Red Dots and Astigmatisms

  • Last Post 24 December 2020
David Reiss posted this 13 December 2020

I hadn't looked through a red dot sight in many years and recently decided a few of my firearms needed them because of my aging eyes. So when Midway USA had a recent sale on one of them I ordered a couple. When they arrived I immediately opened one to try it out. To my surprise I didn't see one red dot but several in a cluster. Then other times I would see a lopsided dot, more like a elongated teardrop shape. 

So think it was a battery issue, I tried a new one. No luck, same issues. So I call the manufacturer and the first think he asked me was how old I was after telling him about the issue. He then laughed and said you probably have an astigmatism. So he asked that I try a simple test to determine if that was the cause of my multiple dots. All I needed to do was take a photo of the sight with it on using my cell phone or other digital camera. If I say a single dot in the photo, it was an astigmatism. The photo reveal a single clear image of a dot. This is one of the issues why the military specifies a holographic sight instead of a red dot. 

He advised that because of the way the sight projects the dot on the glass it reveals the astigmatism. A holograph red dot sight does not reveal the astigmatism because of the projection of the red of green dot. He said I could switch to a holograph sight or seek medical help. When I went to my optometrist she seemed a little perplexed at the issue and did not believe it until she tried it and saw the cluster of dots also. So she is now seeking out an optometrist who specializes in such issues for me because she has never experienced this and my testing showed a very minor astigmatism, normally not needing correction. My current prescription glasses only two months old would not correct the issue. 

Below is just one of many articles I found online about the issue.

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
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RicinYakima posted this 13 December 2020

Welcome to old age! Many of us are dealing with this with ghost ring sights and low power scopes. Always shot with both eyes open until about age 70. Now I have to close my off eye.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 13 December 2020

...about 6 years ago i was shooting my ruger standard with it's k1.5 scope ... dammit ! ... the horizontal crosshair got bent !! ...  i handed it to my grandkid and apologized for the bad scope ... he said " what bad scope ? " ....

you can imagine my relief when i found out it was just my right retina coming apart ! .... those good k1.5 scopes are hard to come by ....

and besides i gained the most lovely sparkly light show at random times day and night  ... ....


actually i have learned to ignore the weird sight pictures  ... so far so good ...  i do give a little more time to watching sunsets tho ...



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alphabrass posted this 13 December 2020

I'm in the same boat, my vision is changing with astigmatism, early cataracts and a torn retina in my dominant eye.  Just tried a reflex red dot and noticed the same thing with double or blurry dot.  I found that turning the brightness down helped and that it was still bright enough to be useable.  Adjusting the brightness to suit the lighting level is OK.  My results are still not as good as I can do with metal sights on a pistol, may be just a matter of practice.  Seeing the dot still takes longer than lining up the sights, again practice will help. 

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Buhler50 posted this 13 December 2020

Same here, I have astigmatism.  It was the major reason I to my first glasses 55 years ago. I'm 70 now also have progressively worsening cataracts I My glasses are corrected for astigmatism and also the lenses are progressive, which compensates for focal distances.  I have to move my head around slightly when sighting to put the little red dot in the sweet spot of my glasses.  When I do that the otherwise oblong appearing (astigmatism caused) blob of a red dot appears to me very much a circular dot.

How did cataract surgery affect your shooting?

Any one have concerns about retinal detachment to the point they limit or eliminate shooting shoulder fired long guns of the rifle or shotgun family?

Shoot on.


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BigMan54 posted this 13 December 2020

My Wife suffers from it a bit.  She used to shoot My Ruger MkII with a 2X Burris Pistol scope. She has given up on anything past 7yds.

Me; I've had Red Dots for 30ys. Guess I'm lucky at least in that. 

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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Clod Hopper posted this 14 December 2020

Oh good, another excuse for missing!

Dale M. Lock

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mashburn posted this 14 December 2020

Hello Buhler50,

i am now 76 years young. I had cataract surgery over 10 years ago and it was the best money that I ever spent. Maybe I shouldn't say that because I had two heart surgeries and would not still be alive without them but it sure is nice to be able to see. I can now shoot open sights ,with accuracy .Before surgery when shooting a handgun, I would aim the pistol up in the air toward the bright sky and get the front sight located in the rear sight and then bring the gun down on target, all the while trying to keep my head in the same place and hoping my sight picture hadn't changed. Man that was awful. Everyone doesn't come out with such good results. I now have better than 20-20 vision, and before, without my bi-focal contacts in I could only see light and movement. It sure is nice to wake up in the morning and be able to look at the clock and see what time it is, without putting on glasses. I guess I was one of the lucky surgery patients.

Good luck,


David a. Cogburn

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mashburn posted this 14 December 2020

Hello David Reiss,

I suffered with astigmatism for years. When i had cataract surgery it took care of most of the problem but not all. Some days I can see the dots in the dot type scopes as sharp little red or green dots and other days I see them as you describe, but probably not as bad as yours . I see the 3moa dots much better than the 5moa. Here is a kicker, I have two of the old Tasco side mount quick point scopes and I see the dots in them perfectly, and I have no idea why. I've been planning on sticking them on some type of rifle.

Hope you get your problem solved,


David a. Cogburn

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mashburn posted this 17 December 2020

Hello David.,

It's me again. Since your post I have been doing some experimenting. I was digging through a box of old scopes last night and ran across some more dot scopes and Halographic sights. None of them look the same, some looked as you described and some of the others appeared as perfect dots. And again the 3mooa dots were all much better than the 5moa dots .Evidently some dot scopes are more friendly to people suffering from astigmatism than other scopes.


David a. Cogburn

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ALYMAN#1 posted this 18 December 2020

FWIW - I had cataract surgery in 2007 and 2008 and the doctor was able to correct my astigmatism in both eyes along with lens implants to correct my miserable eyesight to better than 20/20 then and still have excellent vision at the last exam.  After playing with almost every type of sight and accessories over many years to help my SB and HP scores - now I just have myself to blame.

One thing he did for me was to set my right -dominant - eye for distance and the left for mid range focus, which allows me to read a newspaper but not any small print.  The drawback to this is that I need to have glasses to see open sights and pistol/revolver sights which has moderated slightly over the last few years.  For anyone who may be approaching these surgeries, consider swapping eyes with the focus to midrange for your dominant eye.

Hope this helps someone.


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brooksharris posted this 19 December 2020


I started shooting competitively at age 41 with 20/200 vision.  The nest year I won the Tn. State Service Rifle Championship shooting an M1A out to 600 yards.  The wins increased from there thanks to my opthamoligist, Jim Bookman, who has now retired.  I sent him the initial query in this post and here is his reply:


   There are a lot of things to consider and unless 

he has had an ophthalmic exam recently to rule 

out any structural problems in the eye it is hard 

to say for sure what the problem really is. If he 

had an exam 2 months ago, it could have just been

a refraction (not a complete exam of the eyeball).

   I would start with an exam by an ophthalmologist

familiar with shooting and preferably one who does

his own refractions or is willing to check what the techs

get. He should take the sight to the exam (without the 

weapon) so he can look at it with the refraction in the

trial frame.

    I will send a copy of this reply to Darrell to see if he

has any comments and ask him to send you those. Let

me know what the final outcome turns out to be if you





Dr. Jim allowed me to adjust the dials, and as I did so

I not only looked at the K on the chart, but at a juncture within the K.

He soon allowed me to adjust the knobs and then asked

me to repeat and found that I could discern 5 degrees of 


Without his help I could not have collected the wall of

trophies, cups, plaques, and plates that I have...much 

two distinguished badges.

This is in no way intended to boast, but to encourage

those without the vision of a red tail hawk that you can

be competitive if you find an ophthalmologist who understands

our sport.  Additionally, I refuse to settle for the closet-sized

room with the mirror reflecting backwards.  I require the full

twenty feet.  

Then I take my firearm and sight to the optometrist (with

pre-disclosed agreement) and we dial in specifics.

Blessings and stay well,

Brooks Harris


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RicinYakima posted this 19 December 2020

Did the same thing for my right eye in 2005, and worked great. Until cataracts started and they are not "ripe" yet.

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mashburn posted this 24 December 2020

Hello ALYMAN#1,

I had cataract surgery at approximately the same time that you did. And my dominant eye, which is my right eye, was set with a lens for  distance and my left eye was set for mid-range. I don't need glasses for anything but extremely small print in dim light .I can shoot open sights quite well again and it is so good to be able to do so.  In woods situations I've always preferred to hunt with open sighted rifles and have been doing so since the surgery. 99% of my astigmatism problems were taken care of by the surgery.


David a. Cogburn

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ALYMAN#1 posted this 24 December 2020

Great - it was the most amazing thing to be able to see colors and detail again when I walked out of the surgery.  I guess my eyes have somewhat adapted to the ability to adjust from distance to sights since recent improvement with open sights has become noticeable.  Take care of what we have at this point and hope it lasts !!!

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