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Gun Essentials: How Many Types of Rifle Optics Are There?

No customization improves rifle shooting accuracy as much as adding a scope.

Early rifle optics or scopes started simply as a long metal tube housing fixed optics inside. But this one addition to the rifle dramatically increased the weapon’s effectiveness. So much so that some historians feel that telescopic rifle sights may have altered the course of the American Civil War.

Today, most shooting enthusiasts use some form of optical device on most of their guns, especially on rifles. A beginner may find it easier to shoot with optics than plain iron sights.

However, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of optic options available on the market. As a novice, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by buying the wrong type of optics.

Here’s a quick guide on the different types of rifle optics to help you get started.

Telescopic Rifle Sights

Some of the best rifle optics in terms of long-range accuracy are the traditional riflescopes. They have two basic configurations: fixed and variable.

As the name implies, fixed scopes have a “fixed” level of magnification. You can’t zoom in or zoom out for a better view of the target. While inflexible, fixed scopes are lighter, shorter, and cheaper than variable scopes.

Variable or adjustable scopes offer a range of magnification levels. For example, they might show a range of something like 3-9x50mm. The numbers 3 and 9 represent the magnification range, while 50 mm is the objective lens size in millimeters.

Red Dot Rifle Optics

Red dot sights give you a precise aiming point represented by a single red dot in the center of the lens. They offer little to no magnification, making them unsuitable for long-range shooting. But tactical competition shooters favor them for their ability to aim quickly and make accurate shots.

Law enforcement rifle optics are typically red dot sights. They’re a perfect fit for the semi-automatic rifles used by the police and military in urban warfare.

Some of the best AR optics are variations of red dot sights. These include prism sights, holographic sights, and reflex sights.

Prism Sights

Prism sights are similar to traditional scopes but use prisms to focus the light and image. They’re much smaller than scopes and can be slightly magnified.

The prism sight reticle is lighted, much like a red dot. Most prism sights have the “dot” etched to the glass, so you can still use them even when the batteries fail.

Holographic Sights

Looking through the optic, you’ll see a holographic reticle image that appears to be floating on your target. It uses a laser diode and mirrors to highlight the hologram of the reticle. Many holographic sights offer a bigger view window than standard red dot optics.

Reflex Sights

Reflex or reflector sights operate similar to a mirror. A small light is projected from the rear that gets reflected by the front lens. This light serves as the red dot that you use for aiming.

Reflex sights are some of the most compact optics available today. Most solar-powered rifle optics are reflex sights.

Ready, Aim, Shoot

Without the help of rifle optics, you’re purposely gimping yourself. One of the best upgrades you can apply to your weapon is adding a scope or another type of optical device. Now that you’re familiar with the different types of optics for rifles, you can unleash your full potential, whether at the range or hunting grounds.

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