How do holographic sights work?
A holo sight provides a hologram of a reticle superimposed on the optical window. Achieved using a laser diode
and an arrangement of reflective, and holographic materials, to create an impression of a dynamic reticle in the viewport.
To understand how this works it can be compared to a movie being projected onto a theatre screen. In the case of holographic sights; the projector (light source) is the laser diode, the movie is the reticle image on a holographic plate and screen is the viewport of the sight.
The laser projects the chosen reticle at an angle up onto glass or a tinted screen where it is then reflected back into your eyes, giving the impression of the reticle being suspended in the sight, like a hologram.
Why use holographic sights
The advantages of using holos may not be immediately apparent. But if you think about it when you point the camera on your phone, the picture displayed does not change depending on where you are standing in relation to the screen.
Whether directly in front of it or at an angle above, below or to the side, the picture on the screen is always an accurate depiction of what is in front of it.
Well the same holds true for holographic sights, meaning that the position of the sight does not need to be directly in line with a persons eyes to know with confidence what is being aimed at.
This is a huge benefit – reducing the time needed for an accurate shot, and the short answer to the common question of why use holographic sights in the first place.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Before considering using a holo sight you might want to know what to expect from this bit of kit, here’s a quick run down of the benefits and limitations:
The advantages and disadvantages above apply generally to holographic sights, features such as water and climate resistance have been omitted as they vary by brand and model.
Before we look at how to use holographic sights properly and how to configure them to get the most out the unit, you might want to know who came up with this contraption and when.
When were holographic sights invented, who invented them
Holo sights are a fairly recent invention, not widely produced until 1998 and not to be confused with the much earlier reflex sight. Its first debut came two years earlier in the 1996 SHOT show, it was the partnering of Bushnell and EOTech who then produced this brain child they called the HoloSight.
Although it was initially targeting the civilian markets for hunting and shooting, its advancements to aiming technology wouldn’t go unnoticed as it was immediately recognised by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence who went on to award it ‘Optic of the Year’.
After the companies went their separate ways, EOTech remained the sole manufacture of holographic sights up until the end of 2016. The following year would see their first competition in the form of the Razor AMG UH-1 being offered up by Vortex.
How to use holographic sights
So now that we’ve gone over the background you might want to know how to use holographic sights correctly? No problem. First off let us familiarize ourselves with the common assembly of most of the holo sights on the market today.
Holographic sight components
This is the usual image served up when looking for details on the internal working of holographic sights, while accurate this diagram does not highlight the optimum configuration, or what benefits could be gained by dialing in adjustable components.
We’ll cover this shortly when we look at how to adjust sights.
First the jargon-less, no nonsense steps on not only how to use the vast majority of holographic sights, but most sights and scopes in general:
- Fit the sight
- Zero the sight
- Set a fixed target
- Let off a few rounds at said target
- Adjust the sight
- And repeat
Well there you go, easy right? Well it can be, but as they say the devil is in the details. Luckily with holo sights zeroing and adjusting the sight are hassle free and pretty much universal.
How to zero holographic sights
Zeroing a sight is the process you perform to properly align the sights with the rifle. During this process small incremental adjustment are made to the sight whilst limiting outside factors when performing the sighting-in and adjustments.
It is recommended to begin with your sight is on its default settings. This can be achieved by adjusting windage and elevation settings both to the centre point or to “Zero” – hence the name.
Units are said to have been zeroed-in when they can accurately line up to the point of impact to at least 300 yards.
Check out the video below for quick overview
How to adjust holographic sights
When you look at the components of a holographic sight (diagram above) you might notice that there are several plates on angles, and space by where the vertical hologram plates could be shifted along. These, among others, are places where adjustments can be made to fine tune the optics.
In the example below mechanical adjustments can be made for elevation and windage by manually rotating the dials on the side and beneath.
Another common feature on holo sights would be the brightness adjustor, enabling the intensity of the reticle to be raised or lowered to best suit the operating conditions.
It should come as no surprise but the controls themselves will vary by manufacture. While they may be in the form of a switch, dial or two side buttons, they will all follow the same underling principle.
Genuine holographic weapon sights generally fall in the range of 200 to 800.
Aim somewhere around the 500 mark for a semi-decent unit, less if you’re on a budget, more if you want a good holographic sight that you can rely on to work when you need it to.
The bigger price tag you usually find associated with holographic sights reflect the sophisticated internal components and the durable exterior materials used to produce authentic holo sights. Not to mention there are only a handful of manufactures.
Currently the main manufactures in the holo sight field are EOTech, Vortex and Holosun. Each have different price points and have focused on developing alternate aspects of holographic sights.
While everyone’s eyes are different, people with astigmatism tend to find there to be less distortion with holographic optics. Distortion may also be reduced using red dots and varying the size of the dot, or alternatively using an etched reticle.
Some holographic sights offer more settings features to attune brightness enabling you to switch between day and night-time use. While most are night vision compatible; allowing a night vision device to be mounted in conjunction with a holographic or red dot sight.
Holographic weapon sights can be highly accurate and are capable of providing a consistent 1 MOA (minute of arc) dot under any magnification. This means being able put any magnification device inline with the sight and it still displays 1 MOA.
Considering this advantage along with the large field of view, dynamic reticle and rapid target acquisition, its not hard to see why using holographic diffraction sights often win when compared to red dots and reflex sights.
Holo sights are by definition non-magnifying, they provide a clear optical screen wherein the holographic reticle is projected. However as mentioned above they work very well when combined with standalone magnification units.
Yes a battery is required to power holographic sight units, specifically the laser diode which projects the holographic reticle. This also means that lowering brightness settings can also extend the length of time a sight will run in-between charges or replacement.
Holographic sights themselves are legal. But keep in mind night vision and other optical technology may be restricted in your region, so please check and abide within the laws of you Country/State/City when buying and using any optical enhancement technology.
You get what you pay for. Stay among the main leaders in the holographic sights and you’ll gain the benefits of speed, accuracy and durability in a tidy hard working unit. Stray and you may be let down in one of those areas. Not saying you won’t find hidden gems, or new up-and-commers to the optics market.
Ultimately when it comes down to it only you can decide if buying a holographic sight is worth it or how much you are willing spend.
No optical sights are completely “parallax free”, where the direction or the position of an object does not change when viewed from different perspectives.
When you move your head, and the position of your eye becomes misaligned with the sight, there will be a slight deviation between what you see and the true alignment of the sight.
However deviation in holographic units tend to be minimal, but it can be reduced even further in units that have built in parallax adjustment.
A well configured and zeroed holographic sight can be very accurate. With the expansive view point aiding short and mid ranges, and the fixed size reticle assisting the placement of long range shots.
In short yes, continuously using holographic sights over a long period of time can negatively affect your sight.
Certain scope types reduce the amount of light your eye are taking in, which has its advantages, but over time can affect how your eye responds. This is compounded in low light conditions, the same can be said with continuously using magnification.
Holo sights are optical sights that use a laser diode and holographic diffraction to display a reticle overlayed in the viewport – commonly a clear non-magnified window.
Holographic sights are compact self contained devices that easily attach to a variety of rifles and adapted for handguns, bows, etc. See here for examples of popular holographic sights.
Holo sights allow you to view an image of a reticle in your viewport that is not really there (holographic), or visible on the other side of your sight.
Socom Tactical Airsoft Holo Sight 558 style with quick releaseHolographic sights £70.00 Learn More
UTG Unisex’s Holographic Sight Red and Green Circle, Black, One SizeHolographic sights £122.26 Learn More
JASHKE 103 Red Dot Sight Red & Green Holographic Scope Sights 4 Styles Reticles with 20mm MountHolographic sights £35.99 Learn More