A Sight for Old Eyes
It happened one morning reading the daily news on my phone. Suddenly, the text went blurry. I blinked a few times, pulled my phone away from me and then back in. Nothing else was wrong, so I figured it was time to talk to my eye doctor about my options.
I’ve had poor eyesight forever and have worn corrective lenses since the sixth grade. Seeing far away has always been my problem. I’ve never had issues seeing up-close. Like how my prescription would get stronger every year, I just assumed that as we got older, our eyesight, in general, got worse and once nearsighted, eventually, you would also become farsighted. That, however, is not the case.
As we age, so do our eyes. Sometime in your 40s, you might experience not being able to focus on things up close. This is not because you have all a sudden become farsighted but from something called presbyopia. This is when we lose elasticity in the crystalline lens and our ciliary muscles in our eyes begin to deteriorate causing blurriness of up-close objects, as well as an inability to focus. Presbyopia occurs even in people who have never had vision problems in the past. Your eye doctor can test for presbyopia and are able to recommend a variety of optical solutions to help correct the problem.
Presbyopia can cause all sorts of issues for shooters—loss of accuracy, speed and confidence being the most serious. One of the shooting fundamentals is learning how to focus on the front sight. Aging and older eyes have problems focusing on the front sight and especially being able to get a clear sight picture when having to skip focus between three different focal points—your front sight, your rear sight and your target. There are expensive and complicated lens solutions you can try that may or may not solve your particular problem. Or you could skip the slow relearning curve on how to shoot with your new situation and spend a couple of hundred dollars on a red dot sight. Red dot and reflex sights allow you to focus on your target—where your eyes focus naturally—and accurately and quickly make your shot.
You See Your Target. You See the Dot. You Pull the Trigger.
Red dot sights utilize a reflective glass lens to project an illuminated image superimposed on the field of view. A reflective glass lens is used to collimate light from a light emitting diode (LED) to serve as an aiming point while allowing the user to see the field of view simultaneously.
The reflective design of a red dot sight is simplistic, consisting of two to three base components—objective lens, LED and an etched aperture (if applicable.) The objective lens or objective aperture of a reflector sight is a transparent lens the shooter looks through while aiming. The lens is usually set at an angle to redirect collimated light—the reticle—towards the shooter’s eye. The inside surface of the lens facing the shooter is lined with a reflective coating to project the reticle toward the eye of the shooter. The outside surface of the lens facing away from the shooter is coated with an anti-reflective coating to improve reticle visibility. Using only the LED to generate the reticle creates a simple dot. Incorporating an etched aperture stops the passage of light except through the aperture. As light from the LED is masked off, the remaining light takes shape of the design on the aperture, which is the shape of the reticle.
Reticles are composed of a set or series of lines. These lines are commonly noted as reticle subtensions. Subtensions are measured in Minute of Angels (MOA) to determine the amount of target the line covers. The most common reticle for reflex/red dot sights is the dot. Dots are offered in various sizes from 1, 3, 4, and 5 MOA. A 1 MOA dot is best for precision shooting and longer-range engagements. These smaller dots are generally encircled by a larger 60 MOA circle used for close-range targets. 3, 4, and 5 MOA dots are quicker to acquire due to their larger size and best for close-range targets.
Reflex or red dot sights make aiming quick and easy. The optical system is designed so that the reticle will always be in focus when placed on the target. With red dot sights, shooters simply place the dot on the target and pull the trigger. For close-quarter combat (CQB) and close-range shooting, red dots and reflex sights provide the best situational awareness and field of view.
Red dot sights:
- Are simple
- Will co-witness with your iron sights
- Allow you to aim with both eyes both
- Help you remain situationally aware
- Require little to no training on their use
There are red dot sights for shotguns, long-guns and rifles and handguns. To shoot with a red dot sight, aim as you would if you were using your iron sights. Draw your gun, look for the front sight as you aim, and the illuminated dot reticle will be on target. World Champion professional shooter Rob Leatham says, “if you can see the dot, you know where the bullet is going to go.” Even world-record competitive shooter Jerry Miculek uses red dot sights. He says, “I actually have a lot of vision correction including bifocals and that can be a challenge, especially with metallic sights. My left eye should be seeing the target while my right eye is seeing the sight. All of that changes when I shoot red dot sights. I’m as fast as I’ve ever been, if not faster than I’ve ever been when I use them.”
Note: If you wear glasses or contacts, you will still need to wear them while shooting with a red dot sight. If you can’t see far, the reticle or dot will appear blurry without your glasses or contacts on, just like anything would without your corrective lenses.
There are different styles of red dot sights—it is up to you which features are most important. Some have problems with 3 or 5 MOA dots being too large and covering too much of the target. You can find red dot sights with smaller dot sizes or pick a unit that has multiple reticle options. These are good because they are easily and quickly adaptable to various conditions and situations. Firefield has red dots made especially for the AR platform, tactical units with integrated lasers and micro red dots perfect for pistols. Fortunately for those of us with bad eyesight, there is an affordable option that is quickly becoming popular for all shooters. For competition, hunting and self-defense, red dot sights will get you on target quickly and accurately and keep you there.