Optics & Sights

I’m interested in learning more about what optics work best for different style of rifles such as short, mid and long range rifles. Should one go with EO Tech, Vortex, Leupold & Steiner. Then one would have to determine what type and/or size optic to go with once you select a brand. So many choices. :wink:


Welcome to the board.

To me, you have it backwards. Determine your needs first. This could also be as simple as your eyesight. For instance you can run a dot sight out to 600, if you have the eyes for it. Will it be precision, no. How much precision do you need? How fast do you need to acquire that precision? How much money can you afford to spend? Do YOU have the practice in to hit a 4" plate at 600m time after time?

Once you have all those down, then you can ask yourself what would fit your needs. I have a lot of different Vortex optics. Why? Good value. Are they a Steiner? Nope. I have some Weaver, Leupold, and Bushnell too. Selecting optics can be about compromise too. Will my 50mm Weaver 5-24x work great on a go fast course at 25m? Not really.


Great Point! Help me under stand the 5-24x, what does that equate to in distances?


Well, that does not equate to distance per se. Generally, speaking, that would be a 300m to 2000m scope.


Ohhh, Ok. Roger That!


I will add here, that in general, optics are something newer to me. I shot for decades nothing but iron sights out to 1000m. I just don’t have the eyes for it anymore, so now I use optics instead. Unlike irons, different optics have different parameters where they work optimally. Yeah, a bit broad of a statement.

For my social rifle, I have a 1-8x Vortex on it. That allows me to do anything from 5m out to 600m (6" or so target size). If I need more precision, I use a different rifle, with the Weaver mentioned above. I also have another rifle, with a different Vortex (had a Burris before that), 1-4x. Quite fast, has held up well, and with a little better eyes can do 600m, but really does better under 500m. I have another rifle with an EO Tech on it, and that is my Coyote gun that was built for fast handling, and shooting to about 300m tops.


I have the following optics

Aimpoint pro
Eotech 512
Trijicon Acog 4x
Trijicon rmr

Each one has strengths and weaknesses. So far I’m the biggest fan of the Aimpoint tho the RMR is on my AR pistol and it’s amazing.

When it comes to optics I think you need to have a realistic expectation of what you want the rifle to be capable of. With red dots you can easily add magnification with a flip up magnifier. Variable power scopes are also fantastic for a “do it all” rifle.


@Section20 - I am going through the same thing. 3-10 power will get you out
to 1000 yards. I won’t shoot past that myself, finding a scope that stops at
10 - you have to hunt for. I have a different situation in that I need a reticle
that is a Tremor 3. Thunder Ranch, a shooting vacation, mandates the Tremor 3
to be able to take their class. The most inexpensive scope with Tremor 3 reticle
I have found is $2100. That is how I had to analyze it all out for me. Mike


I have a Steiner P4XI. The first thing I look for is if the optic is duty grade, and the Steiner has a large enough data set to prove that it is a viable option for duty. I also wanted a true 1x for reflexive fire and use in home if needed, and the Steiner offered that. It had a dot with adjustable brightness and uses the same battery as the RMR on my handgun, so I don’t have to buy different batteries. It is a 1-4x magnification so it is good for out to 400 yards which is about as far as I need to throw rounds. I personally feel that a LPVO is the best all around optic for distance and CQB shooting. I also like that the reticle is not “busy.”

But more than likely if it is a HD gun you only need a reliable red dot. You will need quality irons to go with your red dot as electronics can break. That is non-negotiable. If you want magnification you can get a flip down magnifier later.

I also am partial to Leupold and Trijicon.


What kind of shooting do you want to get into? I highly reccomend Long Range Shooting Handbook by Ryan Cleckner no matter what the application you want to get into. He lays a great foundation of understanding ballistics and shooting.


Agreed sir, fantastic book. Highly recommend it for any new rifle/long distance shooter.


Great topic. I’ll echo @Sheepdog556 and @MarkinMT in that you need to pick a purpose for the rifle first. Is it a short range home defense rifle? a long range precision rifle? a general purpose/jack-of-all trades rifle?

The purpose will determine what compromises you are OK trading in for better performance elsewhere. You can go magnified, not magnified, or variable magnification. Illuminated or not. Heavy duty or not. Heavy or light. Expensive or cheap. Simple or complex.

For magnified optics, a rule of thumb (that varies greatly on your vision and the quality of the glass you look through) is you get 100 yards per X of magnification. So iron sights, a red dot, or a scope/prism/LPVO at 1X is good to ~100 yards. A 4x optic can get you to 400 yards. An 8x optic can get you to 800 yards etc.

In my opinion the three biggest factors is the purpose of the optic (THE biggest, IMO), the intended range of use (short, medium, long), and your tolerance to extra weight on the rifle.

Your options generally boil down to:

Iron sights

Pros: Tried & true method of aiming. Simple, effective in most lighting conditions that you can see your target. Usually low cost, especially compared to most options below.
Cons: Usable distance is limited by your eyesight, most people can reasonable hit a man-sized target out to 400+ yards with irons. But ID’ing your target at 400+ yards is nigh impossible.
Weight: Extremely lightweight, especially if built-in on your rifle.
Cost: Typically < $100 (especially if built into your rifle) but there are some high-end options that cost a few hundred

Red Dots

These work by projecting a dot (usually red, hence the name, but some models are available in green) onto glass. If the battery is dead or otherwise broken there is nothing in the window to aim with. So many folks will run back up iron sights (BUIS) that flip out of the way when not in use.
I will also put holographic sights like the Eotech and some Holosun models in this category. Holographic sights “project” onto the glass differently, so usually are friendlier to astigmatism than a red dot.
Many brands/models support the use of a flip-up magnifier behind them, usually at 3X for extending the usable range, with a downside that they add significant weight and depending on the type of flip and your usage may cause a snag hazard.
Pros: Fast. Really fast. For most people a red dot is the fastest and easiest aiming system on a rifle. Usable in pretty much all lighting conditions. Is very forgiving about head placement on the rifle (no “eyebox”). Some brands/models are in common use by LEO/MIL/sport shooters with an excellent reputation.
Cons: Same as Iron Sights. Requires batteries to work. Some red dots eat batteries, some last years on a single battery. Some people with astigmatism see the “dot” as more of a “slash”.
Weight: Usually pretty light, unless you add a magnifier.
Cost: Varies massively depending on quality, brand, and features. From $100 to $700 is pretty common

Prism Optics

Prism optics have been around for a while in the form of Trijicon ACOGs, but other manufacturers have recently taken advantage of their growing popularity. It is a “scope” but at a fixed magnification (not variable). Usually, these are low power such as 1x, 2x, up to maybe 4x. They work with the “Binden Aiming Concept” (its worth a google) at anything higher than 1X. A good compromise on simplicity/speed at close quarters with a little more range (with something like a 2x or 3x) at a reasonable weight. ACOGs have seen extensive action in MIL/LEO situations with a stellar reputation, other brands ones not so much
Pros: Usually have an “etched” reticle, so they work even without a battery. Some come with more advanced reticles like ACSS (also worth a google) to get Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) out to more extended ranges (but the usefulness on a 1x or 2x is questionable IMO, more useful at the 3x or 4x). Usually these are pretty heavy duty durable.
Cons: Usually noticeably heavier than a red dot. They have an “eye box” like any other scope even the ones that are just 1X and some have really severe eyeboxes. Requires batteries just like a red dot for illumination.
Weight: Heavier than a red dot
Cost: ACOGs are the gold standard here and can run over $1000 on some models. Newer entries into the market are priced as low as $200-300

Low Power Variable Optics (LPVO)

These have become quite popular in recent years. The true “jack of all trades”, but also comes with a lot of compromises. Usually they will run from 1-4x, 1-6x, 1-8x, and (most recently) 1-10x are the common sizes. Many folks complain about 1x being a “true” 1x as they sometimes have a slight magnification (like 1.1x or 1.2x) that bothers some people. Having a really bright dot (usually referred to as “daylight bright” on many forums) is not super common.
Many come with BDC reticles for fast easy use, but some have options for more complex reticles for typical long-distance shooting.
There are a LOT of options, and a lot of things to consider from this category. Everything is a compromise in some way, there are no free lunches.
Pros: At 1x, can be “almost” as fast as a red dot, and gives the ability to zoom at extended ranges not just for accuracy but also for target identification. Some brands/models are quite durable and have seen time with forces overseas. If you don’t mind the weight can really fit the “general purpose/do it all” rifle role.
Cons: Weight. Most are very heavy. Most are not as durable as a red dot or prism. Eyebox on many can be very severe especially at full magnification. Limited field of view at full magnification on many models.
Weight: The lightest in this category are ~14-16oz (right around 1lb) many are in the 20-24oz category (so about 1.5lbs) and when you include the mount can approach 2lbs. A typical AR15 is around 6-7lbs, so adding a LPVO is 1/3 of that weight.
Cost: Low end models around $300-400 and can reach well above $2000 for the very high-end models. Around $1000 seems to be the sweet spot for a good LPVO.

Variable Optics

This is what most people think of when they think of a scope. Commonly using a 3x/4x/5x multiple in zoom. So a 3-9x, 3-12x, or 3-15x or… 4-12x, 4-16x, 4-20x or… 5-15x, 5-20x, 5-25x.
Pros: Usually lighter weight than an LPVO. If you really want to reach out far away OR be really really precise closer in this is what you need. Tons of reticle options.
Cons: Not great at close distance unless you train a lot, and even then will be significantly slower than other options at close range
Weight: Varies wildly depending on the scope. Very light or very heavy
Cost: Varies wildly depending on the scope. As cheap as a few hundred dollars and can go up into the thousands.


I’m learning one can go down a rabbit hole quick with optics. :slight_smile:

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I’m looking to get into competitive and long range shooting. It’s an expensive hobby/sport!

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I’m ordering that book now! :slight_smile:


Great break down @MarkinMT @Harvey of the different optics and usability. I’m looking to build a home defense tactical rifle and mid/long range precision rifle. I’m also in the process of getting my gunsmith here in Colorado to build out a 6.5 long range rifle for for me once I pic out all the parts ( have no clue where to start!!! lol) , my budget is 1000ish for the 6.5 without the scope, that another 700 - 1k. I have two AR’s at the moment and currently adding components to them as we speak. I need to hit the lottery!!! HAHAHA


@Section20 Been in the long range game for a long time for both fun and business and when I retired fom the Navy I went to work for U.S. Optics when they were still under John Williams III out of Brea, CA, so I can take you a long way down the scope rabbit hole. For long range are you shooting KNOWN distance (KD) or UN KNOWN distance (UKD)? Depending on your choice it will affect your scope needs. For KD F-Class etc. or benchrest you can go with a Second Focal Plane (SFP) scope. For UKD you will want a First Focal Plane (FFP) scope. The SFP the reticle stays the same size aand the image grow and shrinks as you dial on the power. The FFP scope the reticle grow and shrinks so that it maintains the correct subtension which allows you to range with the reticle at any power where the SFP you can only range at one power (usually the highest).

Once you pick a scope type then you have to figure out what “language” you want to speak, the industry standard is Milradians (Mils) but there is also MOA (Minute of Angle) and IPHY (Inch Per Hundred Yards). I like IPHY and have been credited with creating the term IPHY (pronounced IPPY) but speak all three languages. The MOST important thing to do when you have those questions answered is to make SURE the scope knobs are the same language as the reticle. Lots of scopes out there with Mil Dots and MOA turrets. It just means you ave to do more math to figure out your dope.

I like all things FFP and this year I put a 1 - 6 FFP scope on my AR-47 from a company called Monstrum Tactical for the princely sum of $200 off Amazon. I have to admit I didn’t expect very much for a $200 scope but I’m sufficiently impressed enough that I ordered another one. I’m the guy that thinks $2k is a good start for a rifle scope. The reticle is not to my liking but I was holding and dialing hits from 50 to 450 yards with it during sight in. The 1X is a true 1X which is nice for walking around in the woods or self defense but the outer ring could be a bit thicker.




Very accurate breakdown

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That is true of all things firearms and many other things.

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For the long range rifle, I’d lean on the advice of @Craig6 (a few posts above this one) to get you started on the rifle and scope. Long range shooting is indeed a rabbit hole.

For the home defense rifle, it will be hard to go wrong with a red dot unless you have some additional considerations. For example, maybe “home” also means property that might have some 4 legged predators and you might need to reach out a little further than just your house. In which case maybe an LPVO is a better choice.

If thats the route you want to go, if you have a price range you want to hit I’m sure we can come up with some good recommendations for you.

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