Aimpoint Micro S1
We have fieldtested the new Aimpoint Micro S1 shotgun sight on a duck hunt….
By Jens Ulrik Høgh
The new Aimpoint Micro S1 sight will divide the hunters in two camps. Many experienced shotgun shooters and makers will undoubtedly be mildly offended by the mere thought of an optical red dot sight mounted on an over and under shotgun. They will claim that it is completely unnecessary or even a disadvantage for the shooter. They will point out that it is ugly and that it is ruining the aesthetics of classical guns.
I understand the sentiments of the resistance crew. If parallax-free red dot shotgun sights work as they’re supposed to in theory then that will more or less make 150 years of fine tuning the principles of shotgun fitting redundant. The center of the shot pattern will hit the target where you see the red dot regardless of how the gun is fitting or how you have shouldered it. In theory all the shooter have to worry about is the lead and the swing. The question is if it works in real life? I tried it out on clays and mallards to find out!
Aimpoint Micro S1
The sight is a heavily modified version of Aimpoint’s H1 sight for rifles and pistols. The Aimpoint Micro S1 weighs about 100 g (3 oz.) and has an 18 mm (3/4″) window. The dot is 6 MOA – a somewhat larger dot than most shooters prefers for rifle shooting.
You control the light intensity by a knob on the right side of the sight. The battery fuels the dot for about 5 years without ever turning it off. So as long as you change the battery every 3-4 years you never have to turn off the unit or fear to run out of power.
In spite of being mounted very low on the rib of the shotgun the dot is still approximately 10 mm (3/8″) above the conventional bead. This is the greatest disadvantage of the system from a technical point of view. For a perfect fit the comb must be raised accordingly. Alternatively the shooter must lift his head slightly when shooting. On shotguns that are not fitted with an adjustable comb it is recommended to raise it using one of the many aftermarket solutions on the market. Duct tape will also do the trick in a pinch.
The mount is made for steel ribs as they are normally found on over and unders, pumps and semi-automatics. It will not fit a typical side by side. There is no optimum eye relief for an Aimpoint sight. It is therefore entirely up to the shooter to place the sight on the rib. The closer it gets to the eye the greater is the field of view in the window of the sight. On the other hand the housing will also block more of the view the closer you go. During our tests the sight was mounted in the middle of the rib.
In theory there are many advantages of this system. Aimpoint sights are completely parallax free. That means that the center of the shot pattern will hit exactly where the red dot is at the moment of firing. This is true regardless of whether you see the dot in the middle of the window or at the edge. Therefore the shooter knows exactly where he is pointing when the shot goes and he only has to focus on lead and swing. Proper fitting and shouldering has less influence on the accuracy of the shooter than with conventional shotgun sights. Shotgun shooting should become simpler and it should be much easier to train a beginner.
It goes without saying that shotgun shooting under low-light conditions is much easier with an Aimpoint than with the conventional non-illuminated sights. Simply because you can’t see the rib and the bead in the dark. Aimpoint also claims that even experienced shotgun shooters shoots better with an Aimpoint on running targets – like rabbits – than without. The bright red dot simply offers the shooter a much clearer reference point against a dark and chaotic background than a dark bead does.
The many cross dominant shooters out there should really find the Aimpoint very helpful as it ensures that the only reference point they get is the right one from the eye at the same side as the shooting shoulder. The dominant eye at the wrong side of the body will not see the dot. No confusing signals for the brain to handle! It could prove to be a “miracle cure” for the millions of shooters suffering from cross dominance problems – studys suggest that we are talking about 25-30% of all people.
The open question when I was introduced to the sight was how well the Aimpoint works when shooting at birds with the bright sky as background. Aimpoint’s own initial trials suggested that very experienced shotgun shooters after a short while of familiarizing themselves with the sight shot as good on flying game with the sight as without the sight. There was no measurable difference.
Tested on clay targets…
I was lucky enough to be included in the small group of gun writers who had the opportunity to try out the prototypes of the new Aimpoint Micro S1 back in October 2016. The purpose of this exercise was of course that Aimpoint wanted experience based feedback to use in the final stages of their product development.
The test event took place in Sweden on a clay shooting range and on a mallard hunt arranged by Mamima Jakt a bit south of Stockholm. We started out with a full day on the range followed by a full day of duck shooting. I am a relatively “rusty” shotgun shooter who has hardly hunted with the shotgun during the last 12 years. I typically only play around with shotguns once or twice a year on the range but when that happens I quickly warm up and shoots fairly well. Whenever I get the opportunity I get very excited and shoot as much as I can. Shotgun shooting is great fun!
The first day of testing at the range was great. We had professional help from shooting instructor Giles Culley from Susegården Shooting School to help us polish our style. In my case there is lots of room for improvement. I did however feel that my results on the range were on par with the results I usually obtain without a red dot sight. I noted that all the shooters felt that they achieved better results than normal on the rabbit targets – exactly as Aimpoint had claimed they would.
Tested on animals…
The next day we had four drives of duck shooting. We were placed in hides along the shoreline and on small artificial islands in huge shallow ponds. We got plenty of varied shooting opportunities during the day. I felt very deadly whenever the ducks presented themselves in a way that gave me good time to shoulder the gun and swing in a relaxed manner. It is instinctively easy to focus on the duck the dot and nothing else.
To be honest I would have been surprised if the obvious chances had proven to be a problem. I was far more interested in experiencing how the systems works under stress. The situations where you find yourself spinning around into an awkward position to throw an extra shot after a crippled duck or when a chance takes you completely by surprise and demands lightning fast reaction. Would the Aimpoint Micro S1 be as efficient for instinctive shooting as a shotgun with conventional sights?
During the day I got plenty of opportunities to test the sight in extreme situations. I am a little bit surprised over the results. I expected that it would take considerably longer to get used to an optic sight on a shotgun than it did. My results on the instinctive shots were far better than I had hoped for. Actually the field trial revealed a very important feature of the sight that I hadn’t thought about. The fact that you immediately see how well (or terrible) you have shouldered the gun instantly improves your shooting. A few times I got the gun shouldered so badly that I didn’t even see the dot and thus instinctively knew that I had to correct. Without that feedback I would have trusted my gut feeling and fired and missed the target without knowing exactly why. I am sure that the real time feedback will quickly make most shooters realize many of the small errors they make which quite instantly guides them to better shooting.
My shooting got better and better all day and when the last mallard plummeted from the sky I had shot 38 ducks in 74 shots. I know that is far from world class shooting, but on the other hand it’s not too shabby considering my initial shooting skills. To be frank I am pretty da*n satisfied.
Will I get one of these sights?
I am absolute thrilled about the possibilities that Aimpoint sights on shotguns opens. That goes for myself and for the overall shooting skill level among hunters in general. This sight will improve my shooting. Not only in poor light and on running game but also in relation to flying game. I base my belief in improved results on the self-educating effect that the real time feedback from the sight automatically leads to. I will certainly experiment a lot with these sights when they become available.
In a greater perspective I see this technology reduce the amount of game crippled by hunters in the future. I am also sure that we will be able to make good shooters out of newbies much faster with this tool at our disposal.
I simply have a gut feeling telling me, that Aimpoint is on to something important. The Aimpoint Micro S1 is a game-changer for shotgun shooting! I really hope that hunters will set aside their prejudice and give this technology a fair chance. History actually tells us that this is a sound approach …. I know for sure, that there were lots of grumpy old hunters grunting in disgust when optical sights for rifles became widely available a century ago but we ended up appreciating rifle scopes anyway…
Aimpoint Micro S1 will be introduced on the European market at the IWA show in the beginning of March 2017. The price is expected to land at the same level as the Micro H1 rifle sight.
For more information check out Aimpoints website!