Russian and Belorussian
optical manufacturers have produced a variety of
traditional red dot type optics along with more
interesting collimator optics that we might not be as
familiar with in the West. As a general rule my
experience is that all of these optics work well (or
best) with both eyes open and are designed to be fast
acquisition CQB optics as you would expect. Some of
the them use a true collimator design which gives
excellent light gathering properties and very clear
field of view. Tritium is also an effective addition
for low light use without batteries on some models.
There are such a large number of red dot type optics that it will be extremely difficult to have a hands on detail for them all, therefore a few of them will be dealt with in a general means only.
Kobra battery test from AR15.com
Generally speaking the red dot and collimator
optics are not caliber specific and typically do not
have range adjustments or turrets for windage or
elevation adjustments on the fly. In effect they are
zeroed to the rifle in question and then the shooter
will use hold overs to correct for distance or wind,
with the design obviously being optimized for CQB
and/or relatively close range engagements. It is also
very common for Russian red dots to have much smaller
1.5 MOA or 2 MOA dots. Depending on range and lighting
conditions this can make the dots slightly harder to
acquire than the common Aimpoint 3.8 MOA dot, but IMO
the tradeoff is more precise aiming at longer ranges.
In my personal experience I have found that I prefer the collimator types over the tubular red dots for a few reasons that matter to me. The main feature I prefer about the collimator types is the reticule type that many have...chevron, triangle or German Post is very common, vs the simple dot of the tube optics. What I like about the chevron type reticule is that it is large enough for good close range CQB but can be zeroed so that point of impact is at the tip, allowing for precise aiming at longer ranges. Effectively the reticule is large enough to acquire as quick or quicker than a red dot but also allows for long range shooting as well. To me this is the best of both worlds and a feature that I have come to respect about the Russian collimators.
Another feature I really like is the use of always-on reticule designs like Rakurs, PK-AS and Obzor, combined with tritium for low light shooting. This means no batteries to worry about... period.
On the one hand because many Russian optics have
two weeks and longer battery
life on max brightness (with Aimpoints having
YEARS of battery life), and also because it's pretty
easy to keep spare batteries, you can argue that an
always-on reticule may not be the absolute be-all,
end-all in optic design...but on the other hand it
means that the rifleman does not have to do anything
to the optic at all to make it combat ready. Zero once
and forget about it, literally. There are no on/off
controls or other brightness controls to get the most
modern Russian optics ready for shooting.
I tend to prefer the simplicity of the collimators but one tradeoff will be replacing the tritium in 10 years vs swapping batteries. I don't believe in worrying about whether tritium will fade out in combat conditions right when you need it most, but it is a valid concern on how to replace the tritium at some point when it finally dies. It has been possible to relight the Soviet 1P29 optic and it may be possible to relight Rakurs or Obzor should the need arise.
Since collimators basically use the general design of magnified scopes but at 1x magnification they tend to have much higher light gathering properties than tubular red dots. This comes in handy as low light conditions set in, and in my experience I feel that collimator optics like PK-AS and Rakurs do better in low light than other Russian red dot tube designs like PK23 or PK-A for example.
It is also often said that Russian optics are much
taller than many Western optics mounted on AR type
rifles and I think this is generally a true statement.
The effect becomes a chin weld vs the more common
cheek weld of the AR but in my experience I have not
seen much practical difference during shooting. I'd
think it's logical to assume a cheek weld will give
tighter groups in general, but under what I'd consider
combat shooting the chin weld is still going to allow
the rifleman to hit man size targets reliably even if
the group size is larger than what might have been had
with a cheek weld. In the end I believe the difference
is not as much absolute as it is philosophical or
doctrinal and during shooting I haven't noticed much
difference personally. While I have been trained on
the M16A2 with a nose to charging handle cheek weld, I
haven't had any issues adapting to the higher chin
weld of many Russian optics.
Two other points to think about is CQB and the use of ballistic helmets like K6-3 Atlyn. While I do not claim to be a CQB expert it does seem that the higher head position helps quicker shooting during close range engagements, and in the case of ballistic helmets it can be difficult or impossible to get on the sights if they are very low.