written by ILya Koshkin, December 2017
I started talking about Shield Sights here.
Earlier I mostly focused on Shield’s RMS, which I primarily used on handguns. Here, I will switch gears a bit and talk about Shield SIS, which is designed for use as a carbine optic.
Until I ran into the Shield SIS, for me, with reflex sights, the choice has been really between Aimpoint Micro and Trijicon MRO. Now, of course, there are a few other worthy competitors, like Leupold LCO and Steiner R1X (I have tested the LCO, but I am yet to look at the Steiner), but my interest for carbine use has been with sights roughly the size of the Aimpoint Micro. For people on the budget, there is a bunch of different Chinese made reflex sights all made by the same OEM. They are marketed under a bunch of brands: Holosun, Sig Romeo5, Hi-Lux MM-2, Vortex Sparc AR, etc. There are some variations, but these are all fundamentally decent sights, with Hi-Lux MM-2 probably being my favourite at the moment. These retail in the $200 range.
However, higher priced sights like Aimpoint, Trijicon, Shield, Steiner, etc, do offer some advantages in ruggedness, color cast, parallax, distortion, etc. For my personal use, I’ve got the Shield SIS on the carbine that I have designated for defensive purposes, while HiLux MM2 is on a a 10mm plinker. Now, mind you, the MM2 has given me exactly zero problems, but the Shield is better, as it should be being twice more expensive. Vortex Sparc AR performs very similarly to the MM2 and I had an opportunity to beat up three of them at the same time. It performs very similarly to the MM2, but the mount is specific to ARs, while MM2 can be mounted low for non-AR applications. With that out of the way, I am going to get back to Shield SIS.
Compared to most reflex sights, the SIS looks a little unvonventional, but not all that weird. It looks a little blocky, but it is small and light at a bit under three ounces. Mine came with a riser (for two heights) and Picatinny mount. Most of the construction is from a combination of some sort of a heavy duty polymer and aluminum (I think) that is proving to be just about indestructible so far. The top of the sight has a somewhat odd shape. I do not know exactly the reason for the shape, but I have a suspicion it helps with shock absorption. It is possible that the top of the housing can be used as a rudimentary sight alignment aid, but I have not messed with that. The window, best I can tell is not glass, but rather some sort of a high density plastic, probably similar to what my very expensive eyeglass lenses are made out of. I know a little bit about optical qualities of similar plastics, and the basic tradeoff with glass is that plastic is more shock resistant, but easier to scratch. In terms of light transmission and color cast, glass is usually a little better, but for a reflex sight, I can’t easily tell the difference: not enough optical elements to really matter. Scratch resistance is greatly improved with modern coatings and despite some rather pointed efforts the protective windows of the SIS I have are still in excellent shape. I am not a mechanical engineer, so I will stay away from a discussion on frame stiffness and all. Let’s just say that using plastic windows/optics is a pretty good way to prevent shattering. With glass windows, people prevent shattering just fine as well, but it introduces more stringent requirements for the housing. From what I understand British SAS switched to the similar looking Shield CQS/CQB to a significant degree because it proved more durable than the Aimpoints they used to use. I think Shield products are also in use by some other countries’ militaries (Asutralia and a few others), but I do not know the quantities or the units. Suffice to say that the reliability pedigree is pretty good.
Shield SIS is, I think, the latest development from Shield and SIS stands for “Switchable Interface Sight”. In the picture above, you see two semi-circular buttons on the left of the housing. All of the control functions are administered via those two buttons. The options are as follows: auto or manual (12 levels) reticle brightness and reticle selection.
There are two different SIS models that offer different reticles. Each model has four reticles you can switch between (picture shamelessly stolen from Shield website):
The version I have has the reticle selection in the bottom row. For my purposes, I found that I really prefer the “2MOA drop and ring” reticle. The center portion of the reticle has three dots: 2MOA primary aiming dot and two 1 MOA dots below it that are 5MOA and 9MOA down from the primary (center-to-center). I do not typically use reflex sights to shoot far enough for these additional dots to be terribly useful, but they are handy when I need to make an accurate shot (think headbox shot) from close range. It is more consistent than just holding above the target. I typically sight in my reflex sights to be dead on at 50 yards, so this reticle arrangement is working out very well for me. I have slight astigmatism, so the dots do not look perfectly round to me, but for the distances I intend these for that is inconsequential. The furthest I shot with the Shield SIS was a metal plate at 400 yards, which I hit quite comfortably. However, my primary interest with the SIS is use at closer ranges.
The only prominent thing on the right of the sight housing is the battery cover (see above), which has all sorts of ridges on it so you can spin it open with a screwdriver, back of the knife and a variety of other field expedient tools. Windage and elevation adjustments are exposed. The slots in them are kinda wide and shallow, so I am not sure what specific tool they were designed for, but they seem to be easy enough to engage with a bunch of things. Most importantly, they stay put. Once I got the SIS sighted in on my AR, it has not budged.
The SIS has really impressed more than I thought it would. There is an interesting (to me) aspect of it that I hadn’t really thought about earlier. Everyone is trying to make red dot sights with minimal visible housing, so that all you see is a bright red dot surrounded by as little as possible. That is a good approach and it works well, especially considering how long the battery life of modern reflex sights is. However, that is not the only approach.
Here is a picture I took through the SIS with my cell phone. In this photo, the phone is comparatively closer to the sight than my eye would normally be, in order to emphasize what I am talking about. WIth the more normal eye position, you do not see the inside of the housing much at all.
With the SIS, at first blush, the window is comparatively small, while the housing is pretty prominent. However, it does not seem to have slowed me down in the slightest. When I did some house clearing drills, I realized that at these close ranges, that housing is really helpful. I do not have to worry about the red dot at all. The moment I see something that needs to be shot through that window, I can pull the trigger and hit it. Mind you, I messed with this at typical “across-the-room” distances. Generally, the way the sight picture looks with the housing turned out to be quite natural to me and I vaguely recall that I heard people used EOTechs the same way (perhaps still do), although the EOTech window is considerably larger. Since I like the dot-and-ring reticle, the way I set up the sight on my AR is so that the outer ring (the ring is made up of 1MOA dots) fits neatly inside the housing with just a little room to spare. The way it works with reflex sights, the further you move it from your eye, the smaller the housing looks with respect to the reticle, i.e. the reticle subtends the same, but the housing looks smaller. Since I want a fairly particular sight picture, I experiment a little with how I want to mount it. Fortunately, the sight picture I like the most positions the SIS sufficiently far forward to easily use the magnifier if I am so inclined.
To summarize it all, I like the SIS immensely and it has taken the spot on my rifle that would have been otherwise occupied by Aimpoint Micro or Trijicon MRO.
In the US, Shield sights seem to be distributed by Brownells (I do not see them for sale by anyone else, so I assume it is exclusive). I like Shield sights enough that I signed up for an affiliate account with Brownells just because of them.
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