Hunters and sharpshooters agree: red dot sights are great. They make it easier to aim accurately, but they also come with their own set of questions. If you’re wondering how to shoot with a red dot sight and whether it’s even the right choice for you, we have some perspectives you might find helpful.
The first step in answering this question is to define what we mean by “how to shoot.” For some people, shooting is just pulling a trigger. If you have some experience with guns, though, you’ll know that shooting starts when you choose your gun, your scope or sight, then properly sight your aiming aids, break in your gun, etc, etc, etc. If you skip these vital steps, you’ll never get the performance from your weapon that you need.
The second thing to define is what we mean by a “red dot sight.” This is not something different from a holographic sight or a reflex sight. It’s just any sight that has a red dot.
To put a red dot sight onto your gun, you’ll need a few key tools, like an Allen wrench. Be sure you’ve sourced a mounting plate and a sight that will properly fit the weapon you want to use. Not all sights and guns are instantly compatible, so if you’re unsure, visit a trustworthy local gun shop and ask. You’ll also want some blue Loctite, as this will help you be sure you’re getting a good fit.
If you’re putting your red dot sight on a rifle, we think the best place for it is on top of the rifle’s receiver end. For one thing, this is the best place to put it to achieve proper stability for your sight. For another, it’s actually the best place to ensure the whole rifle is balanced.
Remember that every time your rifle kicks, it puts stress on any scopes or sights you’ve attached. If you put your sight anywhere other than the receiver end, there’s a good chance that a couple of kicks will end up moving the sight out of position. When that happens, you can say goodbye to accuracy.
With a handgun, obviously, you’re dealing with a lot less mounting space. For a handgun, you’ll need to completely replace the rear iron with the mounting plate for your red dot sight. With a handgun, you also have extra need for blue Locktite to ensure the sight does not move. Be sure you get blue Locktite and not the red version. The red is permanent, meaning you can never adjust the attachment or transfer it to another gun later.
You’ll want a target that’s about 25 yards away. Red dot sights aren’t great for long distances. They perform most accurately at an absolute max of 50 yards, and you get the best performance at 25 yards (if you have no magnification).
Remember: the primary benefit of a red dot sight is the way it lets you more quickly acquire your target than you could do with your naked eye and a regular reticule. It’s hard to acquire a target fast if magnification is involved, which is why most shooters use their red dot sights at shorter distances. If you do have magnification, though, you can expect your red dot sight to perform decently at greater distances.
This process is sometimes called co-witnessing, and it simply means that you’re using your iron sights (which, of course, you have already sighted in and adjusted as needed) to confirm that your red dot sight is aiming correctly. The first witness is your eye. The second “witness” is the iron sites; hence the name for this process.
To do this, look through your red dot sight optic and see if, at a natural aiming attitude, it lines up perfectly with the iron sight at the end of your barrel. If it’s not sitting right where it should be, use the windage and elevation knobs to adjust it horizontally and vertically until you get a perfect agreement between the iron sights and the red dot sight. Now your red dot sight is ready to be tested!
Red dot sighting is easy as pie, which is why these are so popular. Once that red dot is on the target, you’re ready to fire. Remember to always fire in groupings of three. If you just fire one shot, you can’t be sure if a miss was due to the sight or just a random poor shot, a gust of wind, or something else. If you shoot three in a row, you’ll see a pattern and can make adjustments as needed. If you’ve lined up your red dot sight with the iron sights, though (AND if your iron sights were properly sighted in), you shouldn’t need to make many adjustments.
Technically you can, but we don’t recommend it. While they will work, they won’t perform their job of allowing for speedy target acquiring. If you really want to use your red dot sight for long-range shooting, though, go ahead. Just remember that you’ll have to get a magnifier.
The vast majority of red dot sights are battery-operated, yes, so technically you do need batteries. But the good news is that most red dot sights are made with very long-lasting batteries. You will only rarely need to replace them. Think years, not weeks or months. And, there are some models that don’t need batteries at all, though most shooters prefer the performance they get from battery-powered red dot sights.
That’s it! These sights are easy to use to easy to sight in. The trick is really just getting the sight properly mounted. Once that’s done, you can look forward to lots of great shooting.