Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bushnell First Strike Tactical Red Dot Reflex Sight Review

Bushnell First Strike Tactical Red Dot Reflex Sight Review

Reflex sights have been a huge hit in every area of shooting from military, sporting, and hunting on every type of firearm.  The main advantages are that they offer a HUGE field of view less obstructed sight picture compared to a red dot sight or optic and usually weigh less than a couple ounces. 

Initially the first marginally tough reflex sights were thought to be just for fair weather shooters, but now have proven themselves extremely durable in the most adverse of military and hunting applications. Bushnell has now introduced its answer to the reflex sight market with the Bushnell First Strike.

If you read my articles you know that I am of a fan of Bushnell optics and the First Strike does not disappoint with a fit, finish, and feel that is typical high quality. Bushnell has finished the sight with a black mil-spec finish to protect from corrosion which looks perfectly at home on my Barnes Precision Machine AR-15.  The First Strike is available in both this standard version and a First Strike HiRise AR co-witness version that includes the required riser. That version was not available when I ordered mine, however it in this case I simply used a standard 1/2" Yankee Hill Machine riser to mount the First Strike for a perfect co-witness.

One of the most noticeable features on the First Strike is the near total absence of buttons or dials with the exception of the windage and elevation adjustments and zeroing locks. There is no on/off switch or button, no higher or lower dot intensity button. The First Strike automatically adjusts the dot intensity in any light condition from bright sun all the way down to an auto off setting of total blackout once the hood is slipped on. 

Functionally, I really like this setup in a moderately priced reflex sight because it takes just one more thing off the table that you need to worry about in a hunting, sporting, or tactical situation.  Opponents to auto brightness will cite a rare situation where you are shooting from total darkness into bright light. In this situation it is typical for auto-brightness red dots to measure the dark ambient room light and end up delivering a very light red dot which will wash out on sunlit targets.  

Bushnell has addressed this issue by mounting the light sensor to a forward target looking position which now measures and adjusts the red dot based on the target’s surrounding brightness versus just ambient surrounding light. The First Strike's 5 MOA sized dot definately increased in intensity standing in a dark room transitioning between indoor dark and outdoor brightly lit targets.

It used to be in the ancient days of red dots that if you left your sight on overnight, you could expect to replace the batteries in the morning.  Today most quality red dots have run times in the tens of thousands of hours.  According to the customer service person at Bushnell, the First Strike sight should deliver around 50,000 hours of run-time based on normal light varying conditions; meaning it will not run 50,000 hours at full brightness, but would run longer if you were a permanent cave dweller. I would pack two extra CR2 backup batteries and know that your First Strike could deliver light for a couple decades in the worst situation.

Personally I love this whole tens of thousands of hours run-time thing becuase that means that on a tactically focused firearm such as my Barnes Precision Machine BPM-15, I can just leave the thing on even without the auto-off dust cover attached. If I need it, I can grab the rifle and go without having to worry about buttons to push. For all practical purposes, it is always on and I would imagine that if stored in something like my Liberty safe, the First Strike would effectively turn itself off just as it would with the dust cover.

The dust cover is a convenient add on which will keep the sight cleaner in dirty and dusty enviornments, however the smooth cover needs needs some texture or a loop or something to be able to pop the cover off more quickly. 

The First Strike is waterproof, fog proof, shock proof and features multi-coated optics for clarity and glare free glass. At some point down the road, maybe 5-8 years from now, you will need to replace the battery.  Like almost every reflex sight on the market, the battery swap will require you to unscrew the sight from the base which in some cases will require re-zeroing.  Bushnell claims it will hold zero, however my experience with this type of design is that it sometimes does.

Because of the co-witness setup, zeroing was simple with my BPM-15 and I simply adjusted the First Strike to match my existing zero. This greatly reduced the need to go through the painful ordeal of zeroing at the range.  When mounted to the Ruger 22/45, zeroing took a bit more time, but I finally had everything nicely zeroed at 25 yards. Once you have your zero, the First Strike features lock downs for both friction adjusted windage and elevation to prevent any shifting from shock.  I had no issue with any zero shifts during testing with the locks appropriately turned down.

The First Strike was also tested on my Ruger 22/45 which is specifically designed for use with an optic. When mounted with to the pistol, I would have liked to have an adjustable dot to bring the intensity up a bit as I find that  a bit brighter red dot helps me index the pistol on target a bit quicker.  This is a personal issue, but a minor complaint which I find with any auto-adjusting reflex sight. One both the 22/45 and BPM-15, the sight performed outstanding.

I like everyone these days am looking for a deal and this is specifically where the Bushnell First Strike excels.  For similar features, you get a Bushnell quality reflex sight for around $150 out on the street.  Compare this to other options on the market and the First Strike is about $50-$100 less than competing models.  

Reflex sights offer shooters a huge field of view compared to tube style red dots. Yes those tube style red dots do deliver a more robust design, however for most shooters the reflex design offers a faster shooting design with an exponentially larger field of view, almost completely void of obstructions with the exception of that little red dot. The First Strike will take some excessive levels of abuse, but does not have the armoring to take getting blown up or harsh abuse, but most for those that want the lightest possible red dot sight option with a more open sight picture, the reflex design is the perfect option.

I am excited over this new breed of relfex sights which deliver robust duribility, water and shock proof designes and only add about two ounces to your rifle or pistol all while delivering 5+ year runtimes.  It appears Bushnell has done a phenominal job again with a feature laden optic at a class leading price point.

Finish: Matte
Length (in / mm): 2 / 52
Reticle: Red Dot
Mounting Length (in / mm): 2 / 50
Field of View (ft@100 yds. / m@100 m): Unlimited
Adj Range in@100yds/ m@100m: 90 / 2.3
Weight (oz. / g): 2.1 / 61
Eye Relief (in / mm): Unlimited
Battery: 1 - CR2 (included)
Brightness: Auto-brightness and auto off with storage hood


Shop the complete selection of optics at 

Bushnell Optics