Last week we discussed traditional rifle optics, generally called "scopes." Today, we'll be looking at their modern electronic cousins.
Modern electronic optics come in a wide variety of styles and designs, and have several important differences from traditional scopes. They tend to be quicker and more intuitive to use, but at the expense of the fine precision that a magnified scope offers. The majority of them are unmagnified, or have very low magnification. Almost all of them are also dependent on batteries to provide illumination, and may or may not work without power, so a spare battery kept with the rifle becomes a prudent measure.
The design of optic selected should be based on the user, the rifle, and the intended purpose of the rifle. My AR carbine mounts a Vortex Strikefire red dot, due in large part to my long history and comfort with traditional scopes. My wife prefers the heads-up nature of her Sightmark reflex sight with a swing-away magnifier. With that in mind, what types of optics are out there?
Red dots (or green, blue, or any other color) are the simplest of the electronic optics. Outwardly, they look like a compact traditional scope, but instead of crosshairs they display a simple dot. Once sighted in, you simply put the dot on your target and pull the trigger. These sights tend to be fairly quick to use and highly rugged, and are an excellent place to start. Most of them are compact enough to also allow for a back-up iron sight in case the electronics fail.
Reflex sights, or "holosights", project their reticle on a glass "screen." Many reflex sights offer options on reticles, allowing the user to select a pattern that fits their preferences. Their compact nature again allows for backup sights to often be mounted and available. This type of sight is very quick to use, and allows the user more awareness of their surroundings. It is also the least precise design, limiting the effective range of the weapon it is mounted on. Their design also makes them the least rugged of the sighting options. One other perk is that these sights are very common in first-person video games, and fairly true to reality there. A person from the "video game generation" could be handed one of these sights and likely be using it proficiently in a short period of time. It is one of the few places where video games may actually provide a real-world benefit, however narrow it may be.
Illuminated reticles are a kind of hybrid between a traditional rifle scope and a modern electronic optic. They look and function just like a traditional scope, but the reticle lights up, allowing for much easier use in low-light conditions. A great many of these scopes will work perfectly well without power, just as if they were a traditional scope. They tend to be the most expensive of these options, but are by far the most precise. They also often feature built-in magnification, giving them the longest effective range of the slate.
Many red dots and reflex sights are able to be used with accessory magnifiers. Available from 2x through 7x and up, they allow the simplicity of a dot or projected reticle with the magnification and extended range of a magnified scope. They still don't give the fine precision of a scope, but they do allow the fast, simple-to-use sights to reach out far beyond what they normally could.
Now you know...