The most dreaded part of buying a brand new red dot scope is sighting it. Most gunowners know that ammunition is expensive, and a lot can be wasted when you’re trying to line up the sighting on your rifle. Well, there’s good news: you can sight your red dot sight without shooting.
What is a Red Dot Scope?
A red dot optic is an advanced type of sighting that can be put on any type of gun. So, how does red dot sight work?
Let’s just cover the basics. A dot sight has two curved glass lenses, one at the front of the optic and one at the rear sight. If you’ve got a rifle scope, they’ll be on either end of the scope. For a pistol red dot, the scope rings are pretty much right in front of one another.
Once you’ve got the basics down, there’s two different ways that your laser optic might work. If the reticle is light-powered, that means it’s a passive system. If it’s powered by an outside source, like a battery, that means it’s an active system. Just remember that your pistol red dot has a good chance of not being battery operated.
A passive dot sight has a pre-engraved image on the glass. It’s usually placed on the focus point on the front lens. For reflex sights, it’ll be at an angle. Light goes through the optic and lights up the inlaid image. The image is then projected into your view, revealing the red dot optic and the aiming point.
An active dot sight is much the same concept, even perhaps simpler. The power source will turn on, projecting an image in the same way that the reflected light will. This effect also creates the red dot sight.
Benefits of a Red Dot Scope
There’s a few different kinds of red dot sights out there. They can be a reflector, reflex sight, or just a modern red dot sight. All of these types work in the same way as we talked about before; an image is reflected into your vision, creating an aiming point for you to follow. The image will always be at the focus point of the sight optic, which is dead center of the scope. As you bring your gun up to shoot, the sights will align. They will also stay aligned as your gun moves. So, why is it such a popular choice for a shooter?
The dot that is created when the scope works its magic is able to be projected infinitely. Not just that, but the dot will remain as the exact aiming point of the barrel of the gun. This means that as long as you aiming the red dot at the point of the target that you want to hit, you’re more likely to land a shot than with other types of sights. So, it gives you a better chance of being accurate when you shoot. But that still depends on the red dot optic being sighted and aligned properly.
Sighting a Red Dot Optic Without Shooting
Now, this is the real question. Can you actually accurately sight your red dot scope without shooting? You can get it fairly close, but, realistically, you can’t get 100% accuracy without shooting at least a few times. If you’re looking to get your aiming point within an MOA, which is 1 inch for every 100 yards, this way of sighting won’t get you there. Unless you get really lucky, getting that accurate is just something that can’t be done without shooting a few times.
But, if you’re hard set on conserving your ammo, you can do something that’s called laser bore sighting. A lot of experienced shooters actually bore sight their gun before fully sighting it, saving themselves time and ammunition. So, if you’re looking to save some ammo (and some time), bore sighting is the way to go. Just keep in mind that it won’t be as accurate as properly sighting your weapon by shooting.
What to Expect From Bore Sighting
Laser bore sighting is a great way to sight your gun if you don’t want to shoot at all, or just want to save a few bullets when you go to fully sight your gun. It’s a dirty but fast method of sighting your rifle.
It might seem like bore sighting should be super accurate, which, at a yard or so away, it would be. But, if you’re using a precision aiming point like a red dot sight, more than likely you’re going to be shooting from up to 100 yards away, which is where things can get a little dicey. Any minor irregularities in the way the laser boresight rests in the barrel can show a noticeable difference when the bullet is traveling over long distances like that. Not only that, but the rifle itself might shoot the bullet in a slight offset direction that the laser simply can’t predict.
An optical boresighter should never be used as a permanent replacement for properly sighting your weapon. It’s a good way to get a scope more accurate than it is right out of the box, but should only be a temporary measure. Use bore sighting until you can take your rifle to the range to get a good, proper aiming point.
You’ll need your rifle with the holographic sight mounted on it. You’ll also need a laser boresight. In simple terms, a bore sight is just an overpowered laser pointer. This will be placed into either the empty chamber or the barrel of your weapon, where it will project a laser to assist you with the aiming process.
Bore sights are different for every gun. They should be the same size as the bullet that the weapon fires in order to make sure you are get the most accurate trajectory prediction of the bullet. Make sure you do some research and buy the correct laser boresighter that will suit your gun.
You’ll also need a target for sighting. The target should be about 25-50 yards away from you. This is the optimal distance for aiming with a holographic sight; any more than that will make the laser optic impossible to see. If you’re sighting with a scope that has magnification, you can go a little further.
1. Types of Bore Sights
There’s a few different kinds of bore sights that you can get. Some you might’ve heard of already, and others might be a little less common.
1.1 Laser Boresighter
The most common type of bore sight is the laser boresighter. This is the most well known tool for bore sighting. Most of these lasers are shaped exactly like the bullets that you put into your gun, so they should fit well and snug into the chamber to give you an accurate sight.
This particular tool is used by looking through your scope and locating the laser that it produces. Once the laser is located, make sure that the gun is aimed so the bore sight is pointing at the center of the target. Once that is the case, start adjusting your red dot scope to match up with the laser. Usually your scope will have a few knobs on the side that you can use to adjust it. Once your red dot is in the center of the target and matches the laser projection, you’re good to go.
1.2 Optical boresighter
This one is less popular because it requires a little more work. It works nearly the same as the laser. The optical will be mounted at the base of your barrel and is aligned properly. Then, make sure the lens on the boresighter is lined up with your scope. Once it is, you can look through the scope and see the crosshairs that are marked on the bore sight. Using that, align your red dot with the center of the grid. Your dot sight is now sighted.
1.3 Visual boresighting
This is definitely the least accurate method of boresighting. This method is just utilizing the barrel of your gun to get a good alignment on your sight. Adjust the position of your muzzle until it’s lined up with the center of the target. Then, use that to predict where your red dot sight should be aimed. There’s not much accuracy involved here, so this is not the recommended method of boresighting.
Let’s go a little more into detail on the steps of boresighting.
First, insert your bore sight. This will all depend on how you load the weapon you are using. Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of the bore sight. If you’re just trying to save some time before you properly sight your rifle, a cheaper one will do just fine to get you started. But if you’re looking to sight your gun as accurately as possible without shooting, then you’ll want to purchase a more expensive bore sight. The cheaper bore sights will fit less tightly and will provide a less accurate laser when used. So, if this is your main way of sighting, be prepared to pay a little extra.
Decide on the distance that you’ll be sighting from. The distance means a lot when it comes to red dot sights; the scope will only be precise when it’s at the distance that you sighted it from. Any more or any less and you’ll have to learn to compensate for the margin of error from your red dot sight.
Once you have your target set up and your gun ready, make sure your chamber is empty and insert the boresighter. This powerful laser is most likely battery powered, so be wary of the battery life. You don’t want to take too long since the power of the laser will drain the battery faster.
Use the aiming point of your bore sight to target your gun the first time. Ignore the red dot scope. Take your aimed rifle and find a way to keep it pointed at the target. It’ll be easiest if you can find a way to keep it there without having to hold onto it.
Once you’ve got it secured, start adjusted your holographic sight. This might vary depending on the product, but typically it’s a knob style adjustment. There’s two adjustments that you’ll need to center your scope: the windage adjustment and the elevation adjustment. Using these choices, move the reticle so that you’re red dot comes in contact with the laser boresighter. Depending on the sight, some red dots might need a screwdriver in order to adjust it. There’s probably quite a lot of adjusting you’ll have to do here before you can move on, so be patient.
Once you’ve got that done, you’re all set. If this was just to get on the paper for your sighting, then you can use some bullets to clean up your aiming point. If that was all your sights, then you’ve done it! You’ve successfully sighted your weapon using a laser boresighter.
If you want to sight your weapon at a further distance, like 50 yards, it’s probably easier to first sight the rifle at 25 yards. This will reduce the amount of time and work that it will take you to get aimed up at the longer distance.
Tips for Shooting a Red Dot Sight
Now that you’ve got your red dot scope sighted up, let’s get a few tips on how to improve your shot. Being accurate is much more than just bore sighting your weapon. Being accurate takes practice with your weapon and your optic. A red dot may be much more precise than an old iron sight, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come right away. Take some time to practice some shooting at the range with your new sight; it’ll be worth it when you need it.
Here’s some other tips that you’ll find handy:
- Keep focused. As long as you’re focused on your target and patient with your aim, you’ll be on your way to accuracy in no time.
- Read the manual that comes with your holographic. This will give you everything you need to know and some product-specific tips that will come in handy.
- Mess around with the settings of the optic. Most red dot sights will come with brightness settings that can up your shooting game in low light environments.
- Practice! Practice is the best way to become a better shooter. The impact of a dedicated shooter will show in your target and your form.
The Best Red Dot Sight
Before you bore sight your weapon, you’ll want to get a good red dot scope. There’s plenty of good brands and products out there, but I’ll list a few well-rated ones for you to check out:
|SIG Sauer Romeo5|
|SIG Sauer Romeo MSR|
While this article is plenty informative, there’s some well known resources that you should be aware of that can answer all your gun questions. The world of weapons might be hard for a beginner to navigate. These organizations are reputable in the gun business and are authorized to provide guidance and instructions.
1. NRA Institute
The NRA is the biggest governing authority when it comes to guns. They publish an official journal, blogs, articles, and regulations for gun ownership and use. They are the #1 resource for anything gun-related.
2. SIG Sauer
This company makes and sells both commercial and consumer level products. They are a weapons brand that is trusted by many government and military organizations. They produce quality products that will be beneficial for your use as a gunowner.
3. State and Federal Law
Of course, the most important thing is the law. When it comes to owning a gun, balancing the local, state, and federal laws can be tricky. Visit your state’s website or a local law office to learn more about the regulations in your state or country.
Mike Hardesty is a published freelance gun writer. With dozens of articles and reviews published in Pew Pew Tactical, Snipercountry.com, and TTAG (The Truth About Guns), Mike is considered a firearms expert. His special area of expertise is handguns.
Mike is a long-time shooter. He has been punching paper targets, taking deer and other game and shooting at competitions since about 1975. Other related pursuits include reloading and bullet casting. He currently reloads for over 10 calibers, both handgun and rifle. His reloads, particularly for 9mm, were in great demand during the height of the ammo shortage among family and friends. He donated hundreds of rounds to informal shooting sessions. He was quoted as saying “I do not sell my reloads but I sure will help my guys shoot ’em for free!”. He has a few cherished firearms that he has inherited or otherwise procured — those are his favorites.
He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana State University in 1974-1975.
He’s a firearm experts and is the founder of mhardesty.com.