On the dot
Kahles’ compact sight made a big impression on Chris Redlich
Rapid acquisition of swift-moving targets used to be solely the domain of rifles with open sights and although sharing decades of history, red dot optics are now the preferred choice for shooters seeking an alternative to open sights on fast-repeating rifles. Like most things released years ago, size was often the trade-off for technological advance and those of a certain age will recall when mobile phones were carried in a bag and weighed about 3kg! I also remember early red dot sights which could be mistaken for a chunky looking small scope which was often a drawback for me and one of the main reasons I stuck with standard low-power riflescopes.
Those cumbersome red dot sights of old appear to be a thing of the past and Kahles of Austria have paved the way for a new era of compact options with the release of their Helia RD-C (Red Dot-Compact). Accepting an invitation by Kahles to review the new sight, I was keen to see just how compact it really was, if it appealed to me and would I buy one over a compact riflescope?
The Helia RD-C is ruggedly built from aircraft-grade aluminium and lived up to its compact tag, measuring only 80mm long with lens covers and weighing a mere 125 grams (battery included). Four screws are supplied to fasten the base mount to the sight’s underside and once tightened to an even torque the RD-C can then be attached to a Picatinny rail or weaver-style cross-slot bases. I decided to fasten the sights to the Picatinny rail of my wife Sue-Ann’s Savage custom bolt in 7mm-08, a fast-pointing rifle ideal for quick follow-up shots. For those unfamiliar with red dot sights they have generous eye relief, meaning the sights can be positioned almost anywhere on the receiver without hindering your sight picture.
The RD-C has a fixed one power (1x magnification) which is ideal for rapid sight realignment, the 25mm RD-C objective having what Kahles calls an ‘anti-reflexion’ red filter coating to improve image clarity. Both lenses have flip-up covers to protect against abrasion from dirt and grime and the mount clamps to the Picatinny rail by simply finger tightening a single butterfly nut. Taking the sight’s long eye relief into consideration I mounted the RD-C forwardmost on the rail and although of minor weight, purely for balance reasons.
A red dot sight isn’t complete without a power source and driving the RD-C is a single CR2032 battery housed within a watertight screw cap compartment on the right of the unit. These sights are surprisingly basic and everything there is to know about them is found in the supplied quick reference guide. The reticle is a precise 2 MOA illuminated red dot designed for minimum target cover but maximum acquisition for close quarters shooting. To power up simply press the + or – (brightness) toggle for two seconds and the same to turn off. Once ‘on’ the red dot reticle brightness is controlled by the + for higher brightness and – for lower brightness depending on conditions.
‘Safelight’ or automatic light is activated by simultaneously pressing the + and – for two seconds and the same to turn off. The ‘safelight’ feature enables the sights to be motion activated and will automatically turn off after four hours if the sights and rifle are not in use. To adjust reticle alignment the elevation and windage turrets are located at the 12 and 3’o clock positions as per standard scopes and both have 7cm adjustment value at 50m, so having familiarised myself with the new Helia RD-C I couldn’t wait to test it.
Range and field testing
I must disclose if I’d read the instructions a little more carefully I’d have noticed I fastened the base mount back to front which meant the butterfly tightening nut was close to the battery compartment but evidently didn’t foul with the cap. I wasn’t in a position to reverse the mount out in the field so cracked on with sighting-in. As it turned out my error made no difference to the sight’s accuracy and I achieved an outstanding sub ½-inch group with two shots from two different loads at 50m, 140-grain Nosler Ballistic tips touching at bang-on zero while the heavier recoiling 150-grain Nosler AccuBond LRs printed 2” lower. The sighting-in process was a breeze and after some confirmatory shots I was ready for field use.
As most hunters will sympathise game doesn’t always turn up on cue and finding a window of opportunity compounded by La Nina was proving a challenge until a clear Saturday afternoon was seized and Sue-Ann and I made the most of it. Feral pigs which were reportedly travelling the waterways of my hunting patch didn’t present so we decided to test the Kahles red dot using shotgun clays at varying positions on the ground at close range from 20-50m.
We faced the clays underside in our direction to simulate the dark body of a feral pig while the targets’ dimensions were closely representative of a pig’s heart to provide a challenging test scenario. Both Sue-Ann and I shot targets from the offhand position with a single shot each, highlighting the versatility of the RD-C and its ability for a different shooter to use the rifle confidently and accurately. Targets were caught on camera by remote means.
The Helia RD-C has changed the way I feel about red dot sights. I’m sure other brands manufacture compact sights but Kahles really have produced a class-leading compact unit that’s hard to beat. At all times the Helia’s red dot maintained zero and all sight pictures were clear and unobstructed during testing. For a quality product backed by Kahles’ two-year warranty I’ve no hesitation in recommending the new Helia RD-C which retails for around $790 (at time of writing), as a red dot sight worthy of consideration. For Australian stockists and more visit www.kahles.at or email [email protected]