The Comprehensive Guide to Choosing an Optic for Your AR

AR 15s have been in the market for more than half a century now. Yet they remain a popular choice among rifle enthusiasts. It is a highly versatile and reliable rifle that can cater to the varying needs of the customers including but not limited to home defense, hunting, or range shooting.

Apart from being versatile and reliable, AR 15s are known for the extent of available customization options. They are highly customizable and you can even build a custom AR 15 from scratch! Everything including the upper & lower receiver, trigger assembly, magazines, optics, and the gas system can be customized.

With potentially unlimited customization options, AR owners are often found cooking dilemmas out of thin air. Though a complete guide on customizing your AR is well beyond the scope of this article, we can help you choose the right optic for your AR-15.

How to choose an optic for your AR?

Finding the right optic for your AR-15 can be a difficult task. There are a lot of different factors to consider, such as the type of shooting you will be doing, the size and weight of the optic, and the price you are willing to pay.

Here are three important factors you should consider while purchasing an optic.

1. Purpose

You might be planning to use your AR for home defense, hunting, or range shooting but for each of these, you need a different category of the optic. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best optic for target shooting may be different from the best optic for home defense or hunting.

2. Magnification

The magnification of an AR 15 optic is an important factor to consider when purchasing an optic. The magnification of an optic determines how much the image will be magnified when looking through the optic. The most common magnifications for AR 15 optics are 1x, 3x, and 6x. 1x optics provide the least amount of magnification, while 6x optics provide the most magnification.

3. Weight

When it comes to the weight of an AR 15 optic, there are a few things to consider. The weight of the optic itself, as well as the weight of the added accessories. Some optics are much heavier than others. If you're someone who prefers to keep their rifle as light as possible, you'll want to go with an optic that is as lightweight as possible.

Additionally, you'll want to consider the weight of any accessories you may add to your optic. For example, if you add a magnifier to your optic, that will add some extra weight. Make sure to consider the added weight of any accessories before making a purchase.

Apart from these you also need to consider the type of optic (duplex, ballistic, illuminated, etc.), length, price, and whether or not you need the optic to be fog & waterproof.

The Different Types Of Optics For An AR 15

Optics for AR 15s are broadly divided into five classes based on different parameters. No one size fits all when it comes to optics for AR 15 so we can’t suggest to you the ‘best option. Instead, we will give you a bird view of the types of optics and their uses.

1. Class I: Iron sight replacements

2. Class II: Low power fixed magnification

3. Class III: Low power variable magnification

4. Class IV: Mid to high magnification

5. Class V: Digital Hybrid

Class I

Iron sights commonly known as red dots fall into the class I category of optics. As the name suggests, red dots give the shooter a dot on the visual plane and an easy-to-view picture. Red dots don’t offer any magnification so they are often considered to be the most basic optic. They are easy to install and are a set-and-forget type of optic as you don’t have to do any adjustments to them.

Red dots are parallax error-free to a certain extent but they don’t give complete resistance to this error. Owing to its simplicity, red dots are the best for home defense.

Class II

Class II optics is a slightly upgraded version of class I optics. They are more or less the same except Class II optics have reticles on them that help the shooter estimate where each shot will hit. But note that class II optics do not give any magnification but they are perfect for shooting within a range of 50-300 m.

Class III

Class III optics are capable of offering magnification up to 4x times and they come with varying reticule patterns and illumination options. Compared to Class I and Class II these optics take time to be set up, especially during a swap or an adjustment.

Though most Class III optics come with a 4X magnification, 6X and 8X variants are also available.

Class IV

Class IV optics are more or less similar to class II but it comes with major performance improvements. For instance, the lowest magnification on these optics is well above 1X and the highest available magnification can range anywhere between 9X and 16X. These optics are ideal if you plan on using your AR on the shooting range. It is important to note that a bench or stable support is needed to get the best performance from Class IV optics.

Class V

Class V optics are the most advanced ones in the market. These optics come with a built-in computer that gives the shooter complete information including the exact distance from the target, a digital image of the target, and more.

Class V optics fall on the pricey side. Though they are worth investing in because they rely heavily on electronics, they are not ideal for rugged us. If you were to use your AR on the field, we recommend you not to buy it.

Our Recommendation

As mentioned previously, choosing the right optic for your AR is entirely a personal choice. A choice that has to be made based on the factors mentioned before. But note that investing in the right manufacturer also makes a huge difference. Here are some of the top trusted optics manufacturers in the US.

1. Nightforce Precision Optics

Nightforce Optics, Inc. is a popular American manufacturer of high-end telescopic sights, spotting scopes, and mounting accessories, based in Lavonia, Georgia with factory headquarters in Orofino, Idaho. Nightforce is known among enthusiasts for its ruggedness and reliability.

2. Kahles

Kahles is a popular manufacturer of rifle optics with a history of over 120 years. Known for their precision and uncompromising quality, they are an excellent option for demanding shooters.

Bottom line

The key to hitting the bullseye is to have the right optic on your AR. We have seen AR owners being reluctant towards investing money on optics and instead splashing their money on enhancements that offer no or the least returns. Before you invest in an optic, ensure that it can cater to your requirements.

If you are looking forward to purchasing an optic, feel free to visit us and find your perfect fit from the range of optics we deal with.

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