Aimpoint red-dot sights are an everyday component of modern warfare with more than 1 million units supplied to U.S. armed forces since 1997. Utterly dependable and lightning-quick on target, they have become the go-to rifle sights for a new generation of American shooters.
Before the Aimpoint red-dot became the world’s pre-eminent combat optic, it had dominated in bullseye pistol and other competitive shooting disciplines, and even before that, it originated as a hunting tool.
And yet red-dot technology has been slow to catch on with American hunters. Now Aimpoint is out to change that with its new Hunter series. The Swedish company recently introduced a product line built especially for big-game hunters, a sight styled to fit both traditional and modern sporting rifles, and one that will help bridge the gap for returning vets as they transition to hunting and the shooting sports.
When Swedish engineer Gunnar Sandberg perfected his intuitive, little sight nearly four decades ago, the intended user base was Scandinavian moose hunters who needed rapid target acquisition to engage quarry driven through dense forest. And the sight’s reflex-collimator principle worked well in that snap-shooting, short-range environment. Users could simply throw the gun up and lead with the highly visible red dot. With no need to center the dot or search for the right eye relief, this sight proved more intuitive than using a scope. The Aimpoints also proved virtually indestructible in the face of harsh weather and hard use. Soon this sight had caught on across Europe where organized drives for big game account for much of the hunting.
That acceptance hasn’t been quite so forthcoming here in the U.S., where we lean on magnification for making longer, deliberate shots in open country. Some American hunters have found Aimpoint products like the Comp 9000 useful, and turkey guns in particular are often equipped with red-dot sights.
The Hunter series, however, is purposely tailored to deer, elk and wild hog hunters. The first units boasted a 34 mm tube and came in long- and short-action models, the 34L and 34S respectively. A more compact 30 mm has since been added.
The spacious tube and its 47 mm objective lens provide a tremendously wide see-through area, some 250 percent larger than the view area provided by the 9000 series. Because red-dots are used with both eyes open, field-of-view limitations aren’t the factor they are with telescopic sights, but nonetheless users tend to focus on only the cross-section encompassed by the unit. Thus, the wide see-through comes into play, the practical benefit being faster target acquisition, especially on moving game, than can be achieved with magnified optics.
We were afforded a sneak-peek of a pre-production Hunter sight in October 2009 and had the opportunity to test-fire it on paper targets out to 300 yards. The new Aimpoint Hunter features a 2 minute-of-angle dot (compared to a 4 m.o.a. dot on many red dots) that allowed precision aiming, and from a benchrest it helped maintain 1½-m.o.a. accuracy at all distances. The controls are housed in a silicon-rubber touchpad atop the center turret for easy access and silent operation. There are 12 intensity settings (plus Off) and click-stop adjustments that move the dot 1/2-inch at 80 yards for each click. (That may seem a bit confusing to those of us used to quarter-minute clicks, but really it translates to just over 1½ inches for four clicks at 100 yards.) Hunter series units operate on one 3-volt lithium battery, the common CR-2032 size, which, according to the manufacturer, will deliver 50,000 hours of continuous use.
More recently we mounted a production 34L unit on a variety of guns including a DPMS Classic, a Savage 220F slug gun and a Sako Finnwolf lever-action. Grouping was consistent with each respective gun’s potential, and the Hunter’s adjustments proved consistent for both windage and elevation. The common chord between the chosen shooting platforms is that all are well-suited for making fast-breaking shots on moving game. In an effort to simulate such action, we shot a timed rotation of three shots each on targets placed at 100, 50 and 25 yards, then repeated the exercise with a fixed-6X scope that affords comfortable eye relief and a wide field of view. The bright, red-dot reticle certainly made target acquisition faster. Counting only those targets where all three shots hit the 6-inch bullseye, the Aimpoint averaged about four seconds faster.
After conducting this test on a 90-degree F day, we put the sight in the freezer for 20 minutes. When it emerged there was no internal fogging and the controls worked just fine. That shouldn’t have been surprising, because a few years back we used Aimpoints on a driven hunt for boar and deer in Lithuania in temperatures as low as minus 11 degrees F, which is even colder than most freezers.
Clearly this is an extremely robust unit, and given Aimpoint’s reputation for ruggedness we would expect nothing less from its uni-body housing crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum. The finish is non-reflecting matte-black, and Aimpoint says the Hunter sights are fully waterproof.
We can’t predict if American hunters will embrace this thoughtful new design, but after our initial testing we’re convinced it can equal, if not exceed, the capability of a telescopic sight in many hunting venues. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who participates in deer drives and especially those Southerners whose sport involves the use of chase dogs in the traditional manner. That could translate as well to hound hunters pursuing bear and cougar, and possibly eastern deer, hog and coyote hunters who set up in brushy areas may also be well-served. Even in the Pacific Northwest, where deer, elk and bears are hunted in tangled rainforests, hunters could reap the benefits from near-instantaneous target acquisition. Based on what we’ve seen, hunters who gain proficiency will find the Hunter series perfectly capable beyond 250 yards.