June 29, 2020
Red-dot sights are everywhere for good reason. They provide the simplest sighting solution possible. You just look at your target, put the dot where you want it and pull the trigger.
Some key features to look for in any red-dot sight (RDS) include the size and brightness of the dot, the size and durability of the optic, parallax and battery life. The new Volta from Sightmark does an excellent job in all of those categories.
Parallax-Free & Why That Matters
The Volta is about 3 inches long, 2 inches high and 1.5 inches wide. It weighs a scant 7.3 ounces. All this makes it about the same size and weight as all the most popular small RDSs on the market.
The viewing screen on the Volta is slightly larger than its competition, which is a big deal. The two biggest selling points of a RDS are ease of use and speed. The Volta is hard to beat in those categories. Between the large viewing screen and the bright 2-MOA dot, it’ll be hard to miss the point of aim (POA), even when in a hurry.
In the “ease of use” category, Sightmark did an excellent job of eliminating parallax from the Volta. This is one area that seems to get little attention in red dots, and that’s a shame.
Parallax occurs when the shooter holds their firearm still, moves their head and the red dot moves relative to the target. The more expensive sights do an excellent job of eliminating parallax, but the lower-cost red dots usually struggle. While it’s not a big deal from a precision standpoint, it can get into a shooter’s head and make them think their optic is broken if the RDS struggles with parallax.
Imagine going to the range and zeroing your sight at 100 yards. Then imagine the next time you shoot at 100 yards, rounds are impacting 3 to 4 inches away from where you zeroed.
Most shooters will immediately assume the optic or mount has gone bad because the zero inexplicably shifted. This sets off a whole chain of events that are incredibly frustrating for the owner.
They’ll first check the mount and make sure it’s tight, then they’ll rezero. If the zero moves again at the next range visit, then the assumption is the optic has failed, and it’s time to contact customer service. The most probable answer is that there is nothing wrong with the optic; the red dot just has some parallax.
Most shooters that use red dots have a limited background in precision shooting and may not realize that moving their head around behind an optic can cause the POA to move as well. This is parallax. Everyone that makes a RDS makes the claim that their optic has no parallax, but almost all of them do, just not enough to matter. Generally, as the cost of the optic comes down, the more parallax it will have.
This is not the case with the Volta. When the shooter moves their head from one side of the viewing screen to the other, the dot only shifts a tiny amount. It moves about the same as optics costing twice as much. This means the scenario detailed above is unlikely to ever happen. Even if the owner is a novice shooter and doesn’t know to maintain consistent head position behind the rifle, the Volta will shoot where it’s zeroed.
The fringe benefit of the minimal parallax in the Volta is that a shooter can throw the rifle to their shoulder and not even have their head all the way behind it and still shoot accurately, especially in a run-and-gun scenario.
Options & More Options
The Volta looks like it’s constructed out of an aluminum box, but it’s really two aluminum boxes that are joined together. The use of aluminum extrusions and lots of machined flats on the optic help keep costs down (curves are time-consuming and expensive). The construction method of the Volta makes it durable, yet it is easy to machine and maintain.
The Volta carries a waterproof rating of IP67, which is a big deal. That means you can chuck a Volta in 3 feet of water and leave it there for 30 minutes, and it’ll be just fine.
Making any electronic device waterproof is a difficult process. There’s a battery that needs access, not to mention circuits that don’t play well with moisture. Getting any optic to seal tight enough to keep water out when submerged requires all surfaces that contact each other to be true. Likewise, the battery compartment has to have a closure mechanism that is beefy enough to seal tightly.
The Volta has all these things and still manages to retail for $360. Like the lack of parallax in this optic, its ability to stay submerged for 30 minutes says a lot about its quality. Advancements in modern machining are what make these premium traits available on a competitively priced optic like the Volta. Sightmark is not yet in a position to survive on name recognition alone. Instead, they have to make a name for themselves by offering more performance per dollar than their competitors. The Volta succeeds in this endeavor.
It’s hard not to miss the small solar panel on top of the Volta. It is the star of the illumination show for this optic. The solar panel powers the 2-MOA dot inside the optic and adjusts to available lighting conditions. If you think about it, the solar panel makes a ton of sense.
Say you’re at the range on a sunny day and need the dot’s brightness maxed out to remain visible. Since there’s a lot of sunlight, there’s plenty of juice to power the dot at its top setting. If clouds roll in and block the sun, the dot doesn’t need to be as bright to remain visible. The solar panel is also a great way to keep the onboard batteries fully charged for low-light scenarios.
Speaking of onboard batteries, Sightmark chose two AAA batteries to power the Volta. This was an excellent choice for a couple reasons. The first is you can find AAA batteries anywhere. Easy logistics are imperative these days, and no one wants to go hunting all over town for odd-shaped batteries that don’t last long.
Using two AAA batteries also gives the Volta some killer battery life. The batteries keep the Volta running at 800 hours on its brightest setting and for 400,000 hours at its lowest setting.
It helps that the shooter has the ability to choose which illumination source to use: the solar panel or batteries. Switching back and forth between the two sources is a simple matter that takes a few seconds.
While the Volta is far from expensive, it packs a lot of technology into an affordable package. There are two illumination systems from which to choose and some manual buttons to set the dot’s brightness (although the dot can automatically adjust itself, if desired). Two small screws allow the shooter to zero the optic, and it comes with two mounts of differing heights (low and AR-15 co-witness heights). That’s a lot of options, features and performance for what will likely cost slightly more than $300 at your gun shop.
- Power: 1X
- Dot Size: 2 MOA
- Objective: 28mm
- Elevation: .5 MOA per click
- Windage: .5 MOA per click
- Length: 3.23 in.
- Weight: 7.3 oz.
- Eye Relief: Unlimited
- MSRP: $360
- Manufacturer: Sightmark, sightmark.com
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