Everywhere you look these days you see electronic sights on all sorts of firearms. Electronic red dots or similar gun sights are notable in that they have, primarily, one huge positive going for them– they improve user interface with a firearm. If you can improve your fit and interface with a firearm, you can be more accurate, you can be faster, and those two things make you want to shoot more, you will see that enthusiasm turn into gains. It’s not a bad deal at all, really.
So where should you consider using a red dot, reflex, or otherwise electronic sight? Where would it be best to avoid the electronic sight and stick to more traditional optics or even iron sights? Let’s delve into the subject for a few moments and see.
Part 1: Rifles, Carbines, and Shotguns
As it is with most things, there’s not a set and prescribed way to use any of the items mentioned in this section heading. For comparison, just think of the average pick-up truck today. Chances are you know someone who owns a pickup and odds are just as high that you know someone who for all intents and purposes would be better suited with a sedan as they never haul anything in the bed or use the trailer hitch for anything other than a place to display their favorite sports team loyalty. Maybe not the best comparison, but at least I got that off my chest.
Rifles, as I used the term here, connote the lever actions, bolt actions, and traditional auto-loaders that a person would use for hunting, target, and the occasional recreational shooting. Carbines would connote the popular Modern Sporting Rifles commonly based on the Kalashnikov or Stoner designs. These rifles are showing up everywhere and for all kinds of uses: recreational, target, home defense, personal defense, and even hunting. Shotguns, likewise, are a most versatile category that can be used for upland bird hunting one day, goose hunting the next, squirrel hunting on another day, and transition to deer hunting on yet another day. Shotguns are also ideal for recreation, competition, home defense, police duty, and military duty in addition to hunting virtually any game species in North America.
I know what some of you are thinking. Traditional rifles are not well suited for an electronic sight. And you would be correct… most of the time. The truth is, there are some particular calibers and usage scenarios that are absolutely ideal for a traditional rifle and electronic sight combination. Let's examine the humble .22LR round. While long-range and extreme long-range rimfire shooting is an actual thing these days, hardly anyone really shoots .22LR beyond 100 yards. For hunting purposes, the targets a .22 would be used for are getting pretty small out beyond 100 yards and if one is shooting that far with a .22 it really would be best to have a traditional magnified optic to better bring in focus the target and what is beyond it. But if your .22 is a range rifle, or you hunt small game in wooded areas, a 1X red dot style sight might just be the perfect solution. Hunting quick-moving squirrels or rock chucks means getting on target quickly. A low-fitting red dot sight like the Axeon Optics MDSR1 is right at home on a rifle like the ever-popular Ruger 10/22. For hunters who make their stands (or blinds) in thick brush country, the same line of thought and even the same sight holds true. I outfitted my Marlin lever action with an XS iron sight set up and their scope rail as well. This combination gives me the freedom to use a ghost ring type iron sight or whatever optic I wish to use, too. Since my preferred hunting areas are densely wooded with plenty of hills, I slapped the aforementioned Axeon red dot on the XS rail and have not been disappointed in its performance. The combination works extremely well for the dense Ozark’s woods and the ever-popular lever-action rifle.
And let's not forget the PCC–Pistol Caliber Carbines like Ruger’s PC Carbine, Kel-Tec’s Sub2000, or CZ’s Scorpion EVO. These carbines are amazingly useful for home defense and fun plinking or training at the range, especially if you want to just buy one caliber of ammunition to share with your pistol. There’s nothing better for the PCC than an electronic sight. Ok, for redundancy's sake, a good set of BUIS’s is the icing on the top of the PCC cake.
It’s Over 70 Years Old– Can We Stop Calling Them Modern Sporting Rifles?
Born in the late-1940’s, Modern Sporting rifles as they have more recently been branded, are very fertile ground for electronic sights. Well, almost. The vast majority of these rifles are intended for range use and home defense. While that may cover the vast majority, there are plenty of MSR’s being used for everything from long-range varmint hunting to closer range hog hunting to intermediate range big game hunting. And given the recent trend of AR and AK-based pistols, there’s yet other uses that this platform finds itself filling. I’m not about to make the argument that a 1X or even a magnified electronic sight would be ideal for intermediate to long-range hunting scenarios. It’s just not a good fit at all. However, if you are blasting targets at the old shooting range and ringing steel out to 200 or even 300 yards, an electronic sight might just be the best option for you. Why? The dot is easy to see. Dial-in the brightness to suit the lighting conditions and go for it. If you can see the dot, that’s where the shot will land. With an easy-to-see reticle that doesn’t require perfect eye placement to get a successful shot off, the easy choice for the range or home defense MSR is the electronic sight. Axeon Optics has several options in this category that fit this bill to a “T”.
Go Buy A Shotgun…Fire Two Blasts Outside the House
When even a dopey anti-gun politician tells you to go out and buy a shotgun, you know…that he has absolutely no knowledge on the subject and probably thinks Elmer Fudd chasing after that wascally wabbitt is a realistic scenario of home defense. Be that as it may, and despite the perceived ineffectualness of a shotgun against anything larger than a rabbit, the shotgun remains the go-to choice for the person who just wants or can only afford one gun. In days gone by, the shotgun filled that role for hundreds of thousands of settlers into the western frontier of North America. Depending on the task, change the projectile accordingly and the humble shotgun will take care of a lot of business. Even though the shotgun can be a very specialized firearm, the vast majority of the shotguns sold still fall into one of three action types: pump, auto-loader, or single-shot break action. Any of these shotguns are excellent all-around options for anything shotguns can be used for. Yes, the break-action over/under, side-by-side, and high-end single barrel shotguns tend to be specialized for trap, skeet, or upland birds and stand a very thin chance of ever being used for anything other than pheasants or breaking clay. When the average consumer goes to buy a shotgun, at the very least, the possibility that the firearm could be used for more than one purpose certainly lies in the back of the consumer’s mind.
If your shotgun is intended for home defense, small game, turkey, or even deer then you should be considering an electronic sight. It’s no secret that range is a limiting factor with the shotgun, whether the load is shot, buckshot, or slugs. With this in mind, the advantages offered by a red dot or reflex sight are the speed and simplicity such pointing aids bring the shooter. These are absolutely undeniable benefits for the shotgun owner. Most any multi-purpose shotgun can be easily fitted with an optics rail if it did not come with one. This is some home-gunsmithing that even a novice can do if he can operate a screwdriver and select the rail that matches the shotgun in question. Check out these electronic sight options for your shotgun right here, here, and here.
As a side note, if you are one of the millions of folks who own either a Mossberg 500, Remington 870, or Winchester SXP (1300) pump shotgun, Axeon Optics also makes a couple of magazine accessories you might be interested in. Click here to check out the ShotLight and the ShotLine.