Looking to zero a firearm without expending too much time or ammo? Here are the five best bore sight models to get you on target.
Laser bore sights are a must for getting and maintaining an accurate zero. They enable you to adjust your optic's point of aim to be a lot closer to your gun's point of impact, all without firing a single shot.
You don't want to rely on guesswork, and eschewing the use of a bore sight often results in zeroing one’s pistol, rifle or shotgun to their rotten trigger press. Yes, that's why you're shooting low left.
So, let's talk about laser bore sights, how to use them, and a few of the best models on the market.
How Do Bore Sighters Work?
A bore sighter is a laser that goes in the barrel. This projects a red dot out to whatever the maximum range is for the laser, which is typically 25 yards at the most.
Generally, they come in two varieties: those you put in the chamber, and those you put in the muzzle.
The chamber variety have a housing that's machined to the shape and dimensions of a specific cartridge, be it 9mm, .45 ACP, .30-06, .223 or anything else. You turn the device on and load it as you would a standard cartridge.
The muzzled variety are basically a laser on a stick. It goes in the barrel, you turn it on, and it projects the dot. The stick will have a threaded end which accepts an adapter for the bore diameter, so after inserting it into the muzzle it will be held securely.
With either style of bore sight, the laser gives you a projection of the supposed point of impact. You can then calibrate your optic or iron sights to it.
How To Zero With A Bore Sight
So, we know that some go in the chamber and other types of bore sights are affixed to the muzzle. What do you do from there?
That depends, partially on what kind of distance you have to work with, what kind of gun you have and your specific load and caliber.
You can bore sight outdoors or indoors. Indoors is better so you can get the best visibility, but you may find yourself having to do it outside to achieve greater distance.
Most people have at least one 10-yard linear distance inside their home. Some people may have up to 25 yards of linear distance in their yard. You have to figure out what you have access to.
It’s a good idea to use a bullseye target of some kind, with a way to hang it and a rest for your gun to hold it as stable as possible.
Bore sighting a pistol red dot is the easiest, especially for a 10-yard zero. You set up a target at 10 yards, turn on the bore sight and zero the optic to the laser.
For long guns, it can get a little trickier.
Ideally, you'd have a 25-yard linear distance available. What you'd do is get a trajectory table with your load, optic height and zero calculated—say a .223 with a 100-yard zero and a 1.93-inch height over bore—and find what the point of impact should be at 25 yards.
What you want to do is zero your optic to whatever the point of impact should be relative to the point of aim at that known distance. For that load, it would be about 1 inch low. If you don't, then make sure to recalculate the trajectory table for 10-yard increments. That gives you a point of impact about 1.5 inches below point of aim.
Put a piece of tape or a target pasty at the point of impact for the distance you're zeroing at. Turn on the bore sight and put the dot on the target pasty or piece of tape. Then adjust your reticle until it's in the bullseye above the laser.
Relatively simple, right? You just calibrate the reticle—or iron sights—at a known distance in reference to a laser, without ammo and without needing to pull a trigger. But does that mean you're good to go?
No. It does not.
How Close Does Bore Sighting Get You?
Bore sighting will get you in the ballpark, but it will never get you 100-percent perfectly zeroed. You will still have to fine-tune your zero with live ammo at the range.
Any amount of misalignment is an error of calibration. In shooting, one way we measure deviation from the desired point of impact is in minutes of angle or MOA.
A 2-MOA error of alignment at 10 yards is 0.2 inches. At 25 yards, the maximum visible range for most bore sights, it’s 0.5 inches. How are you going to be able to tell if you haven't achieved a proper zero at those distances?
How can you tell if it's the optic not being completely zeroed instead of the ammunition or you pushing the shot? You literally can't. There are too many potential variables to account for, not even including a shooter’s marksmanship skills.
At the distances most people will use and indeed even can use a boresight, you literally cannot tell whether or not you have precisely calibrated your gun and your sighting system. Because the only way to confirm just how close or far your laser zero is to the true point of impact, zeroing must be completed at the range with the ammunition you're going to use in the gun. That said, they can still save you a lot of headache by easily getting your shots on paper before even going to the range.
Which Bore Sight Is Best?
Which style or brand of bore sight is best depends on your use-case. The average person can get a lot of use out of an inexpensive one, but the professional gunsmith or armorer will likely need to invest a little more.
Additionally, there's the question of whether you should get the cartridge-style or the in-muzzle kind.
If you have multiple firearms of just one or two calibers, it would be smart to get the cartridge bore sights for those chamberings. For example, if your guns are only 9mm and .223/5.56mm, that means you only need two devices to service all your guns.
If you have guns chambered for multiple calibers, a multi-caliber bore sight is your best bet.
For most people, a bore sight is only going to be an occasional use item. A professional-grade set is not strictly necessary. While there's certainly something to be said for buy-once-cry-once, you don't need to buy Snap-On tools to change your oil a few times per year.
So…what are the best bore sights to buy? Let's have a look.
The Top Five Bore Sights
EZShoot Bore Sight Kit
The EZShoot Bore Sight Kit is a muzzle-end bore sight laser kit. It comes with multiple muzzle attachments for different calibers, from .17 all the way up to .54 caliber. It's powered by a single CR2 battery and has up to 2.5 hours of battery life and a range of 15 to 100 yards.
It's low cost (the red version is often found online for about $20, and the green version a little more) and versatile enough for most casual users to keep a battery of guns properly calibrated.
Wheeler Professional Boresighter
Some would rather buy once and cry once. The Wheeler Professional uses a rare-earth magnet to securely attach to the muzzle, and a simple switch (on or off) to engage the laser. The aluminum housing is about 1-inch in diameter, large enough for any firearm.
A simple tool, but ruggedly made for a lifetime of service. The red laser version has an MSRP of about $120, and the green laser’s is about $180.
MidTen Bore Sight
There are several brands that these made-in-China bore sight laser cartridges are whitelabeled as, but MidTen just happens to be one of the most common. These are cartridge-style bore sights, made specifically for the most popular pistol, rifle and shotgun calibers.
They're powered by onboard batteries (typically AG13) and the laser turns on as soon as you tighten the battery compartment. The red laser is typically visible to 100 yards. You can easily find them online for about $20 per.
The StrongTools BoreSighter is similar to the EZShoot kit, but has two principle differences. First, the barrel adapters go up to 12-gauge instead of merely .54-caliber (12-gauge is .85-caliber) and it's powered by CR2 3-volt batteries, which are far easier to deal with than watch batteries.
Generally you'll find them (or the same product whitelabeled as a different brand) for about $30 to $40, depending on whether you want the red or green laser.
SiteLite SL-100 Mag Laser
SiteLite is one of the common brands trusted by professionals for frequent use, and they're found in police and military armories all over the world. The Mag Laser inserts into the muzzle, with adapters and sleeves to fit .17-caliber all the way up to 12-gauge,
SiteLite lasers connect to software, which you can download from SiteLite's website, to create a unique trajectory table and zero for you. This takes all the guesswork out of the equation and provides the most precise calibration possible.
The SL-100 is their entry level model and they can generally be found for about $100.
More Information On Sights:
- Open Your Eyes! Red-Dot Sights Are Superior
- Open Sights 101: Upgrades, Adjustments and Uses
- Shedding Light On Laser Sights
- How-To: Adjust Iron Sights On Fixed-Sight Pistols And Revolvers
- Concealed Carry Sights: Which Are Best For Your Gun?