Defensive DVD Review: AR-15 Optics

Posted by:

AR-15 Optics DVD
By Rob Pincus
Published by Personal Defense Network


Everyone, it seems, has an AR-15 these days and all of them have need for a good sighting system. There are lots of choices in the market, and this DVD attempts to make sense of the various choices by showing their strong and weak points relative to the job of personal protection at relatively close range.

It’s important to start off by saying that the material isn’t at all specific to the AR-15! You could substitute just about any defensive rifle and the material wouldn’t really change, but marketing being what it is getting the name of the country’s most popular rifle into the title was very important. If you have something other than an AR, this DVD will have the same value as it does to the AR-15 owner.

Pincus starts off with a short introduction about the uses of sighting systems on a defensive rifle, and jumps right into a discussion about iron sights. Yes, I know the title of the DVD is “Optics”, but Pincus does a good job of explaining the strengths and weaknesses of traditional iron sights on a self-defense rifle. You could easily come to the conclusion that iron sights are perfectly fine for defensive purposes — and you’d be right — but his coverage of the weaknesses and how proper optics choice can make up for them gives important counterpoint to the “iron sights only” crowd.

After expounding on both the virtues and vices of iron sights, he then discusses the most popular type of optical sight on the market today: the red dot sight (or RDS, as it’s often abbreviated.) Pincus does a good job of covering the reasons why red dots are so popular and talks about the various kinds of RDS on the market today. One point he makes — and I’m glad he does — is that buying a quality RDS is so important from a reliability standpoint. Many people try to cut corners on the sighting system once they’ve spent a large amount of money on their rifle, and Pincus points out that’s false economy. Cheaper red dots are less reliable and demand a backup sighting system of some sort, which raises the overall cost of the complete system.

Buying one rifle and a quality RDS, he argues, is better than buying a couple of rifles with cheap optics. I’d agree wholeheartedly; I’ve lost track of the number of people who balk at the price of a good optic, but have no problem buying multiple guns with low-grade, unreliable scopes. As Pincus points out, if this is a defensive tool you need to make serious choices about the equipment you’ll be using to protect your life and reliability should be your top priority. Like it or not, the more reliable the optic the more it’s likely to cost!

One topic he didn’t touch on was the issue with RDS and people who wear corrective lenses. People with glasses (and sometimes contacts) which correct for astigmatism often have a great deal of trouble with projected red dots, which is the majority of those on the market. To them the dot isn’t nice and symmetrical as it appears to most people; it’s usually misshapen, appears off-center, and very often much bigger than it really is. Even the shape varies; in my case the red dot looks more like a figure-eight, while for others it might look like a lightning bolt or a squashed football (to quote two people I’ve recently encountered.)

This is a significant failing with the RDS, and I’ll give Pincus a pass because he obviously doesn’t wear glasses and has likely never experienced the issue. Still, it would have been better for the presentation to at least acknowledge that the problem exists and suggest alternatives.

After talking about red dots, Pincus covers backup sights (BUS, or as some call them “backup iron sights” — BUIS.) He covers most of the common types currently available, why they’re important and (in a later segment) how to use them properly. After that he jumps to fixed magnification optics and why they’re not an ideal choice for defensive use, and I agree with his recommendation that you not take military issuance as some sort of justification or validation for choosing them for self defense. Context is incredibly important, and what soldiers use on the battlefield isn’t necessarily what you need in your living room!

He then covers traditional hunting scopes and why they’re not a good idea for a defensive tool. In this segment I wish he’d covered the traditional scopes which dial down to a true 1x (or no magnification), as they can be a viable alternative to some of the other sights. I agree with him, however, in every other regard: even a 1.5x hunting scope is too much magnification for typical defensive distances, and in some cases one may actually be better off with iron sights than a traditional rifle scope. A short segment on laser aiming devices follows, and Pincus makes a good case for not using one as your primary sighting system — a sentiment I share.

Pincus includes a segment on sighting in your rifle for typical defensive distances using no more than 10 rounds. This was, to me, the least satisfying part of the DVD simply because the explanations of trajectory and zero weren’t as clear as I would have liked. A simple drawing or chart here would have made the concepts much clearer; even I had a little trouble following him, and I’m very conversant with the concepts!

On the plus side, simply following his instructions will leave the viewer with a good, workable zero for home defense — which is really the point of the exercise — but with a shallow understanding of exactly what that really is. This oversight doesn’t devalue any of the material presented; it’s just that it could have been more of an asset to complete understanding.

This DVD is perfect for the person who is new to the idea of a defensive rifle and needs help wading through the available choices in sighting systems. Though the title suggests that the topic will be limited, the material presented is actually fairly comprehensive. For anyone who wants to have solid, fact- and logic-based information for what they should do to set up their own defensive rifle or carbine sighting system, I believe this DVD will be a great help.

AR-15 Optics is available at the I.C.E. Training Store.

– Grant Cunningham

Disclosure: This DVD was supplied by the Personal Defense Network for review. I am affiliated with PDN as a contributor, and have worked with Rob Pincus on many projects over the years, but I receive no compensation should you purchase this DVD.




About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
  Related Posts