AR-15 is considered by many to be a light, reliable and accurate weapon which makes it an ideal choice for a wide range of purposes. Home defense, target shooting, big game hunting and so on, the ArmaLite rifle should be able to perform with distinction in each of the cases. Nonetheless, while the original sights of AR-15 are more or less adequate, you could considerably improve your shooting experience with a quality red dot sight. If you want to acquire targets and shoot with precision in the shortest time possible, you must get the best red dot sight for AR-15.
“Easier said than done”, you may think. Well, it’s true that there are a lot of brands with different models on the market nowadays. To find a red dot sight that suits your shooting style and personal preferences is not going to be easy. Fortunately, if you don’t know much about market products and in need of suggestions, this article is for you. Below is a list of some of the top best red dot scope for AR-15 along with their specifications and details. In addition to that, a couple of tips and tricks are also provided to help you make a logical purchase.
Table of contents
- 1 History Of Night Vision Devices
- 2 Night Vision Scopes: Quick Overviews
- 3 Top 5 Best Red Dot Sights For AR-15 for the money
- 4 How To Find The Best Red Dot Sight AR-15 for the money
- 5 Types Of Red Dot Sight
- 6 Battery Free Sights Vs Electronic Sights
- 7 Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions And Answers About Night Vision Optic
- 8 Reputable Manufacturers Of Night Vision Scopes: Names You Must Remember
- 9 Night Vision Vs Thermal: Which One Is The Best Choice
- 10 The Legality Of Night Vision Scopes: An In-Depth Analysis
- 11 Used Optics: Pros And Cons
- 12 Taking Care Of Night Vision Scope: Top 3 Tips And Tricks
- 13 Making A Night Vision Scope By Yourself: The Ultimate Guide
History Of Night Vision Devices
Night vision technologies have been introduced in the late 1920s, early 1930s but night vision devices only started seeing widespread service in World War II. Various combatants released several optics designed to help their soldiers shoot with a certain level of accuracy in night firefights. Originally, fighting at night is a rather risky ordeal: friendly troops could engage each other by mistake with devastating consequences. So it goes without saying that success in night combat requires a combination of experienced soldiers and well-thought strategies. All of that motivated the research along with the rapid adoption of night vision devices.
Night Vision Scopes: Quick Overviews
Night vision scopes and night vision devices in general enable human eyes to see in low light conditions and environments. The optics gathers and then amplifies lights in the vicinity in order to provide you with images of your surrounding. Generally speaking, night vision scopes offer you a vision that is far superior to your natural eyes in near total darkness (albeit a green one). People that often deal with lacks of illumination while hunting and shooting greatly appreciate the assistance of night vision devices. In the old days, the use of night vision optics is restricted but nowadays, many places have fairly lax rules.
Top 5 Best Red Dot Sights For AR-15 for the money
1/ Trijicon RMR
- Magnification: 1x
- Dimension: 1.8 x 1.2 x 1.0 Inches
- Weight: 1.2 Ounces
In the case you want a super lightweight red dot sight for your AR-15, Trijicon RMR is a great choice. Whether it’s home defense or competitive shooting, the Trijicon sight should be able to meet your demands without fail. Windage and elevation could be easily adjusted with 1 click equal to 1 MOA, there is no need to use special tools. In term of brightness, there is an automatic brightness mode as well as 8 different brightness settings available at your disposal including 2 NV and 1 super bright.
If needed, you could conveniently mount Trijicon RMR right on top of fixed and variable magnification power optics from Trijicon. This versatile setup allows you to effectively engage in short range shooting using the Trijicon red dot sight and then promptly switch to the magnified optic for long-range shots. As the sight is parallax free, all you have to do are to point, click and shoot. For most of the time, a single CR123A battery could sustain the sight for around 4 years of continuous use.
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Light, compact and rugged
- Possesses multiple applications
- Quite expensive
- Quality control could use some improvements
2/ Sightmark Ultra Dual Shot Pro Spec NV Sight QD – Affordable red dot sight for AR 15
- Magnification: 1x
- Dimension: 3.23 x 2.95 x 2.24 Inches
- Weight: 8.9 Ounces
Featuring a double-pane glass lens and a side-mounted red laser, Sightmark Ultra Dual Shot Pro Spec NV Sight QD simplifies target acquisition and let you shoot with precision. The Interlok system of the Sightmark sight holds zero well so you don’t have to worry about constantly adjusting the sight in the field. Up to 4 reticle patterns are offered by the sight which means you could freely choose whatever style that suits you. Thanks to the handy quick detach mount, owners of the sight are capable of quickly adapting their firearms to the current situation without much difficulty.
Since Sightmark Ultra Dual Shot Pro Spec NV Sight QD is compatible with most night vision monoculars, it’s possible for you to assemble a flexible co-witnessed riflescope arrangement. About the resistance, the Sightmark sight is rated at IPX-4 which mean it’s waterproof. The robust all-aluminum body of the sigh also allows it to be used to good effects in a wide variety of conditions and environments.
- Bright reticle
- Reasonable price
- Long battery life
- Quite wide
- Mediocre instructions
3/ C-MORE Systems Railway Red Dot Sight
- Magnification: 1x
- Dimension: 4.8 x 1.25 x 2.48 Inches
- Weight: 6.5 Ounces
Designed with a special focus on fast target acquisition, C-MORE Systems Railway Red Dot Sight let the shooter achieve excellent accuracy and situation awareness. Compared to conventional tube style scope, the C-MORE sight provides unlimited angles of view and eliminate issues like tunnel vision, obstruction and so on. Because the sight is made to fit Weaver and Picatinny rail style mounts, you could attach to pretty much everything. Some examples of the sight applications include rifle, shotgun, handgun, revolver, crossbow and paintball gun.
Instead to traditional push-button setup, C-MORE Systems Railway Red Dot Sight utilizes a convenient click switch design in order to change brightness setting. There are 11 setting (8 daytime, 1 lowlight and 2 NV) you could select, the brightest of which is visible in extremely bright surroundings. The rugged 29 mm beam-splitter lens is hard-coated and scratch-resistant so its endurance is top of the line. Due to the interchangeable diode modules, 6 optional dot sizes are available for you to choose.
- Accurate and stable
- Improve shooting speed
- A bit high for some people
- Mostly suitable for competitive shooting
4/ Vortex Optics Sparc – Cheap red dot sight for AR 15 under $200
- Magnification: 1x
- Dimension: 3.1 x 4.6 x 3 Inches
- Weight: 5.9 Ounces
Highly compact and lightweight, Vortex Optics Sparc II permit you to quickly engage your targets with commendable accuracy and stability. Up to 10 unique dot intensity modes (including 2 NV) are offered by the Vortex Optics sights. In most of the case, the sight could last for 300 hours at the brightest setting and 5,000 hours at the dimmest. The presence of the 12-hour auto-shutdown feature allows the shooter to optimize battery life. As the sight body is O ring sealed and nitrogen purged, its operation is usually unaffected by any outdoor elements.
Made from quality aluminum, Vortex Optics Sparc II could handle a lot of abuse without suffering any reduction in performance. For most of the time, the sight should work flawlessly between -4 degrees and +158 degrees Fahrenheit. A combination of air-to-glass surfaces and anti-reflective coatings result into respectable light transmission rate in many conditions. Because of the multi-height system, it’s easy to set up the Vortex Optics sight in a way that matches your needs and requirements.
- Tough lens cover cap
- Simple control layout
- Inadequate shipping service
- Some customer receive damaged products
5/ Holosun HS403A Micro
- Magnification: 1x
- Dimension: 2.36 x 1.57 x 2.95 Inches
- Weight: 8 Ounces
If you want a to get a nice red dot sight that could fit your AR-15 without any need to replace the mount, Holosun HS403A Micro is for you. Compatible with virtually every AR-15 models as well as other firearms, the Holosun sight is a flexible and versatile product. With just 1 CR2032 battery, the sight is able to work uninterrupted for 50,000 hours which is excellent compared to other products. Since the sight is parallax free, you should have no trouble hitting your target consistently.
About the endurance, Holosun HS403A Micro is made out of high-grade aluminum and completely waterproof up to 100 feet. As a result, the Holosun could withstand pretty much everything you could throw at it. With up to 12 different brightness settings (including 2 NV), it’s simple to adjust the dot intensity as you see fit. A sensitive sensor shall turn on the sight as soon as it detects any movement. Thanks to the convenient memory function, the sight could remember the last mode you use so there is no need for you to re-adjust. After not being used for around 8 hours, the sight would automatically enter into sleep mode.
- Good clarity
- Very easy to set up
- Robust performance
- Hard-to-distinguish elevation clicks
- The screw quality is barely acceptable
How To Find The Best Red Dot Sight AR-15 for the money
- Price Tag
In the usual case, the price tag of red dot sight could go as low as $50 and as high as $550. Feel free to choose any design that matches your need and requirement but the rule of thumb here is:” You get what you pay for”. If you don’t want to replace your red dot sight repeatedly, it’s advised that you avoid models with an unimaginably low price tag. If you have money to spare, it’s not a bad idea to go after sights that are specifically built to work with AR-15 platforms. Those specialized red dot sights could be easily fitted to a variety of AR-15 variants which simplify the interchangeability issue.
- Reticle Pattern And Dot Size
The reticle of a red dot sight is not always limited to dots, there could be additional features such as crosshair and grid lines too. In most of the case, you should go for red dot sights with a reticle that you could comfortably use. Stay away from complicated reticle pattern because their features could impair your vision and serve as distractions in critical moments. Generally speaking, the size of the dot should correspond to the anticipated shooting distance but you must be able to distinguish it from the target.
- Brightness Level
Since virtually all red dot sights have the same magnification power of 1x, the brightness level of the sight is an important factor to consider. The dot of the red dot sight must be bright enough so you could spot it in daylight without difficulty. However, the dot brightness should also not reach a level that you find it hard to clearly see the surroundings. In the case you feel the color red is too bright in every light condition, it’s best that you choose a green dot sight.
Types Of Red Dot Sight
There are 3 types of red dot sight you could come across: Reflex, Holographic and Prism. Each of the sights possesses unique characteristics which make it essential to know which type is suitable for your situation.
- Reflex Sight
For most of the time, reflex sights could be classified into 2 styles: Exposed and Tube. In exposed sights, the aiming reticle is projected from the rear of the sight on to a single lens which reflects back to the shooter. The working principle of tube reflex sights is quite similar with the exception that they use 2 lenses instead of only 1. In any case, reflex sights are famous for their simplicity: you could position your head in whatever manner you want. Target acquisition is extremely easy and the sight could be used to good effects by the average rifle users. Reading this article will help you to find out the best reflex sight for ar 15.
- Holographic Sight
The reticle of holographic sights is essentially a laser transmission hologram sandwiched between glass layers. These sights allow you to shoot with both eyes open which should enhance situation awareness and shorten the reaction time. In term of cost, holographic sights are quite expensive compared to other types of red dot sight on the market. As a result, this type of sight is mainly employed by people like soldiers and competitive shooters who view accuracy is the number one priority
- Prism Sight
While other types of red dot sight often utilize lenses, prism sights use a prism and they are comparatively compact. Furthermore, a standard prism sight could offer some magnification power which should come in really handy if you want to engage targets at long distances. On the downside, you have to keep your eyes near the optic in order to receive a proper target image. About the cost, prism sights are more expensive than reflex sights but the average price has been on the decline. In conclusion, prism sights are suitable for shooters with average skills or people that want to shoot at extended ranges.
Battery Free Sights Vs Electronic Sights
As the names suggest, battery-free sights don’t use battery to power up the dot which means there is significantly less room for failure. In these sights, the dot is generated by fiber optics or tritium beta lamps so there is no way to manually adjust the brightness level. If all you need is a robust and straightforward red dot sight, you should consider getting a battery-free model.
On the other hand, powered by battery, electronic sights are some of the most common sights you can get nowadays. Depending on the power consumption and battery capacity, an electronic red dot sight could work between 100 and 1,000 hours without interruption. Certain sights are equipped with a handy auto shutoff function in order to conserve battery life in case the owner forgets to turn them off. All things considered, electronic sights are excellent choices if you want to have a high-performance red dot sight around.
Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions And Answers About Night Vision Optic
- How far am I able to see with a night vision scope on the field?
To put it plainly, it’s impossible to judge the range of a night vision scope as there are a lot of variables out there. For example, a good Gen 3 optic allows you to spot a human figure at 300 yards. However, it’s pretty difficult to reliably judge whether that person is a man or woman until the distance drop to around 150 yards or so. In addition to that, the amount of surrounding light has considerable influences on the range of the night vision scope. Yet for most of the time, late gen optics often have superior performance compare to earlier units in similar conditions.
- Why do people say that auto-gating is extremely important?
As night vision permit the users to see in the dark spaces, sudden bursts of light might white out the device and cause temporary blindness. In order to prevent that from happening, it’s essential that your night vision scope possesses an auto-gating function. For most the time, auto gating makes sure that the brightness of the sight images stays at an acceptable level. Once it detects lights that are deemed to be too bright for comfort, auto gating shall automatically turn off the scope to protect your eyes. Because of that, auto gating is considered to be vital to a night vision scope.
- Is there a way to measure the quality of images provided by night vision scopes?
To judge the resolution of the average night vision scopes, you need to rely on its LP/MM rating (short for Line Pairs per Millimeter). The higher the number, the more detail the sight images and a rating of 64 -72 LP/MM is usually the best. That being said, most applications of night vision do not need such high resolution, some claim a rating of 45 LP/MM is quite sufficient. Anyway, remember to thoroughly test out the scope you like before heading to the counter. Night vision scopes are sizeable investments and you don’t want to make wrong choices.
- What is the average lifetime of a night vision scope?
Depending on the time it takes for the tube coating to deteriorate, night vision scopes last between 5.000 hours and 15.000 hours. The rule of thumb here is “the newer the generation, the longer the potential lifespan”. Want to get the most out of your night vision scope? Then just shut it off when not in immediate use. In the case you want something that sticks around longer than that, thermal units are among readily available alternatives. Compared to other night vision examples, devices that utilize thermal technologies don’t rely on coatings and alike to work. Take good care of them and they shall serve you for years without any trouble.
- Do I need special skill to operate night vision scopes?
Overall, any person would be able to run around in the dark with a standard night vision scope no problem. Nonetheless, if you want to master your optic, it’s strongly recommended that you spend some money on familiarization lessons. Certain sellers of night vision devices offer informative training courses to raw users to help them harness their optic potentials. If you have never used a night vision scope before, it should not hurt to sign up for such programs. Of course, if you happen to know someone that has experiences with night vision scope, you could opt to train along with that person instead.
Reputable Manufacturers Of Night Vision Scopes: Names You Must Remember
It’s true that even optics from the most well-known brands in the industry would not always guarantee satisfaction. That being said, it’s still a good idea to make sure that you get your night vision scope straight from manufacturers with familiar names. As with anything else, the market of night vision device is competitive so brands with less than ideal products could not last for long. Therefore, if a brand remains in business long enough that its name becomes easily recognizable, it must have done something right. Moreover, famous names are more willing to offer their consumers post-purchase supports and services compared to lesser known brands
Here are a couple of manufacturers that you should keep in mind while shopping for the best night vision scope.
- Firefield: Being new to the whole night vision market, Firefield is already able to release solid examples with excellent features. If you want a basic, no-nonsense night vision scope yet only have a tight shopping budget, prioritize Firefield models.
- ATN: Arguably the leading brand in the night vision industry, ATN is the name to look out for if you want scopes of reasonable quality. ATN night vision device earns a lot of praises from civilians as well as law enforcement forces around the globe.
- Armasight: A big name in the business, Armasight ensures that it has an appropriate night vision for every firearm enthusiast. No matter if you have up to $10,000 or just $150, there is an excellent Armasight optic that matches your financial capability.
- Sightmark: Established in 2007, Sightmark has seen steady increases in popularity and it’s now a famous manufacturer of optic goods. As the brand delivers high-quality scopes at affordable prices, Sightmark quickly attracts the attention of many budget-minded shooters.
- Yukon: Committed to providing its customers with the latest technologies available, is another great name to keep an eye out for. In the case you are shopping for your first night vision scope, it’s not a bad idea to start with a Yukon product.
Night Vision Vs Thermal: Which One Is The Best Choice
Scopes that utilize thermal technologies have no need for lights to work on the field as they rely on temperatures. The higher the temperature of a target, the more radiation it emits and that is precisely what thermal scopes are designed capitalizes on in theory. It’s simple to detect well-hidden preys in the middle of thick bushes with infrared devices as animals could not hide their heat signatures. On the downside, you are often unable to acquire detailed images while using thermal optics. In order to achieve precise shot placements with thermal pictures as your only references, you have to practice a lot.
So in the end, what offer more value? Night vision scopes or thermal scopes? Well, to come up with a sensible answer, you have to ask yourself what qualities you seek in a rifle scope. If timely detection is your main concern then a thermal scope would suit your demand. Considering the radiation-detecting nature of thermal scopes, their performance remains constant whether you use them at nighttime or daytime. But if you want high detail images and only hunt after sunset, night vision scopes shall be your best bets. Furthermore, night vision scopes optics are capable of enduring incessant shot recoils without much difficulty.
The Legality Of Night Vision Scopes: An In-Depth Analysis
As night vision devices used to be reserved for trained personnel, some people afraid that they might get into trouble by possessing night vision scopes. In reality, as long as you have the money to back the purchase, it’s possible to secure state-of-the-art night vision optics. You don’t need to apply for licenses and permits in order to carry scopes that utilize night vision technologies. No matter if you are a law enforcement officer or just a hunter, you could buy and own any night vision scope that you like. That being said, it’s a federal crime for you to smuggle night vision devices out of the U.S so keep that in mind.
Used Optics: Pros And Cons
Since the acquisition cost of newly manufactured night vision scopes tends to be high, some people mull purchasing secondhand examples in order to save money. It goes without saying that getting used optics would be a cheap way to enhance your vision in the dark. Nonetheless, it’s quite hard for ordinary people to tell how many hours used units have on them. As a result, if a dealer confidently claims that his/her secondhand night vision devices are “in great shape”, it could be a blatant lie. The majority of used units on the market nowadays have seen intensive service in agencies and industries so their remaining lifespan is far from ideal.
Unlike used vehicles, there is no such this as mileage meter on night vision scopes. Therefore, if you have to get a night vision unit anyway then might as well invest for a brand new product. The last thing you want to experience is to see your night vision scope malfunction while hunting in the dark. Whatever money you save through the purchase of secondhand optic, it’s going to worth the reliability as well as dependability of an unused example.
Taking Care Of Night Vision Scope: Top 3 Tips And Tricks
- Stay Away From Excessively Bright Lights
Night vision scopes are to be used in low light situation and exposure to bright lights would degrade their performance. Even when the devices have an auto-gating feature and light sensing mechanisms, you must never place night vision scopes in front of light sources. Store them in a dark, well-ventilated location and also cover their lens until you are about to head out. Fortunately, most examples come with their storage cases so it’s quite simple for users to accommodate night vision optics. Just pay close attention and everything would turn out to be fine at the end.
- Remove The Battery After Each Use
In the case you have no plan to use your night vision scope for more than a few days, you need to remove the battery. Such an action is necessary if you wish to protect the delicate electronic components of the optics and minimize the potential risk of battery leakage. Needless to say, store the battery in a dry and cool place for future use. High humidity has negative effects on the battery and ruins your night vision scope so be careful about storage space. Furthermore, don’t leave the optics on longer than you have to since it wastes battery and tarnishes the coating.
- Beware Of Abrasive Outdoor Elements
As with normal rifle scope, night vision scopes are vulnerable to a variety of abrasive elements in the outdoors. So it’s widely advised that you quickly outfit your optic with transparent glass filters to preserve the lens quality. The filters let you use the scopes as usual and it ensures that the lens is immune to scratches too. When it comes to cleaning the lens of a night vision scope, refrain from wiping its surface with abrasive cloths. In other words, treat the lens of the scope as if it’s your camera. Once you are done with the cleaning, leave the scope out for a bit to prevent moisture build-ups.
- The Durability Of Night Vision Scopes: What You Must Know
When it comes to night vision devices in general, people often ask themselves: “What happen if I accidentally drop them?”. Well, the short answer is that you would likely compromise the precise assembling of the optics and render them useless. In order for night vision scopes to work as designed, all of their components have to be in good shape. A minor dent is enough to turn a night vision device into a nice paperweight so careful handling is vital. Considering just how costly the scopes are, it’s necessary to get a good hold of them while on the field to avoid possible mishaps.
That being said, specific military-spec units are indeed able to take more bumps and hits than other commercial products. These examples tend to come with an extended warranty which talks a lot about their structural integrity and general endurance. You need to pay quite a bit to acquire such a unit though and the supply is not exactly stable since the military has priorities. But whether you are using an entry-level night vision scope or a premium one, pay attention to the mounting. If you secure the scope firmly then you don’t have to worry too much about dropping it by mistake.
Making A Night Vision Scope By Yourself: The Ultimate Guide
You are broke but still want to outfit your rifle with a night vision scope? If that is so, this guide could tell you how to assemble one from scratch. Of course, a DIY scope is not as good as purpose-built products but it’s far better than nothing.
Components You Have To Prepare
All night vision scopes require a functional image intensifier to provide viewable images to the users in low light conditions. There are numerous models in circulation and you could get them from a variety of sources but spend at least $100. In addition to that, you are going to need to look around for an objective lens assembly, an adapter ring along with a magnifying loupe. These parts form the core of your night vision scope so don’t get stingy. Finally, in order to make the unit compatible with rifle operation, purchase a pressure-activated laser sight and rail mounts.
Aside from the items above, some miscancellous components would come in handy like caps, battery holder, PVC pipe, duct tape…If needed, the use of other material with more or less similar qualities is tolerable. Once you manage to get everything, it’s finally time to get down to business.
- Step 1: Test The Image Intensifier
The first thing to while putting to together a night vision scope is to see if the image intensifier is in working order or not. Since the tube is exceptionally sensitive to light, refrain from exposing it bring light sources and perform the test in dark areas of the house. Besides that, directly hook the image intensifier to an energy supply with an appropriate rating to get it to glow. Remember that if you give the tube more power than it could handle, its circuitry would likely suffer permanent damages.
Important Note: Several image intensifiers feature threaded holes as terminals so insert a screw and get the wire on it. Whatever you intend to do here, avoid soldering the terminal unless the product explicitly states that you could do so. The heat build-up caused by soldering might inadvertently interfere with the power connection which disables the tube for good.
- Step 2: Fabricate A Suitable Eyepiece
Grab the plug and the adapter (both must be threaded), fit in the lens then proceed to cut off everything on them excluding the threads. Make the hole big enough to accommodate the plug after you plug it in through the end caps. Also cut another hole into the plug so you could look through the lens with relative ease. Sand down the outer ridges of the plug before attaching the parts together with the help of electrical duct tape. In the case you have done everything correctly, you should possess a fine eyepiece for your night vision scope now.
- Step 3: Build The Objective Assembly And The Scope Power Compartment
Thing are straightforward at this point, glue the mount to the adapter, drill a hole for the threads and glue the adapter to the caps. After that, screw in the lens and now you got yourself a completed objective assembly for your night vision scope. The next task is to make sure that the scope receives a sufficient amount of electricity so it could operate without interruption on the field. To achieve that goal, simply grab a battery holder and screw it into the housing. As you have to do some wiring, drill holes so the wires could go through. All you have to do is to get the polarity right and that should be pretty much it.
- Step 4: Paint The Night Vision Scope
Small amounts of lights occasionally pass through PVC and that might cloud up the picture of your night vision scope. In order to prevent that from happening, you have to cover the surfaces of your scope under layers of paint. As paints could tarnish the lens, temporary remove glass components in your scope or at least cover them with something. Get to a well-ventilated space, process the scope with sandpapers then throw a couple coats of primers on it. Wait a bit for the paint primer to dry completely then paint the scope using the color of your choice.
- Step 5: Adjust The Focus And Get The Mount In
At night, tweak the position of the objective slightly to get it to focus to a distant object (walls, trees,…). Once you reach the ideal quality, secure the lens in place so it could no longer move without human interaction. In the final part, outfit the scope with mounts that suit its shape and set it up on your rifle.