Optics systems are some of the most popular after-market accessories for rifles and pistols, but there is no other area of firearm equipment that is so full of jargon.
If you are new to optical systems for guns, or if you are an old pro who needs some reminders, I’m here to help. Choosing an optical system for your weapon can be a complicated business, because the type of sight you need will depend not only on your weapon, but in the types of situation you are going to use it in.
Today, I’ll take you through everything you should consider when choosing an optics system.
Let’s start with the basics. There are essentially two different types of firearm optics, whether you are shooting a rifle, a pistol, or even an air gun.
The first is the telescopic sight. These are commonly known as ‘scopes’, and are the type of optics system you are probably most familiar with from war movies. They work a bit like a telescope, as the name would suggest – a series of lenses is used to to magnify the image through the sight, which allows you to make a precision shot.
The other main type of gun optics is the reflex sight. These do no magnify the image through the sight. They usually feature a single point of reference, such as a red-dot, which makes target acquisition extremely fast. This type of sight is generally used for close-quarter combat, or when a large number of targets need to be engaged. They are not commonly used for long-range shooting, although experienced users can get pretty good at hitting targets at range with this type of sight.
Beyond the basic choice between telescopic and reflex sights, you have a huge range of options when it comes to the technical specifications of your sight. Unfortunately, a lot of these options are expressed in complicated, obscure jargon. Let’s take a look at some of the key terms:
Once you’ve decided on an optics system, you need to set it up correctly in order for it to work properly. The most important element here is zeroing the sight for a particular distance. Since the sight and the barrel of your gun are not totally in-line, the reticle in your sight will only be accurate at a specific distance. Which distance you choose will depend on what you are shooting at, and at what distance.
Once you’ve set up your scope, don’t let anyone mess around with it. After a bit of practice, you should be able to work out how high or low your shots will strike the target at specific distances, and messing around with your scope will ultimately lead to confusion. Pick a distance, zero your sights, and then learn to work around them.
Be aware that, no matter how expensive and advanced your optical system is, any system can fail at the critical moment. If you are out hunting, and knock your scope out of alignment on a tree, you need to know how to shoot without it.
For this reason, don’t just rely on your ability to shoot through your scope. Practice with the iron sights on your rifle as well. Whilst shooting through iron sights can be difficult, being able to shoot without a scope will ultimately make you a better shooter.
Don’t assume that getting a high-tech sight will automatically make you a more accurate shooter. As with everything else when it comes to shooting, the key is to know your equipment inside out, and this involves practice.
Every sight, no matter how advanced an expensive, will have its own peculiarities, and knowing what these are is much more important that the type of sight you use.
August 3, 2017