Red Dots / Collimators

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.

Also of note:

PK series battery test completed September 4th 2012

Kobra battery test from

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PK-A Original

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Trijicon MRO
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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 older Aimpoint 3.8 MOA dot, but IMO the tradeoff is more precise aiming at longer ranges. It should also be noted that Aimpoint and Trijicon now use 2 MOA dots as their standard size, something the Belorussians have been doing for 15 years or more

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.

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Obzor reticule

PK-AS reticule

Kobra 4 pattern reticule

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