Miniature Red Dot Sights

 

Written by ILya Koshkin

 

For a couple of years now, I have been predicting an impending demise of full-size red dot sights, and I still stick to that opinion.  However, by the same token, I think that the miniature red dot sights are here to stay and a variety of current offerings out there is quite good.  For the most part, they are not exactly cheap, but then again, most quality stuff out there will cost you something non-negligible.  In looking over the red dot sights on the market, the products that I qualify as “miniature” are basically sights that are the size of Aimpoint Micro or smaller.  Most of these are of the tubeless variety, although there are some that are aping the overall Aimpoint Micro configuration.  My primary interest is with the smaller tubeless sights, but I intend to look through a variety of these sights (basically whatever I can get my hands on).  For example, Zeiss Z-Point is probably a bit bigger that I would want to add to this category, but it is an interesting sight and it definitely does not fit with full-size red dots.

 As a matter of background, the biggest reason I decided to look at red dot sights is that it takes me out of my comfort zone somewhat: I am an optics guy and from an optical standpoint there isn’t nearly as much interesting stuff happening with red dots as there is with magnified optics.  However, what I found is that when I head out to test a riflescope or two, I need to take breaks to let the rifle cool and to let my eyes rest.  For that, I started taking an additional rifle with me, usually a light weight semi-auto with iron sights or a red dot that I use for basic shooting practice during those breaks.  That allows me to play with a red dot sight without slowing down my other activities.

Part 1 of this efforts is below, where I look at the 1st Gen Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor red dots sights.

Part 2 is an article that mostly focuses on DocterSight III, but mentions some others along the way.




 

Speaking of the spec table:

Vortex Razor

Leupold Deltapoint

Meopta

Aimpoint Micro

Trijicon RMR & RMR adj

RMR Dual Illuminated

Buris Fastfire II and  III

Zeiss Z-Point

Length, in

1.83

1.62

2.36

2.4

1.77

1.77

1.8

2.5

Width, in

1.21

1.22

1.4

1

1.41

Height, in

1.16

1.1 (1.4 with mount)

1.6

0.9

1.75

Weight, oz

1.4 (2.5 w/mount)

0.63

5.64

3

1.2

1.2

0.9

5.64

Dot Size, MOA

3 and 6

3.5 MOA dot, 7.5 MOA triangle

3 and 5 MOA dot

2 and 4 MOA dots

3.25, 6.5, 8 MOA

Amber 7, 9, 13 MOA dot, 12.9MOA triangle

4 MOA (II), 3 MOA and 8 MOA (III)

3.4 MOA

Brightness

Buttons

Auto, Motion activated

Rotary Switch

Auto (adj on one model)

Auto

Auto

Battery life

1 year, max setting

usage dependent

5 years

2 years

NA

Battery + solar panel

Battery Type

CR2032 (on tray)

CR2032 (change from the bottom)

CR1632

CR2032

CR2032 (change from the bottom)

none

CR2032 (change from top in III)

Adjustment range

V: 170MOA

H: 114MOA

120 MOA

V: 40 mrad

Price

$480

$400

$400

~$600

~$550

~$500

$250

$599

Part 1.  Leupold Deltapoint and Vortex Razor

 I decided to start with these two sights for a very simple reason: they are both fairly new to the market and are both first efforts for these two companies in the mini-red dot market space.  I do not see either one talked about a whole lot (although I will freely admit I have not looked very hard).  Aside from that, they have two features that I found interesting and wanted to spend some time with: triangular reticle on the Deltapoint and pull-out battery tray on the Vortex.

A first look side by side gives an impression that the Razor is a lot beefier, while the Deltapoint seems to really maximize the lens size:

 

Both of those impressions are somewhat correct, although in terms of reliability I have not encountered any problems with either one.  In terms of lens size, the Deltapoint does offer slightly more real estate vertically, but I once again have to admit that I felt no difference in actual use which surprised me a little.

Looking through the screens, it is apparent that the color of the image is a bit different, although since we are dealing with red dot sights, the practical difference is somewhat academic.  Still, the view through the Razor is a little blue/green, while the view through the Deltapoint has fairly neutral color.

 

 

I suspect that has something to do with the reticle color: Razor reticle is bright red bordering on dark red, while the Deltapoint reticle is orangish.  If I understand correctly how collimating sights work, the window is coated with a narrowband reflective coating that only reflects the projected reticle and lets everything else through.

The Leupold is available with a couple of different aiming point options: large triangle and a dot, while the Vortex is available with a couple of different dot sizes.  I elected to test the triangle version of the Leupold and smaller dot (3MOA) version of the Vortex.

I confess being somewhat partial to the triangle in the Deltapoint.  I like having the sharp top vertex for an aiming point, while the overall body of the triangle is large enough to use as quick aiming point at close distances.

Before I get too far with this, I want to talk a little bit about the usage of miniature red dot sights.  They can be used as either primary or supplementary sighting systems, which often dictates different evaluation criteria.

A lot depends on the expected range of engagement.  On handguns and shotguns, where the expected range of engagement is comparatively small, a red dot sight, regardless of its size is always a primary sighting system.  On rifles, however, it can go either way.

If the sight is to be used primarily at short (handgun or shotgun) ranges, I like circular dot aiming points and my personal preference is toward smallish dots that can be quite bright.  For example, I have a fair amount of mileage with 2MOA and 4MOA Aimpoints, and I really prefer the smaller dot.  I suppose that is primarily because precision shooting is my “first love” so to speak and a smaller dot gives me more precision (or at least an illusion of more precision).

Ultimately, the choice of the aiming point is a personal preference, and in side by side usage, I really prefer the triangle in the Deltapoint to the dot in the Vortex.

The illumination brightness in the Deltapoint adjusts automatically depending on the ambient brightness.  The Razor on the other hand has two buttons that increase or lower the illumination.  One of the buttons also serves the function of turning it on or off.

The Deltapoint does not have an ON/OFF switch per se, so in order to turn it off, you have to put the cover on.  That drops ambient illumination near zero and the reticle follows suit.

In the grand scheme of things, I am not sure whether I like automatic reticle brightness adjustment or being able to manually set it.  The ideal system for me would be a combination of the two and I can think of a couple of good ways of implementing that.

Since we are talking about illumination controls, this is where the Razor, which is otherwise an excellent sight, falls flat on its face.  The two buttons that control the illumination are on top of the sight right behind the lens (marked with chevrons in this photo):

 

If I stick my finger in there to adjust the illumination I have no feedback on what I am adjusting, since the finger blocks the view.  I understand that placing them there prevents unintentional brightness adjustment, but it also make intentional adjustment less than efficient.  That is one of the strengths of the mini-Aimpoint: illumination adjustment is quick and easy to make.

The Deltapoint has one illumination control: its cover.  Once you rip the cover off, the aiming point is on and in front of you.  The limitation of the auto-adjust system is that if you are in a dark spot, but your target is very brightly illuminated, the dot may not be bright enough for immediate acquisition.  The Deltapoint handles such situations reasonably well, but not as well as a user adjustable sight would.  The comparatively large triangle helps here since it is easier to see than a small dot and its shape stand out better when it is not too bright.

The weakness of the Deltapoint (same as most other mini-red dots) is that when the battery runs out, you have to take it off its base to replace it.  That necessitates a new sight in.  It is not difficult, but a little irritating.  I do not think that you would have to do it all that often ( I did not have to and I spent a lot of time with it), but it is still a little irritating.  I do not know how long each battery lasts in typical use, but between auto-adjust and auto shutoff when not in motion (the Deltapoint is equipped with a motion sensor, so the aiming point shuts off if the sight has not moved for a few minutes) I suspect it will take a little while for the battery to run out.  When you do have to re-sight in, you will need a very small torx key and a little bit of patience since this takes some trial and error.

The Razor also has an auto shutoff feature, but it is not motion dependent.  If the sight has been left on it will sit that way for a bit and then turn itself off until you press one of the buttons again.  If you it were left on, it is supposed to last for a year on max setting, which is very respectable battery life by any standard.

If you have managed to drain the battery, replacing it is a piece of cake: pull out the battery tray and swap the battery for a new one.

 

The 3MOA dot on the Razor was easy to use and the range of available brightnesses was very large.  I could not simulate a lighting condition where the Razor could not be set on the right brightness.  The size of the dot worked well out to a couple of hundred yards, and could be taken to more distant targets if need be.  However, that is probably beyond the charter of a typical red dot.  Between the dot and the triangle, I prefer the triangle, but that is strictly personal preference.

 Finally, how do these two sights compare?  They are close in performance, but the buttons on the Razor are not well thought out in my opinion.  Hence, I have to side with the Deltapoint: it has a larger viewing window, triangle reticle and no controls to worry about.

The Razor, however, had a clever battery tray and beefier construction.  Had it not been for the non-intuitive controls, the Razor could have easily gotten the nod.

In practical use, the Razor made an excellent primary sight.  However, as a secondary sight, the more compact Deltapoint had an edge.

 Posted by at 2:31 am

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