Iron sights are standard equipment on most entry-level AR-15 rifles and other firearms. There’s a lot to like about iron sights—they generally adjust for windage (rear sight) and elevation (front sight) easily and quickly, they’re durable, and learning to use them properly goes a long way in developing competence as a marksman.
Practical as they are, though, irons have limitations. Here are five reasons to consider adding a red dot to your AR:
1. Faster target acquisition
Shoulder the rifle, put the dot on target, bang. There’s no rear/front sight alignment, no mental bandwidth expended reminding oneself to focus on the front sight when our natural inclination is to look at the target. This is the greatest advantage of a red dot.
There are still purists who scoff as this concept, saying it’s the cheater’s version of an age-old skill, and reminding red dot users that someday, that battery could die at an inconvenient moment. To them I’d say yes, both these things are true, along with suggesting one of the many sights on the market that allow the user to co-witness, meaning using the irons with the electronic sight attached. Thus, a common moniker for irons is BUIS, or backup iron sights.
2. Better accuracy at distance
Along with enhanced speed at finding the target, the properly zeroed red nearly eliminates doubt as to where to aim at longer-distance targets. Whereas there’s a window of judgment regarding the position of the front sight within the rear when viewing a target through BUIS, most red dots offer a precise point of aim. Of course, there’s a point when distance shooting requires a magnifying scope and use of a reticle. But for distances up to around 200 yards, and even larger targets at longer distances, the basic, non-magnifying red dot makes an ideal shooter’s helper.
3. Compensates for eye limitations
Many shooters find it a challenge to focus on the front sight once the AR is on target, either because it’s too tempting to focus on the target or physical limitations within the eye itself which prevent objects around arm’s length from being in focus. This is often an unwelcome development in shooters, whose eyesight is undergoing age-related changes.