What exactly is an eye box when using a magnified optic?
The eye box is the area behind the optic to freely move the position of the eye closer, further, up/down, left/right, and still see a clear field of view on a given scope magnification setting and eye relief distance.
In other words, the eye box is the sweet spot where those threshold amounts overlap without being shadowed.
Here is how it works:
How Does It Work
1X Reflex Sights
Red dot sight has unlimited eye relief, free parallax, and allows flexible head movement behind the optic and still acquires the reticle.
The eye box for a red dot sight is very forgiving.
- Very flexible optic to eye distance requirement
- Very flexible head movement as long the the optic's field of view is large
- Aim with both eyes open
- Can be used on pistol
- Doesn't have to center the eye behind the optic
Fixed Magnification Optics
Fix magnification optics have eye relief threshold and exit pupil limitations.
The sweet spot behind the optic is when the shooter doesn't see scope shadow regardless of what the magnification power is.
Rule of thumb: 4" eye relief is common
- Shooter must find the sweet spot behind the optic and be consistent with it
- Scope shadow appears when getting too close or too far from the ocular lens
Variable Magnification Optics
The eye box of a variable magnification scope works the same as a fixed magnification optic.
When the magnification changes, the eye box will change.
- Eye relief distance shortens as magnification power increases
- Scope shadow is much more sensitive if the eye isn't center behind the optic
- Restricts head movement when exit pupil and eye relief are tight
- Larger the exit pupil the more forgiving the eye relief is
- Magnification increases as less light passes through the scope to the shooter's eye
Why Does It Matter?
Eye box limitation when using an optic affects the following:
- Shooting position
- Optic height
- Optic mounting locations
- Which optic to buy or time to swap
Improvised Shooting Positions
When aiming through the optic in improvised shooting positions, a large field of view red dot sight is the best for maximizing head movement behind the optic and situational awareness.
It allows the shooter to place the reticle on targets while:
- Leaning left / right
- Behind covers
- Through holes
- In tight spaces
- Many more...
It's much harder to do this with a magnified optic.
Optic Mounting Locations
Every shooter should find the sweet spot on the rifle to mount an optic, to have a consistent cheek weld position, and ideal eye to optic distance to acquire the sight.
Mounting a red dot sight close to the eye maximizes the field of view and gives much more flexible head movement for CQB applications.
Mounting a magnified optic requires personally fitting. Once it's comfortable for you, then start the zeroing process.
Sometimes a short eye relief scope can lead to scope eye bite on high recoil rifles, or bump into shooter's helmet.
Check the optic mount height if the cheek weld position is too low or too high. This is where buying an optic mount with different heights comes into play.
Buy New Optics
The best way to check out these optics is in your local stores and see for yourself in person. If you already know what you want to buy, please check out some great deals here.
As the content creator of badassoptic.com, My background in the firearms industry and shooting sports gives me the experience to recommend tried and true products and keep away subpar ones.