Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing
Red Dots - Proper Basic Use and the Reason for Co-Witnessing
Whether it's on the forums or in a training environment, there are a couple things I hear or see that need addressed so those running red dots, or considering purchasing them, can fully understand proper use and get the most out of their set up.
One of these things is people co-witnessing with their irons when firing their weapon. I've heard it mentioned before, but I never realized how common this was until I started paying attention to it. In my opinion, if you take the time to co-witness your irons with your optic every time, you have little more than a painted front sight that cost you hundreds of dollars.
The second thing is seen more than heard on the forums and it is one of the biggest issues I see with the speed of first round hits. What I've noticed many shooters doing is bringing the rifle into a firing position from a ready position, then taking the time to center the dot in the optic, most not even realizing they're doing so. This is counter productive and can slow you down considerably. To get to the bottom of the issue, we need to understand how a red dot works and what it is truly designed to do.
First, let's take a look at zeroing. Very simply, for me, I will co-witness the dot with the iron sights that are already zeroed. Keep in mind that a front sight post is typically 8 MOA and your Aimpoint will be 2 to 4 MOA and your EoTech will be 1 MOA.
See Image 2 below for a lower 1/3rd co-witness.
Once I've done this, I'll set my target at my desired zero range and fire five rounds. Usually I'll be very close and only need very minor corrections, if any.
I'll mention absolute co-witness and 1/3 co-witness quickly. All that an absolute co-witness means is that your irons will line up somewhere near the center of your optic, nothing more. Lower 1/3rd means they'll line up somewhere *in the lower 1/3rd.
This is not exact, but close. This also does not mean that you need to view your red dot in the center or lower 1/3rd at all times, it's just where the irons and red dot co-witness. Contrary to what some believe, co-witnessing with your irons will not be more accurate that using the red dot alone.
This leads me to my next point, which is that centering the dot will do almost nothing for accuracy and will quite likely slow you down. I've seen so many shooters, often LEO's that are somewhat new to red dots, that are showing only minimal improvement on first shot times from a ready position. When we try to figure out the reason, it usually comes down to them centering the dot in the optic.
From a low ready, for example, we should be bringing the rifle to a firing position and firing as soon as we catch a glimpse of the red dot covering the area we intend to shoot. This could mean that the red dot is in the top left corner of the optic, top and center, or to the right and center as I show in images 3, 4 and 5. Only when the shooter can grasp this idea will they show considerable improvements in first shot times.
This isn't so much about the benefits of a red dot as it is proper use, but just to mention a few - a red dot will allow you to focus on the target and not the front sight post or dot. It will be much easier to follow when firing multiple rounds and will also be much more visible in low light. I know very few shooters that cannot shoot faster with a red dot than they can with irons. In most cases, they're more accurate as well.
If I'm firing at 200 meters from the bench, of course I'll center the dot in the optic as I'm trying to be as consistent as possible with my cheek to stock weld and everything else for that matter. But, in most other situations, I'm just looking for a quick flash of the dot covering my intended target in the general area I want to shoot it.
Image 1 - The setup. Aimpoint M4s and KAC folding iron sights. 2" square about 10 feet away.
Image 2 - Lower 1/3rd co-witness. The only time I should see his is when I'm zeroing my rifle or doing a quick check to assure my irons and optic are still zeroed (or close). The reason the dot is slightly above the front sight post is I use a 6 o'clock hold with irons and I hold over the target with the dot.
Images 3, 4 and 5 - This is how we should view our dot most of the time. The rifle may have moved slightly between pics, but as you can see, the dot is still in the same general place on target regardless of where in the optic it is positioned. The irons and barrel are still in the same place, as is the optic. The only thing that has changed is our view or the red dot. The bullet will still impact the same place in all three pics below.
Image 6 - should our red dot fail or should we enter a brightly lit environment from a dark environment and not have time to adjust our optic, this is how we'll view our irons through the tube. There are other options like using the tube as the rear aperture or viewing the front sight post over the rear aperture, but we'll save that for another time.
Well, that's about it. This was basically remedial red dot. I just wanted to have something like this posted with pics as I find myself explaining it nearly on a weekly basis. So now, I can just post a link. I didn't want to get into parallax just yet. Even though the Aimpoint is considered parallax-free, there is a small amount at close range.
Oh, keep in mind that when you are using a 3x magnifier with a 4 MOA red dot, the dot is still 4 MOA when viewed at 3x, the dot does become 3 times larger, but so does everything else, which means it still only covers roughly 4" at 100 yards.
I hope this at least gave someone a slightly better understanding of the benefits of a red dot. Done right, it should allow you faster first round hits as well as faster follow up shots, not to mention the benefits when in awkward shooting positions and when the heart is pumping at 180 because it's dark and scary and things are about to get wild.
As always, if anyone has any questions on this or more advanced use/issues, post or PM me.