The Best Gadgets for Your Guns

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from frequent contributor R. Ann Parris.  If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today. Contest ends 4/18/16.


Let me start by saying this: I am not a fan of hanging fifty-million things and a coffee maker from my AR or upgrading a $200 10/22 with $1K worth of furniture. It’s just not my style and I’m of the mentality that the more things any item has, the more things there are to snag and break. Especially when I’m looking at firearms for home- or self-defense or hunting, I want to eliminate potential disasters.

That said, there are a few things on the market that I and some of my partners and buddies now have, but we don’t really see often on the ranges, blogs, or forums. I consider some of them game changers. So today, I’m going to point out offset sights, optics with integrated sights, and a specific type of single-point sling adaptor that could change some minds about the best gadgets for your guns.

*The links are only examples. There are others available. Please shop around and find additional reviews and pricing options.

Offset Sights

Offset sights like these are intended to be used in conjunction with an optic or scope.

Quickie refresher: Scope – dedicated crosshair aiming aid, adjustable or fixed magnification using lens refraction (no battery for many/most); Optics – either all lens-based aiming assistants; or battery-powered light-up aiming aids, regularly with multiple types and-or colors of dots and open- or closed-ring reticules to choose from and additional choices like red dot versus holographic. I’ll use the more disparate definitions this go-round.

In some cases, offset sights allow a shooter to switch between a longer-range target appropriate for a medium- to high-magnification optic or scope, and a close-quarters target by simply tilting the firearm a bit. In other cases, they allow a shooter to have a backup sighting option in case their optic has a really bad day at a really bad time (dead batteries, solid smack, cracked lens, blowing snow, sprayed mud).

American 45 Degree Offset Rapid Transition BUIS Backup Iron Sights For AR15

They’re also useful as a way to avoid switching between optic types or colors that perform better in varying light and background conditions, although that crops up more  regularly with competition and smaller game shooting.

Co-witnessing standard iron sights and optics or scopes is certainly an option. There’s a little fiddling at times to get height right, but an MBUS rear sight is hardy and fast to pop up even in freezing weather and gloves or sweltering summers with slippery hands, and you learn to let the front sight blur in front of your crosshairs or optics just like you learn to switch between a front sight focus and target focus when you hunt with a pistol and a bead-sight shotgun. Still, I really like the ease of just tilting a firearm.

Up to a .223/5.56, anyway.

AR-10’s, SOCOM .308’s, and the other 7.– platforms are a little more than I can comfortably handle for more than a couple of shots tilted, even being 6’ in heels and 200# in winter gear. It’s also harder for me to keep the firearm under control when it’s angled with larger calibers. That’s where the second nugget comes in.

Optics with Integrated Iron Sights

Manufacturers of optics with integrated iron sights like the Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated Red/Green T-Dot Reticle Riflescope or the Aim Sports 4X32 Tri III. Scope with Fiber Optic Sight seem like they have missed a really, really big advertising and searchable description point to me. I had never heard of having more than a blade front sight centered on an optic or scope until fairly recently. The ability to actually adjust an iron sight as a backup to a scope is huge for me, and having it all be in one single piece without the need for extended or additional rails or attachments totally blew me away. You’d think they’d be singing from the hilltops about what they did. Instead, our groups see them very rarely and they tend to be unknown when people notice us using them at ranges.

I have the Bushnell for several guns, but its irons aren’t adjustable. Aim Sport apparently started manufacturing some of its models in the U.S. and fixing some of the import and manufactured-for-domestic-assembly products recently, so we jumped on a couple because they do allow us to adjust both the optic and the irons.

Gun Gadget - Bushnell dual optic
Bushnell AR Optics 1x MP Illuminated Red/Green T-Dot Reticle Riflescope, 1x32mm

We’re pretty happy with the Aim Sports in the households that went there, but nobody’s had them much more than a year and I tend to want a little more history or a standing reputation for quality before I’m willing to give an unqualified recommendation. Mine holds both optic and iron-sights settings well in hard-times practice, banging around in a pickup bed in transit, and at 3-Gun and 100-yard Modern Sporter competitions. It’s not so hot as a shoulder-holstered or chest-carrier handgun optic. The Bushnell is a reasonable hunting handgun optic, although finding a holster for it is funtastic and I still have point-of-aim adjustments for certain rounds.

The joy with these is that while you do loose cheekweld, it’s not a tremendous adjustment, and you can still keep a firearm shouldered squarely. Too, with little to no movement of the gun, it gains a bit of speed. There are times when fractions of heartbeats matter, a lot.

As with the offset irons, the AimSport with adjustable iron sights can also be set up with one for <10-25 yards and one for 100-200+ yards. Another bonus is allowing me to shoot ammunition that performs very differently due to powder loads or specific projectile weight or shape easier. Instead of painter’s tape marked with point of aim differences on the firearm, I can set up a single optic for the two most common sets.

Buying fancy optics & irons

It’s not a totally inexpensive investment, but considering what we seem willing to pay for optics as a general shooting crowd, they’re not unreasonable. There is at least one other dual-sight optic manufacturer out there – possibly more, since they seem to be totally dropping the ball on marketing these puppies as a be-all solution for backups, lighting, evil match designer, or variable distances. Again, research is our friend.

Aim Sports 4X32 Tri III. Scope with Fiber Optic Sight
Aim Sports 4X32 Tri III. Scope with Fiber Optic Sight

Single-Point Sling Adaptor

I found a single-point sling adaptor like this one http://store.israeli-weapons.com/iweapons-velcro-rifle-sling-adapter-for-ak-galil-size-buttstock-green-by-israeli-weapons-ltd.html with the intention of using it just for 10/22’s and airguns for practice. Then I decided it was fan-tab as a lanyard adaptor for a couple of my hunting or creak in the night handguns. And then we started testing these buckle varieties (which we mostly like better than the Velcro):

http://www.otsupplier.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=63_95&product_id=77

http://www.blackhawk.com/Products/Stocks-Long-Gun-Accessories/Long-Gun-Accessories/Sling-Mounts/Single-Point-Sling-Adapter.aspx

We’re pretty pleased.

I now have these or similar on a fair number of firearms. Don’t run them through a trigger guard or anything crazy like that, but most guns have somewhere they can get snugged. *We have yet to find one that works with M16A1 or A2 stocks; they block the charging handles. Skeleton or adjustable stocks only.Gun Gadget - combo attachment sheet

The straps do loosen up here and there as you go along, but a loaded Benelli Nova has been hanging from an unused belt (ahem, “sling”) with extra rounds in an attached purse (ahem, “ready bag”) behind a closet door for a couple of years. It’s been tightened maybe 4-8 times in its life now, and we’re talking about the gun that gets to go to the range and practice being a master key and LTL to lethal crowd and varmint control, then get dropped for a handgun for clearing and precision work. I use the same adapter on my 3-Gun shotgun and rifle.

It rolls around some, but I don’t consider the rolling to really be a bad thing, either. I live with and practice with a couple of lefties. It’s not a big deal in gloves, but for the ones who don’t practice “adaptably” as much as some of us, the buckle can be distracting and having to clip a sling to their shooting hand side is sometimes problematic. In a situation where they need to transition, a stock hanging up in the sling because it’s on a dedicated ring to one side can cost some precious heartbeats. The universal bands slip enough to eliminate that problem for us.

The other joy is that these things are $5-10, and require no tools or skill to install. Zero – an otter could do it. That means that while some do live with a sling attached, I can afford to put them on absolutely anything that might ever be grabbed in a hurry or needed in a defensive situation.

Now, instead of having dedicated rigs to account for various chest and height measurements from 24” and 5’6” up to 52” and 6’4”, everybody has a sling with their grab gear. They can then exchange firearms or grab whichever firearm is most appropriate for a situation, clip it, and roll. With person-specific slings instead of slings dedicated to firearms, a big, tall shooter doesn’t end up with a necklace or snagged as they “swim” into a sling, and a shorty doesn’t end up dragging even an 18.5” barrel’s front sight over the gravel and through the grass (both make it harder to shoot accurately; the latter may cause shouting from the gun owner during practice).

Gun Gadget - shooting offset-sights comparison - reddotsights_us

Slings (and sling clips) are one of those things I don’t see on firearms as often as I really should at the range. Being able to sling a firearm can be pretty invaluable. My household and partners like single-point slings best for defense (single-point slings are not really ideal for hunting – just saying). There are worlds’ worth of slings and adaptors out there, and they merit some research and a decent investment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking up a sturdy 48” or 52” belt at Goodwill for $2 and a $2 clip at ACE to go with a $7 adaptor until you’re ready for that investment.

As mentioned, the really nice thing about those buckle-on single-point sling adaptors is that they’re so inexpensive, and adaptable to so many different types of firearms. Saving money on a sling and clip may let us get in some practice that makes us more effective or – over a household – might save enough money to invest in some solar-powered motion-activated lights that let us immediately locate an intruder of either the coyote or human type. That’s pretty invaluable, too.

How much should you spend on gadgets?

There are lots of tools and gadgets that make our lives easier or drastically increase our effectiveness and efficiency, but as with anything else, prioritize purchases. Make a list of goals, needs, the things that are most likely to strike personally and locally or regionally, and what’s already in the toolbox and junk drawer. Be creative as you look around, and visualize things that are already in-house as blank slates that can be adapted to other uses. A $15 lunch bag or laptop bag works just as well as a $25-75 range bag.

If something else works for now, until you’re better set, use that.

Do buy quality products when it’s something like a defensive firearm or its furniture (or smoke detector). That doesn’t mean you have to pay more for a manufacturer’s label and advertising costs. When it’s a $1K-$2800 HK versus a $500-700 S&W AR, get a S&W. It does mean that if something’s built for airsoft or paintball or costumes, you might want to consider the weights and abuse limitations. It’s usually worth it to spend more on something sturdier.

With the reminder that I’m just not big on hanging fifty million things from my firearm, there are a few choice gadgets that make a big difference and are worth some investment. A universal sling adaptor and the ability to engage targets accurately at multiple distances or if an optic craps out are two of the things that make my list. Hopefully even if they don’t make yours, something in this article gave you something to think about.

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22 Comments on "The Best Gadgets for Your Guns"

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BobW
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I’d advise anyone considering a combo optic that includes integrated back up sights on this: When the optic is INOP from anything but a cracked/broken lens, your back up sights are also compromised. In good times, this setup can save weight, and function well. In bad times you would risk losing all immediate means of accurately shooting the rifle. I’m a big fan of separate optic, and back up sights. I’ve looked at the canted backup sights, but passed in favor of optics mounted on co-witness capable risers with independent back up sights for simple redundancy. I think the 45′… Read more »
R. Ann
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You mention you’re no longer running an AR platform. Mind if I ask what you chose to roll with?

And why, unless that’s prying too much?
-Rebecca Ann

BobW
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Sorry for the delay in responding. 3-day internet outage was fun. Kids got to see our struggle from the day.

After all those years of owning guns, I realized that while I like reading about whats new, I don’t care for shooting, and honestly, got some good scratch for them.

If I got back into the sport, I’d definitely go old school. I’ve become partial to the 1903 and M1. With a modern barrel they produce excellent accuracy.

R. Ann
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If you’re interested in picking up something relatively inexpensive in the meantime, there’s the K98. It’s one of the ones I learned to hunt on and keep going back to, even though it’s not a NATO/domestic production caliber. Sporterized is the way to go for me, because full length it snags and is HEAVY, but the ones we’ve had are built like tanks and it’s haard to get a good deer-bear gun for <$200 these days. – I wasn't here to have read your reply anyway, but sorry about your outage. I was working somewhere where I think dial-up was… Read more »
R. Ann
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Back from starting dinner for this one: “I’d advise anyone considering a combo optic that includes integrated back up sights on this: When the optic is INOP from anything but a cracked/broken lens, your back up sights are also compromised.” It depends on the optic and whether the sights are also an optic, such as holo or stubby running off the same battery, whether the primary optic is running off a separate battery, or whether your integrated backup sights on an optic are old-style wires or a front blade or post and a rear notch or aperture. If there’s no… Read more »
BobW
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R. Ann, My point was about simplicity and redundancy, not an attempt to disparage anyone or their views. Co-mounted main and back up is a recipe for disaster in a serious situation. If the optic gets whacked, both are potentially out of alignment. Its that simple. Ruggedized or not, any hunter knows that the right ding and the right angle, and that trophy 10-pointer is ghosting through the woods. As I said, I do like the idea of the canted sights, but think its something that would require a lot of practice to be second nature under stress. As for… Read more »
R. Ann
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Fair enough point on a single mount. After all, I trashed my M4’s front sight in a major fall once, and I didn’t realize a handgun sight had been bent after a car accident. But I’ll keep them anyways, as an option, because they work really well for us. I’m cool with a focus on primary skills. Far, far, far from everything even has a scope or optic on it at my house, although as some of us get older, hunting guns do more and more, or we pass on more shots. For that matter, when they first started migrating… Read more »
BobW
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Thanks. You are exactly right, in that there is no one set up for all people or all situations. In full disclosure, I spent a good amount of time looking at optics for the old AR before I went with the Nikon. I looked hard at the Bushnell ACOG knockoffs. I’ve never been displeased with their glass. Had an old 3-9 Bushnell on a Rem700 in .30-06. Even with the scope turned 3-5 degrees from vertical (my laziness), it sighted in well, and proved a solid contributor. Anymore, looking at the ‘arms race’ in optics is kind of crazy. Seems… Read more »
Bolofia
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Bob,
Regarding your comment: “The military builds them to be reliable IN COMBAT. The generally maligned ‘A-frame’ front sight and gas block assembly of the M16s and M4s is made to survive harsh environments.” I’m with you on that. Other than a single-point sling attachment and a dedicated rifle scope with MOA calibrations, all other doodads are potential single points of failure.

BobW
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Bolo, I honestly think everything depends on situation. On a pistol/SBR/shotty for home defense, I think a mounted flashlight should be mandatory. You just can’t hold the light and the rifle safely very easily if it is honestly serious.

I’d consider having a rail capable flashlight & mount, for certain situations, but certainly not everyday use.

I do like a good sling. Whether a single point, or a two-point, as long as the user is practiced with it, it provides value.

Robert
Guest
“but we don’t really see often on the ranges, blogs, or forums. I consider some of them game changers” There is a reason for that! Off set sights are for comp not combat. You should have iron sights that co-witness with a quality red dot. You are providing advise based on your experience in 3 gun for self defense. That is a dangerous leap. We are talking self defense here not 3 gun, so co-witnessing is the way to go. Not sure who runs a magnified scope on their home/self defense gun. I guess some who gets their training from… Read more »
R. Ann
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Wow. Training: 3x USMC Deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, 2x Horn of Africa, several 29 Stumps forays, and assignment at Yuma with regular forays out to YPG; since 2006, 5x Thunder Ranch, 3x Gunsite, half a dozen or so smaller groups out of Va, Maryland, Arizona and Florida (I’d have to look up some of the receipts for all the names). Not sure if you want to count my NRA credentials as training, as so much of that is painfully static line shooting. I’m also lucky enough to work with a former LAPD SWAT member (who intro’d us to the… Read more »
BobW
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Ouch. I think the important thing to take away from all this is to train like you intend to fight. Or however that saying goes. I imagine from Robert’s comments, that not everyone sees ‘home defense’ the same. For me, there are three distinct functions, and three distinct responses. 1. In the house: pistol with flashlight mount. 2. At the door: meet Mr. 12-gauge. 3. Outside the house: optic equipped rifle. If they are not at your door, you had better damn well be sure its not the local Lions club asking for used glasses before you shoot. The optic… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest

Ouch?

BobW
Guest

Guy was coming off the third ring rope, and you smushed his argument with direct experience.

No reason for a guy to get all up in arms on assumptions. People seem to want to ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of women have served in combat zones over the past 15 years. To that end, there was no front line in any of the AORs, and everyone had to expect enemy contact wherever they were.

Thanks for your service, R. Ann.

R. Ann
Guest
I didn’t actually take it as a chick thing. I hadn’t gotten that impression from previous posts. Let’s not put that on him until beyond all shadow of doubt. Presumably he would make the same absolute “you should have” rec and assumption if it was Robert Alan instead of Rebecca Ann. It’s only been a few days and we know for fact that 2/4-5 commenters were out of comms. There are some who only check these sites from public places with lots of intenet accesses and some who only do it from work (or only from home). It’s also garden… Read more »
R. Ann
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Digging in and thinking of it, there may be reasons he’s served yet is unaware of overwatch as property and personnel protection and DM/DMR’s. He may have… – Gotten out before diggies and M4s (or before they were common), and rail sys. & a cowitnessed RDS is already a stretch, or was such a game changer its obvious to him that maneuver and fire gear has hit its zenith, no others need apply – Spent only a short period in, and be unaware that with some exceptions, there is DM/sniper/50 cal overwatch in city streets or nearby — but we’re… Read more »
Robert
Guest
I assure you as a LEO firearms instructor, SWAT officer, and host of other that a boy trainings, LAPD SWAT does not run off set sights on their rifles. I assure you none of the training facilities you cited run off set sight CQB rifles, because I have been to their trainings. I appreciate your service, but deployments to theater do not equate to combat. I am also very familiar with YPG, do not think they tested any small arms with off set sights, so correct me if I’m wrong. With all those claims of experience and trainings it begs… Read more »
Thomas Paine in the butt
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Thomas Paine in the butt
I picked up a couple used Aimpoints, still had sand on them, for my AR15s and run offsets as well. For me co-witness BIUS won’t work as I have giant head and run 1″ riser plus the high base on the Aimpoint. With all that just to get a comfortable cheek weld, for me, a combo sight would put the irons too far above the bore. It’s funny I think of the dot for <100 and the irons out to 250yds. On my AR10 I just have a Nikon Prostaff 3-12x with the BDC reticle, great budget scope IMO, for… Read more »
R. Ann
Guest
“It’s funny I think of the dot for <100 and the irons out to 250yds." – That's about where we run, optic and offset. When it's a magnified scope, it reverts the other way, because the scope is for distance and precision shots, and the offsets are for a non-9mm/.45 hi-cap close-quarters backup. "For slings I braided really long survival bracelets. Who doesn't need an extra 70-80' of paracord anyway, right?" – Like it! Remember those braided leather belts that were all the rage somewhereish in the late 80s-90s-maybe early 2000s? We use them as slings for hunting guns when… Read more »
Thomas Paine in the butt
Guest
Thomas Paine in the butt

The sling is backup for knot of cord in my pack. But if you had to cut a length you’d just tie it off on the stringers. Its also about 1.25″ wide. I used an old clip from an ILBE assualt pack.

Side note, you jarheads get the best personal gear while us AF we got the ABU. Is there anything more useless than slate blue tiger stripe for support troops?

R. Ann
Guest
Sorry for the delay – working out of town and the internet/cell was … caveman level. I’ll try not to mention slowly taking apart those braided belts again – but, hey, awesome skills! I love watching the guys work on leather gear. The best gear they ever decided to go to had nothing to do with patterns or how we carry our kicthen sinks (although a shorter rifle was nice). The absolute best upgrade: The pullover zip-neck wick-away deployment shirts and fleeces. Godsent, I tell you what. 😉 I think it makes up for all the years we got equipment… Read more »
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