Issue 10 Tiny Little Sights Steven Kuo Join the Conversation Quick and Accurate Things Come in Small Packages Who remembers when cell phones were the size of a briefcase and could barely hold a conversation? Now, you have an iPhone that you forget is in your pocket, and it's smarter than your Uncle Stuart. The same with all manner of gadgets and technology…they just keep getting smaller and better. So why should it be any different with red-dot sights? They're smaller, tougher, and more capable than ever. These mini red-dot optics are more specifically known as reflex sights, with an LED that projects the reticle which is in turn reflected off the lens. Unlike tubular sights, such as the ubiquitous Aimpoint, these have a single lens assembly. Like the Aimpoint, though, these sights have unlimited eye relief — keep both eyes open, point and shoot. Just place the dot where you want your bullet to go. They provide for quick and accurate shots, make shooting on the move easier, and in particular are prized by aging shooters who can no longer effectively focus on iron sights. Because of their size, they can be mounted just about anywhere — on pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Long utilized by competitive shooters, the miniscule red dots have been increasingly adopted for duty use and everyday carry. With so many models offering various combinations of features, reticles, dimensions, and characteristics, there's surely one that will fit your needs. Similarly to our variable-power scope buyer's guide in Issue #7, we assessed the brightness of the mini red-dot sights by comparing them to an Aimpoint T-1 red-dot sight (at settings from 1 to 12). This provides a handy benchmark that is fairly easily duplicated to give you a good sense of how bright they are. Sights with manual settings were turned to maximum brightness and those with automatic settings (or fiber optics) were compared in direct sunlight. The bulk of the sights are pretty similar, with reticles about equivalent to the T-1 on setting #10. Standouts include the Trijicon RMR LED and C-MORE sights which are nearly as bright as the retina-scorching T-1, while the Zeiss is a bit dimmer than the rest. Armasight MCS Reticle: 3.5-MOA red dot or 20-MOA ring Brightness: 10.5 Battery: One CR2032 (removable battery tray from side of base) Dimensions: 1.9 x 1.6 x 1.9 inches Weight: 2.5 ounces with built-in mount (2.9 ounces with protective housing) Warranty: Two years MSRP: $450 URL: www.armasight.com Notes: The Armasight is rather tall compared to other sights in this round-up, but unique in its user-selectable reticle with a choice between a dot and a ring. It has a built-in rail mount with a quick-release version available. A button on the right side of the base turns the sight on and off, with automatic (via photo sensor) and full brightness modes. A button on the left side selects between the two reticles and activates night-vision mode. Submersible to 33 feet. Comes with a removable protective housing, plastic cover, extra battery, screwdriver, and plastic case. Available in black and tan colors, and with an optional rail riser. Burris FastFire II Reticle: 4-MOA (shown here) or 8-MOA red dot Brightness: 10 Battery: One CR2032 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 1.8 x 1 x 0.9 inches Weight: 0.8 ounces Warranty: One year MSRP: $313 $327 with Picatinny mount URL: www.burrisoptics.com Notes: The Burris FastFire series are very compact sights. The power switch on the side of the base turns the reticle on or off; the brightness level is automatically set by a photo sensor. The water-resistant frame/housing is comprised of stainless steel, bronze, and anodized aluminum. Elevation and windage adjustments can be secured with lock screws. Unfortunately, you must detach the sight from the mount in order to change batteries. Includes plastic cover, battery, and mounting hardware and tools. Available with and without rail mount. Burris also makes a selection of mounts for various handguns and shotguns. Burris FastFire III Reticle: 3-MOA (shown here) or 8-MOA red dot Brightness: 10 Battery: One CR1632 (installs from top of base) Dimensions: 1.9 x 1 x 1 inches Weight: 1 ounce (1.4 ounces with protective housing) Warranty: One year MSRP: $372 $382 with Picatinny mount URL: www.burrisoptics.com Notes: The latest version of Burris' very compact sight. The power button on the side of the base cycles through automatic (via photo sensor), high, medium, and low modes. The water-resistant frame/housing is comprised of stainless steel, bronze, and anodized aluminum. Includes plastic housing, battery, and mounting hardware. Available with and without rail mount. Burris also makes a selection of mounts for various handguns and shotguns. Bushnell First Strike Reticle: 5-MOA red dot Brightness: 10 Battery: One CR2032 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 1.4 inches Weight: 2 ounces with built-in mount Warranty: One year MSRP: $209 URL: www.bushnell.com Notes: Extremely affordable sight with a built-in rail mount. The sight is always on, with the brightness level regulated by a photo sensor. Unfortunately, you must detach the sight from your weapon in order to change batteries. Included plastic cover keeps sight brightness at minimum level when not in use. Includes plastic cover, battery, Allen wrenches, screwdriver, and cleaning cloth. C-MORE Systems RTS Reticle: 3.5-MOA or 7-MOA (shown here) red dot Brightness: 11.75 Battery: One CR2032 (removable battery tray from side of base) Dimensions: 2 x 1.2 x 1.5 inches Weight: 1.8 ounces with built-in mount Warranty: One year (excludes glass) MSRP: $419 URL: www.cmore.com Notes: From long-time reflex sight maker C-MORE, the RTS has a relatively larger rounded lens, aluminum body, and a built-in rail mount. The power switch on top of the base has three positions: off, automatic (via photo sensor), and maximum brightness. Our RTS was the second brightest sight of the bunch, just barely dimmer than the Trijicon RMR06 and almost as bright as an Aimpoint T-1 turned up to max — and that is damn bright. The switch is a bit tough to activate with gloves. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with lock screws. Water resistant to 3.3 feet. Includes plastic cover, battery, and adjustment tool. Available in black and desert tan colors. C-MORE Systems STS Reticle: 3.5-MOA (shown here) or 7-MOA red dot Brightness: 11 Battery: One CR2032 (removable battery tray from side of base) Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches Weight: 1.2 ounces Warranty: One year (excludes glass) MSRP: $419 URL: www.cmore.com Notes: The compact STS is low profile with an aluminum body. The power switch on top of the base has three positions: off, automatic (via photo sensor), and maximum brightness. The switch is a bit tough to activate with gloves. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with lock screws. Water resistant to 3.3 feet. Includes plastic cover, battery, and mounting hardware. C-MORE offers various mounting adapters. Available in black and desert tan colors. EOTech MRDS Reticle: 3.5-MOA (shown here) or 7-MOA red dot Brightness: 10.5 Battery: One CR1632 (installs from top of base) Dimensions: 1.9 x 1.1 x 1.2 inches Weight: 0.7 ounce (1.7 ounces with protective shield) Warranty: Limited lifetime MSRP: $650 URL: www.eotech-inc.com Notes: Unlike many other sights, the MRDS has a polymer housing — but don't be fooled, it's quite rugged and waterproofed to 66 feet. The power button on the rear of the base activates automatic mode plus two high and two low settings, including night vision mode. Includes rubber cover, battery, screws, Allen wrench, lens cleaning kit, and plastic case. Available with protective shield and 1913 Pic rail mount. JP Enterprises JPoint Reticle: 4-MOA or 8-MOA (shown here) red dot Brightness: 11.75 Battery: One CR2032 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 1.7 x 1 x 0.9 inches Weight: 0.4 ounce Warranty: Lifetime (for original or second owner) MSRP: $300 URL: www.jprifles.com Notes: The elder statesman here, the JPoint is also the lightest optic of the bunch. To achieve this feat, it is very compact with a polymer body, but note that unlike the other sights it has an acrylic rather than glass lens. The sight is always on, with its brightness level regulated by a photo sensor. Included plastic cover keeps sight brightness at minimum level when not in use. Unfortunately you must detach the sight from its mount in order to change batteries. Includes plastic cover, adjustment tools, and mounting hardware. JP offers a wide variety of mounting adapters and accessories. Leupold DeltaPoint Reticle: 3.5-MOA red dot (shown here) or 7.5-MOA red triangle Brightness: 10 Battery: One CR2032 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 1.6 x 1.2 x 1.1 inches Weight: 0.7 ounce Warranty: Lifetime (two years on electronics) MSRP: $500 URL: www.leupold.com Notes: Leupold's DeltaPoint has a relatively large lens and a magnesium housing that is durable and surprisingly light. The sight has no controls; it turns on when it senses movement, with an automatic brightness level based on its photo sensor. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with lock screws. Unfortunately, you must detach the sight from its mount to change batteries. Includes rubber cover, battery, and mounting hardware. Various mounting adapters are available. Meopta M-Rad Micro Reticle: 3-MOA or 5-MOA red dot (shown here) Brightness: 10 Battery: Two CR1632 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 2.1 x 1 x 1.3 inches Weight: 1.8 ounces (2 ounces with hood) Warranty: Two years MSRP: $420 URL: www.meoptasportsoptics.com Notes: The Meopta is a relatively taller sight with a waterproof aluminum body. The power button on the front of the base cycles through five brightness levels and remembers the last setting you used. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with lock screws. Unfortunately, you must detach the sight from its mount to change batteries. Includes plastic hood, neoprene cover, battery, screwdriver, Allen wrenches, and cleaning cloth. Trijicon RMR05G (Dual-Illuminated) Reticle: 9-MOA green dot Brightness: 10 Battery: None Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.2 x 1 inches Weight: 1.2 ounces Warranty: Lifetime (15 years for tritium lamp) MSRP: $567 URL: www.trijicon.com Notes: Trijicon's dual-illuminated RMR requires no batteries, instead powering its reticle with fiber optics from available light and a tritium lamp for low-light, in classic Trijicon style. This makes it the ultimate SHTF mini dot, but the downside is that the dot can be quite difficult to pick up in low light. On the other hand, if you find the dot too bright during daytime, you can apply some tape over the fiber optic element. Various models are available with 7-, 9-, and 13-MOA dots and 12.9-MOA triangles in green and amber colors. The 7075-T6 aluminum body with optional nickel-boron coating is waterproof to 66 feet. Trijicon offers several mounting adapters. Trijicon RMR06 (Adjustable LED) Reticle: 3.25-MOA (shown here) or 6.5-MOA red dot Brightness: 11.75 Battery: One CR2032 (installs on bottom of sight) Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.1 x 1 inches Weight: 1.1 ounces Warranty: Lifetime (five years on electronics) MSRP: $696 URL: www.trijicon.com Notes: Trijicon's adjustable LED RMR models can be turned on and off with an automatic brightness mode, while the plus and minus buttons can manually select between eight brightness levels. Impressively, our RMR06 was the brightest sight of the bunch, just a tad off the highest setting on an Aimpoint T-1. The non-adjustable LED versions always remain on, in automatic brightness mode. The 7075-T6 aluminum body is waterproof to 66 feet. Unfortunately, you must detach the sight from its mount to change batteries. Trijicon offers several mounting adapters. Vortex Razor Reflex Reticle: 3-MOA (shown here) or 6-MOA red dot Brightness: 10 Battery: Two CR2032 (removable battery tray from side of base) Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.3 x 1.2 inches Weight: 1.3 ounces Warranty: Lifetime MSRP: $599 URL: www.vortexoptics.com Notes: The compact Vortex has an aluminum housing, with up and down buttons that manually adjust the brightness with 10 levels (it remembers your last setting). It can be tricky to access the controls if you have large booger pickers or while wearing gloves. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with a lock screw. Includes plastic cover, battery, rail mount, mounting shim, and Allen wrenches. Vortex offers various mounting adapters. Zeiss Victory Compact Point Standard Reticle: 3.5-MOA red dot Brightness: 9.75 Battery: Two CR1632 (installs from top of base) Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.1 x 1.4 inches Weight: 2.4 ounces with built-in mount (2.9 ounces with hood) Warranty: Lifetime (five years on electronics) MSRP: $720 URL: www.zeiss.com Notes: This sight is rather large compared to the others, but exudes the typical Zeiss craftsmanship that you'd expect for the price. The button on the front of the sight manually cycles through five brightness settings and remembers the last setting you used; the reticle was a bit dimmer than the rest of the sights. It has a built-in weaver/Picatinny rail mount. Windage and elevation adjustments can be secured with a lock screw. Includes plastic hood, screwdriver, carry case, Allen wrench, batteries, and cleaning cloth. Other versions are available to utilize mounting plates or attach directly to a Blaser R93 bolt-action rifle. Mounting Options These versatile pint-sized red-dot sights open up a whole new world of mounting options. They are small and durable enough to mount directly onto the slide of a handgun. The examples here are from ZEV Technologies, which offers an extensive line of aftermarket slides pre-cut to directly accept the most popular sights as well as completely custom builds via their gunsmiths at Glockworx. This type of installation, also commonly referred to as being “melted” into the slide, results in the lowest possible sight line — making it possible to co-witness backup iron sights and easing the transition from irons to the red dot. Also widely available are various mounting adapters, which replace the pistol's rear sight; while this reduces the expense and is easily reversible, it places the optic much higher. These sights can also be used as a primary optic for rifles, or installed on an offset mount (such as the one pictured from Daniel Defense with a Leupold DeltaPoint) to accompany a scope. Let's say you're utilizing your primary scope to engage long-range targets. But then you need to quickly address some close-range targets — simply rotate the rifle 45 degrees while keeping it shouldered and the offset-mounted, red-dot sight will immediately pop into view. Another advantage of this configuration is that you can zero your red dot for closer distances, to reduce the need to think about holdovers or unders. The mini dots also work very well on shotguns. Their small size allows them to be mounted as low as possible, to best preserve your natural mount on a shotgun. Burris makes the SpeedBead mount, which is sandwiched between the receiver and buttstock to provide a no-gunsmithing-required solution. The one on this 870 has a FastFire II. View From The Tip of the Spear With JJ Racaza We sat down to discuss red dots with JJ Racaza, firearms instructor for the federal government and world champion competitive shooter, a triple grand master in the United States Pistol Shooting Association and International Practical Shooting Confederation with world records and many championships under his gun belt. RECOIL: For what applications, platforms, and end users do you recommend looking at mini red dots? JJ Racaza: Red-dot sights have a well-proven track record on rifles. As far as pistols, the years of red dots being used for mainly competition and not for concealment or combat shooting are going away with the advent of these mini red-dot sights. I remember when I first started using red dots (such as the Tasco ProPoint and Aimpoint), but they were tubular and fairly large in size compared to those available today. They were mainly built for rifles, but some of us in the competition world started to use them on pistols. This was in the very early 1990s. Now, we're seeing these small red dots that you can mount right into the dovetail cut for the rear sights — and they really don't add that much more height…maybe a ½-inch taller as compared to the rear sight. The other way to mount these red dots is to mill out your slide and install the sight as deeply as possible into your slide, giving your gun an even lower profile. You can really use these sights for anything you can think of nowadays, from combat shooting to competition. I think the only reason why these mini red dots are not as popular and not as successful in the competition realm is due to the much smaller view you get due to their size, as opposed to a standard C-MORE red dot or Aimpoint tubular scope. What tips and advice do you have for effectively employing mini dot sights? In particular for handgun-mounted sights, what suggestions and exercises do you have to become accustomed to and effective with the dot? Are there any drills you recommend? JJR: It really doesn't take much to get familiar with the use of the red dot. You must understand that the focus is now on a single dot (with target focus) versus three planes (front-sight focus, plus the target and rear sight). Standard dry-firing will allow you to familiarize yourself with the point of aim with the red dot. I also would suggest trying to learn how to point the gun at extreme angles from right to left without squaring off to the target. This will allow you to train yourself how to effectively point the gun with the red dot in view and overlaid on the target — by focusing on the target rather than becoming preoccupied with hunting for and staring at the dot itself. Also, lie on your back and try to instinctively point at random targets on the ceiling. Then comes the live fire, where you work on learning the timing and the “bounce” of the red dot during recoil. Then by practicing with live fire, you will understand your “flash sight focus” and what your acceptable tolerances are to achieve your desired level of accuracy with an unsteady dot at a certain distances. For handguns, what configuration do you suggest? JJR: I prefer sights to be milled into the slide versus using a mount adapter in the rear dovetail. The downside of milling out the slide is that it's permanent, so you better be sure of which type of red-dot sight you want to use. Frame-mounted alternatives are a good way to try out different sights, but employing that configuration for everyday use is not very practical since it increases the height of your gun and makes it harder to conceal and employ the pistol if needed. For backup iron sights, I would place the front and rear sights in front of the red dot since your eyes can focus in the same way. It'll be an easier transition since your time practicing with the red dot will get you used to looking through and beyond the lens (with target focus) — and if for whatever reason (e.g. your battery dies, scope shorts out, or whatever) your optic goes down, the sights will be easier to pick up. How can shooting competitions in Open Division (where optics are allowed on pistols) help you improve your shooting performance overall, and how does it translate back to iron sights? JJR: Shooting Open Division improves your overall shooting performance because you will be exposed to the best of the best technology on a pistol. So you get exposed to pushing yourself beyond the limits of your shooting ability. Sight acquisition, transitions, recoil management, and follow up shots will definitely be pushed faster than ever before, since the gun practically asks you to go faster and faster. So when you go back to iron sights, all you have to relearn is the timing of the gun (under recoil) and shift back to a front-sight focus rather than a target focus. Given your competitive and real-world experience, do you feel mini dots are ready for duty and defensive use? JJR: Without a doubt. I have personal friends in the special-operations community who employ them in real-world applications. They are operational and truly believe in the advantages of the mini red-dot sights. Plus, the older we all get, the worse our eye sight gets. Using red dots is just no comparison to iron sights. However, with all that said, it really comes down to the end users themselves and what they prefer for their particular situations. What are your favorite mini dot sights? JJR: I can't really say that I have a favorite — but I use the C-MORE RTS on my competition guns and also use the Leupold DeltaPoint due to its wider lens. But all of them have their pros and cons, different dot and lens sizes, and size of the entire sight itself. Any other thoughts? JJR: If there are any non-believers to the advantages of the red dots, give them two guns: one with iron sights and a similar gun with a red dot installed on it. Have them shoot a few drills with the irons and record their times and hits. Then do the same with the red dot. Have them shoot some steel targets, too. Then see if they'll give you back the red dot. www.jjracaza.com Explore RECOILweb:Situational Awareness - a reminder from Armed and Feminine$75 Homemade .22lr Webley(ish) RevolverRemington to Close Mayfield, Kentucky PlantFriday Night Gun Porn (on Sunday): Morgan Estill Photography NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. 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