Are We Neglecting Prismatics?

Are We Neglecting Prismatics?

Prismatic sights aren’t the most popular option for shooters. Should you give one a try over a red dot? Well, it depends on your circumstances.

What’s the point?

Red dots are fast, durable, and easy on the budget. Why should anyone abandon the red dot for a niche optic? The prismatics have a few surprising advantages:

  • “Always On”: For people wary of electronics, the low mag prisms will always have an reticle available even with no power.
  • The reticle will not  distort: A red dot can bloom on higher settings, but a prismatics etched reticle will remain precise. When I pushed my red dots to 400 yards, I had to lower the brightness to reduce the bloom. A prismatic wouldn’t have this problem.
  • A solution for astigmatism: If you avoid red dots due to the apostrophe or grape cluster effect, a prismatic will solve that problem for you. One of the reasons I sold my Aimpoint was due to astigmatism. The dot was beginning to turn into a smear. My vision will only worsen from here out, so I ditched it.
  • Low light: Some reports form users who have adopted prismatics are also noting that they can shoot a bit better in low light conditions. Not surprising since prismatics are set-up similar to a 1-4x variable stuck on 1x power. They gather a bit of light and funnel it into the eyebox.

  • Some models have adjustable focus: They can be adjusted for focus as necessary which is a good feature.

As nice as those points are, they do have their tradeoffs: They are more critical of eye placement, are heavier than a RDS, and have a shorter battery life (though this is somewhat negated by having a black reticule all the time). You also need to ditch them to utilize a buis. Being that I sold my Aimpoint because of astigmatism, I think I can live with the trade-offs of a low magnification variable.

Wrapping Up

So for my future 1x purchases, I will be trying out prismatics. I’m not saying everyone should abandon red dots; keep one if it works for you… But if you find that your vision hates the RDS, prismatics can be your low magnification solution that is relevant to fast and accurate shooting. I hope manufacturers continue to evolve the design so we can see the bugs worked out of the few prismatics available.

Leupold, Burris, Vortex, and Trijicon offer low magnification prismatics. I have my eye on the Trijicon product… but I would have to sell my beloved TA31F. Not sure if I am ready for that.

Written by lothaen


  1. A User · October 15, 2014

    Which Trijicon are you looking to try?

    I have some astigmatism in my shooting eye, but not enough to really affect how I see through RDS. However, I’ve always been intrigued by the TA44SG-10 and the circle-dot reticle. I think that comes in about as heavy (or lighter, even) as a Aimpoint T-1

  2. Kevin · October 18, 2014

    might the rds be the cause of blury vision after an hour at the range looking threw the rds the whole time? I am trying to figure this out propr to buying a new site for my pistol build.

    • lothaen · October 18, 2014

      The eye can fatigue from trying to focus on something for too long, sure… But a red dot sight is a target focused optic; there is no need to focus on anything other than the target. With irons, your eye is balancing three elements in your sight picture: the rear peep, the front sight, and the target. Jumping between the front sight and the target fatigues the eye a great deal. Not so with an RDS; focus on the target and put the dot on target. Fire.

  3. Bryan · February 7, 2016

    I have the Vortex Strikefire II, the 1x prismatic. It is heavy but built like a tank. Nothing feels “cheap” on it. The newest version does away with the dial settings and uses buttons. I like the reticule, its simple and fast. I DO wish it had NOD settings…even on the lowest it is much to bright. Got mine 40% off from a major shooting sports reseller due to new model coming out. Liked it so much I bought 2 more.

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