There was a time when hunters, and riflemen in general, had limited options for sighting devices. One either used iron sights, which were reliable but provided limited utility, or they used magnification on a rifle scope. As time went on, rifle scopes improved and the once questionable reliability of variable power scopes, became a thing of the past. We are now in an era where a rifle shooter can get very high-quality optics for their hunting rifle or defensive rifle, at a reasonable price. The quality of budget priced optics far exceeds the most expensive scopes of even a decade ago.
However, a magnified optic is not always the best option for a rifle. I knew hunters had entered a new era when I saw dangerous game hunters (those that pursue lions, elephants, Cape Buffalo and Apex Predators) using red dots on their double rifles (the price of a good double rifle often mirrors the price of a decent car).
A defensive rifle, in our day and age, should almost certainly have a high-quality optic on it. As a SWAT Team leader, I would have questioned any team mate who showed up with their M-4 and did not have an optic. Even the patrol rifles we issued to our Officers for day to day use were equipped with optics.
A good red dot optic allows the shooter to keep both eyes open, and gives the widest field of view possible. At the same time, it gives the shooter the ability to focus on both the aiming device (the red dot in most cases) and the threat. A good red dot optic will also provide better accuracy because the shooter does not have to align sights, just place the dot on the threat and pull the trigger.
The argument against red dot optics, and many other non-iron sights was reliability. Iron sights don’t fail. This is true. But in this day and age, red dot optics can be extremely reliable. One such example are the optics from Aimpoint. In fact, when asked for a red dot optic recommendation, I only recommend Aimpoint. I am sure there are other quality red dot optics on the market, but none have the durability track record or the pedigree of Aimpoint. The current crop of Aimpoint red dots have such an extended battery life, that the user can turn them on, full power, and leave them on for two years before they would need to change the battery. The Aimpoint Micro red dot is so small, that the weight penalty for the optic hardly exceeds a decent pair of iron sights.
Any defensive rifle user knows that red dots have their place on AR-15 and their clones. But red dots also have a use in hunting. For example, I recently returned from a hunting trip where we went after very large, and potentially dangerous animals. The shooting was under 60 yards as we stalked the beasts. The environments shifted between forests, open plains, and swamps. In each case a scope with magnification would have severely limited my field of view and any magnification beyond 2 power would have been too much. A simple red dot, such as the Aimpoint, was the answer. The Aimpoint will easily withstand the hard recoil of a high-powered rifle. The red dot stands out quite nicely on the dark grey animals. And I could turn the sight on to full power and leave it there for the duration of the week-long trip. I suppose for extra insurance, I could have replaced the battery prior to the hunting trip, at a cost of less than five dollars or so.
At the end of the day, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all rifle scope. But if you want a rifle scope that will serve you on targets within 100 yards, in all light conditions, then a red dot optic, such as Aimpoint might be the best hunting scope for you.
About the writer
Military and Law Enforcement Veteran
FBI certified firearm instructor
MP5 and Sub Machine gun instructor
Defensive tactics instructor