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The Right Optic for the Mission

This article contains affiliate links.

This episode is a bit of an audio guide version of my article on selecting AR-15 optics. It’s a bit more off the cuff than usual, and you can probably tell that I get a bit excited about nerding out with this topic. 

The principles I outline apply to just about any kind of optic regardless of the rifle, or handgun, that it mounts to. At the core, it’s about understanding the role you are trying to fill and then selecting an appropriate solution within the bounds of your budget.

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Optics can get a lot of people confused and mixed up. It’s one of the things that a lot of people spend too much time thinking about and playing with because it is probably the easiest thing to change out. The goal of this episode is not to provide a “best” of anything, as the world of optics is always evolving. However, I do have a system for categorizing optics based on gross design features.

  • Class 0: Iron Sights
  • Class I: Iron Sight Replacement (Zero Magnification)
  • Class II: Low Power Fixed Magnification
  • Class III: Low Power Variable Magnification
  • Class IV: Mid to High Magnification (Precision Riflescopes)
  • Class V: Digital Hybrids

There is a lot of overlap in the capabilities and uses with each of these categories. Everything is a compromise between speed, magnification, durability, weight, and price.

In general, if your priority is speed and you will stick to 100 yards or less, and especially less than 50 yards, stick with a Class I optic.

If you are between 50 and 400 yards, and place a premium on weight, then a Class II is a good fit. 

Class III optics give you a lot more flexibility, but come at the cost of weight and increased price to achieve the same level of durability as a Class II. If you’re ok with the weight penalty, then the Class III low power variable options are great and I would point most people in this direction these days.

Class IV optics shine for precision rifles at mid-range and beyond.

Class V is still the stuff of science fiction, but it’s fun to think about.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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