AImpoint Micro S1 Red Dot Sight Shotgun
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- Last updated: 17/09/2023
Learning to shoot a shotgun can literally be a hit-and-miss process. Individually, the key elements (stance, mount, head position, line, lead, trigger-control and follow-through), are easy enough to understand, and to do. The challenge is to do all of them right and to meld them repeatedly into a smooth and well-timed sequence. Good coaching early on makes a world of difference, but one thing many shotgun shooters struggle with, especially if their first experiences of shooting have been with air rifles and pistols, is the absence of definitive reference points (a.k.a. sights!)
My first introduction to shotgun shooting was over 40 years ago, and I still remember being surprised to find that all I had to aim with was a tiny brass bead at the far end of the gun (a Greener S/S with a polished concave rib). Over and Under guns with raised, textured ribs followed, as did fibre-optic beads, but then, perversely, the challenge was to ignore the sighting aids and keep your attention firmly on the target!
This process of evolution has naturally led to more complex or specialised sighting aids that attach either to the top or side rib. These include unpowered and powered red-ring sights from EasyHit (PX-S2000) and the now-discontinued, Redring, respectively. Plus, eye-dominance correctors such as the SP Shot Paraboloid. This brings us to the latest entry into this arena, and the subject of this review - Aimpoint’s new Micro S1 red-dot shotgun sight.
Aimpoint need no introduction. Pioneers of red-dot optics, they have been much imitated but never bettered, and remain the choice of hunters, sport shooters, and many militaries worldwide. They have also kept pace with the drive towards miniaturisation that now sees most handgun manufacturers designing slides and frames to accept red-dot optics. Unlike Alexander the Great, however, who allegedly wept when he saw no more worlds to vanquish, Aimpoint has realised that if those formerly-barren frames and slides can be populated with red dots, then every naked shotgun rib is virgin territory, ripe for conquest! Or something.
Anyway, Aimpoint’s new S1 shotgun sight is an evolution of their tried-and-tested Micro H2 rifle/pistol sight, now equipped with an ample 6 MOA dot and a low-profile top-rib mount. Because rib heights and widths vary widely from model to model, mounting the S1 involves measuring these carefully with callipers (£5 from eBay if you haven’t got a set) and then using a handy configuration card to select the appropriate clamping plates from the set provided. Rubber pads on the inner faces prevent slippage under recoil and keep the mount from damaging the rib, but the required clamping force of 1Nm (you can get a basic torque driver for £30) is too great for compatibility with carbon-fibre ribs.
Beyond (and before) this, however, you need to decide where on the rib you want the sight. Nearest the breech maximises both the field of view through the sight and the amount obscured by its housing. Nearest the muzzle does the opposite and may increase precision for long targets. Finally, the Goldilocks spot seemed to be level with the tip of the forend. Dot size remains constant, however, regardless of distance.
How do I know all this? Well, Aimpoint’s UK distributor, Raytrade, kindly invited me to a demonstration day down at the Barbury Shooting School in Wiltshire. It was my first visit and I was duly impressed by the beautiful setting amid the Marlborough Downs, the impeccably-maintained stands and clubhouse, and the welcoming and well-stocked shop. All looked their very best on a perfect day of light breezes, blue sky, and summer sunshine.
Once assembled, we were briefed and shown how to fit and zero the sights to the Yildiz Pro guns assigned to each of us (Yildiz is another great Raytrade brand and the Pro was a real pleasure to shoot). We were then expertly coached in its use by Aimpoint’s chief instructor, Erik Ås.
Having shown us how to mount the Micro S1, Erik demonstrated the bore-sighting and zeroing procedure. A neat trick for the former was to use fired cartridges with the primers removed to achieve more precise alignment. This also revealed the point of convergence of the barrels. According to their calibre and intended use, manufacturers ‘regulate’ double guns to shoot to the same point of aim at a specific distance. For 12-gauge shotguns, this is usually from 30-40m. The dot was then dialled onto the target using the small windage and elevation dials, and then the covers were replaced.
Next, we adjusted the combs of our Yildiz Pros to achieve the head position that would centre the dot in the sight. This wasn’t for accuracy (the S1 is parallax-free, so, wherever the dot is, the shot will go) but rather, as a means to promote and confirm correct mounting. The S1 raises the sight line by around 15mm, so, while not absolutely necessary, a commensurately higher comb is desirable to provide a consistent index point.
A final adjustment was to the brightness of the dot. This is manually set via a side-mounted, 11-position rheostat. At first, position 10 seemed perfect for our sun-soaked test day, but as I acclimatised to the sight, I found myself reducing the brightness. Mentioning this to Erik, he replied that long-term users frequently turned the sight right down, obtaining a phantasmal dot that served as an almost-subliminal guide.
Our party comprised five expert clay shots: CPSA CEO Iain Parker, former CPSA Coaches of the Year Max Tarr (Instructor Max) and Mhairi-Ann Troup (Dynamic Ladies Shooting Club), independent CPSA coaches Ali Schwind and Steph Davey (Feather & Clay Shooting), and Yours Truly, who hadn’t shot at a clay in at least 5 years!
What I had done, however, was spend many enjoyable hours over the previous 12 months using a virtual Aimpoint Micro S1 within the GAIM VR shooting simulator. This meant that the real-world shooting experience felt immediately familiar. While the expert shots had to work at adapting to the new sight picture, all I had to do was adjust to the more complex flight characteristics of real-world clays.
Better still, I found that the Micro S1’s sight picture (dot + housing) made Erik’s coaching tips really easy to apply. He could say: “shoot two clays’ width right”, and I could do exactly that. I felt like a precision rifle shooter applying wind calls from his spotter. So, while I was never going to outshoot my accomplished companions, the combination of a positive aiming point, spot-on coaching, and an ace-up-my-sleeve (a.k.a. simulator time) carried me an unexpectedly long way from embarrassing myself.
The takeaway from this is that, if you’re used to shotguns but not used to having a sight on one, the Micro S1 will feel ‘in the way’ at first, and take some getting used to. Whereas, if you come directly from rifle or pistol shooting, or even from gaming, it will give you the sight you expect to have. Added to this, there’s a particular technique to using a red dot on a moving target that Erik sums up as “Contact-Focus-Shoot”, which consists of taking a simplified line, intersecting rather than following the path of the target. Part of this technique is being naturally aligned with the kill point and under slight torque at the contact point.
This isn’t all new, of course. Neither is the emphasis on focusing on your target and not on the gun. Yet hardware and technique come together in the Micro S1 with clarity and comprehensibility I’ve not previously experienced.
It was also great to meet Erik and his colleague Peder Grönvall”, as well as getting to spend some time with the Raytrade team, whose combined knowledge, not just of the products they distribute, but about every aspect of shooting, hunting, and other rural pursuits, is genuinely impressive. Impressive, too, was Peder and Erik’s readiness to hear what we all thought about the S1, and about how my clay-coaching companions felt it might fit within their own professional practice, and of course, whether, perhaps under the designation of a ‘digital bead’, it might be duly incorporated within CPSA rules. That remains to be seen, but Iain declared himself keen to move with the times, and all the coaches were given Micro S1s to take home and play with, so inroads were undeniably made.
The Micro S1’s price (£626) reflects its quality as well as its uniqueness, but it still costs £120 less than the difference between Grade 1 and Grade 4 wood on a Yildiz Pro Black Adjustable. Given that even Yildiz’s G1 is already superior to a lot of other makers’ G3, that’s a trade I’d happily make. It could also be the perfect sub-£2K combination for a new shooter!
As for me, Raytrade will shortly be sending me the Micro S1-equipped Yildiz Pro I so enjoyed shooting at Barbury. This will be for an extended field test in which I’ll be tackling a plague of corvids before switching the Aimpoint to a Hushpowered Mossberg .410 for some discreet farmyard pest control. Watch this space!