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Optics Buying Guide—Everything You Need To Know

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Optics Buying Guide Presented by Burris on GunsAmerica

What's the right answer? Fixed magnification, red dot or variable zoom scope? Or maybe a combination like the Burris AR-332 and FastFire 3 on the right?

With so much focus on firearms, it is easy to forget how important a quality optic can be. Sure, you might have bought the most accurate precision rifle available that will shoot minute-of-fly-eye at 1,000 yards, but are you going to use iron sights on it? How about that new tactical carbine, shotgun or competition pistol? Well, we suppose you could pick up one of those $80 specials at the local big box store and be good, right? Wrong. You need a quality optic to wring the most performance out of your quality firearms. And, you need to understand exactly what you are buying, and why, to make the most effective use of your purchasing power as possible.

So, how do you get a good grasp of the world of optics? With topics ranging from long-range variable power optics to close-range systems for carbines, shotguns and handguns, it can be a lot to digest. And, how do you properly use each? Well, we have you covered right here at By reading this exhaustively researched and detailed 12-part series on optics, you will get the info you need to not only make an informed purchase, but also to properly use your chosen optic to its fullest potential. So, click away below and read on to find out what is just right for you. This series will make the new technologies and old favorites easier to understand. It will break down the optics jargon, and explain what’s available on the market today. If you’re looking for a new scope, or a new red dot, check out this guide first. We’ll make sure everything is crystal clear.

  1.  Optics Buying Guide: Iron Sights, Red Dots, and Scopes – What are the functional differences between fixed sights, adjustable power scopes, and red dots? Read our introduction to the realm of sighting systems.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Top Must-Know Terms for Picking the Right Scope – This article unpacks the language of optics, their specifications and features, and discusses the basics of performance and price.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Scope Mounts – Why are some scope mounts so cheap and others so expensive? What does a riser do?  This article will help you understand mounting options and how to get the proper alignment and fit.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: How To Properly Zero Your Scope – Every optic will need to be zeroed, and this method will get the job done efficiently. Get on paper, faster, and use these same skills at much longer distances.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Finding Your Range with a Scope Reticle – Scope reticles can be simple crosshairs, or complex visual calculators. This article demonstrates how mil-dots relate to minute of angle in first and second focal plane reticles.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Hold Off vs. Adjustable Scope Turrets – Adjustable scopes allow for adaptability at longer ranges.  Caps and turrets allow you to calculate impact using your reticle and a ballistics calculator. How effective are they, and what’s the benefit of custom turrets?
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Scope Reticles – There are many types of scope reticles. Why so many? This installment breaks down custom reticles and caliber specific reticles, and will show how some of the more unique reticles work.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Using a Laser Rangefinding Scope – What happens when you combine the power of a long range scope with the precision of a laser range finder? Much of the guess work disappears. These optics are easy to use, but how accurate are their calculations and how well will the technology handle the heavy recoil of a rifle?
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Holographic and Red Dot Optics – What are the benefits of the red dots and holographic sights? This may be the fastest changing class of optics. Here’s how to get the most from the technology.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: AR-15 Optics and Scopes – From CQB carbines to long range tack-drivers, the AR-15 is a diverse rifle. This guide looks at the best solutions for America’s black rifle.
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Big Scopes – When your target is far away, you need more magnification. How much is enough, and what do you give up when you opt for a high powered scope? And why are these beasts so expensive?
  1. Optics Buying Guide: Do You Get What You Pay For With Scopes? – This is a complex question. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Read our final installment, which compares performance, cost, and the relative value of scopes.
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