Small arms are the primary type of weapon in all world armies. They are used in most armed confrontations. However, the actual efficiency of their use is not only based on the weapon's characteristics or the level of professionalism of fighters. It also depends on the quality of sights installed on the weapon. The demand defines the supply. Today's hunting
and combat small arms market is overflowing with rifle scopes sellers. The sellers are the manufacturers of optics, weapon and ammunition stores, and specialized and multifaceted online stores. They offer almost all types of sights for small arms: from mechanical, optical, and collimator sights to night sights based on electro-optical converters and thermal imaging sights.
Let's consider the advantages and disadvantages of such devices compared to sights of other designs and their application.
So what types of telescopic sights are there, what is the difference between them, and what to be guided when choosing them?
WHAT IS A RETICLE?
In my childhood, I was always fascinated by films about snipers, especially by the moments when after long calculations of side or frontal wind force, bullet's range, and other things in the sight, the target was shown in the center of two crossed lines, which as a rule was doomed. I now understand that all this is possible thanks to the so-called "reticle." The grid looks like a circle with crosshairs inside, sometimes supplemented by degree and radian markings and additional lines. The reticle is used to calculate the trajectory of the bullet and the distance to the object. The reticle is drawn inside the sight in the initial generations of electro-optical sights. In digital converters, it is part of the computer program, where the reticle's image is transmitted to the monitor. In seconds, the software gives the owner complex calculations on the correction of wind force and direction, animal's speed, and terrain type. In a word, it is possible to compare the reticle with a modern computer.
It is customary to divide nets into two types—hunting and tactical. In the first case, they are used for close and small distances. In the second case, they are used for accurate work at different lengths, depending on the individual selection of caliber, type of shooting, region, and terrain peculiarities.
At the same time, universal digital sights are often used for hunting. They are equipped with touch-screen displays of up to 400 meters, enhanced sensitivity, different reticles with instantaneous activation, a quick-release battery, built-in IR illuminators, and many other necessary devices.
Since the beginning of the development of the night vision devices, the reticle was placed directly on the electro-optical apparatus, which changed the position of the sight when shooting the weapon. After the reticle begins to be installed separately, the EOP is rigidly fixed in the housing, which allows the reticle to take the original position after the shot.
It is inherent to night vision sights to have brightness adjustment of the reticle. When working at night, the brightness is set so that the reticle does not overlap the target itself. Since the lenses are usually equipped with filters, it is possible to make sighting in the daytime, and for this purpose, they put the brightness stronger.
TYPES OF SCOPES
Sights for small arms by design and principle are conventionally divided into classic-optical sights,
sights of night vision based on electro-optical converters (EOP), digitally based on low-level photodetectors, thermal imaging, and combined ones. However, it is desirable to disassemble the notion of "sight" itself, which is impossible without consideration of a structurally simple and widespread most models of modern small arms open sight. It consists of the rear sight and front sight, located on the same axis and, depending on the variant of the front sight, differs in shape and design, including the rear sight, which may have a fixed or fixed slat. The sighting process is carried out by visual alignment of the slit of the rear sight with the front sight and the target itself. If a sighting is performed correctly, the front sight will be in the slit of the rear sight so that the gaps on the left and right sides will be the same. At the same time, the top edge of the front sight should be at the same level as the full cut of the rear sight. The sighting bar is adjusted horizontally and vertically when the rifle is aimed. The gun is fitted with an adjustable front sight, adjustable flip-up or flip-down rear sight, and sometimes the fiber-optic rear sight, illuminated by a green or red LED, which improves the shooter's nightfall task, does not make the sight more accurate. Open sights are convenient when shooting at moving or static targets. Open sights are reliable, simple construction, cheap, easy to maintain, and work flawlessly in various weather conditions. Despite the disadvantages of poor aiming accuracy and overlapping of the reticle by the reticle at long distances, these sights are used more often than others. They are mounted on all types of rifled and smoothbore arms. Their reliability and simplicity confirm this.
It is not superfluous to consider a diopter sight, which is more accurate than an open sight, although it refers to mechanical sights. This sight consists of a small ring aperture and a regular front sight. The aiming disc serves as an obstacle blocking the light flux in the direction of the target, and the gap acts as a diaphragm. Aiming is intuitive and provides high accuracy in comparison with other mechanical devices. The sight offers high accuracy, reliability, low cost, and compactness. They are primarily used in sports shooting.
Let's consider optical, collimator, laser, night vision, and other types of sights. All these hunting sights have their advantages and disadvantages, peculiarities of operation, and a wide variety of effectiveness. In general, they all meet the same characteristics as rifle scopes. Optical sights are considered to be more advanced than open sights. However, the classical telescopic sights are most common due to the simplicity of design and use, which provides sighting shooting from small arms in typical conditions. Due to the visual magnification of the target, its use increases the accuracy and accuracy of the shot. Most scopes are limited by the field of view, making it challenging to find the target. The telescopic sight is a sophisticated optical device that repeatedly increases the accurate aiming of the firearm at the target, which leads to more excellent performance when shooting. Such sights for small arms can be installed on their smooth-bore or rifled varieties. Structurally, optical sights resemble small telescopes. The pluses can be attributed to convenient aiming, increased size of the visible target, and high accuracy when shooting. The disadvantages are possible unbalancing of the weapon, high cost, device complexity, and inconvenient settings.
When shooting at moving targets, the best sight is a collimator sight, which proved itself well when hunting with a smooth-bore weapon. When aiming, the shooter aligns the reticle with the target. His eye concentrates on the luminous marker and the target. When the shooter moves his eye away from the sight, the aiming mark remains visually on the target and moves behind the shooter's gaze. In this way, the weapon's position relative to his eye is not crucial for accurate fire, making it possible to shoot accurately at fast-moving targets. Collimator sights are distinguished by types, whereas in closed sights, the light source is located inside the housing, completely enclosed from the outside environment and protected from dampness and dirt. Open sights use a single lens and a recessed light source, which provides better visibility. Sights are fixed on the receiver with "dovetail" or "swivel" mounting. This sight offers convenient sighting at moving and static targets, compactness, and lightweight.
In conditions of natural night light, the night sights are used, as a rule, based on the EOP, where weak light of visible range is conditionally amplified by thousand times with simultaneous amplification of IR and UV radiation.
Digital sights are considered perspective, as structurally, they are electronic devices with digital image processing, control panel, and micromonitor. For general understanding, the operation of these sights is comparable with that of a digital video camera. The difference is that sight is used to observe objects and primarily for target shooting. And for this purpose, it is necessary to be resistant to impacts, and, mainly, the objective lens and photoreceiver must not change after the shot or series of shots.
Particular category - thermal sights can detect objects by thermal radiation, despite dust, smoke, camouflage, light, and other noises. Among the disadvantages is that due to the design and technological features, the price of these sights is several times higher than in different categories. The operating principle of night vision sight is based on the effect of enhanced brightness of the image, which is distinguishable in the dark. As a rule, they operate in day and night mode.
The night mode allows an aiming shot, both at short and at a considerable distance from the target. And thanks to the zoom system, depending on the circumstances, it became possible to increase the object's size in the lens. There are also disadvantages, including the complex construction of the device, expensive to purchase, small size.
Thermal imaging sight is a device without which not a single professional hunting is carried out. This device functions independently of the light level due to the infrared rays and the difference between the thermal temperatures. The sight's optics allow you to make a successful shot at long and short distances. The equipment is adapted to all types of firearms. Works excellent in conditions of high humidity, fog, and dust. There is an unpleasant "bonus" - some models of thermal sights can blind the shooter in a sudden flash of light.
A thermal sight. This sight differs in compact size in comparison with thermal imaging sights. It has a solid frame and provides an accelerated frame rate without delaying shooting.
A laser designator improves weapon performance, pointing speed, and accuracy at point-blank range. It is a compact device fixed on the weapon case and equipped with a power supply unit and a unique laser LED, which forms a spot of light on the target coinciding with the middle point of impact.
It is not a weapon sight but an auxiliary sight with limited range and accuracy. Sometimes it is used in conjunction with a collimator, night or day scope.
The laser designator in hunting is used mainly with smooth-bore firearms and quite rarely.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST RIFLE SCOPE?
Before deciding on a scope, you should compare the factors limiting the use of open sight. These may be the sighting range of the weapon, the design data of the sight, the tactical skills of the shooter or hunter, and others. Because such a sight is used when hunting at a distance
up to fifty meters, we can analyze the use and sighting range of the open sight on smoothbore rifles when shooting with bullets and pellets and small-caliber pneumatic rifles. The size of the front and the rear sight is close enough to each other in this context, affecting the sighting range and accuracy.
Therefore, when deciding to purchase optics in the form of a sniper scope, it is necessary to understand this equipment's original principles and capabilities. For example, having decided to capture the game and make a shot with fourfold magnification, it is necessary to use a spotting scope for this shot and shoot at stationary targets. It is customary to use less than fourfold magnification sights to hit moving targets. In both cases, keep in mind that the shooter risks getting hit with the eyepiece if the weapon recoils strongly.
What else do I need to know when selecting a sniper scope? When looking through the sight at a distant object, the image must be clear, with clear resolution and outlines. With variable-magnification sights, the crosshairs should shift when you change the magnification, and the target should be viewable in perfect quality. When selecting your optics, pay special attention to the condition of the lenses. They should be in excellent condition, without scratches or bubbles in lenses, dust, and foreign objects inside the sight. Remember that it is not worth being greedy and saving money when buying a rifle scope. The right choice is to purchase proven models of famous world brands produced in the USA. After all, the production of high-quality, high-tech scopes refers to complex multi-component optical devices. And this is a long history, the latest specialist equipment, and seller's responsibility to the buyer.