TECHNIQUE: Gun sights for shotgun shooters
Shooting instructor Steve Rawsthorne takes a close look at Aimpoint’s new shotgun-specific red dot sights. He’s a bit skeptical going into the test – but do these have the power to please?
Ihave been using Aimpoint sights on some of my rifles for years for driven boar and also on a moose hunt in Sweden last year – they are absolutely brilliant, and I am currently experimenting with one in addition to a scope on a rifle for muntjac.
When Erik and Daniel from Aimpoint showed me their latest version for shotguns, I was interested but sceptical. I have never been a fan of big lumps or fluorescence on the end of the barrel, but was prepared to give it a go.
For those of you who have not used one of these sights before, you use them to shoot moving targets with a rifle, a single projectile, rather than the cloud of shot we have with a shotgun. One of the biggest benefits is that you shoot with both eyes open, irrespective of eye dominance; somehow it takes care of that so that even with a fully dominant left master eye, you can shoot with both eyes open from the right shoulder and vice-versa. I was interested to see if this would be the same with a shotgun.
The unit was originally presented to me fixed to the barrel of an over-and-under, around 6" from the muzzle. I have to admit, I was less than impressed with it in this configuration, as it impinged too much on my vision and distracted me from focusing on the target, exactly the opposite effect I have using it on a rifle. Normally, on a rifle, the sight, which is tiny and weighs around 100g, sits much further back, on top of the action, so I decided to move the unit to this position and give it a go.
The sight comes with mounts and adapters to fit the width of raised rib, so you should not need any extras; there is even a tool in the kit which allows you to make all the adjustments. Don’t do as I did – I moved the sight while stood in a field without any support and didn’t do it up properly. After half a dozen shots, it fell off!
Fortunately, it is very robust, designed to be soldier-proof – they are in use with the military and police all over the world in their millions. I went back to the car and fixed it properly and had no more problems. I set it up about 4" from the breech end of the barrels, I would have liked to have it even further back, but the rib on my gun was solid there and the mounts could not attach. Rather like a rifle sight, you need to zero it, which I did by simply picking a mark, lining the gun up on it and moving the dot to that point. If you are doing this, the arrows indicating right and up move the point of impact that way, not the dot. It is worth taking a bit of time doing this at home to get it right, before you go out to shoot. Unlike me.
The benefits of setting the unit further back were immediately apparent. I was able to focus on the target, with both eyes open and after less than a box of cartridges, I stopped even noticing it was there. One of the great things about the technology is that your head position is not absolutely critical – as long as you have the red dot in your vision, that is where the shot goes. I
was able to focus on the target and see the
‘If you are a serious competitive shooter, you probably don’t need one of these units – but they are fun to try anyway’
lead I was giving it in my peripheral vision. Starting gun-down on some simple going-away birds, I just pressed the button and shot the bird in the usual way. The red dot just floated onto it and it broke. Simple!
I really wanted to see how I would get on shooting crossing targets, which for me would be the real test. Would it be of any use or not? There was a standard right-to-left bird over some trees, not too fast, about 25 yards out. I shot it first the way I normally would, mounting in front and staying there all the time. Although I was looking at the bird, I was aware of my lead throughout the shot, and nine out of 10 broke. Next, I tried using the sight to mount onto the bird and pull away, CPSA method. I think for less experienced shooters, this is where it could really be of benefit, both as a training aid and in the field.
Further on around the course, there was a stand with a crossing battue followed by a looping right-to-left midi, over 40 yards out. To my surprise, I was immediately breaking both using the sight, with my usual maintained lead style. I was starting to like this!
I continued around the course, shooting rabbits and some driven birds, quartering-aways and teal. The sight was performing much better than I had anticipated. It was an overcast cloudy day and under the trees the red dot showed up well. In bright sunlight, I just had to turn up the brightness a bit.
I really wanted to know how the unit would perform with an “opposite” master eye, would it correct it as it did on a rifle? My right eye is fully dominant. If I shoot off the left shoulder, I have to shut my right eye as soon as I see the bird or even before, when I call for it. I had a few practice mounts on the left, then shot the easier crossers I had started with off the left shoulder, both eyes open. Nobody was more surprised than me when it broke. So did six more out of the next 10. Next, I shot a few rabbits, left to right, left shoulder and both eyes open. Similar results. I think that if you are a shooter experiencing eye dominance issues, this could be a great aid for you, as you would not need to swap shoulders or close an eye.
I took 75 cartridges out with me to shoot and enjoyed the experience so much that I went back to the car and got another box! If you are a relatively new shooter or have eye dominance problems, I think you could really benefit from trying one of these units. If you are already a serious competitive shooter, you probably don’t need one, but they are fun to try anyway. If it means anything, I have left mine on the gun and am going to give it a go on decoyed pigeons.
The sight is much less effective for Steve when mounted on the end of the barrel
The sight is not visually intrusive and after a few shots is hardly noticable
Steve also tested the sight from his left shoulder
Sitting low on the rib, shooters don’t have to change their gun mount or head position to be looking through the unit