July 2012

Inexpensive Red Dot Sights—BSA, NcStar, Tasco, & Bushnell

How much is price a factor in a red-dot sight performance?

Back in 1975, Aimpoint offered the first commercial red-dot sight. Those initial sights were heavy and good luck trying to find a replacement battery. Today’s red-dot units are lighter and use batteries sold at convenience stores and gas stations, and as the weight of the sight decreased, so too did the price. One of our testers cringes at the price he paid for a used Aimpoint in the ‘80s. Today, he could purchase eight $50 modern red dots for the same money.

We wondered, however, if the sub-$50 red dots really did keep their utility as they got more affordable. To find out, we tested three affordable sights, the Tasco BKRD30 ($50), BSA Model RD30 ($40), and NcStar DBB130 ($40). To give us some contrast, we also tested a potential ringer, the Bushnell TRS-25, which costs about $100. Would the extra cost prove to be a good investment, or would the sights that cost half deliver similar performance to the Bushnell? Before we began range work with the red dots, they were shock-tested by dropping them on a wood floor from a height of 4 feet. The jolt had no effect on the sights; dots remained illuminated and the knobs still turned.

Next, the dots were activated with the turret covers left on and frozen at -4° F then soaked in hot water. Some of the instruction manuals stated the battery and turrets caps need to be secured when using the sights in extreme conditions. We abided and left the turret caps on. All had some type of pliable gasket on the turrets to seal out dust and moisture. So, too, did the battery compartments. There were no hiccups from the cold. In the water, all the sights released a few air bubbles form the rheostat knob, but again there were no malfunctions.

We used a Ruger 22/45 for range testing. Shooting was from a rest using a two-hand hold. We fired 40-grain Remington Thunderbolt cartridges with a velocity of 1255 fps at NRA 50-foot timed- and rapid-fire pistol targets.

All the sights had Picatinny rail or Weaver-style bases for mounting. The NcStar and BSA both had one clamp that was adjustable. The Tasco’s mounts were fixed. The Bushnell had only one mounting clamp. All the clamps could be tightened with a flat screwdriver or coin. Only the Bushnell required a hex wrench, which was supplied with the sight. These sights are made to be zeroed and left alone, but we cranked the windage and elevation around the horn, while noting the number of clicks to see if they returned to zero. None of them did.

We also looked at the ability to pick up the dot with both eyes opened, consistency shot after shot, and ease of use. Here’s what we thought about each unit.

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