What Is A Prism Sight?

If you have an AR, you are probably wanting to trick it out with some kind of a nice optic. Scopes are a great option with magnification and range, but red dot sights are super easy, just point and shoot, and there are no eye relief issues to deal with.

Both are great features, so which do you choose? Maybe you should explore the possibility of a prism sight. What is a prism sight? Basically, a prism sight is a compact, scope and red dot hybrid. Let’s take a closer look at prism sights so you can decide if maybe this is the answer you’ve been looking for for your rifle’s perfect optical option.

what is a prism sight

Scopes Vs Red Dots

First and foremost, any scope or sight is primarily an aiming device, designed to give you a point to shoot at and help improve your accuracy. With all kinds of different treatments, coatings and glass quality, scopes allow you to view a cleaner, clearer image. Because of the way they are set up, they both block unwanted light and glare and allow more light retention to brighten your view in failing light conditions.

Many scopes are also magnified to varying powers, allowing you to see targets clearly that are much farther out than you would see just by looking with your own two eyes, and are able to accurately put you on target at extreme distances. They have numerous reticle options including range-finding BDC reticles for estimating bullet drop distances.

Red dot sights are super user-friendly with almost no science involved. They are electronic and put a red dot on your target as the aiming point. With this style of sight, you, for the most part, do not look through a scope, so there is no eye relief to worry about. You can hold your gun however you want or need to in order to achieve your shot. As long as the red dot is on the target, that’s where you’re going to hit.

The only thing with red dots is that they are not magnified, so it’s more of a close-range shooting sight. But, they do come with different reticle image options and are super lightweight and low profile.

Prism sights, or prismatic sights, are sort of a combination between these two types of optics. They offer some of the features of both, such as the ease of use of the red dot sight and the magnification, to a lesser degree, of a scope.

How Do Prism Sights Work?

Prism sights are actually considered a type of red dot sight, though they are very similar to traditional scopes. A traditional scope uses lenses to focus the light and image and  magnify them. Prism sights use a prism to do the same thing, allowing for a more compact and lighter-weight scope.

Prisms are used in many different applications, but mostly they are used to redirect a beam of light in one way or another. For binoculars or a scope, you would most commonly see a reflective prism being used. Reflective prisms reflect light in order to flip, rotate, invert, deviate or displace a beam of light. In the scope, it would be used to erect the image. The image you would see otherwise would be upside down.

The reticle of prism sights are lighted, like a red-dot, so are also classified as a red dot sight. The difference is that most prism sights also have an etched glass reticle, so if your batteries fail, you can still use your sight. Most of them also have an option to change the red dot color to either red or green.

Prism sights, unlike the feyachi reflex sight, are slightly magnified. It’s not much, and they are still considered a close range sight, but they do have a fixed magnification power of 1x to 5x. Although it is not as much magnification as a hunting scope, it is very convenient to have both the red dot, backup etched reticle and some magnification.

Prism Sight Pros And Cons

Compact – The prism in the prism sight allows for this optic to be much more compact and lightweight than a traditional hunting scope which has multiple lenses. However, because it is more scope-like, it is not quite as compact and low profile as a reflex red dot sight.

Reticle – This sight has both the convenient features of a red dot illuminated reticle and an etched glass reticle, and therefore can still be operated without the use of batteries. The reticle is interchangeable between red and green colored illumination, and this sight can have more advanced option reticles, such as range finding reticles.

Magnification – Unlike most other red dot type sights, the prism sight offers a small, fixed power magnification, generally between 1x and 5x power. This is not much when compared to a traditional scope, but it is more than a reflex sight, with no magnification. The downside to this is that being a focusing sight, the prism sight cannot be co-witnessed with the irons, whereas a reflex sight definitely can be.

Focusing Eyepiece – This sight has a focusing eyepiece so that you can adjust the reticle if you have some reason for not being able to see or focus on it clearly.

Eye relief – Because the prism sight is set up like a scope, there is an eye relief factor. Reflex sights have no eye relief, they are simply point and shoot. Prism sights need to be lined up with the eye and set at a certain distance away in order to get a clear image.


You now have a good idea of what a prism sight is and if it would be a good option for your rifle. They really are neat little sights and have all kinds of cool and useful features. I hope that you have enjoyed this guide and found it helpful and informative. Whichever optic you go with, have fun with it and keep on shooting!

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