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Gideon Optics sight mounted to an APC9 at the range

Using A Red Dot in Low Light Conditions

If you need better accuracy and faster target acquisition after the sun goes down, using a red dot sight in low light conditions couldn’t be easier. With properly adjusted brightness, your red dot is perfect for day and night shooting or transitioning between the two. Modern red dot optics are also compatible with popular night vision systems, giving you greater tactical flexibility for protecting and serving in the line of duty or protecting your family in the middle of the night. With a little planning and effective training, your red dot is ready to help you aim better when the lights go out.

Illuminated Target Acquisition

Using red dot sights has become a popular way to upgrade the sight picture on pistols, carbines, and shotguns because they make aiming almost as easy as point and shoot. These reflex sights use powerful LED emitters to project a bright dot or reticle onto a specially coated lens. Looking through the lens, the reticle appears to float in the air, overlaying the target in your sight picture. Simply line up your reticle for shot placement, and you’re ready to fire.

Your Eyes in Low Light

Our eyes evolved to work in a variety of lighting conditions thanks to pupils that dilate and contract to gather more or less light. As ambient light sources dim, our pupils open wider to take in as much of the available light as possible. While we still lose some definition to a degree that varies from individual to individual, we’re able to see well enough, especially in familiar environments like our own living rooms, to navigate with only the occasional stubbed toe. However, there is a big difference between navigating and finding an accurate aiming point with red dot sights vs. traditional iron sights.

Using Your Red Dot in Low Light

Red dots have a mixed reputation for night shooting, largely due to misuse or misunderstanding of the technology. The truth is that using a red dot sight in low light can give you a significant tactical advantage, but you have to prepare and train for it as with any other firearms skill. Here are a few tips to help you get your gun ready.

Woman zeroing in a red dot sight at an outdoor shooting range
  • Sight in Your Red Dot in Normal Light – Your zero won’t change between daylight and low light, but your visual acuity will. Zeroing your sight in when your eyes have optimal lighting will help ensure your firearm is sighted in as accurately as possible. It’s also a great opportunity to brush up on your aiming skills using a red dot sight in lighting you’re familiar with first.
  • Opt for a Red Reticle -If you’re considering which reflex optic to order or your optic has a color option, using a red dot is best for low-light and night shooting. Red light does less to affect our natural low-light vision than green or yellow dot optics, hence the use of red filters on flashlights during Vietnam and earlier conflicts before the advent of night vision.
  • Adjust Your Brightness – Adjustable brightness is key to low-light shooting with a red dot. The brighter the light, the harder it is for your eyes to adjust between the reticle and your surroundings. On the other hand, a setting that is too dim may leave you without a visible reticle should the lights come on. Take some time to find your sweet spot in a dark room where you can turn the light on and off while sighting down your unloaded firearm.
  • Practice Night Shooting – Using your red dot in low-light situations is a specialized skill that requires specialized practice. Work with your local gun range to set up night or low-light shooting times that can give you experience in finding your range and aim when ambient lighting is dim. Short of that, dry-fire training at home in low-light settings, including “clearing” your darkened house, can help bridge the gap in training until you can find a more amenable shooting range.
  • Consider a Tactical Light – Tactical lights are popular accessories for home and self-defense firearms where low-light shooting may be needed. Mounted versions attach via a rail or trigger guard clamp, while some gun owners opt for a hand-held light that leaves their dominant hand free to hold a pistol. Using a red dot with a tactical light can help ease the visual disparity between the lighted area in front of your muzzle and the surrounding darkness, including iron sights, which are often poorly illuminated, making accurate shooting easier.

Using Red Dots with Night Vision

Four of Gideon Optics red dot sights placed on a wooden table

As the civilian market’s entry-level price tag for night vision equipment drops, more gun owners are looking for compatible red dot sights. Image intensification systems amplify the ambient light reflecting from objects (including some wavelengths the naked eye can’t see) and present it as an image within our viewable spectrum. Our adjustable brightness settings feature eleven different brightness gradients, including two night-vision-compatible modes at the lower end of the brightness scale. Aim the weapon either through your night vision system’s monocular lens or the dominant side lens and fire as normal. If the ambient light changes, such as if someone turns on the light in a darkened room, simply remove or flip up your night vision system and go back to using your red dot as normal.

Get Your Red Dot for Night Shooting

We’re proud to offer high-performance optics with the features you need for better shooting, day or night. They’re engineered for accuracy, built for real-world use, and priced to take aim at targets, not your bank account. Sign up for our email list to get product news about new optics and special pricing. Order your red dot sights from Gideon Optics today.

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