Nothing changed the shooting world like the addition of magnified optics. With telescopic sights first came on the shooting world they were a gimmick, World War I and subsequent conflicts changed telescopic sights into serious instruments used to direct precision rifle fire. The technological age givers red dot optics and all sorts of holographic gun sites that we can use to deliver the fundamentals of marksmanship and easier package.
However, shooters have become accustomed to scopes in a way that makes them dependent on them. There is still a wide variety of uses where a scope is a bad idea and here are a few reasons why you may want to forego an optic and opt instead for simple iron sights.
Purpose of a Scope
Scopes have two primary purposes. The ad magnification and they simplify the aiming process. When people say scope, they almost always mean a magnified optic but in recent years red dot scopes have become more and more common and though while not technically a scope is often lumped in with telescopic sights.
Magnification is the hallmark of a telescopic gunsight known as a scope. They allow you to see better by optically bringing the target closure you and allow you to make finer adjustments to the rifles position while you aim. Magnification does not help you shoot better, it helps you see better.
Magnification alone does nothing to help you deliver the fundamentals of marksmanship besides allowing you to see your target clearer. Simply put, if you jerk the trigger before you put a scope on your rifle and you jerk the trigger after it doesn’t matter how much magnification your scope has you’re not going to shoot better.
The other, and arguably more important, the function of the scope is to simplify the aiming process. In layman’s terms, all you have to do is put the crosshairs or reference mark on the target and squeeze the trigger. With traditional sites like notch and post or aperture sites, you are required to line up three objects. The front sight, the rear sight, and the target.
With telescopic optics and many other gun sites, you are only required to line up the aiming reference with the target. This is extremely important because it allows you to shoot at odd angles and shoot on the move or at moving targets much better.
Other nice to have features are available on scopes. Things like IR illumination and range estimation features, that doesn’t change the basic function of a rifle scope. They add magnification and simplify the aiming process if a scope doesn’t do those two things it’s not a gun scope.
When to not Use a Scope?
- When You Have to Modify a Gun to Mount an Optic
Many guns were designed before scopes in magnified optics were the norm. Guns like M1 a or in one grand as well as most AK-47 variants and many civilian lever action rifles are from the time when iron sights were the only option.
Don’t limit yourself to guns that only are available with magnified optics or you might be severely limiting the number of guns that you can own. In fact, relatively few firearms come from the factory ready to mount a gunsight.
Think of all the shotguns, deer rifles, and even pistols are sold with zero provisions to optics that many people feel the need to spend a hefty price tag outfitting with a red dot or magnified optic. Shoot guns are the manufacturer intended, with iron sights and you’ll be better off in the long run as a shooter and experience more firearms the way they were meant to be shot.
- When You Need to Get a Shot Off Quick at Close Range
Scopes are great for dialing in precision gunfire at medium to long ranges. They make everyone more effective with a rifle and are a huge benefit in any hunting, target shooting or self-defense situation. However, when it comes to shooting quickly at close range any magnified optic is going to be a huge problem.
Even red dot optics can suffer from the problem of having to hunt for the dot. This means you are using your rifle at an odd angle or thrown your rifle up so quickly your eye has not had time to focus on the dot. Well-practiced, shooters are just as accurate with iron sights as they are with a red dot optic while shooting and stationary targets within 25 yards.
A good example would be shooting action steel targets at close range or on a deer drive or other brush hunting situation. These are situations where magnification and even the housing of an optic in your field-of-view are going to hinder your situational awareness.
- When You Need a Lightweight Low-profile Rifle
If you need a lightweight low-profile rifle consider opting out of an optic. Not only will iron sights be more reliable than optic they are going to be more rugged and durable on top of weighing a fraction of what even the lightest optic weighs. A good example would be a truck gun or hunting rifle.
Some of the most iconic hunting rifles or truck guns or lever action rifles like a Marlin 336 or a lightweight carbine like an AK-47. These guns are favored because their lightweight carry enough firepower to get the job done and can be slid behind the back seat of a truck or carried over your shoulder with minimal weight in bulk. You can carry these guns in the field for a long period of time and not worry about slamming around or abusing in the mud. Mostly because these guns, while both having the ability to be used with an optic, are most commonly used with iron sights. They are Bare-bones to preserve weight and bulk and still do their job exceptionally well.
How to Choose the Right Scope?
Entire books have been written on choosing the correct scope for the job that you have at hand. Since this is about areas where a scope is a bad idea, remember that you almost never get to use more than about 12x magnification in the real world and huge objective bells aren’t worth it.
With the age of the Internet, shooters are obsessed with 1000 yard shot and even shooting at man’s size targets at thousand yards can be done with less than 12x magnification. If you stick to a slim and lightweight optic with medium power magnification you’re more likely to enjoy shooting overall because relatively few situations you ever find yourself in outside of specialized competitions will require the use of high-powered magnification along with a massive objective bell.
Scopes normally provide a distinct advantage for people who are wanting more performance out of the rifle. They allow people to be better shooters and allow them to apply their fundamentals of marksmanship and easier package.
However, when you don’t need one and you have one it can be seriously bad news. Think long and hard before you purchase a shiny new scope or even your next firearm purchase because most people can get by, and even enjoy using just iron sights. Don’t short sell yourself into thinking you need high tech expensive equipment, even you can master iron sights and enjoy a lightweight simple to use firearm.
Author BIO — McKinley Downing is an avid shooter & firearms instructor. He shoots, hunts and is a patriot in the sense that he enjoys pissing off gun grabbers and an anti-hunters. He has worked with and around firearms for several years, and enjoys talking to anyone interested in learning more about firearms and their 2nd Amendment rights. He currently writes for several online outlets on the use of guns and ammunition, you can find more articles from him on https://ioutdoorpursuit.com.