going to run gizmos on the gun, have a backup and know how to transition from one to the other. That's all there is to it. Don't avoid technology because it occasionally fails.

Likewise you have to apply this same mentality to chosing a set of BUIS. Cheaper BUIS options have been known to malfunction. Those without locks can be partially flipped down, throwing off your POA/POI if using irons when you need it most. Spring-loaded units can bind or break. Some folks don't torque them down correctly and they shift. Maybe you're better off installing solid BUIS, not the foldy flappy types because the provide the least chance of malfunction. Some folks believe in solid BUIS co-witnessing with your red dot so if the electronics fail, there is no hesitation to transition to irons because it's already there. With folding BUIS, you have to take the extra second to reach out and deploy the folded BUIS. You can go hybrid and simply run a solid front BUIS with a folding rear.

March 11, 2012, 03:59 PM
I would change those flip ups to this

March 11, 2012, 04:38 PM
I say go with an AimPoint PRO. It amazes me how many people say forget the optic because of battery life. An AimPoint PRO will last 3 years if left on at 7X. I have never had an optics fail because of battery issues, EVER! If you maintain your equipment with quality optics then it will not be an issue.

Bottom line is that a quality optic will ALWAYS out perform iron sights! There is a reason that they are becoming more prevalent. It's because they work, period.

In all honesty, Lonerider, buy a set of Magpul BUIS for less than a hundred bucks and slap on a reflex sight as well. That way, IF your optic ever fails you have a decent set of sights in place.

The War Wagon
March 11, 2012, 04:59 PM
Do NOT skimp on your optic!!! Unless you particularly enjoy putting your hard-earned money on the ground and setting it on fire, cheap optics are MORE frustrating than that! :banghead:

Aimpoint/EOTech/Trijicon are your Key 3 to short-range electro-optics. Yeah, you can go Luepold Prismatic (the jury is still out on those) or Elcan (jury say - they suck! Ask the Canadian forces in the sandbox who are STUCK with them!), but your Key 3 are a proven quantity.

Barska/Leapers/UTG/NcSTAR = Crap-O-La (a division of Shine-O-La, Inc.). I've SEEN their garbage roll over on folks at their FIRST trip to the range, and so have many people more experienced than I. Gunboards like this are FULL of horror & heartbreak stories, regarding cheap crap giving up the ghost, and quickly at that.

America is the PERFECT metaphor today, for people who took the cheap crap route to, "success." Our parents & grandparents SAVED UP for a quality purchase - it never steered them wrong. How is the outsourcing of EVERYTHING for the sake of "cheap crap" serving us today? LEARN the lesson - if yours or your family's life is gonna depend on this rifle someday, why bet your lives on something that's KNOWN to crap the bed when you need it MOST?!?!? :uhoh:

March 11, 2012, 05:15 PM
Amen, War Wagon!!! :D

Lee D
March 11, 2012, 05:33 PM
and one more AMEN! a gun is only as good as the equipment you put on/in it. FACT

March 11, 2012, 05:58 PM
I have never had an optics fail because of battery issues

I've never had *anything* that required a battery to not fail at an inopportune time because of a bad battery.

On a must work optic make mine the Trijicon dual illumination fiber optic/ tritium scope or dot sight. I can't afford them for all my guns but they are on what I'd go to for SHTF.

Of course you have to replace the tritium every 12-20 years.

March 11, 2012, 06:07 PM
I've got a tritium illuminated Reflex II. It is not as flexible* as the Aimpoint and 3 batteries will keep the Aimpoint going after the Reflex is dead.

Nothing is perfect.


*There are light conditions where the triangle is not visible because the light conditions are wrong.

March 11, 2012, 06:12 PM
I've owned EOTech, Aimpoint, and Trijicon products. None have failed me. I realize they fail. They fail at lower rates than cheaper products. The adage of, "you get what you pay for" still holds true in most almost all situations regarding products or services.

The gun luddites out there will still tell you that 1911s and Mosins are the only real firearms and everything else is simply new fangled and unproven. We still see them pop up now and then screaming about "plastic guns melting!" or "new fangled semer-auto assault wiffles" and repeating ad nauseum the tripe we've heard recycled for decades.

Get a set of irons, then save up for a quality optic and a quality mount for the optic that can take some abuse. Buy once, cry once. Don't try to buy both at once by sacrificing quality for instant gratification if you can't spring it. We all know the guys with a box full of mediocre parts because they wanted to outfit their toys in one fell swoop for instant gratification and learned that mediocre products give mediocre results.

March 11, 2012, 06:59 PM
I've got both. I prefer the A2 iron sights over my Aimpoint.

March 11, 2012, 07:36 PM
There you go!! I'm pushing Medicare age and Iron Sights don't help me much over 25-30 yards! Pistols are fine but rifle, not so much!

Old Dog Man
March 11, 2012, 07:46 PM
I have a couple of Burris Fast Fire holo sights, 1 on an R25- 308 and 1 on a Ruger Mark 111 Target and am very pleased with them, also keep spare batteries. Tried some cheaper models and they (busted) shot apart.

March 11, 2012, 10:18 PM
Aimpoint sights are awesome. I have no experience with other high end brands. Cheaper red dots are for fun and games, even half serious competitions probably merit spending more money. I don't think Aimpoints fail noticeably more often than irons sights break.

However, I am better at smaller targets with M16A2 iron sights. I think I have a rifle cant issue with the red dots. Red dots are faster, but for slower 'precision' fire iron sights work better for me.

Like others have said:
Aimpoint if you have the money and care about shooting in bad light.
Don't mind irons if thats what you can afford to practice with for now, or don't need to shoot into shadows.

March 11, 2012, 11:35 PM
I've got both. I prefer the A2 iron sights over my Aimpoint.

What kind of shooting are you doing?


Old Guy
March 11, 2012, 11:56 PM
Iron sights are always going to work, no matter what.

Not always, no matter what.

If nothing else, go with good folding irons now and leave them on as BUS (Back-up Iron Sights) when you do get a red-dot later.

All your primers in a glass jar?

True story, when I first started shooting pistol, I met a member of a Gun Club, (Bolton, Lanc's UK) he reloaded his .38 Special rounds, his reloading Hut? Little shed at the bottom of his yard. England, what can I tell you, concrete base, sturdy bench, shelf above the bench.

Glass Jam Jar on shelf, full! With fired? primers. I asked why he was saving fired primers, (this jar was full!) "Those packets take up way to much room, so I emptied them all into that jam jar" I leaned over, took a glance! I would have still been running, but I got winded.

Welding Rod
March 12, 2012, 12:00 AM
I generally prefer iron sights.

Last month I took my AR with EOTech and fresh batteries to compete in a carbine match. It checked out fine in the house before I left. I get to the range when it is time to shoot and the retical center is too dim to see at all in full day light. I never got a shot off. Packed up and went home. The match director was nice enough to give me my money back (I didn't ask). Damn embarassing.

That said I have an Aimpoint coming to try out as RDs are fun and fast, but I trust irons and will never fully trust electronics. As far as low light goes, irons work fine with a light (and a backup light). Shooting in the dark without an illuminated target is just reckless IMO. It might be OK in a war zone under some conditions, but here stateside I can't think of a time when it would be a smart thing to plan to do.

March 12, 2012, 12:43 AM
All your primers in a glass jar?

True story, when I first started shooting pistol, I met a member of a Gun Club, (Bolton, Lanc's UK) he reloaded his .38 Special rounds, his reloading Hut? Little shed at the bottom of his yard. England, what can I tell you, concrete base, sturdy bench, shelf above the bench.

Glass Jam Jar on shelf, full! With fired? primers. I asked why he was saving fired primers, (this jar was full!) "Those packets take up way to much room, so I emptied them all into that jam jar" I leaned over, took a glance! I would have still been running, but I got winded.

For the life of me, i can't figure out what this anecdote pertains to.....or even exactly what is being stated.

I miss something?

March 12, 2012, 01:45 AM
I got this red/green dot for under 50 bucks:

still waiting for my ggg rail, but the reviews are great. Seems to be that it holds zero on much heavier recoil weapons than mine (mini 14). The dot is pretty sharp, and i have always had good luck with utg/leapers stuff. Aluminum body with heavy duty rubber ends and flip up lens caps. And I still have iron sights, so if battery dies or any other malfunction, i can just remove it (has quick release mount-choice of 2-low profile and high profile-I am hoping I can still use iron sights with it attached).

March 12, 2012, 06:23 AM
I agree with Wally on the middle age eyes thing.

I use a fixed four power scope and the front rings upper half has been changed out to a picatinny so I can run a red laser over the scope with a pressure switch.

March 12, 2012, 07:49 AM
and one more AMEN! a gun is only as good as the equipment you put on/in it. FACT

The man behind it is way more important. Look at the famous WWII Russian sniper Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev. You'd all snicker at his rifle and scope.

March 12, 2012, 10:04 AM
Well, EoTechs do have a history of going down. Personally, I don't trust them.

I do have a couple of Aimpoints and a Reflex II, which have never given me a problem.

I've also got a couple of Primary Arms optics. For the ~$100 price they actually work very nice. Not nearly as good as a Aimpoint but for the .22 they are fine.


M2 Carbine
March 12, 2012, 11:00 AM
I have dozens of Red Dot sights and more than a dozen (good) lasers and laser/lights. I hate to swap equipment on guns, so over the years I have bought most every gun that requires it, it's own laser, laser/light, Red Dot, etc.

I practice in low light/darkness several times a week with lasers and laser lights. (backyard home range, pictures earlier)

So, it might be said that I know the equipment, what works and what doesn't and how to use it pretty well.

First off the battery thing. If you can't keep fresh batteries in your important equipment, I question if you are responsible enough to be handling firearms in the first place.

The batteries failing? In my practice guns I run the batteries until they fail, then I change them.
Like in a flashlight, the laser, laser/light batteries get weak before they die, giving you warning they need to be replaced.
Recently I was shooting a 2 inch S&W J Frame at 52 yards, using the Crimson Trace laser. I saw the batteries were getting weak but still had time to fire another 26 shots before I couldn't see the laser dot at that distance.

As I said I have dozens of Red Dots. A couple Aimpoints and several other expensive Red Dots, but mostly a couple dozen $30 BSA cheap sights.
These BSA are on everything from 22 pistols to 12 ga shotguns and give excellent service.
(it's embarrassing to your friend when you beat his $400 Red Dot sight with a $30 BSA :D )

As far as reliability. Over the years I have had several of the cheap sights mechanically break but I have also had a few of the expensive Red Dots fail.
In the same time period I have had a LOT of guns malfunction.
As a rule, the Red Dot sights and (good) lasers are a whole lot more reliable than the firearms.

Don't missunderstand, I'm not recommending buying $30 sights ( I don't recommend ANYTHING). Buy what you can afford and what works for you.
Although I have used cheap Red Dots on some of my defense guns for many years with no problem, if the gun received hard use I would equip it with a tough sight, like an Aimpoint.

March 12, 2012, 11:17 AM
I am not familiar with your financial situation. The cost of a "QUALITY" RDS is on par with that of a case of quality ammo. I feel that time spent operating your weapon is of greater value than any type of device available today. Great site!!

March 12, 2012, 11:49 AM
No matter how well you've trained yourself to keep up with your batteries, it is undeniable fact that it is still one more thing to keep up with.

If you can't keep fresh batteries in your important equipment, I question if you are responsible enough to be handling firearms in the first place.
I have a REAL problem with this statement. I don't even see how the two are remotely related. I know for a fact that it is real easy to let your batteries run low, red dot or weaponlight. It's also real easy to misplace your battery stash. It might be real easy to keep up with when you have "dozens" but when you own several dozen guns and only a few require batteries, it's quite different. We can disagree about batteries and electronic sights all day long and that is fine. However, take it far enough to question whether or not I'm responsible enough to handle firearms and I take that very personally. As should most everybody else. I take my guns, my shooting and my freedom to own and use them VERY seriously. So I take questioning whether or not I should be able to do so VERY seriously. :mad:

March 12, 2012, 12:39 PM
At the end of the day you get what you pay for. If you're doing range plinking, you can get away with lower pricepoint gear than someone who sends a thousand rounds downrange doing training in the dirt or banging their guns against barricades. Everything can potentially fail including the firearm itself so "it might fail" isn't really an excuse to avoid technology. If you can objectively evaluate your situation and needs and ask the right questions, you should he ale to figure out what gear you need.

March 12, 2012, 12:44 PM
I know for a fact that it is real easy to let your batteries run low, red dot or weaponlight.

Problem solved. (

I mean, c'mon. A big part of shooting is keeping track of equipment; from ear plugs to targets to ammunition. If an optic on your gun requires batteries, find a convenient way to carry some spares. This isn't exactly rocket science.

Presumably we all have smoke detectors in our houses, and we change the batteries in those once a year, I fail to see why basic battery replacement is so much harder on a gun, especially when some dot scopes like the ones made by Aimpoint have battery run times measured in the thousands of hours.

March 12, 2012, 01:01 PM
A solution I use. If you look at the pic below you'll see the Aimpoint has a really long battery cover. That's because there is a spare battery stored under the cap. So I basically have 10 years of battery life that goes everywhere with the gun.

The Larue Aimpoint mounts usually have a spare battery compartment built into them, which works nicely too.


March 12, 2012, 01:47 PM
Knights makes a spare battery cover for the Aimpoint T-1 series as well. I change the batteries on my Aimpoints and Trijicon RMRs every year on my birthday and write the date on the battery. I don't really care if the Aimpoint battery still has 80% juice left. Logistically, spending $10 a year on fresh batteries is peace of mind and a negligible investment to keep you running. It requires no mental juggling of how old the batteries are in various devices.

March 12, 2012, 02:38 PM
This isn't exactly rocket science.
Oh please. Like I said, if the weapons that are your primary focus require batteries, then it's easy. However, if it is but a fraction of your shooting and interest, it is easy to lose track. This is coming from a guy who keeps a couple boxes of Surefire 123's on hand and stores spares in vertical foregrip, pistol grip and buttstock compartments. One rifle wears a big Surefire M4 so you can bet your backside that I keep batteries closeby. Still, I've got half a dozen lights that use 123's, those that use double and triple A's, some that use button batteries, etc.. I have but two rifles with electronic red dots and two more with illuminated reticles. I do a pretty good job keeping up with the electronics but among 70+ other guns, it can get to be a lot to keep up with when most your guns wear peep sights. :rolleyes:

I have the Magpul ACS on my AR.

March 13, 2012, 12:54 AM
I think a rugged optic is all you need. So many people putting on buis it's more like another tacticool accessory. Just added weight and clutter and that whole cowitnessing nonsense... If it has it on the barrel like a hunting rifle fine... not easily removed, generally smaller and out of the way.

either way I would never do batteries for life and death. Check out trijicons fiber optic products. Problem solved. tr24 is 1 to 4 mag you could use it both eyes open as you would a reflex.

March 13, 2012, 02:45 PM
I think if something happens to your rifle that is bad enough to break an Aimpoint, it is just as likely if not more likely to break just about any of those folding iron sights that everybody uses now. A factory carry handle sight might be a little more robust than an Aimpoint, but not by much. Aimpoints are just rock solid. The advantage in speed, low-light performance, and lack of parallax more than makes up for the minor inconvenience of having to switch out the battery every few years.

Derek Zeanah
March 13, 2012, 03:40 PM
OK, my turn.

Iron sights work - I consistently hit 300 yard pop-ups with them when I was in the service. They truly suck in low light though, even with the large aperture on the rear sight engaged. They also require you to focus on the front sight which throws everything downrange out of focus. You can still shoot well doing this, but it works best with high-contrast targets and young eyes.

Optics allow you to focus on one focal plane -- there's no issue of the target being blurry, the front sight being sharp, and the rear sight kinda-sorta in your awareness if you think about it. Rather, you get to look at your target and see where the point of aim is at the same time. This really is an improvement over irons.

There are some problems though. If you throw your rifle off a waterfall, or if you trip while walking up a steep rocky incline and accidentally throw your rifle so that it bounces down 50-100 feet of trail, will the optic hold up? If it's parked in the closet and you suddenly need it Right Frigging Now will the battery still be running? These are issues that worry folks.

Luckily, we've been putting optics on weapons for a while now, even in combat, and there are a lot of vendors who make optics that are the next best thing to bulletproof. Search on youtube for torture test of optics and you'll be surprised. I was looking for one where a guy grabs the muzzle end of his rifle and swings it so that his US Optics scope hits a wooden fence post a few times, but found this first. It's not all that abusive, but it's more than I subject $2,500 optics to:


US Optics, Trijicon, Aimpoint, Schmidt & Bender, Nightforce, ELCAN, and others make optics that can be counted on to be durable and waterproof. In my opinion they all are a better option than iron sights, but I'll point out that my carbines have backup iron sights as well.

The question you should be asking is this: what kind of optic are you looking for?

Option 1: non-magnifying optics

These are generally seen as iron sight replacements and are fairly quick to get on target. You have options here:

Aimpoint. This one is an older model but they all work comparably. What you're seeing is a durable housing for a battery, electronics, and some optics. Look through the tube, see a red dot at your point of aim. Kind of hard to screw up.

They are battery dependent, but battery life is long (years) and many setups include a spare battery as part of the basic kit. They work well, and are issued to troops and seem to work pretty well in combat.

Trijicon Reflex: This is kind of like the aimpoint, but different. You look through the optic and see an amber triangle that represents your point of aim. No batteries though -- brightness is controlled by fiber optics, so the brighter it is outside the brighter your reticle becomes. In low (or zero) light there's tritium so you still have an aiming point.

Less to go wrong, but sometimes the reticle can be hard to find. I've never had that problem, but it's been reported.

Eotech: I think these are about the easiest thing to shoot with for close-up work, though I've never bought one. Battery dependent, options for reticles (like this one)

There are others, but these are the big players. All offer easy target acquisition at close range and in questionable lighting situations, and there are trade-offs with each one.

The problem with them all is this: they're not nearly as good as some other optics for ranged work. I think my Aimpoint has a 12 MOA reticle (meaning it covers up a foot-wide piece of the target at 100 yards), but it looks like current models are typically 4 MOA. This means that pretty much any carbine you mount these to will outshoot the optic -- the reticle is big enough to cover up the target and make real precision work hard.

Now, does that matter? 4 MOA is still more than good enough for hits on a man-sized target at 300 yards, but it's not perfect. It also hurts if that guy at 300 yards is shooting back at you, blends into the environment, and is taking cover. In those cases you want more magnification.

Option 2: Fixed Magnification.

The Trijicon ACOG is pretty much the standard here, at least to my mind. 4 power scope, doesn't require batteries because fiber optics pipes in ambient light, durable, and seemed to do pretty well over the the middle east.

Some have reticles that are designed to look through for close quarters combat, and it seems to work. I've never tried it.

You can modify an Aimpoint or EOTech with a magnifier (Justin did a review of one here ( I saw precursors to this at the 75th Ranger Battalion ~ 1992 so this isn't that new of an idea, and it works. Sort of.

There are ELCAN optics in the 3.5x range as well that mostly do well (I'm biased -- I love ELCAN optics) but have some weaknesses at the mount when soldiers beat them up. Really though, the Trijicon ACOG is the archetype in my mind.

Option 3: Variables

There's another class of optics that 3-gunners have embraced pretty strongly. These are scopes that go from 1x power up to 4-6-8x power, depending on the model. This allows you to run with no magnification and a lit reticle at short range like the aimpoints and EOTechs, but you can crank the magnification up when you're shooting targets at 200m and beyond, up to the ballistics of the rifle.

Here's the one I'm currently reviewing, from SWFA:

It's not perfect, but it may be the value leader in this range.

It's competing with optics from US Optics, Schmidt & Bender, ELCAN, Trijicon, Leupold, Zeiss, and others. All seem like reasonable choices. I really like the ELCAN Spectre DR -- it uses a lever to swap from 1x to 4x and the optics are impeccable, of course it's quite pricy. Others who shoot more than I do seem to favor the S&B Short Dot or the Zeiss Z6i, both of which probably cost more than your rifle did.

This class of optic seems like the best solution for carbines to me. They work well at any engagement range, don't require batteries (they're traditional scopes and have etched reticles) but offer illumination if needed, and allow you to choose the magnification based on what you're doing. The only one with a lever is the ELCAN, the others have a ring you twist like with any other variable scope.

Finally, mounts

If you look at the photos above you'll see durable, well-built optics that are mounted on quick-release mounts. If you need to move to irons with these sights you can, and quickly. Well, it'll be between 5 and 15 seconds to perform the swap, but I'm more than willing to assume that possibility in order to enjoy the advantages that modern optics offer for carbines.

March 13, 2012, 05:12 PM
I forgot until now. Daniel Defense did a torture test on their rifle which included setting off tannerite next to the rifle and throwing from a helicopter. The rifle survived all tests. The rifle had an Aimpoint T-1 on their DD mount. The Aimpoint had one of the glass lenses shatter after the helicopter drop but it continued to function with a slight POI shift. The T-1 still projected onto the remaining lens. Of course, this is a sampling of one, but it should give confidence to the product.

For variables, add Nightforce, Kahles, Hensoldt, and Premier Reticles to the mix of rugged products. Steiner (of binoculars fame) is also gearing up on military optics. I have dropped my rifle on the objective before. It was a US Optics SN-3. It bent the LaRue mount but the scope came out unscathed. Scopes can be just as delicate as electronic devices, or they can,be built incredibly well. There are dozens of lenses and fine mechanisms inside and most scopes have illumination electronics within.

March 13, 2012, 09:40 PM
Hi briansmithwins, sorry for the late reply.

No timed gun games, just SD at 0-50 yards on ISPC targets and quick singles on steel at 100 yards. I have replaced the stock front sight with an XS 24/7 tritium bar:

I prefer to shoot with my nose on the charging handle and find this is not conducive with the Aimpoint. I've also got the rifle dialed in with the Improved Battle Zero and can hit pretty much anything I want within 100 yards. I also like the simplicity, ruggedness and reliablity of iron sights.

The Aimpoint is well made, I just don't really care for it. It sits atop a 16" Colt. (and it's got the LaRue mount and, yes!, there is storage for a spare battery)

March 13, 2012, 10:13 PM
No timed gun games, just SD at 0-50 yards on ISPC targets and quick singles on steel at 100 yards.

A timer is not a substitute for combat by any means. However, I've found that a timer cuts the BS. What I thought would work might fall apart when I had to perform under stress, in front of witnesses.

Red dots get you hits faster than irons. Only hits count.


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