Debating which aiming system to use on your AR-15? Here are some insights to help you sort it all out. Granted, there are more sighting and aiming systems available than you see here, and I haven’t included any scopes, but maybe just maybe this will generate some discussion. After I give my insights, I’d like to hear yours.
The red dot. Look through this optic and you literally see a red dot. It seems to float out there, offers the least amount of distraction, and is favored by at least two Gunsite instructors in the Carbine class I took last year. This particular optic is an Aimpoint Micro H-1 and it’s been around and been used for a few years — still on the original battery. A dial allows you to change the intensity of the red dot and a quick-change lever offers easy-on (or off) installation. Once zeroed — and I’ve only had to zero this one once — you look through it, put the red dot on your target, and you’re assured to be on target. What happens next: whether to shoot, trigger control, breathing, etc., is up to you. But the red dot is a simple system.
The holographic. Look through this optic and you see a red circle with four evenly-spaced hash marks sticking out from the edge of the circle (although you can change to other reticle patterns). For this one, it’s sort of like crosshairs which don’t cross but there is a tiny red dot right in the center. To aim, you circle your target — but, depending on your proximity to the target it is still accurate to say you put the red circle on your target. The red circle seems float out there and allows you to see more of your target even as you’re aiming at it. This optic is a EOTech Holographic Hybrid and comes with the magnifier, below. It’s a slightly more complex system than a red dot but allows you see much more of what’s going on around you — both outside and inside of the optic.
The magnifier. In order to be prepared to shoot more precisely at longer distances, a magnifier can be a great help. Once mounted, it swings over and out of the way if you don’t need it or want it. When you do, just swing it over and it drops in place, in front of your gun’s optic. As I mentioned, this too is an EOTech device and pairs up well with the EOTech optic. When you look through it, you still see the red dot or the holographic reticle but everything is magnified — in the case of this unit, 3X. Very helpful from 100 to 200 yard distances.
The open or iron sights. Not to be forgotten — despite virtually every AR-15 today coming with a tactical rail and no sighting system — are open or iron sights. The ones you see here are accessories or add-ons and include a Wilson Combat front sight and a UTG carry handle with an integrated rear sight. No batteries, no glass, they are adjustable for windage and elevation and the rear sight can be flipped to a smaller peep hole for longer distance shooting. Some would call them “old school” and others would suggest everyone should know how to use them, despite the popularity of red dots or holographic sights.
For me, I love the simplicity of the Aimpoint, the wide open feel of looking through the EOTech, and the help from the magnifier for longer distance shooting. Each one of those, however, requires an extra step in order to power it up or put it in place. Not a big deal but worth nothing. I love the iron sights, though, because I just pick up the AR-15 and use it — with nothing to turn on.
What sighting system is on your AR-15 and why do like it?
— Mark Kakkuri