The pros and cons of red-dots on rifles

Easy to fit, simple to use, fast and affordable - these Nikko Stirling red-dot sights could be just

Easy to fit, simple to use, fast and affordable - these Nikko Stirling red-dot sights could be just the job for ratting - Credit: Archant

The editor investigates the practicality and pitfalls of red-dots as rifle sight

I remember many years ago when the SinglePoint and Aimpoint sights were launched, thinking I’d love to give them a trial, if only I could afford to. I was a schoolkid back then and my pocket money didn’t run to such luxuries, but I’m pleased to say things have moved on a bit, now!

Huge range

First, the range of red-dot sights is absolutely huge, and second, I’ve just had four leading examples delivered to my office from Nikko Stirling, care of Highland Outdoors. All four Nikkos have Picatinny mounts, which makes them perfect for fixing to a rifle, and while I was familiarising myself with the sights’ various features, I thought I’d turn this review into a two-parter. This month, I’ll cover the potential of these red-dots, and then next month, I’ll take my favourite model to the range and simulate a bit of rat-hunting. There’s a probable third part to this, because if I feel the red-dot is up to the job of rat-hunting, I’ll give it some real work to do.

Proven pistol system

We all know how well red-dot sights work on pistols. The ‘direct’ aiming capability of that single dot keeps things fast and simple, and pistol shooters with the need for speed and effectiveness, rather than Olympic precision, have long built their competition hopes around red-dot sights. The question is, will that transfer to rifle shooting? I grabbed a Weihrauch HW110 K and set off to find out.

Fast and straight

Most Read

My very first investigations into using a red-dot on a rifle proved the ‘speed’ potential within minutes. I was shooting at rat-type targets at rat-type ranges and there was no doubt that I could hit them faster than when I used a conventional scope. Out to 15 yards, I found I could connect consistently with small conkers from our horse chestnut tree, faster than I’ve ever been able to. I’m probably talking fractions of a second faster, but it seems really quick at the time.

Easy to spot

The variable-intensity, multi-format aiming dots, available in red or green at the flick of a switch, meant I was never ‘searching’ for my aimpoint, no matter what the lighting conditions. Also, all of the sights I tried are ultra-light and have no effect on the balance of the rifle. The four sights I have cost between £51.95 and £79.95, and they all have integral mounts, so they are extremely affordable, too.


The Picatinny mounting rails obviously won’t fit standard scope grooves, so most airgunners will need to buy mounting adaptors. These aren’t expensive, but they’re an on-cost which needs to be considered.

Then, there’s no target magnification available, and that could be important. Just how important, I’ll find out next month, but so far it’s not having a significant impact – unlike the pellets on those conkers!

Next time...

My task in March’s issue of AirGunner is simple; I’ll compare the accuracy of using these red-dots against my normal hunting outfit, with the scope set on its lowest magnification. I’ll also run through the various features of the sights and decide if I’m going to take one into the hunting field. These sights are already fun to use and their potential could be considerable. Tune in next time for the verdict!