By Jason Cotter
Erik As, Aimpoint's Swedish Training Manager and recent visitor to our shores, reckons the key to taking quick, accurate shots on both stationary and running game is using techniques similar to clay target shooters. And, of course, using a rifle topped with an Aimpoint sight.
I recently attended a practical presentation to hear Erik speak. I enjoyed a great day alongside retailers not only learning about the original red dot sight but improving my shooting technique under Erik's instruction.
I had never used a red dot or much thought about them for my hunting, but after a day with Erik I was taking accurate shots on a radio-controlled running boar target. By then I was also wearing a hat with an Aimpoint logo and had solid plans to buy the latest Micro H-1 sight for my deer rifle.
In short, I was convinced the sight is an excellent hunting tool, and that practical industry roadshows work really well in generating enthusiasm for quality products.
The day was underpinned by Erik's considerable expertise: After 18 years in the Swedish military as a weapons instructor and a special forces operative - including much jumping out of planes into equatorial jungle or arctic tundra with an Aimpoint atop his rifle - Erik started working for Aimpoint in 2010, instructing both defense and civilian audiences. He has also been a hunter all his life, with a particular interest in deer hunting in Scandinavia - roe, fallow, red and moose - and driven hunts on European wild boar.
Erik clearly had great confidence in the sights, with his own deer rifle set up so he can swap between an Aimpoint and a scope. The scope he only mounts when distant shots on deer are likely and to help meet European regulations where antlers, age and sex require assessment before taking a shot.
The day started with Erik presenting the pros and cons of iron sights, scopes and red dot technology. They also pointed out the shorter range hunting applications where quality red dots shine, including walking up pigs and deer, and hunting over hounds.
The Aimpoint Red Dot Sight is intended to ensure quick focus on the target and to make accurate shots more instinctual, particularly on moving targets. Red dots are used with both eyes open and the shooter focusing on the desired point of impact rather than a reticle or front post; the red dot superimposes on the target in a single sighting plane while a full field of view is maintained, allowing for well-placed shots without a more deliberate lining up, as is typically required of scopes and iron sights.
Unlike other brands, Aimpoint sights are built to be parallax-free, which in practice means the Aimpoint 2 MOA red dot or Aimpoint 4 MOA red dot can be anywhere in the sighting plane, not just the centre of the sight, to enable quick and accurate shooting.
Erik was also keen to point out other differences between the cheaper Aimpoint knock-offs and the original; Aimpoint developed the technology in the late 1970s and now leads the market, with various models noted for their ruggedness, ease of use and a battery life measured in years. The special diode used to generate Aimpoint's red dot is the reason behind such prolonged battery life even if left on; the flat battery of the Micro H-1 red dot sight will last up to 50,000 hours, or well over five years, if left on the lowest setting, and well over a year if left on the brightest of the 12 settings. The AA battery of the larger models lasts even longer.
We were also informed that, like their military brethren, civilian versions of the sight are rugged enough to be taken to stratospheric altitudes and great depths. As I've yet to skydive or SCUBA dive into the hills to hunt, I was more interested in other tests of physical robustness; Erik threw a few Aimpoint Red Dot Sight models up in the air and their impact on the concrete floor was enough to make any scope owner wince. They remained functioning without fail or even cosmetic damage, though I'm unsure whether my rifle and mounts would so successfully withstand the same treatment.
We were also told the best way to clean Aimpoint hunter red dot sight lenses is to pour some water in the lens cup, dab some detergent on a fingertip, swish it around then rinse. The sights are clearly built to be waterproof.
Armed with all this information about the sight's effectiveness in the worst conditions but still attached to my variable scope, we hit the range for some practical training. Not long after, an Aimpoint made it firmly onto my Christmas list.
We started by sighting in several different models Aimpoint red dot matched to the various firearms. These included a Verney Carron pump action .308 topped with the newest and lightest (84 gram) Micro H-1 sight, Tikka and Sako bolt actions, a Blaser R93 straight-pull in .243, a relatively tight-grouping .30-30 lever, a Beretta Xtrema 12 guage semi-auto throwing solid slugs and a Remington 742 Woodmaster in .308 that I imagined had spent some time in the hills pre-1996.
After a quick and easy sight-in with the Aimpoint Red Dot Sight (using a special adjustment tool destined for a Scandinavian design award) Eric led us through the correct use of red dots in making accurate freehand shots.
His tips included adopting a stance that was not only shoulder-width but at an angle that allows full relaxation of the shoulder muscles while pointing a finger at arm's stretch. He also said to hold the rifle using a solid cheek weld and a 70/30 weighting of pressure between the pistol grip (70) and fore grip (30). This balance of grip enables a smooth swing in a full arc from left to right without jitter, and up and down movement of the barrel (and red dot) in a similarly controlled manner, and in line with the shooter's body and breathing.
With this hold he recommended the shooter should focus on the whole target then the desired point of impact, while moving the red dot smoothly into the kill zone and taking the shot without prolonged aiming.
For standing shots on static paper targets, Erik advised lifting the barrel from below the target into the centre zone while breathing in naturally and keeping both eyes open. As the Aimpoint red dot scope moved into and superimposed on the centre rings, we were told to slow our movement and squeeze off the shot, all without spending time to ensure precise placement of the dot over the bulls-eye.
LEFT : Danny Ahmar from Abela's Gun Shop taking aim on the running boar using an Aimpoint Micro H-1 mounted on Blaser R93 rifle.
MIDDLE : Two groups of three shots made when sighting in a Verney Carron rifle with an Aimpoint at 25 metres showing the accuracy that can be achieved with the technology.
RIGHT : A participant sighting in an Aimpoint 9000SC sight on a Sako Grizzly rifle.
This method we later transferred to static roe deer and boar silhouettes, moving up their forelegs and into the kill zone. It proved very quick and effective, with some attendees even achieving tight groups, perhaps the best by a longtime shotgunner - with both eyes open and a full field of view, consistent focus on the target can be maintained, as with effective shotgun techniques.
After lunch our hosts wheeled out a bulletproof radio-controlled buggy topped with a boar silhouette. With several of us wearing Aimpoint caps by then (it was sunny after all), we took turns with the various set-ups shooting off-hand at the target. By the end of the day the kill zone was peppered in holes and stickers covering holes, though the pig remained miraculously upright.
In terms of techniques for running game, Erik advised running the Aimpoint red dot scope up the back leg and then along the body, squeezing the shot off at the right moment as you pass over the vitals, which is largely dependent on the animal's speed - as you move over the kill zone if the animal is at a walk or trot, and as you leave the chest and into fresh air if it is running faster. Though, of course, all this depends on the situation, actual speed and level of experience. He also said to be aware of all the potential shooting lanes around you if you are waiting at a post.
A few attendees also tested the sight at 100 metres and found it capable of achieving surprisingly precise and consistent placement at that range. We did not test the sight past 100 metres, though at distances far beyond that a scope would definitely be the way to go.
I enjoyed the day and the insight it offered into red dots and shooting technique. Other attendees were similarly enthused, so perhaps a few more Aimpoints will be mounted on hunting rifles in America as a result. I spoke with a few hound hunters in the week following too, and was not surprised to hear Aimpoints are becoming increasingly popular among their number, though I can see how the sight is appropriate to many other deer hunting methods and scenarios. I know I still wanted an Aimpoint a week later, which is my usual cool-off period for new equipment purchases. Want to know where to buy aimpoint red dot sights? Right here at Tactical Survivalist.
Many of us have likely learned to view the world through cynical glasses. "You don't trust anyone" my lovely wife has told me. I take it as a compliment. When it comes to new, ghee-whiz gadgets or technologies a lot of cops have the knee-jerk — it won't work — reaction and when the subject of red dot or electronic optics comes up, I've heard a loud refrain of skepticism.
"When I need it, "the batteries will be dead" or "I won't bet my life on something that uses batteries" are two of the most popular arguments against red dot sights. The other big one is, "You can't do anything with a dot scope you can't do with iron sights."
I have been using red dot electronic optics from various manufacturers for several years now. As with any product, each company has their own twist on the idea. The basic concept behind the red dot optic is to give the shooter a highly visible aiming/reference point for rapid target acquisition.
The T1 was designed to incorporate positive features of larger optics in a more compact package, it weighs only 4 oz and like their popular CompM2 it operates on a single 3V Lithium battery.
Thanks to the use of 21st Century technology, the Tl has a run time of an amazing 50,000 hours. You install the battery, find the dot intensity you like and leave it there. After four to five years you'll need to install a fresh battery.
The T1 has 13 settings for dot intensity; six for use with night vision and seven for low, normal and bright light. Zeroing is accomplished with windage and elevation knobs. They even had the foresight to build in an adjustment tool so you don't need a penny or dime to turn the knobs.
The T1 comes standard with a MIL-STD 1913 low mount. LaRue Tactical makes a quick-detach high mount that works very well allowing for co-witnessing the T1 with the iron sights on the flat-top M4/AR.
Aimpoint's durability is legend among military personnel. A friend related an incident during a rapid insertion. He was thrown from his vehicle and ended up on his back with his CompM2 equipped M4 underneath him. He hit so hard he initially feared the carbine's barrel might have been bent. You can't call time out in the middle of a mission; he got up, checked his gear, and drove on completing the team's assignment. Not only did the Aim point still work fine, it didn't even lose its zero.
Freddie Blish of Aimpoint demonstrates the T1 by zeroing it, removing it from the gun and tossing it across the room. Gasps are heard from the audience as the sight bounces on the concrete floor. He'll mount it back on the rifle and show you the unit works and zero hasn't been lost. That's tough.
If the worst happened and your battery did die or the optic quit, you could still make accurate shots on target by simply sighting through the tube. You can also flip up your iron sights. And as for relying on something manmade to save your life; don't forget the rifle, subgun, or shotgun your Aimpoint electronic sight is mounted to was also made by the hands of men!
View All Aimpoint Red Dot Sight models: View All Available Aimpoint Scopes