By Brad Steenrod
Why Your Red Dot Looks Blurry and What to Do About It
When you look through a red dot sight, do you see a crisp, clearly-defined reticle, or something completely different?
If you see a blurred dot that looks more like a star or a comma, or if you see multiple dots instead of one, you could have a defective optic or you may have an astigmatism.
What is an astigmatism?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an astigmatism is an imperfection in the curvature of your cornea (the eye’s lens) that causes blurred or distorted vision. This isn’t just a problem for people with poor eyesight – you can have good overall vision and still have a mild astigmatism. In fact, LASIK surgery can create irregularities in the curvature of the cornea as well.
You may not even realize you even have an astigmatism until you first look through a red dot sight.
Diagnosing an Astigmatism vs. a Defective Red Dot
Of course, if your experience with a red dot has these kind of results, you’ll first want to confirm that it is indeed your eyes, and not a defective optic. There are a few different ways to do this:
- Turn on the optic, cover the front lens and take a picture of the dot. Does it appear the same way in the picture as it does when you look through the sight? A properly focused picture will show what the dot really looks like.
- Look at the dot through your backup iron sights. Is it still blurry and fuzzy?
When you look at the dot through your rear peep sight, it reduces the amount of light your eyes are taking in, allowing you to see the dot’s actual shape.
- While looking through the sight, line the dot up with an object, and then rotate the optic either clockwise or counterclockwise without moving the dot off target. If the issue is with the optic, the distorted image will move with the optic.
Once you have ruled out a faulty optic as the culprit, you should see an optometrist to find out more information on what is wrong with your vision and what you can do to correct it. If you already have vision issues, you can most likely get an updated prescription that corrects the astigmatism.
Working with What You Have
If you’ve bought red dot, there are a few things to try to see if it can work for you, despite your newly discovered vision issues. An astigmatism causes light to refract to multiple focal points in your eye, so reducing the amount of light going into your eye from the red dot minimizes the blurring effect.
- Use a lower brightness setting.
- Look “through” the dot and focus on the target instead of looking “at” the dot.
- Use your peep sight and red dot at the same time.
- Get corrective lenses for shooting.
- Wear polarized sunglasses.
If these tactics don’t work, you might wonder if you might have to just forego optics entirely. Fortunately, that isn’t necessary, and there are a few alternatives available for you to choose from:
- A red dot with a larger MOA may be easier to see and have less distortion than a smaller MOA dot. This won’t eliminate the blur, but it may lessen the effect you experience while shooting. If you plan to try out this option, you will want to look for something with a reticle at least 4 MOA or larger.
- A holographic sight bounces light off of a holographic grate to project light onto the lens. This acts like a polarizing filter, reducing the amount of light your eye is exposed to. Shooters with astigmatisms report a reduced amount of distortion when using holographic sights.
- A prismatic sight uses a lens and etched glass to produce its reticle, and functions more like a traditional rifle scope than a red dot. Many people with astigmatisms report fewer difficulties with these kinds of sights. They are offered in various magnification levels, but one with no magnification could be an ideal red dot replacement for a shooter with an astigmatism.
Having an astigmatism will not prevent you from enjoying electronic optics, but it may reduce which styles of optic will meet your needs.
If you have already bought a red dot sight, try out the tips mentioned above and see if it’s worth your while to keep.
If not, or if you haven’t already made a purchase, go down to your local gun shop and ask to see what the reticles look like for red dot sights of different MOAs, holographic sights, and prismatic sights. Doing this will help you quickly determine which sights will work for you right out of the box before spending your hard-earned money.
One Last Tip
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This article was originally published in AT3 Tactical AR Academy and is reprinted here with permission.