Guide to Co-Witness Sights

21st Dec 2020

Choosing the right co-witness sights for your firearm is essential to accuracy when you need it most. Whether you're in the police force or the military, on the range or on a hunt, you need to be able to quickly and accurately identify your target. With co-witness sights, you can make the process more efficient and precise for every shot.

With the right selection, you can make co-witness sights work optimally for your firearm. To help get you started, we've put together this guide to walk you through how co-witness sights work and which you should choose to fit your needs.

What Are Co-Witness Sights?

Co-witnessing refers to the relationship between an optical sight and the iron sights of your firearm. When the optical sight's red dot aligns with the iron sights, the two work together as co-witness sights. AR-15 co-witness sights allow you to improve your shot's precision, and they also give you a backup plan to use your iron sights if your optics stop working for any reason.

There are two main types of co-witness sights — absolute and 1/3. Also known as 100% co-witness and lower third, these two options are best suited for different situations. Which option works best for you may depend on what you find most convenient and comfortable for your shot.

AR-15 Absolute Co-Witness Sights

For AR-15 absolute co-witness sights, the optical sight mount is the same height as the iron sights. You have full visibility of the iron sight through the optic because of the position of both parts. You'll be able to see the entire iron sight from top to bottom, and the optical sight will be at standard mounting height, in direct alignment with the iron sights.

With this setup, you have consistency between the iron sights and the red dot, and the optic is closer to the bore. If your optic loses power or you transition suddenly from a darker to a brighter area, you can adjust more easily. You can quickly respond to changes because you won't have to make realignments.

AR-15 1/3 Co-Witness Sights

With AR-15 1/3 co-witness sights, the optical sight mount is slightly above the iron sights, so you have to drop your head a little to align the two. That means you'll see only the iron sights in the bottom third of the optic with your normal line of sight. The optic will be slightly off-center from the bore, but the difference is slight enough that it typically doesn't cause any problems for shooters.

When you work with this option, you'll have the advantage of a less cluttered sight, giving you more visibility. If you need to see the field and target with maximum clarity, this may be your best option, as it makes identifying your target easier. It can also allow for more comfortable neck positioning and potentially reduce muscle strain.

How to Set up Co-Witness Sights

If you've decided to set up co-witness sights for your gun, there are a few considerations you'll want to keep in mind to begin. Essentially, you'll need to zero your sights and then get them in alignment with each other. Are you working with 1/3 co-witness sights and want to switch to absolute instead? You can use a riser mount to lower the optic to the standard iron sight height.

To get started, you can follow a few straightforward steps, but keep in mind that you can adjust them to fit your unique needs:

  1. Zero the iron sights: Start by zeroing your iron sights with the optic off.
  2. Confirm visibility: If you haven't already, install the optic and ensure you have your desired sight picture through it.
  3. Test your aim: To ensure that everything is ready and on target, try firing a few rounds downrange to check the accuracy of your zero.
  4. Align optics with iron sights: Once you're satisfied that everything is in order, get your preferred sight picture, turn on the red dot and align the reticle with the iron sights.
  5. Confirm and fire: Test-fire to confirm your zero with just the red dot, then make any necessary adjustments.

Choosing the Right Co-Witness Sights for You

Finding which co-witness sights work best for you depends on your needs. Your best option is mostly a matter of personal preference and shooting style, but it's also essential to match your co-witness sights to your firearm and usage.

For an AR-15 with flip-up iron sights, it's generally best to go with an absolute co-witness setup, as you can flip up your sights quickly when needed. If you have fixed iron sights, AR-15 1/3 co-witness sights are likely a better fit to give you more visibility. These aren't hard-and-fast rules, but they are useful guidelines to help you achieve improved aim and get a clean, precise shot.

If you're working with a gun without iron sights, co-witnessing technically isn't an option. However, you're still better off choosing an absolute co-witness sight setup for your optic — because the riser is of standard mounting height, your red dot will be at the optimal distance from the bore per the design of the AR-15.

Choose Wing Tactical for Firearm Parts You Can Trust

When you need reliable equipment for shooting, choose Wing Tactical as your trusted supplier. At Wing Tactical, we offer high-performance products you can trust to handle everything from demanding professional use to hunting in the world's most rugged environments. We have an extensive inventory of gun parts to help you get precise shots while improving safety and efficiency, and we don't offer any products we wouldn't use ourselves.

Since our founding, we've been serving every kind of shooter with the supplies they need. When you order from us, you can be confident that you're getting all-new products you can depend on. At Wing Tactical, we understand that our products could have life-or-death significance in some situations, so we ensure that they provide the best in safety and performance. We also offer exceptional customer service and hassle-free returns within 30 days of purchase.

Order today to get the parts and firearms for professional work, hunting, competitive shooting or self-defense. If you have any questions about choosing an AR-15 sight setup or any of our other products, feel free to contact our team.

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