The firearms industry has been on a crusade to reduce the size and weight of nearly every aspect in their product lines. Phrases such as “light is right” and “ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain” are often tossed around as sound reasoning. If you’re spending long days in mountains, or your profession is as a law enforcement officer whose duty it is to haul a ton of gear on a callout, weight management should be at the forefront of your planning. But how do these mantras apply for purposes such as home defense? Or teaching a spouse to shoot?
Micro red dots are currently in vogue for their lightweight, but they may not be the right choice for every shooting scenario. Micro sights constrict field of view, which means that consistent head placement behind the optic is required. And that can be difficult if you need to quickly see the dot. This can exacerbate tunnel vision for those untrained to overcome such effects.
A red dot with a giant screen improves our field of view, which makes this big-window-type of optic very useful for close quarters battle (i.e., home defense). Square optics are proven to be useful when shooting from and around vehicles or when using with night vision devices. They’re even great for teaching new shooters how to shoot. A large sight picture provides plenty of peripheral observation, assisting with target acquisition, and increasing the speed of follow-up shots.
We’ve heard many optics manufacturers state that when shooting with both eyes open, field of view doesn’t matter. This is a theory that’s not always practical in real life, especially for those not dedicated to regular practice.
For the rest of us, it’s hip to be square — as in big square glass that is. We’ve rounded up five optics worth the rail space on your carbine and one massive circular optic playing in the same league.
EOTech EXPS Holographic Red Dot EOTech are the makers of the original close quarters battle (CQB) sight. They are still supplying top-tier counterterror units the world over, and for good reason. The target acquisition speeds EOTech’s sights offer is difficult for most to match.
EOTech’s latest XPS and EXPS holographic sights feature a very large field of view, and are complete with EOTech’s A65 holographic reticle. This sight is a like a race car. The center dot is designed as your 50/200-meter zero, while the 6-o’clock portion of the bottom rocker is the point of aim/point of impact at 7 to 10 yards. The 3- and 9-o’clock portions of the reticle can be used as holds on moving targets. And, lest we forget, the reticle can be used for ranging targets. The height of an average adult male will fit within its 68-MOA circle at 100 yards and half the reticle at 200 yards.
Just like race cars, maintenance is required. In EOTech’s case, this is in the form of battery life. The EXPS and XPS units are powered by a single CR123A lithium battery. Battery life averages 600 hours. Both XPS and EXPS models feature a battery life indicator that allows the reticle to pulse when initially powered on if the battery has minimal life remaining, although this pulsing only occurs when the sight is powered on from an off state.
Rubberized push-button controls are located on the left side of the EXPS model and on the rear of XPS models. These buttons allow the user to preset sight preferences to match a variety of conditions.
When one first powers up the sight, it will turn on at level 12 of the 20 daytime illumination settings. To change the reticle’s intensity, simply press the up or down arrows or press the night vision (NV) button on the EXPS model for use with night vision devices.
The EXPS features an integrated throw-lever mount (including riser) and positions the reticle at the lower-third co-witness height for a more heads-up shooting style. It also offers four night vision settings. The EXPS is available in black or tan anodized finishes.
The XPS utilizes either a thumb screw mount or an optional Allen head screw mount, both of which are included. The XPS reticle is positioned at the absolute co-witness height and lacks the riser and night vision settings of the EXPS. And the XPS is available in any color you’d like, as long as it’s black.
All EOTech models have an automatic shutdown feature. If the up-control button is utilized to turn the sight on, the sight will automatically power down after eight hours, which is useful if you’re a police officer working an eight-hour shift, or for home defense considerations. (Turn the sight on when you go to bed and it will turn itself off around the time you’re waking up to get ready for work.) If the down arrow is used to turn the sight on, it will power down after four hours. The time resets each time the button is pressed. If you need another eight hours, hit the down button and then the up button to maintain reticle illumination.
EXPS and XPS models feature an integrated roll bar to protect the lens and act as a built-in crush zone. If the sight were to take a severe impact, only the roll bar is likely to sustain damage.
Windage and elevation adjustments are also contained within the roll bar and are deeply recessed and provide .5 MOA adjustments per click, which equals out to a quarter-inch at 100 yards, a quarter-inch at 50 yards and one-eighth-inch at 25 yards.
EOTech had an extensive product recall a couple of years ago after reports of thermal drift surfaced and how it affected its line of holographic sights. EOTech has since made several changes to the sights’ assembly aimed at
reducing these effects. In short, EOTech’s holographic sights could experience a point of impact shift away from zero when the sight was exposed to a temperature different from which the sight was zeroed. For units manufactured after October 2016, the typical shift will be approximately 1.4 to 1.8 MOA, which translates into hits on target that are almost 2 inches from your expected point of impact at 100 yards (or less than an inch at 50 yards). Due to manufacturing variations, the sight has the potential to shift a maximum of 3.5 MOA at minus 4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 3.5-inches at 100 yards, or 1.75-inches at 50 yards. For those who intend to use their sights at close distances, the shift is less significant.
Changes in ammunition type, grain weight or manufacturer can have the same (or greater) effect on a carbine’s zero. Leupold Carbine Optic (LCO) The LCO offer’s the clearest glass of any red dot optic G&A has evaluated to date. The rugged sight is constructed of a tough, yet lightweight 6061-T6 aircraft- quality aluminum housing with a simple knurled rotary adjustment on the unit’s left side to control its 16 brightness and night vision settings. Within the rotary, you will find a recessed push button to turn the sight on and off. The LCO will run for up to five years on a single CR123A 3-volt lithium battery. The integrated mount provides an absolute co-witness height to allow aligning with a typical fixed front sight post.
If the LCO is completely stationary for 15 minutes, it switches into sleep mode. The sight will immediately power up when any movement or vibration is detected. The unit also lets you know when there is a low battery by blinking the dot reticle. Once the blinking begins, the user has a few hours of use before the sight exhausts its battery power.
Each glass lens is recessed within the unit’s housing, as are the windage and elevation adjustments to prevent damage from frontal, side or rear impacts. The LCO offers a crisp 1-MOA dot for a precise aiming point, which is especially useful when paired with a magnifier.
Aside from the clarity of the glass and the crisp dot, we love the LCO’s unobstructed view. All the dials and adjustments are neatly tucked away with only a thin frame of aluminum encasing its lenses. Steiner R1X Steiner is no stranger to the defense-oriented optical market. Its latest R1X red dot sight is a cross between a micro- and full-size battle sight. The unit offers a small footprint while still providing a full tactical picture. You get excellent situational awareness thanks to its generous field of view. The large 32mm-window reduces tunnel vision, while increasing target acquisition and hit probability during rapid-fire strings or on moving targets.
A feature unique to the R1X is that if offers the shooter the ability to select between two different reticles. The first is a single red dot, while the second reticle is a three-dot stadia reticle. The center dot is 2 MOA and represents a 50-meter zero, while the three other dots are 4.1 MOA and represent your 10-, 7- and 5-meter aiming points, all of which are incredibly useful in and around confined areas. The reticle selection is quickly toggled with a single press of the center crosshair embossed button.
The reticle intensity is controlled by the two, external rubber buttons. The closest to the user is up, while the furthest is down. Seven levels of illumination are available: two are night vision compatible and five are daylight settings. The unit will automatically turn off after 13 hours to conserve battery life, which Steiner suggests is 750 hours.
The integrated mount positions the center aiming point at the absolute co-witness level, putting it 30mm above the rail. It is ideal for use on a personal defense weapon (PDW), a short-barreled rifle (SBR) or on an AR pistol. A riser is included to allow for a lower-third co-witness, which is positioned 38mm above the rail.
The battery compartment houses a pair of CR2032 watch batteries and is located on the right side of the unit. They’re held in place by four, flat-head screws which are easily adjusted with the rim of a cartridge case. As with all Steiner optics, the R1X is fogproof, waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof and parallax free. Trijicon SRS While the Trijicon SRS might not be categorized as “square,” but it does deserve recognition, and your consideration, for its large field of view.
SRS is an acronym for “Sealed Reflex Sight.” Due to its short housing, tube-effect is virtually nonexistent. The ocular lens is 28mm in diameter and the objective lens is a monsterous 38mm. The combination of the two provide a very wide field of view that enables rapid target acquisition and simple dot tracking under recoil.
The SRS is unique in that it brings two power sources together. One is an innovative solar cell. The other is a single AA battery-powered LED that assists the solar cell. As a result, battery life is incredible and will last more than three years on its highest, brightest setting. The solar cell acts as the sight’s primary power source, however, when the day gets darker, the AA battery supports operation for low-light use.
The unit features an illuminated 1.75-MOA red aiming dot that is small enough for precision engagements, especially when paired with a magnifier. Ten brightness settings ensure plenty of leeway, no matter the time of day or night. Each lens is coated with a multi-layer, broadband antireflective coating, also.
Elevation and windage adjustments are flush with the housing and are found beneath the ocular lens. They offer .5-MOA-per-click adjustments. Dot intensity adjustments are similar to the company’s popular RMR RM06 miniature red dot sight and are located on either side of the ocular lens.
The snag-free, round-shape housing is constructed of the same 7075-T6 aircraft-grade forged aluminum used to make most AR-type rifles and pistols. It’s waterproof to 165 feet, making the SRS a tank of a sight. Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Vortex’s Razor AMG UH-1, a.k.a. “The Huey,” is the latest holographic sight to enter the market. Unlike other holographic sights that reflect the reticle on the windows (as opposed to bouncing it off the lens like a red dot), the exterior lenses of the sight are there to keep it waterproof. If an impact were to break one of the windows, it will not affect the sight’s performance. (Good luck breaking either window; Vortex claims its XR Plus lenses are shatterproof.)
The Huey’s aircraft aluminum body sits on an integrated mount featuring a quick-disconnect lever for fast mounting to any Weaver or Picatinny rail. And it’s easy to remove. The mount also allows for positioning the front site in the lower third of the window for co-witnessing a more natural heads-up shooting style.
The holographic reticle features hash marks at 12-, 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock positions, as well as a small triangle at the 6-o’clock position to account for the height-over-bore offset. This serves as your aiming point for a point of impact at 7 yards. It takes the guess work out of close quarters shooting.
Vortex integrated what they call “quantum well technology” into the UH-1. Basically, it means they moved all of the complex electronics necessary for the holographic reticle to the integrated base of the unit. This provides superior protection from the elements, as well as from recoil energy. For this reason, the familiar roll-bar style hood is unnecessary.
The UH-1 runs on a single CR123A lithium battery with an option of using an LFP123A rechargeable battery (not included). The standard CR123A battery provides up to 1,500 hours of operation on mid-level settings, while the rechargeable LFP123A powers the sight for about 600 hours between charges. A micro USB port is accessible on the left side of the optic to recharge the LFP123A without removal. The sight will automatically shut down after 14 hours. (This shut-off feature can be disabled if you prefer.) Want magnification? Many brands offer a 3X magnifier that sits behind a red dot or one that can sit on a mount that allows it to be flipped to the side when not in use. Using such a magnifier in conjunction with a big-window red dot or holographic sight can greatly increase your flexibility and reach.
I continue to use a red dot sight that’s paired with a 3X magnifier to shoot IPSC B/C steel silhouettes. In fact, although I do sometimes miss, I can consistently engage steel out to 800 meters on a high-angle range with this configuration. EOTech’s G33 model is one of my go-to units, and it sits on a throw-
lever mount that’s quick to take on and off. The mount also offers the aforementioned flip-to-the-side function allowing me to rotate it into use as needed. I can leave the magnifier flipped to the side and out of the way for home defense and keep the 1X red dot at the ready. If I need to make a precise shot, I can easily flip the 3X magnifier back in-line. A magnified red dot setup offers durability, compactness and reduced weight when compared to low-power variable optics, which cannot match the speed of a red dot up close. The G33 offers a tool-free azimuth adjustment and a focusable diopter for a clean sight picture. EOTech’s G33 is available in black or tan for $590.