Why we need to consider optics.
By natural optical degeneration, our eyes tend to get worse as we grow older, before we know it our cell phones and devices are getting further and further away from our faces as we struggle to see types and pictures clearer than they appear to our unassisted vision.
As sporting firearms enthusiasts, such macular degeneration as it is known in the opthalmology field translates to a much more blurred target image on the range, than what we first started out seeing when we started target shooting rifles and pistols; and for many of us, we inevitably start looking for optics that assist us in keeping our targets focused.
Choices in Optics for firearms.
There are currently many optics to choose from among the myriad of vendors that offer either red-dot, reflex, and reticled optical housings.
The Red Dot Sight.
These are some of the more economical offered in the firearms optics industry- battery operated or for the more advanced sights- solar powered. The Red Dot sight projects a single dot usually red in color- onto a a small glass screen. The adjustable dot serves a s a point of reference for the user to adjust according to the placement of the round on the target during sighting-in. Once calibrated within the adjustable parameter of the sight, a Red Dot can provide a very accurate means of targeting, and consistently keep the shooter focused on close to mid-range targets. Using Red Dot sights have been effective at targets beyond the 25 yard distance as well.
The Holographic or Reflex Sight.
Found at the middle to upper-mid levels as far as capability, is the Reflex Sight. Working off the same basic principal of the Red Dot Sight, a Reflex sight relies on the same target designating dot signature that is projected onto a small glass screen that is usually behind the light source being projected- meaning the light that produces the dot is pointing backwards onto the screen, opposite of the Red Dot Sight where the light source is pointing forward towards the glass screen. Most Reflex type sights rely on optical paralax, which additionally involves the image of the projected dot only being visible once the barrel centerline, the muzzle, and the target align, and confirms to the shooter that what is visible is also accurately lined-up in relation to bullet placement. This alignment also serves to make the projected dot image appear to be floating in mid-air, as to depict exactly where the bullet should land in relation to the targeted object.
The Reticle Sight.
Even more advanced in features when compared to its more basic Red Dot Sight, is the Reticle Sight. The Reticle, or sometimes described more as "crosshairs", will more often than not be offered in Red, Blue, Green or Black colors for varying contrast to the light available as backdrop. In varying degrees, the reticle may also contain markings that help the shooter gauge distance from target, this is in addition to the obvious marking that would signify where the bullseye would be in relation to round placement. The markings showing distance in relation to the target are also known as Mil-Dot. Mil Dots represent a unit of measure for the shooter to be able to calculate measured distance in relation to the target. Other typical reticle markings for this type of sight is a BDC or Bullet Drop Compensator scale- used to estimate the range in which a round would arc once the earth's gravity over some distance, overcame the energy and velocity at which a round is travelling, thus causing the drop and eventual final destination of a bullet's trajectory.
A more advanced Optic option for your rifle.
Compared to the Red Dot optics covered earlier, the slightly more advanced Reflex Sights and even the Reticle Sights are slowly becoming even more feature filled; with additions of solar power, piggy-backed secondary optics, and magnifier-compatible quick add and detach. All of these are more than capable of getting you and keeping you on target. But for those engaged in in shooting at longer distances, there is the ultimate in weapon Optics; the Rifle Scope. Long relied on as an equalizer between bullet and distance, the Rifle Scope is a capable tool in any gun safe of an adept marksman. It is important to note that long-range shooting takes place in many disciplines; be it in a hunting setting at the game reserve, or if engaging enemy targets is your paid occupation- an advanced optical option of a 'Scope allows the shooter/hunter a certain amount of success in the field. Such rifle scopes with its intense magnification and adjustable features are readily available to the shooter, but usually at a considerable amount of clicks with the price elevation adjustment.
With brands such as Vortex, Steiner, Nikon and Leupold; the Rifle Scope market offers a wide range of options when it comes to picking the Scope best suited for your type of shooting. In order to better understand magnification adjustability, let's breakdown the numbered symbols usually associated with different brands of Rifle Scopes- the numbered designators are ironically universal in definition and accepted as a standard form of identifying a Scope's magnification power.
How to read a Rifle Scope's designated power of magnification.
Let's start with a common designator for power of magnification: a Scope with 8X20 marked on its outer housing shows the magnification and the aperture dimension. The 8 signifies the power in which an image or target is magnified to the shooter. An 8X Rifle Scope will project an image eight times larger than its original size when viewed through the magnified lens. Some Rifle Scopes will also show a range of magnification such as 3-6X20, this signifies a range of adjustability to magnify between three times and six times larger than original size. The 20 signifies the size of the aperture or opening of the scope on the opposite end from the Scope eyepiece. In this case, aperture is the distance from one side of the Scope to the other at the end of the housing. This opening determines how much light is introduced to the shooter's aimed eye, to present a sight picture viewed from the eyepiece. The larger the aperture in size, the more light the Scope will allow the shooter to view and thus a wider field of view. The smaller the aperture opening in-turn will limit the amount of light and visual width the shooter can see. A shooter's field of vision is important in the sense of being able to search for and pick up the target- a wide aperture allows the eyes to transition more naturally from scanning an area, to focusing on a target within the Scope's range or ability to display field of vision to the shooter. Obviously, a smoother transition from scanning to focused aim- on target- on trigger, leads to quicker reaction with accurate round placement when the trigger pull is deliberate and not rushed. Generally, the more magnification power, the better aperture dimension in a Rifle Scope.
The product of never-ending research and development of the modern Rifle Scope.
As a result of years of trial and error; failures and modifications, as well as constant testing and evaluation of the prior years' model have allowed the competing manufacturers of rifle mounted scopes to identify, address, and market their findings to hunters/shooters. The end result is a far-better than before models of optics offered to both government and private industry end-users. The current gap between military and civilian marketed Rifle Scopes are so close that neither are envious of the other ones equipment anymore. Optic technology exists for even the novice hunting enthusiast, and when it comes to Rifle Scopes, the masses are willing to spend their hard-earned money for the best on the market. "Buy once- cry once" is the proverbial expression when shelling out the dollars at your local gun shop. There are however some manufacturers of optics that continue to build Scopes for strictly military/and law enforcement applications, but the margin of advances are so close with civilian model "glass" that most of us will never miss what our men and women in uniform deploy on top of their rifles.