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Do I Need to Use a Scope? The Basics of AR Optics

Do I Need to Use a Scope? The Basics of AR Optics

July 10, 2017

When you have a hard time reading the words on the nearest screen—yes, it happens, even though we don’t want to admit it—the answer is to pull out glasses. When it comes to shooting, think about optics a bit like that pair of glasses you keep for small print. Depending on the optics option you choose, you could have impressively magnified views down field, or it could offer just a bit of a guiding view. Like those reading glasses, you may or may not need a scope or a sight (depending on your own eyesight and AR usage), but you may want one for that extra bit of assistance offered. For those of you new to firearms, or to the AR in specific, here are a few things to keep in mind about AR 15 optics:

Sights, Scopes, Etc.

The basic idea behind both sights and scopes is pretty much what you imagine: it’s a tool to help you shoot with more precision and accuracy. This isn’t necessarily relegated to shooting extensive distances, either. The initial fixed iron sight was a simple non-magnifying set of markers designed to help you line up shots and has been in use for decades, if not centuries. As technology has improved, the options for sights evolved into scopes—which offer magnification, rather like a mini-telescope, and are, in fact, technically called telescopic sights—and both categories of optics have changed immensely. With the number of different options available on the market today, it can be impossible to wade through every one to choose the best AR sights or scopes.

How Far Are You Shooting?

This is one of those instances where the modular nature of the AR really comes in handy. When it comes to optics, it’s important to match the optic option to the use. More specifically, it’s important to be sure you’re choosing an optic optimized for the distance and ammo you plan on shooting. After all, it’s distinctly going to feel like overkill to have a scope optimized for 1,500 yards if you plan to do all of your shooting at a distance of 200 to 300 yards. On the other hand, if your AR is intended for home defense, you’re planning for distances that don’t need magnification at all, so a fixed iron sight would be more useful than a highly-magnifying scope.  

How Much Assistance Do You Want?

The other big question, aside from what you need, is how much extra assistance you want. This will depend largely on your own vision and, more importantly, what you’re shooting and why. The first question to consider is scope versus sight, or magnification versus no magnification. As you imagine, magnifying will help you aim more easily. However, if you have even a small bit of instability (even the slight wobble inherent from standing), using a scope will magnify that movement.

At RailScales, we offer a fixed iron sight to hard mount to a D-Bal or PEQ15 laser. Shop online for the best AR sights, foregrips, and more!