New Red-Dot Sight: Awesome Quality for Under $200
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in Section Gear Reviews
Sightmark’s Wolverine CSR 1×23 Red-Dot Scope is proof that inexpensive optics don’t have to be cheap
Increased interest in AR-pattern rifles over the last decade has prompted optic manufacturers to offer more options to black gun shooters. Many of those new optics are 1x red-dot sights, which are lightweight, parallax-free and provide a clear aiming point in any light conditions — so long as you remember to change the batteries.
The red dot sights currently on the market vary in many ways, especially in price. Depending upon your needs, and budget, you can top your AR with red-dot sights that range in price from $40 to north of $800.
There’s an old axiom that states: “You get what you pay for.” My personal experience with optics has demonstrated just that, but with a few exceptions of course. With that said, when I set out to test Sightmark’s Wolverine CSR 1×23 red-dot sight, with an MSRP of $155, I wasn’t holding out much hope that this optic would punch above its weight. But fierce competition, particularly in the $100 to $200 red-dot market, has prompted manufacturers to step up their game and offer shooters a lot of performance for a lot less money. The team at Sightmark understands the imperative to provide quality optics to cost-conscious customers, and the Wolverine is a case study in that philosophy.
Some low-priced red dots have abysmal lenses. The Wolverine’s lenses, however, are a step above what you typically find in this price range and offer scratch-resistant, anti-reflective lens coatings that transmit light well and limit distracting reflection. Optics that distort color or reflect line can be a nuisance, especially if you’re shooting with both eyes open to maintain situational awareness.
The Wolverine’s lenses are very good, and you’ll be able to run this optic on your AR at an all-day shoot without any excessive eye strain. The emitter is visible — not uncommon for red dots in this price range — at the 5 o’clock position. It may not be ideal, but it doesn’t majorly distract, and after the first half-dozen or so rounds I became immune to its minor intrusion in the sight picture.
In addition to the quality of the lenses, Sightmark earns high praise for the construction of this sight. The base is sturdy and mounts securely to the picatinny rail of your rifle by releasing a tabbed-locking lever, placing the Wolverine on your gun, and closing the locking lever. Tension is adjusted by removing the sight and tightening or loosening the tension nut on the side of the mount opposite the lever. With a little fine-tuning, you can quickly and securely lock the sight in place.
The Wolverine offers two mounting options – a low-mount for use on shotguns or more traditional rifles and an included riser, which bumps the sight to an absolute co-witness height for use on AR rifles. Adding or removing the spacer is simple; you simply install the longer Torx screws to attach the taller mount and the shorter Torx screws for the low mount.
Like the mounting system, windage and elevation adjustments and battery replacement are all hassle-free. I found the windage and elevation adjustments tracked properly (1” at 100 yards) and both caps are tethered to the sight, as is the battery cap. The unit conveniently runs on a single AA battery, which is included. Sightmark claims 50,000 hours of battery life at setting 6 and — if you can believe this — a million hours on low power. Unfortunately, I couldn’t spare a million (or even 50,000) hours to verify, but I did test the 12-hour auto shutoff feature, which proved legitimate. No need to worry about your battery going flat with the Wolverine!
The Wolverine has 10 brightness settings, two that are night-vision-device compatible, while levels 3 through 10 are visible to the naked eye. For most shooting situations level 3 and 4 proved plenty, and on one bright afternoon I bumped the unit up to level 5. Levels 6-10 range from very bright to piercing.
Dot intensity controls are located on the left side of the Wolverine’s body and are easy to locate for right-handed shooters and serve double-duty as power controls. Punch the brightness up button to activate the unit, hold that same button for five seconds to power down. The 6061-T6 housing is covered with soft-touch matte-black rubber coating that looks and feels like it belongs on an optic priced much higher than $155.
Sightmark claims that the Wolverine functions at temperatures as low as -22, so I left it in a deep freeze overnight set right at 0-degrees Fahrenheit, and the next morning the sight powered-up and worked just fine without any blinking or shuddering as it awoke from a cold, dark sleep.
The Wolverine CSR is designed as a close-range combat-style optic and features a 4 MOA dot. For that reason, I did my range testing at 50 yards. The sturdy mount held the optic securely in place and the sight adjusted properly for windage and elevation, and once zeroed, it maintained that adjustment.
With a price that’s hard to beat and a list of user-friendly features, it’s tough to find any fault with this red-dot sight. In terms of overall build quality and value for the money I’d consider it as one of the short-list options for under $200. The primary issue is one of mass.
The Wolverine, stuffed with all those great features, weighs in at 10.3 ounces, which is slightly heavier than the Bushnell Incinerate and the Vortex SPARC and almost twice the weight of SIG’s ROMEO5, all of which are priced within $50. Still, this is a fine optic at a great price, and one worth your consideration when you’re in the market for your first (or next) AR sight.
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