The use of a red dot sight for rifle shooting has been a growing trend in recent years, with good reason. When set up properly you can leverage the speed and parallax free features of a red dot sight for rifle shooting. The idea is to set one up so that it is collimated with your regular precision rifle optic. That relationship and alignment is where the advantages of using a red dot sight for rifle shooting can be realized. If you want to know how to set it up and use it to the best of your ability, read on!
Red Dot Sight for Rifle Shooting
I know some people will ask, so I’ll start by answering the first question most people come up with. Why do I need or why would I want a red dot sight for rifle work? Well, it really depends on the kind of shooting you do. For the average hunter or bench rest and F class applications it really doesn’t make much sense. However, the advantages of a red dot sight for rifle shooting are realized in dynamic environments. When I say dynamic environment I’m talking about three things, Law Enforcement Work, Military Operations, and Tactical Rifle Competition.
In dynamic environments you may be in a situation where you are engaging multiple targets under pressure at various ranges within your field of fire. If you were a Military shooter for example and pulling the trigger on a terrorist douchebag somewhere in the world at several hundred yards distance…that’s great! We all like a world with less terrorists. What if another one pops up on the far edge of your field of fire but he’s much closer but still beyond the effective range of your pistol or your buddy’s AR15? Traditionally you have to swing the gun and scope over to the new target, right?
That can be problematic. If you are engaging distant targets and switching to closer targets or vice versa, it’s difficult to “point” the gun in the direction of the new target and have the target land within the field of view of the scope. The historical answer to this problem has been, dial down the magnification while you search for the new target, dial it up as needed after the new target is located. I’ve dealt with that very scenario many times in a competition environment looking for multiple steel targets on a single stage. It’s the same scenario with different targets and different forms of stress.
Red Dot Sight for Rifle Target Transition
By equipping your rifle with a red dot sight for rifle target transitions you greatly cut down on the time between when you fire on one target and are prepared to fire on the next target. The trick is to set the red dot sight up so its targeting the same area as your magnified optic. Then when you lift your head and find the next target, you can easily aim the red dot at it using a greater field of view and parallax free sighting system. When you drop your head back down behind the magnified optic, the reticle should land either on the target itself, or at least close to the center of the optic’s field of view so you don’t have to search around for it or mess with your magnification setting.
Understand this is not a requirement, nor necessary for most shooters. It’s merely a little trick of the trade you can use to speed up your target transitions if you engage in the type of shooting that would benefit from a quick transition. You can set the red dot sight for rifle shooting at closer ranges if you want, however I don’t think that’s the best use of this trick. I very infrequently encounter short rifle shots, at or under 150 yards, in a competition setting. When I have, the target transitions are short and easy. Dial down the magnification so you have a better field of view and all is usually well. This trick really shines when jumping from different distances or across large swaths of your firing area where it’s difficult to get the rifle pointed right at the target you want to engage.
Setting up a Red Dot Sight for Rifle Work
How do you set all this up? For starters you need to mount the red dot on the rifle. This is another reason I like SPUHR mounts! Adding additional widgets and accessories is remarkably easy to do. I mounted mine offset at 45 degrees between my eye and the elevation turret. I would have preferred to mount it at 12 O’Clock but the turrets on my Bushnell ERS are really tall so to get the red dot up high enough in front of the turret would be a real task. Obviously if its mounted behind the turret at 12 O’Clock it blocks your view of the turret setting, that’s no bueno! So I went with a 45 Degree offset.
The next trick is getting the red dot sight for rifle shooting zeroed up and collimated with the magnified optic. Here’s how I did it, and it’s worked very well. My method isn’t the only one, if you have a better way to do it, drop it in the comments! I set up the rifle by dropping it onto my tripod and getting it sighted in on a target approximately 600 yards away. I then dialed my 600 yard dope on my scope, why? The reticle moves when you add elevation, so you want the reticle in the approximate position it would be at the distance you plan to collimate the red dot to. I went with 600 yards because it’s a good intermediate distance so if I’m shooting a bit closer or a bit longer the reticle may be a bit high or low, but should still be in the ballpark!
After I dialed up my 600 yard dope I double checked and made sure the reticle was centered on the target then I locked all the settings down on the tripod so it would maintain that position. I then lifted my head slightly and looked through the red dot. I used a small screw driver to move the red dot so it was lined up with the same target at 600 yards. When I had it where I thought it looked good I tested it several times. I loosened up the tripod, addressed the rifle as I normally do and pointed the gun using the red dot at the same target. When I dropped my head back onto the cheek rest and looked through the scope, my reticle was dead nuts on the 600 yard target! Set this up with the scope on higher magnification so when you transition between targets it is highly accurate. Even if its off a bit on lower magnification it won’t matter since you’ll have the advantage of a wider field of view!
This isn’t all that hard to set up, but man is it easy to see the advantages once you do. I’ve tested this by pointing that red dot at a number of targets at various distances and then dropping my head down behind my scope, and the reticle is always either on target or extremely close. That’s the whole idea. It doesn’t have to be dead on, but the idea is if you are already on high magnification on a small target and you transition to another, you don’t have to waste time fiddling with the scope magnification so you can search around. You use the red dot to get your rifle pointed in the right direction and when you drop your head back down, bang! Your target appears within the magnified field of view of your scope! As always if you have questions or observations, please drop them in the comments below!