Gun Optics

There are many options when choosing optics and each has been designed for a specific function. The first step in choosing an optic is figuring out what function the optic will need to fill. For example, if you are going to be doing a lot of long range shooting, you don’t want to use a red dot scope as it will not offer you the magnification necessary to shoot accurately at range. Similarly, if you are shooting at multiple targets at a short range you don’t want to use a 4x magnification scope that will not allow for rapid target acquisition.

Most Popular Types of Gun Optics

Iron Sights

While this isn’t an optic per se, it is the most common type of aiming devise in use. Having backup Iron Sights is standard for most mil-spec applications and is also very useful for hunting. You will use Iron Sights and it is a good idea to use “see through” scope mount that “co-witnesses” when possible. Having Iron Sights for short range shooting on a scoped platform can mean the world of difference. Remember your scope may become damaged or run out of batteries, and unless you are practiced in point shooting you might find yourself paddle-less in a creek.


  • Cheap, reliable and standard among firearms.
  • Holds zero unless major damage happens.
  • Available with Night Sights.
  • Can be used in conjunction with Optics on some applications.


  • No magnification.
  • Not all Iron Sights are adjustable.
  • If you miss you can’t blame the scope for being off zero.

Reflex Sights

Reflex sights are commonly known as Red Dot sights. Reflex Sights refer to the availability to acquire the target through a reflexive action. Reflex sights are used when target acquisition is the most important function of the optic. Red Dot sights are used by the military and are typically seen on mil-spec firearms. Magnification can be added to most of the reflex sights and some have built in magnification.


  • Allows fast accurate target acquisition.
  • Reticule is always on target regardless of angle of view.
  • Removable Magnification can assist in long range shooting.
  • Entry level models available extremely cheap.


  • A good Reflex sight can be expensive.
  • You will pay extra for magnification.
  • Many require batteries for operation or
  • Cost greatly increases on models that don’t use batteries (Tritium illumination)
  • Economy optics may not be able to with stand heavy recoil.

Telescopic Sight

Commonly referred to as scopes, glass scopes, or optical scopes, these are the most common optic other than iron sights. The telescopic sight is the best optic for long range shooting. The scopes can offer anywhere from 1.5x magnification to 25x+ magnification. Scopes come in a variety of price ranges and magnifications. There are two main differences to be noted. The scope will either be a fixed power (where the magnification cannot be adjusted) or an adjustable magnification (where the scope would be able to have adjustable magnifications, like from 2.5z-8x). The other main difference is the reticule type:  wire or etched. Wire Reticules have a set of wires mounted in the tube of the scope. Etched Reticules are the more modern version and have the crosshairs etched into the glass of the scope. Etched models offer a greater flexibility in crosshair selection and can also be specially designed for a particular application. Models with illuminated reticules are available for low-light shooting.


  • Greatest magnification of any sight platform.
  • Can be extremely cheap.
  • Available in adjustable magnifications
  • Scope can be designed to adjust for round drop.
  • Windage and Range calculation can be done with the scope.


  • As magnification increases field of view decreases.
  • Not as impact resistant as iron sights or reflex sights.

Most Popular Brands of Gun Optics - A thorough list of gun optics from the most popular manufacturers.

Night Vision Optics:

An overview of the history and use of gun night vision optics.

  • Red Dot Scopes
  • Tactical & Mil-Spec Optics
  • Popular Optic and Scope Mounts

Please visit the following FAQ/checklist to help you determine which optic might be best suited for your particular needs: Gun Optics FAQ & Checklist

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