I have come to the conclusion that the red dot optic, also known as a reflex sight, is the best choice for the carbine (and maybe the handgun at some point) as it simplifies sight alignment/sight picture. When using a red dot, super-impose it onto the target and press the trigger. It’s the same as using a laser sight; the red dot is put on target and the gun fired. If the sight is used properly with both eyes open, what is seen is a wide field of view with a red dot on target. This does not require the eye to distinguish between a clear front sight and a blurry target. In addition, it is essential to keep track of what your armed opponent is doing, so being able to keep them in clear view is a marked advantage.
I worked with a number of optics that I think are excellent choices. Attention was paid to simplicity and ruggedness, while compactness is generally a good feature to have.
Aimpoint is probably the most popular red dot sight on the planet. Watch any news footage of Iraq or Afghanistan and you will see an Aimpoint mounted on an M4/M16. The newest addition to their line is the CompM4s with the AA battery compartment located on the bottom of the scope. AA batteries are preferred over more expensive lithium batteries, as they are readily available. In a pinch, an AA battery can be found in many electronic devices located all over the globe. A single AA battery powers the CompM4s not for hours, but years. Aimpoint was approached and asked if they could move the battery compartment lower to eliminate the potential of catching on anything and they happily obliged.
Like all Aimpoint products, The CompM4s is built to rugged precision and will withstand almost any abuse. Equipped with a torque knob, quick release mount, the CompM4s will fit any Picatinny rail system. This mount also permits the use of spacers so the end user can achieve just the right elevation for their needs. With a length of 5.3 inches and weight of 13 ounces, the CompM4s will ride on top of any carbine without making it feel top heavy. The 2-MOA dot offers 16 positions with 7 NVD and 8 daylight levels of brightness. Not an inexpensive unit, the Aimpoint CompM4s will just about last forever in the police environment. If being more compact is what you desire, Aimpoint’s smallest tactical sight, Micro T-1, is also applicable. For law enforcement it can be mounted on a shotgun, carbine or handgun.
Bushnell was the original manufacturer of the famed EoTech HWS, which has seen a great deal of combat as well as its share of police action. Bushnell has recently introduced its own holographic sight that they call, appropriately, the Holosight. Offering an unlimited field of view due to its large 1.25-inch x 0.75-of-an-inch rectangular window, the Holosight offers eye relief from 0.5-of-an-inch to 10 feet with half-inch per click adjustment at 100 yards for both windage and elevation. Like the EOTech, the Holosight uses an illuminated crosshair with a circle around it. This makes it perfect for placing onto a man size anywhere inside the 100-yard conflict zone. If the target can be seen inside the circle the shot will hit the target, provided the shooter can work the trigger. This quick, but simple sight picture makes the Holosight a desirable piece of kit.
The sight easily mounts onto any normal rail system via the screw-on mount that is part of the sight’s body. Powered by two type-N 1.5-volt batteries (a newer unit is powered by a standard AAA battery), the unit has a battery life of 60 continuous hours, which may not be long enough for military operations but it will work just fine on a cruiser carbine. The Holosight has a low battery warning as well as an automatic shutoff so that the battery life is extended for as long as possible. Still, it would be a good idea to have spares, something that would be wise with any sight. Like the EOTech, the intensity of the reticle is adjustable via the pushbuttons on the rear of the unit. The sight is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. With a length of 4.13 inches and a weight of just 6.4 ounces, the Bushnell Holosight is a lot of optic at a reasonable price.
If it enhances vision, it is made by Insight Tech-Gear. Their Integrated Sighting Module-Visual (ISM-V) is a reflex sight with a twist because it also offers an integrated visible laser aiming module, so this sight has it all. If the red dot optic is not enough or fails, the unit will project a laser dot with the press of a switch. Due to its single set of high precision, tactile windage and elevation adjustments, the co-aligned red dot and laser are dialed into the target at the same time. The ISM-V is only 5 inches long and weighs a mere 9 ounces.
The ISM-V is powered by a single lithium battery that gives the unit 1500 hours of run time for the red dot and 7 hours for the laser sight. A low power indicator is built into the unit and it can be mounted to any Picatinny rail via a screw-down clamping knob that is part of the unit’s body. Once tightened, the ISM-V is solidly locked in place. The red dot has 18 levels of intensity; the six lowest levels will be visible to NVG only. The Insight ISM-V may very well be the sight of the future.
One of the newest of the reflex sights to come on the market, the Leupold Prismatic is certainly one of the best. Made to the same high standards as the rest of their optic line, the Prismatic is 4.5 inches long and weighs just 12 ounces. It comes in two versions: a hunting model with either an illuminated duplex or illuminated circle plex reticles, and a tactical version with an illuminated circle/crosshair and dot. I actually like the hunting version since I think it is easier to use, being less complex on the eye. The Prismatic comes with a mounting system that is height adjustable, via several spacers, to fit the end user. It is 0.25-of-an-inch click adjustable using adjustment knobs that will look familiar to any Leupold user.
The illuminated reticle is powered by a single watch battery that offers thousands of hours of use, though the reticle itself is not dependent on the battery, only the illumination. If the battery were to go dead, the sight reticle is still in place and though it might be hard to see in low light, it would still be very usable if the gun has a white light attached to the fore end. While not as well known as other models, the Leupold Prismatic will be in demand once it is discovered.
The Trijicon Reflex sight was the first dot optic that I ever used. Made from only the best materials, this sight requires no batteries for illumination. It is powered by a combination of a fiber optic that draws light during the day and a tritium phosphor lamp that glows in the dark. This lamp is guaranteed to glow brightly for at least 15 years but I think it is longer. I’ve had my sight since the early 1990s and it is still going. The one criticism of the Reflex is that the dot could wash out in bright light, but Trijicon has corrected this with the addition of a screw-on polarizing filter that reduces the unwanted glare. This compact sight has an integral mount and remains one of the most popular sights in the product line.
Another criticism that end users had with the Reflex was that the lens was small and hard to see through quickly. Trijicon has corrected this with their newly released RX30. Its new 42mm lens offers the largest window possible without making the sight ungainly. The fiber optic automatically adjusts to the light present and equals the backlighting beyond the optic. The unit is parallax and battery free, while offering an adjustment range of +/- 30-MOA. Various mounting options are available for the RX30 to fit a variety of firearms.
The Zeiss Z-Point seems to be one of the most ignored optics available, which is too bad since it has much to offer. The dual power supply (a solar cell and watch battery) keep the target dot illuminated for thousands of hours. The battery actually works to support the solar cell, which makes for a very efficient use of battery power. With a weight of 6 ounces and a length of 2.5 inches it is the smallest reflex sight that I have ever worked with. While it has a simple built-in rail mounting system, the Z-Point will not co-witness with the iron sights of an AR-15 and requires the addition of an ARMS #17 mount in order to give the proper elevation. Even with this added expense, the Z-Point is still competitively priced with other reflex sights on the market.
The unit works from a single button, which helps keep the unit small as well as simple to use. If the unit is left on for more than 4 hours, it will automatically shut off and only requires a simple press of the button to power up. Even though the Z-Point is small, it still offers a quick on target sight picture with both eyes open. I have long said that when it comes to life-saving equipment, that simple is good and the Zeiss Z-Point fits this requirement.