Sights

History Of Reflex Sights Explained

history of reflex sights

The history of reflex sights dates back to the early 20th century, rooted in the development of reflector sight technology. Sir Howard Grubb, an Irish optical designer, made significant early contributions to this field.

However, the major breakthrough came in 1975 with the introduction of the first electronic reflex sight by Aimpoint.

Aimpoint’s creation not only improved upon traditional iron sights but also revolutionized aiming systems with its efficiency, accuracy, and user-friendliness.

The journey of reflex sights from their inception to modern times shows how continuous technological advancements can change what we know of optical weapon sights forever.


What Is A Reflex Sight?

Reflector sights or a reflex sight is a type of non-magnifying optical sight. This sight allows you to look through a partially reflecting glass element and see an illuminated projection of an aiming point or some form of reticle.

Reflex sights project an image that stays in alignment with the device the sight is attached to regardless of eye position, offering quick target acquisition.

A reflex sight is a sub-category of a red dot sight, often described as a smaller, more compact version.

reflex sight history


How Do Reflex Sights Work?

Reflex sights work by reflecting a reticle image (or aiming point) produced by a light-emitting diode (LED) off a lens that acts like a mirror.

The shooter looks through the lens and sees the reticle superimposed in the field of view. This setup allows for a single point of focus, simplifying the aiming process over what is traditionally experienced with iron sights.


When Were Reflex Sights Invented?

Reflex sights were invented in the early 20th century, with significant developments attributed to Sir Howard Grubb, an Irish optical designer.

Grubb’s work in the early 1900s laid the foundational principles of reflector sight technology, which would evolve into what we recognize today as reflex sights.

While Grubb’s contributions were crucial in the initial stages, the modern electronic reflex sight, similar to those widely used today, emerged in the 1970s with significant advancements over the original concepts.

reflex sights history


Which Brand Created The First Reflex Sights?

Aimpoint AB, a Swedish company, was recognized for creating the first electronic reflex sight in 1975. This innovation represented a major leap forward in reflex sight technology, integrating electronic components for the first time.


Who Was The Inventor Of Reflex Gun Sights?

We don’t know the exact inventor of reflex gun sights as it’s not clearly documented. But Sir Howard Grubb, an Irish optical designer, is credited with early work in reflector sight technology in the early 1900s.


Why Were Reflex Sights Invented?

Reflex sights were invented to offer a more straightforward and efficient aiming solution than a front and rear sight. The main appeal of reflex sights is to provide a clear sight picture and aiming platform in different ambient light conditions while being incredibly compact.

This was particularly beneficial in situations where rapid and precise aiming was necessary, and traditional iron sights or a laser sight were insufficient.

historical reflex sight


What Is The History Of Reflex Sights In Military Applications?

In military use, reflex sights became increasingly prominent during and after World War II. Their ability to facilitate quick target acquisition made them invaluable for close-quarters combat.

They have been extensively used in various military operations, especially since the late 20th century, becoming a piece of standard equipment in many modern armed forces. This is very similar to the history of red dot sights in military situations as well!


What Is The History Of Reflex Sights In Civilian Applications?

Civilian reflex sights date back to the 1970s when Aimpoint introduced the Aimpoint Elecotronic.

Since then, they have found widespread use in civilian applications, particularly in sports shooting and hunting. Their ease of use, improved accuracy, and quick target acquisition capabilities have made them a favored choice among recreational shooters and hunters.


How Has The Reflex Sight Technology Evolved?

Since their inception, we’ve seen reflex sight technology evolve in four key areas.

  • Advancements in the LED technology (provides the red aiming dot), leading to longer battery life and brighter reticles.
  • Enhanced reticle designs offering various patterns for different shooting requirements.
  • Improvements in durability and robustness, paving the way for the creation of AR and shotgun reflex sights.
  • A reduction in size, making these sights more versatile and adaptable to different firearms.

Has The Reticle Design Of Reflex Sights Changed Over Time?

Yes, there has been a notable evolution in the reticle design of reflex sights.

Originally featuring simple dot patterns, modern reflex sights now offer a range of reticle designs, including circle-dot reticles, crosshairs, and customizable shapes, like Holosun’s multiple reticle system and even in EOTech’s sights.


Frequently Asked Questions

Has The Use Case For Reflex Sights Changed Over History?

The use case for reflex sights has expanded from primarily military applications to widespread use in civilian shooting sports, hunting, and law enforcement.

Were Reflex Sights Invented Before Red Dot Sights?

Yes, reflex sights, with their basic concept and design, were invented before modern red dot sights. However, reflex sights don't predate the telescopic sight, which was invented in the 1830s.

The Bottom Line

The evolution of reflex sights, from Sir Howard Grubb’s early 20th-century work to Aimpoint’s electronic versions of the 1970s, showcases a blend of innovation and adaptation.

It’s a journey that reflects the shifts in technology and shooting practices, highlighting how a simple concept can transform across decades to meet the needs of modern marksmen.

About the author

Charles Neser

I'm a life long hunter & gun lover. Currently pursuing my Master's Degree (M.Sc.) in Animal Nutrition at University of the Free State.

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