Red Dot Sights Are Durable: Keep It That Way

Chris G.

Red dot sights are shooters’ best friends in the outdoors. Their rugged construction has stood the test of time in varied conditions, from extreme weather to heavy recoil, accidental drops, and more. Despite their tough build, these sights are not immune to the effects of prolonged use and may deteriorate if not well-maintained.

Taking good care of your red dot sight not only prolongs its lifespan but also ensures that it performs like brand new! 

Just as a well-oiled machine runs smoothly, so does a well-maintained red dot sight. What steps can you take to make sure your red dot sight maintains its sturdiness and continues to work optimally? 

A Brief Description of the Red Dot Optic

A red dot sight is a type of non-magnifying reflector sight used on firearms and cameras. It’s a simple aiming device that provides a point of aim in the form of an illuminated red dot or reticle. This dot is superimposed onto the target, allowing the user to aim with both eyes open for better situational awareness.

A typical red dot sight usually consists of a slanted spherical mirror reflector with a red solid-state light-emitting diode (LED) at its off-axis focus. The mirror is treated with special coats to reflect only red light. There are options to adjust the brightness of the dot—usually called a reticle—to suit differing light conditions. The size of the red dot is controlled by an aperture hole located in front of the LED. 

Due to the special shape of the lens, the dot stays aligned with your weapon, irrespective of where your eye is positioned. This gives you a nearly parallax-free view.

Red dot sights are popular for their quick target acquisition, ease of use, and versatility across various firearms, from pistols to rifles. They are particularly effective in close-quarters scenarios and situations where rapid aiming is crucial.

What Makes Red Dot Sights Durable

Shooting firearms is an incredibly dynamic activity. Both the firearm and the optic attached to it undergo lots of abuse including stress from recoil, impacts, vibrations, and harsh environmental elements. Firearms optics, including red dots, therefore, need to be durable.

The durability of red dot sights is achieved through the use of robust materials, thoughtful design, and construction features that enhance their ability to withstand various environmental conditions and recoil forces. 

  1. Materials: Red dot sights are typically housed in durable materials such as aluminum or other high-strength alloys. These materials provide a sturdy and lightweight construction that can endure impacts and recoil.
  2. Recoil Design: Red dot sights are specifically designed to handle the recoil. Internal components are constructed and arranged to absorb and distribute recoil forces without affecting the sight’s accuracy or functionality.
  3. O-Ring Seals: Many red dot sights feature O-ring seals that provide waterproofing and prevent moisture, dust, or debris from entering the sight. This helps maintain the integrity of internal components even in adverse weather conditions.
  4. Nitrogen Purging: Some red dot sights are nitrogen-purged to prevent internal fogging. This process eliminates moisture inside the sight, ensuring clear optics even in temperature variations.
  5. Lens Coatings: High-quality lens coatings are applied to red dot sights to enhance durability, scratch resistance, and light transmission. 
  6. Single-Piece Design: Many red dot sights utilize a single-piece construction, reducing the number of joints and moving parts, which are potential weak points. 
  7. Hard-Anodized Finishes: The exterior surfaces of red dot sights often feature hard-anodized finishes, which increase resistance to scratches, corrosion, and wear.
  8. Temperature-Engineered Materials: Red dot sights are designed to function within a broad temperature range. Specialized materials and engineering ensure that the sight can withstand extreme temperatures without compromising performance.
  9. Rugged Mounting Systems: The mounting systems of red dot sights are designed to securely attach to firearms. High-quality mounts and fasteners contribute to the overall durability of the sighting system.
  10. Impact Resistance: Red dot sights often have a rugged and compact design that can endure impacts without losing zero or damaging internal components. 
  11. Quality Control Standards: Reputable manufacturers adhere to strict quality control standards during the production of red dot sights. This includes rigorous testing and inspection processes to identify and address any potential issues before the sights reach the market.

Maintenance Tips for Red Dot Sights

a person cleaning the lenses of a red dot sight

Even with the robust design of red dot sights, routine maintenance remains a crucial factor in maintaining their performance and lifespan. Here are some practical tips to consider:

  1. Regular Cleaning: Use a microfiber cloth to gently clean the lenses of the red dot sight. Remove any dirt, fingerprints, or smudges to maintain clear optics. Keep lens covers on the red dot sight when not in use to prevent scratches, dust, and debris from accumulating on the lenses.
  2. Battery Management: Regularly check the battery status of your red dot sight. Replace the battery according to the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.
  3. Secure Mounting: Make sure that the red dot sight is securely mounted on the firearm. Check mounting screws if they’re tight to prevent movement caused by recoil.
  4. Tighten Adjustment Turrets: Check and tighten adjustment turret screws. Ensure that windage and elevation adjustments are secure to maintain zero.
  5. Store in a Dry Environment: Store firearms equipped with red dot sights in a dry and cool place. Avoid exposing the sight to extreme temperatures, humidity, or rapid temperature changes. When the red dot sight is not in use, keep protective lens covers on to protect the lenses from environmental elements.
  6. Check for Loose Components: Periodically inspect all components of the red dot sight including adjustment turrets, battery compartments, and mounting hardware. 
  7. Handle Carefully: Handle the firearm with the red dot sight carefully to avoid impacts or drops. Sudden shocks can affect the internal components and alignment of the sight.
  8. Refer to the User Manual: Regularly refer to the manufacturer’s user manual for specific maintenance instructions and guidelines. Different red dot sights may have unique requirements and recommendations.
  9. Seek Professional Service: If you encounter persistent issues or notice significant changes in performance, consider seeking professional inspection and maintenance from the manufacturer or an authorized service center.

Basic Field Repair of Red Dot Sights

Even with meticulous care, red dot sights may occasionally face issues necessitating basic field repairs. 

  1. Check for Loose Components: Inspect the sight for any loose screws, nuts, or other components. Tighten them securely using appropriate tools. Pay attention to mounting screws, adjustment turrets, and the battery compartment.
  2. Verify Battery Connection: Ensure the battery is properly inserted into the battery compartment, and the contacts are clean. Sometimes, a loss of power can be attributed to poor battery connections.
  3. Replace the Battery: Replace the battery with a fresh one if the red dot starts to flicker. Carry spare batteries in your field kit.
  4. Clean the Lens: Use a microfiber cloth to gently clean the lenses of the red dot sight.
  5. Adjustment Turrets: If the point of impact is off, check the windage and elevation adjustment turrets. Ensure they are securely fastened, and make necessary adjustments to zero the sight.
  6. Check for Water or Moisture: If the sight has been exposed to moisture, carefully inspect for water ingress. If present, use a dry cloth to remove any water, and allow the sight to air-dry before further use.
  7. Inspect for Physical Damage: Look for any visible signs of physical damage, such as cracks or dents in the housing. Physical damage can affect the sight’s functionality.
  8. Utilize Basic Tools: Carry basic tools in your field kit such as screwdrivers and Allen wrenches to tighten or adjust components. Basic tools can be invaluable for addressing minor issues during field repairs.
  9. Refer to User Manual: When troubleshooting or performing repairs, always refer to the manufacturer’s user manual for specific guidance. The user manual provides valuable information on the sight’s features, maintenance procedures, and troubleshooting steps. Following the manual ensures that repairs are conducted correctly.

Conclusion

The robust nature of red dot sights allows you to use and enjoy these optics for years.  However, it’s essential to understand that their durability doesn’t negate the requirement for appropriate upkeep.

Choose a model that aligns with your specific requirements, taking into account factors such as battery longevity, dimensions, weight, and reticle flexibility. Noteworthy manufacturers like Aimpoint, Sig Sauer, and Vortex Optics provide commendable choices.

With the right attention and care, these devices can be a long-term investment, contributing significantly to your accuracy in shooting.

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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