Connect the ‘dots’

Illuminated reticles a good option for Arkansas hunting

For many hunters, a dot sight can replace a magnified optic for most hunting situations in Arkansas.

Handgunners have long known that a dot sight helps them attain a target quickly and shoot more accurately than factory iron sights. A dot also allows them to engage a target longer. Riflemen are coming around to this realization, as well.

Laser sights were the first expression of laser technology for handguns. Kent Thomas, former marketing director of Crimson Trace, said that a laser sight makes every handgunner more competent and more confident. This, he said, actualizes the purpose of a self-defense handgun, which is to ensure the safety of its owner.

In 2009, Thomas said, laser sights were represented on only 10% of personal protection firearms. He said that Crimson Trace's goal is to make laser sighting systems standard equipment on at least 50% of all personal protection handguns sold in the United States over the next five years.

At the beginning of 2013, 15.5% of personal protection firearms had laser sights, Thomas said. At the end of 2014, it was 21%.

In 2023, handgunners show a distinct preference for reflective dot sights over projected lasers to the extent that a dot is now considered an essential accessory. The United States armed forces also use dot optics for many combat applications.

Additionally, "dots" are rapidly earning the confidence for many hunting and shooting applications, including that of a certain writer who suffers from severe astigmatism.

My first revelation occurred during the 2021 spring turkey season. I used a new rig that year, a Winchester SX3 20-gauge. I mounted a Truglo reflective sight and sighted it for 50 yards. That was also the first year I used Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). Several gobblers appeared at the bottom of a ravine. I could not call them closer. I did not have a rangefinder, but they appeared large enough, with their features distinctive enough, to be within range. I centered the reticle on the head of the largest gobbler, essentially blotting out the entire head and neck area. One shot with No. 7 1/2 TSS flattened that gobbler. It did not even flop. The pattern thoroughly ventilated the gobbler's head and neck, with no pellets entering the breasts.

I stopped counting steps at 69. I would not have taken that shot had I known the distance and I am not proud of having done so, but it opened my eyes to the effectiveness of a reflective dot optic for hitting stationary targets with a shotgun.

If you can hit a stationary target as a turkey's head with a shotgun at such a distance, you can certainly use a reflective dot reticle on a rifle or a handgun to shoot deer and hogs at any range that your vision will allow.

The lethal zone of a deer is about 6 inches in diameter. For that reason, the rule of thumb is that if you can consistently hit a pie plate at 100 yards with a rifle, you and your rifle are accurate enough to consistently kill deer up to 100 yards.

Thanks to CNC machining and better manufacturing methods overall, rifles are a lot more accurate now than they were in the days of the pie plate standard. Even cheap rifles are capable of accuracy that was only possible with custom rifles 30-40 years ago.

With the rifles of the past, you needed a telescopic sight to guarantee a hit within a 6-inch circle. Not anymore. If you mount an illuminated reticle sight on your rifle and zero it for 100 yards, you will hit a deer squarely in the vital area if you center the reticle on the spot where you would ordinarily center the crosshairs of a telescopic sight.

A case in point is the illuminated reticle sight on my crossbow. I have killed two deer with a crossbow. The first was with a traditional 4X scope. The second I killed using an illuminated reticle in the waning moments of shooting light at about 30 yards. The illuminated reticle helped greatly in acquiring the target and remaining engaged with the target.

One major difference between illuminated reticle sights and telescopic optics is engagement time. When using a telescopic sight, you must find the target in your scope, center the crosshairs on the desired point of impact and employ breathing techniques to minimize the effect of breathing on the position of the crosshairs.

An illuminated reticle eliminates most of that delay.

Practicing with an illuminated reticle demonstrates how much heartbeat and breathing affect the point of aim and impact. It also demonstrates the effect of recoil on point of aim. Everyone wants to shoot accurately, whether they're punching holes in paper, shooting steel plates or shooting at animal silhouettes. An illuminated reticle helps you to shoot accurately faster.

Skeptics might argue that a telescopic scope is necessary to identify a target and to determine, for example, whether a buck is legal. Hunter education courses teach against using scopes to scan or identify targets. That's a job for binoculars which do not risk an unintended discharge.

At ranges that do not require high magnification, a dot site can be excellent alternative. It is an excellent tool for young and inexperienced shooters because it eliminates the risk of injury that sometimes occurs when recoil makes a scope's eyepiece collide with the eyebrow.