Monday, May 08, 2006

BSA Red Dot Sights

In what seems like an un-ending quest for a red dot sight, I've tried a number of different brands and models.

Two of my latest red dots were manufactured by BSA, or at least someone in China licensed to use the BSA logo, more likely. One of the sights was sold under the Sportsman's Guide brand "Guide Gear", and the other carried the BSA logo, although both say they are manufactured by BSA.

Guide Gear and BSA Red Dot Sights

Both of these sights looked promising, and have a lot of great features. The BSA has four different dot sizes, and the GG has four different reticles. They both give you seven different brightness levels. Although both sights look very similar at first glance, there are a lot of differences. Is one a newer model, replacing the other? Who knows! If so, I'd say the BSA was the newer of the two, as it has some subtle improvements, and some not so subtle.

For example, the frame around the glass lens is much thinner on the BSA, blocking less of your view. The light housing on the rear is slightly lower, not blocking visibility of the lower part of the lens as much as on the GG model. Testing the sights outdoors in bright sunlight, the BSA had less glare than the GG, and both were better than the $350 C-More.

Although not a big deal, both sights came with a nice little rubber slip over cover for the lens to help keep it clean.

That's about it for the good news. Now, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story.

When I first mounted the BSA and tried to sight it in, it wouldn't stay zero'ed. After only two or three shots it would wander 3 or 4 inches at the target, only ten yards away! I checked everything over, and all the screws seemed to be properly tightened. I took a piece of soft cloth, and using it to keep my fingers off of the glass, I grabbed the lens to see if it was tight. If moved around easily!

The tiny plastic ring and glue hold the lens in place - Sometimes!

The lens is glued into the frame, then a thin plastic ring is glued in to hold the lens in. I was able to pop the ring out with only a little help from an X-Acto knife. I could see that only a couple of tiny drops of glue had been used. After scraping off a couple of little tiny spots of glue inside the frame, the lens came out in my hand.

Since I wanted to get this sight into usable condition, and I didn't want to wait to send it back and then wait for another one to return I decided to just epoxy the lens and the retaining ring back into the frame. It took a little care to keep from getting epoxy onto the lens, but all went back together just fine. That particular lens will NEVER come loose!

I put the sight back together and remounted it onto the High Standard pistol where I was planning to use it. I sighted it in, and tightened down the set screw to lock the elevation. Neither sight has a set screw lock on the windage, so I couldn't lock that down. Everything seemed to be in order so I cased the gun in preparation for heading over to the Blogger Blastorama the next day.

After a few shots at the Blastorama, it was obvious that something was wrong. The usual dime to quarter sized groups had turned into inch and a half groups, or worse, and shooting from a rest didn't seem to help.

I grabbed the allen wrenches and checked everything over, and the elevation locking set screw was loose by over half a turn. It was tight the night before! I tightened it back down, but the zero had now moved, and the groups, although better, were still terrible.

I put the gun back into it's case. When I got home from the range I removed the sight and started taking it apart, looking for the problem.

The locking set screw goes against the flat side of the post

It didn't take long to find. The elevation lock set screw came to a sharp point, and it was tightened up against a soft steel post, digging a cone shaped hole into the post. As you continued to shoot, the hole worked larger, and the screw was then loose. If you loosened the locking set screw and adjusted your elevation, when you re-tightened the set screw it would go back into the cone shaped hole, cancelling any adjustment you had made. A really bad design! If you have one of these sights, I'd suggest removing the set screw and grind it to a flat point so it won't dig a hole.

In short, I like the optics on the BSA sight, once the lens is installed so it won't fall out. The rest of the sight, however, is terrible. The Guide Gear, unfortunately, isn't much better.

The Guide Gear sight also had problems, though not as many. It doesn't handle glare quite as well as the BSA, but the elevation lock set screw is quite a bit larger. It could still benefit from being flat-pointed, however.

When I mounted the GG sight, it seemed to sight in just fine, but after shooting it a bit, it also started to wander. I grabbed a cloth and checked the lens for looseness. It wasn't as loose as the BSA, but it was definitely moving around a little, and it doesn't take much to throw you way off.

As to the durability of the electronics and so forth, I haven't been able to get either one of these sights to work well enough, or long enough, to give them much of a longevity test.

If they would fix the mechanical problems with these sights these would be excellent products, and would be worth far more than what they currently sell for, which is around fifty dollars. The optics, particularly on the BSA seem far better than the C-More.

Until these problems are resolved, I'd suggest you save your money, these will only make you frustrated, as close as they are to being excellent, yet so far away from being useable......


At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Chris Byrne said...

There IS a "fixed" model that is better than the BSA AND the C-more and still less expensive (thougn not "in" expensive unfortunately).

The OK optics reflex sights from the czech republic are TOUGH. Damn near indestructible actually. Even better they are half to 2/3 the cost of the C-More (if you look around).

They are unfortunately a little bulkier and clunkier, but still worthwhile.


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