There are a variety of options when it comes to choosing a sight for your handgun, shotgun, or rifle. Each sighting option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. This article discusses each of the major options.
Pros:Long range accuracy and target magnification.
Cons: Difficult if not impossible to use at very short ranges, can be the most expensive option, can be fragile.
Scopes are best suited for use with targets at medium/long ranges. At these ranges, a scope provides the shooter with the benefit of magnification, which makes it easier to hit the target, and to ensure that the target is indeed a target. Most high quality scopes will offer variable magnification, allowing the shooter to select the proper magnification for the distance and other conditions. Scopes are less useful at shorter ranges, and utterly unusable at very short ranges, due to the minimum focal length of the optics, and the extra time it can take to acquire a target when using a scope. For this reason, scopes are generally not useful for home/self defense guns, since self defense happens at close ranges and target acquisition speed is of the essence. Scopes are well suited to hunting and target shooting at longer ranges. Those who expect to use their firearm at both short and long ranges may benefit from mounting the scope high enough so that the built in open sights can still be used.
Pros: Very high speed target acquisition. Allows accurate firing from many positions and angles. Has an “intimidation factor” when used for self defense.
Cons: Can give away the shooter’s location. Dead batteries can be a liability.
Laser sights, such as the LaserMax and CrimsonTrace LaserGrip can be a great option, especially for self defense or varmint hunting. Laser sights allow for very rapid target acquisition, which is essential in these two scenarios. Laser sights also allow for decent medium range accuracy, although the very long range accuracy will suffer due to a lack of magnification (as a scope would provide). In the self defense scenario, lasers allow accurate firing from non standard positions and angles, such as when firing from bed at a home invader. On the down side, there is the need to turn on the laser sight, and the problem of getting of dead batteries right when the laser sight is needed (changing batteries regularly can greatly reduce this risk, of course). Laser sights make great home defense or tactical accessories for both handguns and long guns.
Pros: Fast and easy target acquisition.
Cons: No magnification, less accurate at longer ranges than rifle sights
Ghost ring sights consist of a vertical post near the front of the gun, and a hollow ring near the rear of the gun. The gun is aimed by centering the post within the ring, and placing the post on the target, which is something the human eye/brain seem to want to do automatically. This makes target acquisition fast, and almost second nature for most people. For these reasons, ghost ring sights are well suited for home/self defense. On the down side, ghost rings don’t give the shooter the same long range accuracy as could be had with a scope, or even with rifle sights.
Red Dot (Reflex Sight)
Pros: Fast and easy target acquisition. No projected light visible to the target.
Cons: Dead batteries can be a liability.
Red dot sights are basically non-magnifying scopes that have an illuminated red dot appear over the target. Unlike a laser sight, a red dot sight does not project any light onto the target, which can help prevent the shooter’s location from being revealed. The optics used by modern red dot sights are pretty amazing, but they can be purchased for reasonable prices. Since red dot sights are battery operated, they have the same liability as laser sights when it comes to dead batteries.
Pros: Inexpensive, works at a variety of ranges, reliable
Cons: Lack of the advantages such as magnification, accurate aiming from nonstandard positions, or faster target acquisition.
Open sights come standard on many firearms, and consist of a bead/post that is lined up with the target, as the shooter looks down the top of the firearm’s barrel. This type of sight, in various forms, is standard on most firearms, and has worked well for hundreds of years. It is inexpensive, and reliable, having few if any adjustable parts and not needing any batteries. On the down side, open sights do not provide magnification. Also, since the human eye cannot focus on the sights and the target at the same time, one will appear blurry to the shooter.
Selecting the right sight depends upon the situation. Hopefully the above information will help you to make a good decision as to the sighting system that is right for your needs.