When it comes to short dots on the Airsoft field, The one your most likely to encounter is this very one… It’s become a firm favourite for those looking for the look and functionality of a Vortex Razer, Nightforce NSX or the Schmidt And Bender PM II Short Dot without the heavy price tag.
If you can get over the aesthetic differences between these models often seen on SF build rifles and the slightly chunkier look of the VK offering then you might find yourself the owner of what in my opinion is the best magnified optic you can get for under £70.
Short Dots have had an interesting development history, their most modern incarnations having been traced back to the feedback given by Special Forces soldiers returning back from Somalia in the early ’90s, Where the need for both a ranged and CQB optic was the topic of the day, I’ll not dwell on the whole history as I can feel myself being drawn into another longwinded TL;DR post where my limited knowledge would surely show me up, But Larry Vickers did write an article about the history of short dots in use with SF units, particularly the Schmidt & Bender offering… You can read it here.
So, Onto my experiences…
Ebay, the worlds largest Airsoft store… If you don’t mind waiting a while, You can save a fair amount of money. Although the majority of items I’ve ordered, including from China and Hong Kong have arrived within 7 days, And at a healthy price compared to UK retail to boot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll often choose to buy domestically but when it’s £65.99 imported vs £100 UK retail (And out of stock anyway) I’ll be loyal to my wallet first!
This isn’t the first time I’ve owned a Visionking Short Dot, The last one sat atop my Tokyo Marui 416D, Alas it went up for sale, Along with the short dot due to a number of other replicas being used more often.
So, Fast-forward to a few weeks ago… I’d been thinking about a 14.5″ barrel for either the MWS or the Recoil for some time, I’ve been pretty much exclusively an “SBR” man for several years… However, I do like the whole ethos of deliberately placed shots at range. Having used a Mk12 build in the past I knew that a dedicated DMR platform is heavy and not always a “Force Multiplier” (More on that soon!).
A chance situation where a friend of a friend was getting rid of a Block 2 Rail in Black, Albeit without the barrel nut seemed to be nothing short of fate. I quickly found myself buying the rail, Then my adventures with baking it into a passable Daniel Defense FDE... I then started to look for a suitable optic.
With my ethos on replicas being that they must resemble at first glance, Something that is it has been used in real life I was limited to a handful of optics…
Clone EOTechs don’t do it for me, Having loomed through a few real ones I just don’t have a desire to use something that far behind its namesake. Repro ACOGs are much the same, The eye relief being sub par on most.
One of the more compelling options was a reproduction Spectre DR, However having owned one (Two actually) I can attest to their sizeable weight and variable quality of build. I did consider sticking with the T1 style Holosun sight I’ve used for the last 2 years but this gave me an opportunity to find it a permanent home on either the MP7 or MWS.
A final option was to buy a short dot, A quick look at all the options confirmed what I already knew… The Visionking was the only one within my modest budget. And so, Order placed I awaited the delivery… Less than a week later it arrived, well packed and bundled together with both a kill-flash and a set of low profile scope rings.
I’ll undoubtedly swap out the current rings I’m using (cheap mid height lever arm rings) for something a little more substantial, The rings that came with it are a little short to allow clearance for the IR Illuminator/Laser and my irons, Also with AR platforms I feel that a low scope forces a rather uncomfortable aiming stance, A little height over bore goes a long way!
The other ancillaries supplies include a rather randomly set out kill-flash, it doesn’t seem to cut down on the light entering the optic but at the same time it might be less than useful for protection as the holes are larger than 6mm for the most part.
The other bits included are the generic Visionking instruction manual/Brochure, A cleaning cloth and a pair of flip up covers for front and rear… Not as nice as butler creek covers but functional nonetheless.
However with the Element larue SPR Mount being made out of silver coloured cheese (My last one was broken on arrival, I’m not willing to order a second) I’ll probably settle for something that’s functional but not as pretty until someone releases A good quality One Piece Mount (Which I’ve been reliably informed that a reputable manufacturer is in the final design phase of a mount I very much desire!).
The scope itself is a variable zoom model, it allows magnification from 1.25 to 5 power, This being actuated via the power ring just forward of the tapering larger ocular section. The magnifications available are clearly marked on the scope, The ring moves easily when asked but with minimal chance of knocking out of your preferred set up. A lack of a accentuated throw lever (Or the apparent lack of ability to mount one) is a slight disappointment, but for a mil clone build it doesn’t really make or break the scopes appeal.
The reticle itself is a modified version of the classic “German” type with a broken horizontal line across the mid point of the viewable area, A vertical line up on the bottom half and a Circle and dot on the very middle of the lens. The circle and dot also have the option of being illuminated via a CR2032 cell stored in the reticle power turret which is an inch forward of the ocular lens and tilted 45 degrees to the top left of the scope.
The reticle illumination options are red and blue with 5 degrees of brightness settings, the first being ideal for indoor, overcast or first/last light and the 5th being slightly too bright unless it’s an incredibly bright summers day. The other thing to note in regards to the reticle is that it’s situated on the “Second Focal Plane” this means that the reticule is placed towards the rear of the scope, behind the zoom element if the optic, Just forward of the ocular lens.
What this means for the shooter is that no matter the magnification, The reticule stays the same size. This is opposed to the reticule being within the first focal plane where the reticule is magnified along with the object being viewed.
There are plus and minus points for both types of focal plane, however for a low magnification scope mounted on an Airsoft weapon you’ll not need to worry about the science of what’s better… for close range work the first focal plane is generally considered a good choice due to the reticle not becoming either small and difficult to quickly acquire or too big and potentially obscuring the target. The other main benefit is the cost, A first focal plane reticle is more difficult to make, the reticule effectively being part of a moving magnification assembly and having to be made in a way that it retains its position relative to the point of impact (POI).
With this being a variable power optic in the second focal plane, there is no record of the reticle’s MOA (Minute Of Angle). MOA refers to a measurement of accuracy used within shooting, One MOA equalling 1/60th of a degree or 3.44 Milliradian (MRAD) Which is roughly one inch at 100 yards (Or 2.54cm at 91.44m). However at specific magnifications you could estimate range using known sizes of items compared to the reticle, A good example would be the size of a human head at 100 metres roughly is the same as the inside of the circle when at 5 times magnification… the width of an average persons shoulders also marries up with space between the horizontal lines on the scope and the height of the vertical line is roughly 6 feet. The below pic shows this well, I’ve used a colleagues golf rangefinder and the pillar is exactly 100m from my office window, The wall itself is 6 feet 6 inches tall.
Back to the scope, It’s adjustable for windage, elevation and parallax focus… The turrets in the mid-section take care of the first two, the ring on the ocular lens taking care of the latter. Windage and Elevation are adjustable to in 1/4 MOA increments, that’s not to say the scope is “Sub MOA capable” but that it’s able to be finely tweaked to ensure your point of aim is true once zeroed. No tools are required to adjust the turrets either, Making this great for in the field zeroing.
The optic is well suited to a multi role replica, When paired up with something that already offers good range and is consistently accurate, You’ll find yourself able to quickly engage targets up close and far away. It’s never going to be as quick as a red dot or holographic sight, but with practice and the sight set up correctly it’s very usable… For ranged work (As little as that ever is with Airsoft) its a very good scope, The reticule is pretty good for our intended use. Engagements out to 100m are child’s play should your replica be up to that range, on shorter ranges it’s probably best to have the optic set to a midway point of around 2-3 x magnification.
The clarity of the glass is good, on a par with most mid range optics such as Holosun. There are no defects or blurry patches around the edges, In fact it’s shockingly good for the price… I’ve owned a few scopes costing far more than this modest price. The other stand out benefit is that the eye relief is superb, when your used to Airsoft replicas like the Chinese ACOGs This feels much more like your sighting down a weapon instead of squinting with your eye 6mm away from a poorly made piece of mazak. Durabilitywould also appear to be a strong point, I know a fair few with the same optic and no ones had any apparent issue, regardless of platform… PTW, GBBR, TM Recoil… An optic made for centrefire ammunition might be overkill… But overkill is underrated.
I’m still a massive fan of red dots for Airsoft, magnified optics however do have a certain appeal for recce or marksman work, With my Block 2 build fitting that role, I look forward to getting some experience on the field with this set up and I’m sure it’ll echo my previous satisfactory use albeit on a more suitable replica.