I’m a big fan of iron sights and my rifles for the more serious game have them fitted JUST IN CASE, sure I normally use a scope, but there are times when something simpler is better. However, ‘irons’ have their limitations, not the least of which is trying to keep front and rear elements in focus along with your target. So, is there a compromise?

Short-range shooting with a scope

Let’s take wild boar, my normal choice of the optic is something like a Kite Optics K6 1-6×24 with an illuminated centre dot in the reticle.

With 1x magnification

At its lowest power, it’s easy to shoot standing unsupported and you get a really good field of view (FOV). This is essential, as when on aim, a scope, even one with a good FOV is still a tube you look down and to a lesser or greater degree; reduces your peripheral awareness and acuity.

With 6x magnification

Wound up to 6x you can reach out to longer ranges. Plus, it’s light and compact so makes the rifle handier and quicker to use and equally useful for deer in woods.

Browning Blog : close range hunting optics: scope versus red dot sights

Short-range shooting with a red dot

Getting back to visual acuity and awareness you can adopt a totally different system; the generic red dot sight.

What are the advantages compared to a scope

Unlike a scope, they offer no magnification, but instead the ability to shoot, parallax-free with both eyes open with no loss of FOV etc, in that you can easily see and identify the target with few restrictions.

Combine this with high visibility, intensity-adjustable coloured aiming dot and it seems you have the ultimate short-range system.

The different types of red dots

There are two types of red dot;

  • the reflex is an open/L-shaped design that has a front lens/screen that the dot is projected on
  • the tube-type, in essence, a mini scope.

Both offer windage and elevation controls and the ability to adjust the brightness, also can be made compatible for a number of mounting systems.

The advantages of the red dot

When turned on all you see is the coloured dot, which you simply place on target, regardless of where it appears in the view and the bullet should go there; given you have zeroed it!

As such there’s no set eye relief distance unlike a scope, so you could mount it on your barrel as on the BAR and Maral Reflex or on the receiver. As can be imagined acuity is fast and simple.

Dot sizes vary and are measured in a minute of angle (MOA) roughly 1” at 100 yards, I favour 3MOA as it’s not too big to obscure the target as a 4 or 5 MOA would, so good for longer range shots too.

Browning Blog : close range hunting optics: scope versus red dot sights

But then, red dot or scope? 

So, what’s best? Something like a 1-6×24 scope would seem ideal, not too big or heavy, with that variable magnification allowing close and longer range use and an illuminated reticle. This last makes it almost a red dot anyway. Downside is you still have the more, visually restrictive body tube and more weight on the gun.

The red dot is significantly lighter and smaller, both eyes open, no parallax or eye relief issues and what you see is what you get. However, the range is potentially shorter, especially if you pick a larger dot size and you are reliant on battery power.

Both have their advantages depending on the biotope!

There’s no clear winner, but I tend to keep the dot for close-in work in woodland, as it’s ideal.

My Browning Maral with its Nomad, QD scope mounts wears a mid-power compact variable, with a dot mounted on the second base in a butt bag. Both are zeroed and take seconds to swap over.