Though it may seem a bit overwhelming at first with how many red dot sights there are to choose from, when it comes down to it, there aren’t really that many differences in red dot and reflex sights. Picking a red dot sight is easier than choosing a magnified riflescope—which can feel like the options are endless. After breaking down a few features, buying a reflex sight should be a simple process.
Red dot and reflex sights are relatively simple and after deciding on how much you want to spend (your budget) and the type of reflex sight you want (open or tube,) which features suit your needs—
size, type of illumination, weight, construction, etc.—it will come down to deciding which size dot is best.
Good for rifles, pistols and shotguns, dot sights are a highly effective aiming tool for CQB, close to medium ranges, competition and self-defense. The biggest advantage of a red dot over any other optic or sight is the ability to acquire and hit a target incredibly quick. The size of the dot directly relates to how quickly you can locate the dot in the unit’s head’s up display and how much target area the dot covers. Both these things can significantly affect your accuracy.
What is MOA?
The illuminated red or green dot of a red dot/reflex sight is measured in MOA—minutes of angle, a unit for angular measurement of a circle. 1 MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards, which we round down to 1 inch. Meaning, the circle (red dot) will appear to be 1 inch in diameter on a target 100 yards out. Therefore, the smaller the dot’s MOA, the harder to see. A larger MOA dot will be incredibly easy to see but may cover too much of the target at further distances to get an accurate shot.
Smaller dots—1 to 2.5 MOA—are used for precise shots at longer distances. 5, 6, 6.5 and larger MOA dots will get you on target faster but will be less precise because the dot will cover a broader area on the target.
Red Dot MOA Size Comparison
1 MOA dots are usually found on “tactical” sights and provide a very precise aiming dot. Yet, those with less than perfect eyesight can struggle with locating the dot, not only on the unit itself but the target as well. To compensate, many 1 MOA red dot sights will be encircled by a larger 60 MOA circle, which also helps with close-range targets. 3, 4, and 5 MOA dots are quicker to acquire due to their larger size and are best for close range targets. Big dots are perfect for speed competition, steel shooting and for those with astigmatism. The most common dot size ranges from 3 to 5 MOA.
3 MOA is probably the most popular dot size for both target shooting and self-defense, as the dot is clear, and accuracy is still precise at both close and mid ranges. Still allowing rapid target acquisition in self-defense range, a 3 MOA red dot with an adjustable brightness feature will aid in accuracy when shooting out farther because smaller dots appear larger on brighter settings. Competitors that require speed prefer bigger dots like 6, 6.5 or even a very large 8 MOA dot. People who use red dots for handguns at close distances also prefer bigger dots.
We designed the Ultra Shot and previous red dot sights with the dot size that was available at the time. Since then, there have been significant advances in optic quality. Our newest models, like the M-Spec, incorporate the most innovative technology available in reflex sights. About five years ago, we asked AR15.com and Sightmark Pro Staff members which types of reticles they preferred. Sightmark Product Development Director Jonathan Horton says, “Most of our red dots are 3 or 5 MOA which is easy to acquire and still have on-target accuracy at 50 or 100 yards, even with a magnifier. Going bigger is good for short range but you’re covering a lot of your target anything over 50 yards. If we do a smaller aiming dot than 3, it does provide better accuracy out to 100 but we usually design larger circle (circle-dot) around the dot for better acquisition at close range.”
Most shooters purchase a red dot sight for its original intention—quick target acquisition in a self-defense situation. However, turkey hunters and fast-paced competitive shooters also appreciate the accuracy a reflex sight offers. At the end of the day, choosing the size of the illuminated dot reticle depends on your primary use and firearm you need the red dot for.
What dot size do you like and why? Tell us in the comment section.
Running long-range optics like the Latitude 8-32×60 F-Class doesn’t take rocket science but it does take practice. Long-range reticles come in two focal planes, first and second, and in all manner of design from more complicated layouts with subtensions, reference grids and other etched ballistic data to simple, traditional crosshairs. The Latitude features the latter reticle on a second-focal-plane. While some precision shooters may argue the need for subtensions and/or a first-focal-plane system, this is not necessarily the case in F-class shooting and honestly, for those who know how to run an optic, the Latitude’s simpler reticle is easier to employ—set your crosshairs on center-mass and squeeze the trigger. Adjustments are made via windage and elevation turrets rather than using holdovers.
What the Latitude’s reticle system does mean, however, is that you must become proficient at making effective turret adjustments and making such manipulations does require more time; fortunately, F-class is a slow-fire game—you have plenty of time for adjustments before stages, and even during, if you know what you’re doing behind the optic. That is to say, understanding fundamental optic attributes like MOA or MRAD and first- or second-focal-plane, and how they work for or against you in a given shooting environment are vital to your shooting skill set.
Sightmark’s Surprisingly Simple F-class reticle
While many precision shooters, especially those running long-ranges on dynamic stages with varying distance targets, including scenarios where rapid distance changes are required, F-class shooting is not that game. Sure, shooting is timed but match-fire is slow. Thus, the Latitude’s basic crosshair reticle is a solid choice. Moreover, without subtensions or a reference grid, there is absolutely no need for a first-focal-plane reticle (FFP optics are generally quite a bit more expensive).
Good D.O.P.E. – The 411 on MOA, Clicks and Adjustments
The Latitude’s turrets adjust your position of impact (POI) ¼-MOA at 100 yards, or ½-MOA at 200, 1-MOA at 400, 2-MOA at 800 and 3-MOA at 1,200 (the farthest target distance you’re likely to see in F-class shooting). To assign values to these movements in easier to understand language, MOA is 1.047 inches at 100 yards. So, at 1,200 yards, MOA would be 12.564 inches. To that end, simply consider an MOA as an inch. Extending elevation and windage math out over distance, based on load data and environmental conditions and recording that information creates your “Data On Previous Engagements,” also known as D.O.P.E. (DOPE)
The term DOPE is used pretty loosely to include real D.O.P.E. info collected over time as well as ballistic calculators; I routinely have gone the way of high-tech-redneck and now use ballistic calculators often—sure I can do the long-hand math to determine adjustments, but why, if I can the get same data from a cell phone app that actually works? Of course, even then, a calculator’s ballistic chart may be called DOPE, it’s not really… but for many of us, it does a decent job. True DOPE would actually be a collection of info from these ballistic charts, but I digress.
By and large, the key to making effective adjustments is to assess distance from Point of aim (POA) to POI. This information tells you how many clicks on the turrets you need to find your mark but since we’re often talking about ¼-MOA clicks, as is the case on the Latitude 8-32×60, it’s easier to think of MOA only, not clicks yet at all; moreover, it’s easier to begin with considering 1 MOA as 1 inch and move on from there.
If 1 MOA is effectively 1 inch at 100 yards, then 1 MOA is 10 inches at 1,000 yards. That means it’s 2 inches at 200 yards, 3 inches at 300 yards and so on. To determine the value of a click simply divide the distance value by 4. For example, at 1,000 yards, we know 1 MOA is 10.47 inches. Dividing this number by 4 tells us each click moves the POI 2.6 inches. To further simplify to say 1 MOA is 10 inches and 1 click then moves us .25 inches. Even at the extreme range of 1,000 yards, considering 1 MOA as simply 1 inch only leaves a deviation of just under 5/8-inch at 1,000 yards—an incredibly minuscule deviation.
Windage: The KISS Method to Wind Calls and Adjustments
Windage, including spindrift and wind drift, is a bit more complicated, especially since there are forces working against bullet flight at varying velocities and equally varied angles. You’re essentially lucky if you’re only dealing with the effects of consistent head, tail or crosswind. For wind, I generally use a ballistic calculator. Absent of somebody, or something, doing the math for me, as a stubborn Jarhead, I revert back to my Marine Corps training with a decent degree of success. While my instruction was 30 years ago, little to nothing, I suspect in terms of Marine Corps marksmanship training, has changed; in fact, a retired Army major, John Plaster, also summarizes this information pretty eloquently in his article at RifleShooterMag.com. The information can also be found in the publicly available Marine Corps coach’s course on wind call, published August 2008.
In a nutshell, we took distance, divided it by 100, multiplied it by the wind speed (determined by range flags or other environmental elements affected by wind) and divided it by wind constant of 15 to determine MOA of adjustment, then made those adjustments based on the same distance-to-target per-click values we already know. Of course, there are two issues, first, this is more specifically accurate (if that’s even an appropriate term when it comes to wind) to 500 yards. Maj. Plaster (and the Marine Corps) asserts that the wind constant (15 up to 500 yards) is decreased (roughly—pay attention to 700-800 yards) by value of one per 100 yards. i.e. 14 at 600, 13 at 700 and 800, 12 at 900 and 11 at 1,000 yards—many long-range shooters simply use a wind constant of 10 with the expectation of at least minute-of-man accuracy in consistent wind.
Here is an example of a 10 MPH wind at 900 yards in MOA, using a reduced constant of 11:
Distance of 900 yards / 100 = 9
Wind speed of 10 mph
9×10 = 90
90 / 11 = 8.2 MOA adjustment
If you were shooting in mils, you would divide 8.2 MOA by 3.4377 (the conversion of MOA to MIL) to arrive at 2.4 mils of adjustment
*Even using a wind constant of 10 would have resulted in 9 MOA or 2.6 mils. When you’re talking about a sub-MOA variance at that distance, which is wrong, the adjustment or the wind call? It’s hard to say.
Of course, remembering that wind values are made up of full, half or zero, if your “clock” observation of wind direction falls into the half value, you simply cut the adjustment in half. You certainly could compensate even further, say ¼ value or ¾ value but doing can make your head explode and isn’t as friendly to work out on the fly when you’re on the range. Considering full value and half value, the half value ranges, as they relate to a clock face, are generally between 12.5 – 2.5, 3.5 – 5.5, 6.5 – 8.5 and 9.5 – 11.5. Using the example, everything equal except wind direction at half-value, the MOA adjustment would be 4 MOA rather than 8 MOA, or 1.2 mils rather than 2.3 mils.
With a grasp on elevation and windage adjustments, the only remaining manipulations to be made are to the Latitude’s variable magnification, fast-focus eyepiece (AKA: diopter), reticle illumination (0-5) and parallax (AKA: side-focus).
Adjust the magnification to your desired level. Adjust the diopter ring until your sight picture is crisp—this is often done at closer range (100-200 yards for me) and lower magnification to minimize mistaking mirage for lack of optic clarity. Thread the locking ring toward the scope tube to lock the diopter in place. Adjust the parallax (side focus) knob to closely match your target distance. Begin rocking your head up and down while continuing to hold your crosshairs on the target. At first the crosshairs may sweep across the target. As you continue to slowly adjust your parallax, the reticle will lessen its movement over the target center. Adjust the parallax until the reticle rests at center-mass even while continuing to rock your head up and down. Not only is your parallax set, you should notice your sight picture is now even more crisp. Adjust reticle illumination to off or to the lowest setting comfortable for your sight picture and identification of the reticle against the target.
The legacy of long-range precision competition shooting began in 1903 when a government advisory board called the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearm Safety, Inc. developed the National Matches to encourage national defense preparedness and improve our military’s marksmanship.
Often called CMP/NRA High Power, these shooting competitions have developed substantially over the years. Traditionally, NRA High Power rifle competitions were conducted using only iron sights; however, in 2016, the association started allowing optics. There are also quite a few different divisions so, depending on skill level and devotion, most shooters can find a competition that appeals to them. One of those is F-Class.
F-Class is a long-range rifle shooting competition which measures your marksman’s skills from distances 300 to 1,200 yards. A Full-Bore competition shooter from Canada, George Farquharson started F-Class in the 1990s in his elder years when his eyes aged to where he could not shoot accurately using iron sights. In 2005, it was officially recognized by the NRA.
From the prone position, F-Class shooters fire usually 3 relays in sets of 15 to 20 rounds at a six square foot bullseye target at either various distances or one fixed distance. Divided into two classes, competitors have the choice to shoot Open Class or Target Rifle Class.
Open class allows any rifle .35 caliber and above that weighs less than 22 pounds—including bipod and optic. Open Class participants can use front and rear rests. Target Rifle Class is reserved to unmodified rifles chambered in .223 Remington or .308 Winchester only and aren’t allowed to weigh less than 18.18 pounds including accessories. The only equipment allowed on Target Rifle Class rifles is a bipod or sling and optic. Target Rifle Class competitors can only use a rear rest. Muzzle devices are not allowed in either Class.
F-Class competition shooting doesn’t have many rules, that is why it is such a growing shooting sport. It is easy to learn, fun, challenging and affordable!
Here are the two major things you need to know before joining an F-Class competition.
For both classes, you want an accurate rifle, a clear optic with at least 20x magnification, a rear shooting bag or rest, bipod and high-quality match-grade ammo.
Most successful F-Class shooters use a bolt-action rifle. There are plenty of affordable, good factory rifles that achieve sub-MOA accuracy. Check out the Remington 700, Savage Model 10 or 12, and Ruger M77, just to name a few. Popular F-class calibers include 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, and .284 Winchester. Just don’t go too big, because recoil can affect your follow up shots. A 24-inch target barrel is ideal.
Most experienced F-Class competitors reload their own ammo, but for the beginner F-Class shooter, using pre-loaded match-grade ammo is acceptable. You want a bullet with a higher ballistic coefficient of at least .450 to .500 or better with a minimum velocity of 2,650 feet per second. Hollow point boat tail is recommended.
The lack of a quality scope can ruin you in F-Class. However, there is no need to drop thousands on your first long-range scope. All you need is clear, crisp glass, a 30mm or larger tube, at least 40 MOA target turrets, a useable reticle and at least 20x magnification.
The Sightmark Latitude 8-32x60mm F-Class riflescope is quite substantial with its extreme magnification range of 8x up to a staggering 32x; oversized 60mm objective lens; large, tactile, distinct-click turrets; single-piece 32mm tube, perfect ¼ MOA-per-click adjustability and an overall elevation range of 110 MOA—the windage range of adjustability also does not slouch at 70 MOA. For razor-sharp clarity, the nitrogen-purged Latitude boasts premium, fully multi-coated, anti-reflective glass and a fine-etched red/green illuminated, second-focal-plane F-Class reticle with five brightness settings.
An accurate precision rifle and clear scope certainly help increase your scores, but a lot of it comes down to you—the shooter. The key to high scores is knowing how to compensate for bullet drop so you can make your adjustments accordingly. Before competing, you will want to practice using a spotting scope, ballistic calculator, and wind meter. Begin by boresighting and zeroing your rifle and scope. Then, experiment with different types of ammo to find the best one for your rifle. Keep a shooter’s log of all your shots during practice so you can always refer to the proper adjustments. When you practice, focus on breath and trigger control, aim and overall rifle handling.
To get started in F-Class Shooting Competitions, you will need the following equipment:
Comfortable shooting mat
Shooting rest—front and rear or just rear for Target Class
Marksman’s data book
F-Class competition long-range shooting allows you to challenge yourself and push your equipment to its limits. There is a short learning curve and once you understand how to compensate for bullet drop, is a very rewarding sport.
Janet Raab, former manager of the NRA’s High-Power Rifle says, “F-Class is the fastest-growing type of high-power competition because it offers the challenge of long-range shooting in a format that is fun and easy to learn.”
It’s important for all shooters to learn that boresighting and zeroing in your weapon are not the same thing. Some learn the hard way and end up wasting time, money and ammo before they figure it out. But once you understand a little bit about external ballistics, not only will the difference become simple, but in the meantime, you can also become a better shooter.
What is boresighting?
Boresighting is a method of adjustment to a firearm sight to align the firearm barrel and sights.
What is zeroing?
Zeroing is a method of adjustment to the sights so that the point of aim is the point of impact.
Although you can manually sight the bore yourself, the more modern method is with a laser that either attaches to the muzzle or is inserted into the chamber. The laser will emit a strong enough beam to see up to 100 yards away so you can easily align the bore.
While boresighting will get the scope aligned with the bore, it is not 100% aligned with the point of impact from a bullet, as outside factors such as wind and gravity will affect the trajectory of a flying object. The goal of boresighting is to get on paper. The goal of zeroing is to make the correct adjustments to guarantee the bullet hits where you’re looking.
These are both essential steps before you start shooting seriously. Those who don’t boresight their weapon will go out to the field and waste round after round just trying to get on paper because their sights aren’t aligned. Others believe the misconception that boresighting will automatically zero their gun, so they hit a bullseye at 25 yards but are then frustrated that they’re multiple inches off at 100 yards. This happens because they don’t take external ballistics into account.
External ballistics deals with factors affecting the behavior of a projectile in flight.
Once the bullet leaves the barrel, gravity will start to affect its vertical movement, and wind will affect the horizontal movement. The farther your bullet goes, the more it will drop. This is why zeroing your weapon at 100 yards won’t zero it for 200 yards as well. Most firearm optics and sights come with adjustable knobs for elevation and windage for this very reason, and the MOA (Minute of Angle) measurement will tell you how much you need to adjust the scope at a certain yardage.
When you’ve both boresighted and properly zeroed your weapon, you’ll be prepared to shoot any target or game that comes your way.
Deciding to buy a riflescope is a good choice. Scopes make hunting, competition, target and long-range shooting easier and more accurate. However, there is almost an endless amount of choice. How is one supposed to choose? This how-to guide to buying a riflescope will help you narrow your choices.
Written by John Shellenberger
Magnification is one of the most important aspects of a riflescope. Magnification is the range to which you can multiply the naked eye’s vision. In other words, a scope with 2x magnification power is twice the power of your unaided eye. Magnification is referred to in power level increments and is represented by the first numbers in a riflescope’s name. For example, on a variable zoom 1-4x32mm scope, the magnification would be 1-4x what the naked eye sees. On a fixed scope, like a 4x32mm scope, the magnification is fixed at 4x what the human eye can see.
Magnification is largely preferential. If you are a hunter who shoots moving targets under 100 yards, 3-9x would perform well. If you want to hit bullseyes from 750 yards, then a scope with a larger magnification range like 5-30x might suit your style.
Objective Lens Size
The objective lens size is the diameter of the lens closest to the barrel of the rifle, and farthest away from the stock of the rifle. The objective lens diameter is the number after the x in the riflescopes title. For example, a 1-4x32mm scope has an objective lens with a diameter of 32mm. The size of your objective lens affects how much light the scope will be able to transmit. A larger objective lens lets in more light, producing a brighter image, but at the expense of being heavier than a scope with a smaller objective lens.
Weight is a factor you want to consider before you make your purchase. Think about where you will be doing most of your shooting. If you are shooting long distances at the range where you’ll have a bipod or sandbags to fire your rifle from, then a heavier scope probably won’t affect you very much. If you are stalking deer in the mountains and have to do a lot of hiking in between shots, it could be beneficial for you to choose a lighter riflescope since constantly raising and holding a heavy rifle takes its toll after some time.
Windage and elevation adjustment turrets are used to adjust the position of the bullet’s impact. Windage adjustments have the ability to move the bullet’s point of impact to the left or right in relation to the reticle. Elevation adjustments are used to move the bullet’s point of impact up or down. Scope adjustments are either made in minute of angle units or milliradians. For the beginner hunter, once you sight in your rifle, the windage and elevation turrets won’t need to be adjusted again. These adjustments are extremely helpful for tactical shooters making long distance shots.
Next, to the objective lens size, lens coatings are the most important aspect of light transmission. When looking through the scope, you want to see the brightest and clearest image possible. This is affected by the amount of reflected light coming through the lens and the amount of light transmitted through the lenses. The goal of optical coatings are to reduce the glare and the loss of light caused by reflection. More coatings generally result in better light transmission. There are four main categories of optical lens coatings:
Coated– at least one of the lenses has a single layer of anti-reflective coating
Fully Coated– on every air to glass lens (the outer lenses) there is a single layer of anti-reflective coating
Multicoated– at least one of the lenses has multiple layers of anti-reflective coating
Fully Multicoated– multiple layers of coating have been put on all air to glass lenses
Keep in mind that with higher quality comes a higher price; however, spending the extra money to get quality coatings can greatly impact your shooting experience.
Also known as the “crosshair,” the reticle is the part of the riflescope that predicts where the bullet will go. Looking at a reticle through the riflescope is similar to lining up your shot in iron sights. Reticles are a matter of preference and a huge variety is available for shooters to choose from. On a very basic level, the crosshairs’ thickness is going to affect the precision of your shot. Larger reticles are easier to see in low-light situations, but can sometimes dwarf or cover up the target if the target is far away. Thinner crosshairs allow the shooter to be more precise but are more difficult to see in low-light.
Many reticles come with posts or scales on their crosshairs. These small ticks are minute of angle or milliradian measurements used to compensate for the bullet’s drop at greater distances. However, not every tick mark is always accurate at any range, because the reticle can be affected by what focal plane it is set in.
Focal plane can be found in two forms—first or second. In a second focal plane riflescope, the reticle is at the end of the erector tube near the end closest to the butt of the rifle. This means that the magnification is changing behind the reticle in relation to the shooter, so the reticle image maintains its original size. The reticle is not always proportional to the target, only at a certain magnification (often the greatest magnification possible). As you zoom in, the reticle takes up more and more of your vision, appearing larger though it is actually staying the same size it always was.
In a first focal plane riflescope, the reticle is located in the front of the erector tube—meaning when you zoom in with the scope, it also zooms in on the reticle as well. This creates a proportionate changing of size between the target and your reticle. Since everything is proportional, the reticle’s tick marks are accurate at all ranges, not just the most zoomed-in range. First focal plane riflescopes are more expensive in general, but allow the shooter to make adjustments much faster than changing the windage or elevation adjustments.
Tube size is important to know for a beginner because you want to be able to use your scope after you buy it, meaning you need the right size mounting rings for your scope. Tubes can be found generally in two sizes: 30mm and 1 inch. Other than increasing the adjustment range internally, neither offers greater benefits than the other, a larger tube doesn’t mean it lets more light in. However, you will need to know what size tube you have so when you go to use your scope you aren’t stuck trying to put 1-inch mounting rings on a 30mm tube. If you live in the United States, you might want to remember that more riflescopes are built with one-inch tubes than are not. However, once again, tube size is entirely preferential.
Do you have further questions about riflescopes? Leave them in the comment section and we will do our best to answer them.
A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Nate van Noort.
Flying with firearms seems like it would be complicated and nerve-racking for any passenger or airline but truth is that if you follow the fairly simple rules, chances are you’ll never have a problem. All airlines are required to follow TSA rules and regulations, though it is important to know your airline’s rules on flying with firearms because some have additional rules.
Packing to Keep Your Gun Safe and Legal
In a world where pocket knives, snow globes, and even gel insoles can’t be stored in carry-on bags, it should come as no surprise that you can’t take a gun in your carry on. They must be unloaded and stored in a locked hard-sided container that can’t be easily opened. Cases with two or more locking points are recommended. This case can then be placed inside your checked baggage or, as a checked bag itself. Multiple guns can be placed in the same hard-sided case. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use a regular TSA lock used for regular baggage, which is actually illegal to use for firearm storage because they can be opened by anyone that has a TSA master key. You should have the key on your person and not in your checked baggage. Otherwise, what’s the point of the lock? You should invest in a really good protective case for both your peace of mind and for the TSA’s. After all, your case is the primary protector from the less than careful baggage handlers. In addition to being sturdy and durable, many gun owners also like to travel with gun cases that don’t obviously look like a gun case. In that situation look for a hard-style case used to transport golf clubs and other equipment, just cut foam inserts to keep everything protected and in place during transport.
Picking Up Your Gun from Baggage Claim
Once you land, large gun cases that are checked as an individual piece of luggage rather than stored in a checked bag may have to be picked up with large or unusual items, like skis, instead of with other checked baggage. Usually, they’ll just come down the carousel with everything else though. Ammunition also has to be checked and must be stored in containers specifically designed for carrying small amounts of ammunition. Shotgun shells and ammunition .75 caliber or less can be stored in the same hard case as a firearm. Loaded or empty magazines and clips must be stored the same way as guns, but firearm parts like bolts and firing pins can just be stored in checked bags. Even though TSA says boxes made of cardboard, like the box the ammo comes in, are alright for storage, you may want to go with a more solid container to avoid the risk of your ammunition being scattered in your bag.
Breeze Through Declaring Your Firearm
When checking your baggage, you need to declare any guns or ammo to the airline. You must do this every time you travel, so don’t forget to declare your guns and ammo again if you switch airlines during the same trip. What does it mean to declare your gun, though? Declaring a firearm is not a big deal and it won’t get you funny looks or suspicious treatment. Just go to the ticketing desk inside the airport (you can’t declare a gun curbside) and tell them you need to declare a firearm. They’ll give you a card to fill out with your primary contact info, verifying that you’ve properly stored your gun. The agent will check that the case is locked. After a few questions to make sure any accessories or ammunition are stored properly, you’re usually good to go, but the agent may want to look inside the case. TSA and airline agents also shouldn’t handle your firearms. If they feel it needs inspection, they are supposed to call over a law enforcement officer. Once you’ve finished declaring your firearm, stick around the desk for 20 or so minutes in case they need to call you back for an inspection. Declaring is usually a quick and easy process, but you want to allow yourself at least an extra hour in the case of one of the rare occasion where it does take longer.
Other People’s Rules
The TSA isn’t the only person who makes rules about flying with a firearm, and you need to know which ones will affect you. Most airlines have rules for flying with guns on top of the TSA’s, and exactly what these rules are varies from airline to airline, so you’ll need to check what your airline of choice requires. For example, Delta requires that guns be stored in a manufacturer’s case and puts a weight limit of 11 pounds of ammunition, among other limitations. You’ll also need to know the laws for wherever you’re flying to. Airport staff is only checking to make sure you’re following the airline and the TSA’s rules, so even if your gun is legally checked, you may be in violation of local laws once you reach your destination. For international travel, booking a direct flight as much as possible minimizes the countries you pass through, and cuts down significantly on the number of customs requirements that you have to deal with.
Final Thoughts on Flying with a Firearm
To sum up:
Guns and ammunition both need to be in checked baggage.
Store your gun unloaded in a hard case with a non-TSA approved lock.
Using a solid container to store your ammunition is safer and easier.
Be sure to declare your firearm.
Know your airline’s rules.
Know the laws of wherever you’re going.
Using this guide, you should be able to fly with your gun with relative ease, but when in doubt, contact your airline or the TSA directly. For international travel, refer questions to the local consulate or embassy of the country or countries you’re visiting.
Have you flown with your firearm? Leave your tips in the comment section.
About the Author
Aspiring pilot Nate van Noort is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington majoring in Marketing with a minor in Finance. His family are big pheasant hunters, sharing hunting land in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Perryton. Nate enjoys sporting clays and shooting his Glock. When he’s not studying, working or out at the lease, he’s playing disc golf, reading or wakeboarding.
A guest post written by Sellmark marketing intern Clayton Costolnick.
Many articles share how to have a successful deer hunt but finding one that reminds you of what not to do are few and far between. Busting your hunt can be one of the worst feelings for a hunter. Hunting season is only for a limited time, so make each hunt count.
Tardy to the Party
Arriving fashionably late to the deer stand is a great way to start off a miserable hunt. Beauty sleep isn’t necessarily essential for a successful hunt. So wake up early and have some coffee… but not too much. It’s okay to be early, but never okay to be late. If you are tardy to the party, sneak into your stand as quietly as you can. Try not to startle anything by taking it slow and quiet. Being on time for a morning hunt means slipping in under the cover of darkness. It is one of your best advantages. Once you get situated in the stand, you are ready to go and your prey is none the wiser.
If the deer are eating, you can eat, right? It depends. Make sure you find quiet snacks to eat in the stand like jerky, sausage or trail mix. Test them out at home before you take them to the stand and see how quietly you can eat. Some loud snack options to refrain from eating are carrots, chips and apples. Smacking is also prohibited in the deer stand. Equally as important, play the wind. Do not bring food that smells, like a sandwich. Deer have keen senses and can zero in on your Whataburger from quite a distance. The two senses deer rely on the most are smelling and hearing. The sandwich you eat might smell good to you, but its an alert to the deer.
If you cannot go anywhere without bringing your lucky perfume, then hunting may not be for you. The sense of smell is one of the main tools deer use for navigating their habitat. Deer tend to avoid unfamiliar scents. They’re pretty smart animals and are known to maneuver downwind of you in an effort to pick up your scent. Make sure you do not spray any extra scents on yourself and avoid washing your clothes in a detergent that smells like spring cleaning. Suppressing your scent is crucial for bow hunters, as you have to get close to the deer. Rifle hunters have an easier time hiding their scent, typically because of sheer distance. Many companies make an earth scent spray to cover your scent. I recommend using it.
While I said no beauty sleep, you still need rest. Sleep is crucial when hunting; waking up early and going to bed late drains the body of energy. Taking a snooze in the deer stand might seem like it will help solve the problem. I know the stand can get boring, but avoid sleeping at all costs. Many hunters have slept through hunts and missed shooting a deer that they never knew came out. Your chances of seeing a deer dramatically drop when your eyes are closed; If you want to sleep, stay in bed while the rest of us get out and enjoy nature.
Everyone gets lonely in the stand waiting for a deer to show. Many hunters use this time to Facebook and update everyone on their adventures. This is a costly mistake because your eyes are on your phone and not on the field. More than one deer has slipped into view and left without Facebooking hunters and you ever noticing. Additionally, always keep watch on the deer to make sure one of them does not sneak up on you and give away your position. The deer aren’t prone to sending Facebook messages to announce their arrival.
Moving inside the blind can be noticed by a deer’s keen eyesight. Even the smallest movements can spook a deer and cause them to run off. Keep movements to a minimum and consider stand positions that obscure your silhouette. Deer can see the image of your head and upper body through the stand, especially if you move. Hiding in front of a structure, like a tree or corner of the stand will help break up your image and perhaps some light movement. Don’t bust a move of any kind while hunting.
Being the captain of the ship means you leave whenever you like; however, leaving the stand early can alert deer of your presence. Never leave the field when there are still deer in the area. Scaring deer away is one of the worst ways to ruin a current and future hunt. Having a human emerge from the stand is not natural for the deer to see. Making the environment look as natural as possible is a key to success.
Sleep is important when hunting but never press snooze. Bring snacks that are quiet in case you get the munchies. Find natural scents around you like cedar to rub on you to help mask your scent. Do not sleep in the stand. Stay off of social media– the deer are not going to message you. Stay still as deer can see even the smallest movements. Never abandon ship early. Show up early, leave late and hunt hard!
Have you ever missed a shot due to something you weren’t paying attention? Tell us about your hunting mishaps in the comment section.
I was born and raised in Cypress, Texas which is just outside of Houston. I am currently a senior at Baylor University majoring in Marketing with a minor in Corporate Communications. I plan on either pursuing a career with Sellmark, or continuing my education after I graduate. I am an avid hunter in which I pursue deer, waterfowl, dove, turkeys, and exotics. I have been around guns my entire life because my dad and grandfather are hunters as well. Another one of my favorite hobbies is fishing. Whenever an animal is not in season, I occupy my time with fishing while I wait for the next season to start hunting again.
While there is quite a bit going on inside a riflescope’s tube to get you on target and keep you there, the Sightmark Pinnacle’s TMD reticle is designed to help you successfully use holdovers, determine appropriate windage and elevation adjustments, range targets and even acquire zero or sight in.
The Pinnacle’s tactical mil-dash reticle, also known as the TMD reticle, is made of referencing points—including crosshairs, subtensions, subtension or referencing lines, numbers along the vertical and horizontal axis and a grid pattern in the lower half of the reticle some people refer to as a Christmas tree.
Let’s look at each reticle element and learn how they can be useful.
The first and most obvious element of the TMD and most other reticles are the crosshairs. Crosshairs are comprised of the primary vertical and horizontal axis referencing lines that intersect at the reticle’s center point. You may see optics sometimes that consist of only crosshairs. Crosshairs create an initial point of reference for all other referencing information on the reticle and serve as an integral part of the point of aim when sighting-in a firearm or shooting at a distance where a bullet’s trajectory change is negligible. Of course, crosshairs also become the point of aim at greater distances when mechanical windage and elevation adjustments are made, at least until you run out of adjustment—possible even with the Pinnacle when shooting extreme distances.
Subtensions and Subtension Lines
Subtension is the distance a reticle covers at a certain range. Subtensions are the spaces between the subtension lines, also known as referencing lines or hashmarks. Just to the right of the vertical axis line and below the horizontal axis line to the right of center, there are numbers 2, 4 and 6. Each number references the corresponding hashmark’s distance from center. On the Pinnacle 3-18×44, each subtension is 0.5 mil, at least until you reach the top of the vertical and far right of the horizontal axis. The subtension lines for those final 3 mils reference 0.2 mil. These subtensions and hash marks are vital to using holdovers and ranging targets, especially on first-focal-plane optics.
As examples, if you held the reference line on the horizontal axis above 2 on the bullseye, you would be holding 2 mils left—the reticle’s crosshairs are now 2 mils to the left of center mass. If you place the hashmark referenced by the number 4 on the lower half of the vertical axis line on the bullseye, you are now holding over 4 mils. As a final note, if you held between 2 and 4, your holdover would be 3. More finite vertical holdovers in this example might position you at 2.5 or 3.5 mils. The same applies for windage.
Remember, each subtension line is 0.5 mil. Of course, this is only true through all magnification ranges on a first focal plane riflescope. As they relate to second-focal-plane riflescopes, subtensions and subtension lines are only accurate representations of standard mil, or MOA on other scopes at a single power of magnification. This is the primary reason why long-distance shooters prefer first-focal-plane riflescopes like the Pinnacle 3-18×44.
The further we move from the crosshairs, the more difficult it becomes to acquire precise holdovers. Holdover is when you must aim above your intended point of impact to compensate for bullet drop. Since the lion’s share of holdover aiming occurs below the horizontal axis, the Pinnacle’s TMD reticle includes a subtension grid that widens as you move further down the vertical axis. If you were to use 4 up and 2 left as holdovers, you would hold the mark in the grid located 4 mils below the horizontal reticle and 2 mils to the right of the vertical axis on the bullseye.
Subtensions are also great for rapid zeroing or sighting in. For this example, we will use 100 yards as our distance. Shoot the target and note the shot placement. Now, place the crosshairs on the bullseye again and determine how many mils your bullet hole is away from dead center.
If the subtension lines revealed your shot was 2.5 mils below and 2 mils to the right, you would adjust your elevation turret up 25 clicks and left 20 clicks, considering each click is 0.1 mil of adjustment. Take another shot and you should be on the bullseye or left with only fine-tuning. If you’re zeroing, don’t forget to set the Pinnacle’s zero stop now, which guarantees an instant return to the original zero. You can find that video tutorial on Sightmark’s YouTube channel.
Ranging targets using subtensions can be a quick, relatively accurate way to acquire distance data without the use of a laser rangefinder or other technology; of course, to do so really requires a first-focal-plane scope like the Pinnacle 3-18×44 or, perhaps a second-focal-plane scope set on a single power of magnification. Again, the beauty of a first-focal-plane system is that the incremental values represented by subtensions, lines and numbers, never changes at any magnification. Subtensions mean the same at 3 power as they do at 18 power, whether the target is right in front of you or 1,000 yards away.
Windage and Elevation Axis
Remembering the Pinnacle 3-18×44 is based on mils with 0.1 mil turret adjustments helps us understand some quick math. 1/10th mil, most often referred to as 0.1 mil, moves your point of impact 0.36 of an inch at 100 yards. This is equal to 1.8 inches per .5 mil and 3.6 inches at 100 yards per full mil of adjustment. Simplified, because subtension lines on the Pinnacle’s reticle are based on 0.5 and 1 mil increments.
This means a 36-inch tall by 18-inch silhouette would span the vertical height of 10 mils and the horizontal width of 5 mils at 100 yards. So, an adult figure that filled 10 vertical mils and 5 horizontal mils of your reticle, would be an estimated 100 yards away.
Since 0.1 mil at 100 yards is 0.36 of an inch, we know 0.1 mil represents 1.8 inches of adjustment at 500 yards. Extended out from 0.1 mil to a full mil, we then know a full mil represents 18 inches at 500 yards. Since the target is 36 inches tall by 18 inches wide, we know it should fill 1 horizontal mil and 2 vertical mils. If so, that target is 500 yards away.
At 1,000 yards, we can double that. We know 0.1 mil is 3.6 inches of adjustment at 1000 yards and a full mil is 36 inches of adjustment at that range. So, the target we’ve been looking at would fill 0.5 mil on the horizontal axis and 1 mil on the vertical axis. Understanding the adjustment values of 0.1 mil, 0.5 mil and 1 mil at 100 yards and then extending out over yardage, coupled with identifying your target and possessing basic estimation knowledge of its size, means you can range any identifiable target with some degree of accuracy simply by utilizing the subtensions and hash marks in the Pinnacle’s reticle.
If you do only one drill at the range…do this one.
There are plenty of reasons why people chose to own firearms. Many firearm owners, like myself, own firearms for lots of different reasons. But there is one reason I have found that we all have in common—to protect ourselves and our families if we must. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that owns a gun that doesn’t say, “protection” as one of those reasons. I know people who own a firearm solely to defend themselves. In a Pew Research Center poll, 67% of gun owners report the main reason they own a firearm is for self-defense. No matter the reason, choosing to be a firearm owner means responsibly learning how to safely operate your firearm, as well as knowing how to clean and maintain that firearm. Buying a gun for protection and sticking it in a biometric safe next to the bed isn’t enough. Knowing confidently that you will be able to use that gun if you must is what can save your life. And the only way you are going to do that is by regular training and practice.
Practice keeps you proficient with the shooting fundamentals and basic handgun techniques. It helps you know the ins and outs of your firearm and how to keep it in tip-top working order. Training reveals your weaknesses. It creates positive muscle memory, so you can operate your gun efficiently in times of duress and hopefully, increase your speed and accuracy.
In Texas, we must take a course from a certified instructor in order to obtain a concealed carry license. Every instructor of that course will tell you at some time during those six hours that we “shoot to stop a threat.” It is highly unlikely that when you must use your gun to save your life, your first shot will put down an attacker. Though we cannot know what our exact reaction would be when faced with the situation in which we have to use our gun, most experts agree—you will not aim properly, nor will one round usually do the trick. When faced with a threat, your eyes will naturally stay on target and not your gun’s sights. That is why the simple Bill Drill is one of my favorite defensive pistol drills. It makes you practice your fundamentals but also prepares you for a self-defense situation and challenges you to increase your speed and accuracy. The Bill Drill focuses on a realistic aspect of a self-defense shooting—dumping your mag at a threat in close quarters.
Before doing the Bill Drill at the range with live ammo (you can easily perform this drill at home with airsoft or dry fire,) check with your range to make sure it is okay to draw from a holster and rapid fire. There are many ranges that ask you to keep 2 to 3 seconds between shots.
To do the Bill Drill you will need:
IDPA or IPSC silhouette or another man-sized silhouette target
One full magazine with at least six rounds loaded
A 6×11 piece of paper, paper plate, index card, or another way to mark an area in center mass of the target
How to do the Bill Drill:
Put a paper plate in the center mass area of any man-sized target. Focus on speed and accuracy. Empty your magazine into the paper plate. Your goal is to have every round hit somewhere inside that paper plate.
Hang a paper plate, index card or a 6×11 sheet of paper in the center mass area of the target. This is your “A Zone.” Send the target out to seven yards (Most self-defense shootings occur between 10 and 5 feet.)
Either keep your gun in your holster or if your range restricts holster work, keep it on the bench or at the low ready.
Have your shooting buddy tell you when to go and clock your time on a shot timer.
Draw your gun from your holster, the bench or from the low ready and fire six rounds or your full magazine into the 6×11 area.
Your ultimate goal is to hit every round in the A Zone in under three seconds.
Start out slow with the Bill Drill, eventually working your way up from eight seconds to three Do the drill cold. Meaning, let it be the first drill you do when you arrive at the range. Think about it—you won’t get a warm up in real life.
Modifications and Challenges:
Reload quickly and perform the drill with another magazine
Switch from a paper plate to an index card
Practice reloads while keeping your eyes on the target
Practice clearing malfunctions without taking your gun off target
The Bill Drill is not only a practical self-defense shooting drill, it also helps you develop faster recovery time for quicker and more accurate follow-up shots and better trigger control and recoil mitigation.
You can dry fire any drill at home. Dry fire gives you the opportunity to practice and train more often and save money, especially if your gun range has restrictive rules.
Note: If you have never drawn from a holster before, please do not attempt the Bill Drill with live ammunition. Accidents happen when people are inexperienced at drawing and reholstering. You must learn how to present your gun from its holster safely. Practice this at home without any ammo, graduating to snap caps before any attempts at drawing at the range with live ammunition.
No amount of training will completely prepare you for real-life self-defense use of your handgun, but regular practice will help you develop the muscle memory needed to function efficiently if you have to. It will help you overcome the adrenaline dump that causes tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills and memory loss when your body experiences fight or flight.
What are your favorite self-defense drills? Share them with other shooters in the comment section.
“When you read about “accuracy” of any given handgun, know that unless machines are involved, what you’re really getting is an indication of that pistol’s ability to be shot accurately. — Tom McHale Shooting Illustrated
When we say a pistol is ‘accurate,’ we mean it consistently hits where we aim. A lot goes into whether a gun is accurate. The barrel, fittings and how precisely-machined all the parts affect accuracy. The sighting system affects accuracy. But we can’t blame all accuracy issues on the pistol. Most accuracy problems originate with you, the shooter. If you have the fundamentals of pistol shooting down—your aim, stance, grip and how you manipulate the trigger—than you should be shooting pretty darn straight. If you are still having problems punching holes into holes from a self-defense distance (10 feet and under), there just might be an issue with the gun.
So, where do you begin?
Let’s start by inspecting the sighting system you have on your gun—iron sights, night sights, lasers and red dots all need sighting-in to make sure they are aligned properly. Surprisingly, a lot of us just compensate our aim to match that of our gun’s sights from the factory. For example, if your sights are off, which they could very well be, we simply just shoot low left, or high right—whichever way your sights are set—to hit bullseye. It is not good to compensate our aim for offset optics or sights.
Why does accuracy matter?
To stop a threat, you must be able to hit vital organs. Inaccuracy could mean the bad guy wins.
What Happens to Your Body During a Self-Defense Shooting
When we are faced with a threat, our bodies dump adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol into our bloodstream, preparing us to either stay and fight or run. Our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing increase, our pupils dilate and our muscles tense. This dump of hormones can cause memory problems, loss of hearing and create tunnel vision.
In a self-defense situation, you won’t be able to take your time to aim. You won’t focus on the front sight. That is why we put lasers, red dots and high-visibility aftermarket sights on our handguns. Anytime we get a new handgun or a new sighting system, we need to make sure our sights or optic is centered with the bore. This makes your gun more accurate. An in-chamber boresight is a perfect way to do this and saves you time and money.
What is a Laser Boresight?
A laser boresight is a preliminary method of getting your sights dialed in without using a lot of ammo at the range. Using a laser diode, it projects a red dot on a target, making it easier for you to center your sights and optics. Sightmark’s pistol boresights are caliber-specific and placed directly in your firearm’s chamber.
How to Boresight a Pistol
Using a pistol boresight is simple.
Unload your firearm and pointing it in a safe direction, stabilize it using a benchrest or shooting bags.
Hang a target 15 to 25 yards out.
Unscrew the bottom of the boresight and insert the batteries according to the instructions. The boresight automatically turns on when the batteries are inserted correctly.
Put the laser boresight into the chamber.
Close the slide.
Line the laser beam on to the center of the target.
Look through your optic and using your windage and elevation knobs, adjust the crosshairs or dot until it lines up with the dot of the laser boresight. If you do not have an optic and just want to calibrate your sights, aim as you would regularly and then use a pistol sight adjustment tool to correct for windage and elevation.
As mentioned above, most inaccuracy problems can’t be blamed on the gun. There are a few things we can do besides improving our own technique to help increase accuracy. Accuracy isn’t just for precision shooters or competitors. Accurate is something we must all aim to be. For a small price to pay and a few minutes, a laser boresight might just make all the difference.