Carson “Squeegie” Jenkins & Mike “NonStop”Selvetti
Players will put almost any accessory on their marker if they think it will gain them even the slightest advantage over their opponents. From ported barrels to low pressure kits, these items help a player’s marker become more accurate and more efficient. Hundreds of dollars are spent to make the ball fly farther and group tighter, but what good is it if you can’t aim? That’s where optics comes in. A somewhat over looked accessory, paintball optics were once reserved for snipers. With the advent of occluded eye technology and other “quick acquisition” features, marker optics are quickly becoming add-ons for all types of players. We will show you a few of the optics that are available, and help you choose what types will be best for your style of play.
Scopes are devices that magnify the target through a series of lenses, while superimposing a reticle, usually a crosshair, over the target area. The scope can be adjusted by setting the windage and elevation knobs. Price ranges on scopes vary from as little as 8.99 to well into the thousands. Scopes are described by the minimum magnification power by the maximum magnification power by the objective lens diameter (usually in millimeters). So a 3x9x40 scope would have a minimum magnification of 3 times normal view adjustable up to 9 times normal view with a objective lens diameter of 40 mm. The objective lens diameter is an important number to watch. This is the end of the scope that you look out of. A larger lens means better light gathering, which converts to a better sight picture. Another factor to consider about scopes is the tube diameter. The tube is the area between the viewing area and the objective lens. Most scopes are built around a 1-inch diameter tube. Some of the higher priced scopes offer a 30mm tube. The advantage of the larger tube is better light gathering. Better light gathering capabilities make images much brighter in low light. The scopes are adjusted using windage and elevation knobs. The knobs are turned in MOA increments. MOA is minute of angle. This is the unit of measure that is used to zero your scope. The standard MOA on most scopes is each click changes the impact point 1 inch at 100 yards.
Scopes are manufactured by hundreds of different companies. Most high-end manufacturers price their scopes well outside the budget of most players. Your local “Mart” store carries a lot of budget “rimfire/airgun” scopes designed for .22 caliber rifles or BB guns. These are ideal scopes to mount to your marker. These scopes will hold their zero much longer than a large caliber riflescope will. The type of recoil generated by an airgun is due to springs and pistons slamming around. This type of recoil is more abusive to a scope than the recoil of a large caliber firearm. Many good deals can be found by buying used scopes. You need to make sure that the scope will mount to your marker. Most markers use a standard 3/8” dovetail mount. Unfortunately for paintballers, a lot of firearms scopes are designed to fit ½” dovetails, so you will have to purchase a new set of mounting rings to make your scope paintball compliant. You also may need a raised set of mounting rings to ensure that you scope will clear you elbow feed. If you are using a marker with a vertical feed, side mounts are available to get your scope around your hopper.
Scopes are manufactured by hundreds of different companies. Most high-end manufacturers price their scopes well outside the budget of most players. With the accuracy of paintballs, it would be overkill to mount a $2000 Leupold scope on your favorite marker. Many good deals can be found by buying used scopes. The Norinco Red Star is a scope that has found its way into paintball. The compact design and compatibility with most mounting scope rings have made it a favorite of RecBall players. A used Norinco will runaround $30.00. Your local “Mart” store carries a lot of budget “rimfire” scopes designed for .22 caliber rifles. Most of these will be compatible with your marker. The average “rimfire” scope runs about $20.00
Just as there are hundreds of different options for your marker, scopes are the same way. Because of paintballs relative short range, most of the options don’t apply to the game. Listed are some of the more practical options that are available.
Reticles or “crosshairs” as they are commonly referred to, are available in several standard designs. The most popular are the Crosshairs, which are simply to lines that intersect in the center. Other more advanced reticle designs can increase the odds that your ball meets its target. Here is a quick rundown on some of the more popular ones.
Circle – As simple as it sounds, a circle. These are for a quick acquisition of the target without interfering with identification. Not exactly a precision based design, it is a good reticle for high rate of fire markers. If the target is in the circle, you are going to hit it. A few variations of the circle design have a small dot in the center for a precision shot.
Dot – Another simple one. A small dot, usually illuminated, is centered in the viewing area. The dots are available in many different sizes and are sometimes accompanied with crosshairs or other reticle elements.
USMC MilDot – This has a series of dots that run across the standard cross hair design. The dots are used in estimating the impact of the bullet. For example, 3 dots up would be sighted in at 300 yards.
German Post – This consist of two bars at 3 & 9 o’clock with a post at the 6 o’clock position. The post has a pointed tip from which you place your target. This is a bold reticle, which will allow you to quickly line up your shot. The European version of this reticle is the same design, except that the post has no point.
CPC - Not an extremely popular reticle, the CPC is available in some of the more high-end scopes. The design uses two posts that run horizontally. The two posts converge to points at the center of the scope, separated by a small space. The target is set between the two points.
Range Estimator – This is a scale that accompanies the standard reticle. The scale has two lines that intersect at one point, with ranges in increasing increments. The scale uses the chest of a man (approx. 18 inches wide) to estimate the size of other objects at a distance. You simply line up the person in between the two lines until the frame the person’s torso. The corresponding number is the estimated range of the individual.
The ability to gather light makes a big difference in being able to see your target. Coated optics use special metals and polymers to enhance the optics light gathering. Magnesium fluoride, silicone oxide, and zinc sulfide are some of the most popular. This will also improve your clarity at long ranges. Some optics use multiple coatings to achieve different effects such as anti-glare, polarization, and UV blocking. Special care should be taken when cleaning coated optics, as they do scratch easily.
Most scopes require you to be quite close to the eyepiece to see the sight picture. With Extended Eye Relief models, you can view through your scope from as far back as 24” from the eyepiece. This is useful if you shoot your marker from an extended arm position, or want to mount your scope in a forward position. For the truly daring player, these scopes are the best for mounting to pistols.
Some scopes are available with a rotating eyepiece that allows you to zoom in on your target. Most only magnify from 3 to 9 times that of normal. There are a few on the market that increase the image as high as 15 times or more. These are very useful if you need to see deep across a field to identify a player or observe a position.
These sights use what is called the Bidden eye concept. A non-magnifying sight, it operates by using surrounding light to illuminate a fiber optic rod. The user looks through the sight with one eye, while maintaining the other eye on the target. The brain puts the two pictures together, resulting in a red dot being superimposed over the target area. These sights allow the user to keep his peripheral vision open as well as offer quick target acquisition. Occluded eye sights are relatively small compared to other optics. The elimination of magnifying components allows for a more compact design. Another benefit of these sights is that most can also be installed onto markers that have vertical feeds, because the user is not looking “through” the sight for the image. A downside to the sight is that it relies on ambient light to illuminate the reticle. This makes the sight useless in low light situations. The most popular OE sight on the market today would be the Red Dot distributed by Pro-Team Products. A durable aluminum body and a marker compliant 3/8” dovetail mount have made the Red Dot a common place item for most players today. The Red Dot is manufactured to MilSpec tolerances, allowing it to take the extreme conditions found in most paintball games.
Illuminated sights are non-magnifying, view through sights. The design uses an internal illuminator to superimpose a Reticle inside onto the target area. Unlike the Occluded Eye designs, the IRD sight depends on the viewer to look through the sight to view the target. The illuminated Reticle can be seen clearly against most backgrounds, and is not dependent on ambient light. This makes it an excellent optic for low light situations. The cons of the sight are the bulky design. Most of these sights are rather large, and must be mounted with a clear line of sight to the target area. The large optics is susceptible to damage from incoming rounds, debris, and other environmental hazards. Adco makes a complete line of IRD sights. The most well know is the Square Shooter series. The Square Shooter comes in two different sizes, 20mm & 40mm, Reticle intensity dial, coated optics, and a protective lens cover.
Reflex sights are somewhat of a manifestation of the IRD sights. Some designs use an illuminator to reflect the Reticle onto a coated optic. The result is a reticle superimposed onto the sight picture. The twist is that the entire unit is open. The reflecting optic it located in the front of the sight, while the illuminator, windage, and other components are encased into the base. The advantage of the sight is that it doesn’t restrict the surrounding view of the target, helping to eliminate “tunnel vision”. Most designs offer features such as intensity dial, interchangeable reticules, and flip down optics. Problem areas with the peep sights are the durability. With exposed optics, they tend to become damaged easily. Daisy makes an inexpensive peep sight originally manufactured for BB guns. The sight has an ABS plastic base with an illuminated reticle. Adco also has manufactured an inexpensive reflex sight that has been design for use with paintball markers. It offers all the benefits of a reflex sight with marker compatibility. Best of all, Adco includes a lifetime warranty against any kind of damage from paintball.