During our travels around the country teaching carbine and Aimpoint CCO classes to military units, law enforcement agencies, and armed citizens, we have discovered that there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about some of the most fundamental concepts in red dot sighting. In almost every class we teach, some or all of the students have been given bad information about how to use their Aimpoint and, as a result, have either chosen not to use it or have been using it less than optimally. We have found, unfortunately, that even seasoned veterans from military combat arms units (infantry, cavalry, combat engineer, etc) have bought into myths that reduce their effectiveness with issued sights and weapons.
Myth #1: The red dot has to be placed on top of the front sight post
This idea is stunningly common. The red dot is believed to have replaced the rear (iron) sight aperture. This would mean that, in order to achieve proper sight alignment and sight picture, the shooter must put the front sight on the target and the red dot must be ‘lollipopped’ onto the front sight post. There is a similar, but less common, idea that the red dot must be centered in the rear (iron) sight aperture.
The truth: The red dot is completely independent of the iron sights. With a properly zeroed weapon, the shooter should simply put the dot on the target and squeeze. While putting the red dot on the front sight post will not cause the shooter to miss, it does make getting a sight picture much more difficult and much slower. It also forces the shooter to focus on the sight post, rather than on the threat. This negates one of the key advantages of the sight.
Myth #2: The red dot has to be centered in the tube
With magnified riflescopes, which are what many shooters (particularly hunters) are most familiar with, the reticle must be centered in the tube for accurate shooting. This is because those sights have varying degrees of parallax. The presence of parallax in a sight basically means that, if the reticle is viewed from different angles, point of aim will move around on the target (even when the weapon is not moving). Because almost all other sights have parallax, many shooters assume that Aimpoint sights also have it and, therefore, that they need to make sure that the reticle is centered in the tube in order to be accurate.
The truth: Aimpoint sights are very, very nearly parallax free. The new Micro T-2 features groundbreaking new technology that takes already best-in-class performance in terms of parallax to a whole new level. This means that, unlike other optics, the Aimpoint red dot does not have to be perfectly centered in the tube to achieve relatively accurate hits. HOWEVER, we still recommend that shooters get a good, consistent cheek weld (which should result in the dot being centered in the tube) whenever they can. 'Parallax-free' is NOT a good reason to get sloppy on fundamentals.
Myth #3: Aimpoint sights do not need to be zeroed
Are you kidding? If you know us at all, you’ll know that we preach about the importance of establishing and maintaining a tight zero. A good zero is the foundation upon which all other marksmanship principles and fundamentals rest. This is just as true with a red dot sight as it is with iron sights or powered optics.
We routinely come across military units and law enforcement agencies that believe that zeroing a particular weapon and sight to a particular shooter is not necessary. These organizations often let firearms instructors, armorers, or some other better-than-everyone-else marksman zero all of the weapons. Weapons are often traded between shifts or issued randomly to personnel.
We do a drill as part of many of our rifle classes in which weapons are passed down the line so that shooters can see how close to other shooters’ zero they are. Shooters are frequently close when using Aimpoint sights- within 1 or 2 minutes of angle (MOA). But… there are almost always a handful of outliers- shooters whose zero differs from others by 6-8 MOA or more. Interestingly, those ‘outliers’ are usually very good shooters.
The truth: ALL RIFLE SIGHTS MUST BE ZEROED. Aimpoint sights will repeat zero between shooters far better than most other sights (and at least as good as any sight on earth). The issue here isn’t the sight. The issue is the idea of ‘good enough’ in terms of zero. Picking up your buddy’s Aimpoint enabled rifle will probably work. In an emergency, we may have to live with ‘probably’. But purposely going into harm’s way with a rifle that does not have a good, PERSONAL zero is foolish and reckless. From a personal standpoint, it puts your life and the lives of others at risk. From an organizational standpoint, it opens the door to tremendous liability. Take the time to zero weapons, and resist the urge to accept ‘good enough’.