I have been around shotguns most of my life and somewhere when I was younger my dad taught me how to hold a shotgun, aim, and shoot. His instruction has served me well and I shoot pretty well, but I know for a fact I have bad habits. One thing I tend to do is raise my head to look around. Not sure why, but the closer the birds are the more I look around. I learned to shoot with both eyes open, so perhaps that is where it comes from.
Years ago I started shooting skeet and fell in love with the possibility of breaking 25 straight. In my younger days, I accomplished this often. Now, as I have gotten older I noticed I do not pick up the birds as well and miss more than I used to, so I asked the good folks at Burris Optics to let me try one of their FastFire IIIs. I received the Burris Optics FastFire 3 with a mounting package designed especially for my Stoeger M-3500 semi auto. The FastFire 3 is built upon the early 2009 release of the Speed Bead.
The FastFire 2 and 3 are reflex sights with a red dot optic. They are applicable to handguns, shotguns and, rifles. Both of these sights are at 1x magnification and do not change the weight or balance of your weapon choice. The FastFire 3 uses a dot MOA of 4 (small) and 8 (large) and allows the user three brightness settings and an automatic brightness by simply pushing a button on the sight. The CR1632 battery is easily accessible from the top and an auto shut-off is programmed at eight hours plus a low battery indicator is provided. A protective see-through cap is also included.
The installation is straight forward but requires you to remove the stock. For the Stoeger, this is a couple of butt plate screws and one large stock retaining nut. The mount fits between the stock and the receiver assembly and needs to seat firmly against the receiver pins. If you use an adjustment plate on your Stoeger to align the stock, make sure this is towards the stock, not the receiver. The fit is tight and the foam pad under the mount pinches down tightly onto the stock as the stock is rejoined to the receiver.
The Burris FastFire III mounts on top of the mounting plate and spacers are provided to get the sight to align down the barrel and just above the bead at the end of the barrel. I found the alignment pretty close but later added a spacer to raise the sight slightly. Once in place, look down the sight and make sure the red dot is aligned with the bead. Minute of Angle adjustment screws is provided to move the red dot left and right and up and down.
As you sight down the barrel realize the sight is parallax free so where ever the red dot is pointing your shot pattern will follow. So once you install the sight move your head around so you better understand that when your head comes up, you shoot under the bird and when you move your head right you shoot left of the bird. Following the dot with your head down is much easier than with your head up.
I began my testing of the sight with the opening weekend of dove season. My first day out with the sight, I thought I shot terrible. All those bad habits were fighting the use of the FastFire III. But when I kept my head still and looked through the optic I shot much better. I struggled to acquire the target through the sight and it took a box of shells or so to even realize I had the sight in place and to force my mind and eye to use the sight. For me, being an older both-eyes-open shooter, I think I became cross-dominant at times as I wanted to look through my left eye instead of my right eye. Those 15 birds required I do a lot of shooting on that first day, but I think I got better.
By day two, I was much more comfortable with the sight and once again limited-out on doves, but found my shooting had to get better, as the birds were now further away and fewer in numbers. By the end of the weekend, I had shot maybe eight boxes of shells (yes I shoot a lot) so I thought I had a pretty good feel for the sight. To bolster that first weekend of shooting, I also felt like I shot the same as I always do: did lots of shooting to harvest 15 birds and had a lot of fun. I also took shots I should not have, pulled the trigger a third time when that was useless and just failed to force myself to aim.
- I needed more practice
- I was still struggling with acquisition
- I was not sure if I was instinctively shooting or sighting
- I felt cross-dominant at times
- My head was staying down much better
The following weekend I decided to put the FastFire 3 through the paces by shooting at the range. I shot 50 rounds of sporting clays, 50 rounds of trap and skeet each and a round of five-stand using the Burris FastFire 3. I will admit, I immediately started to fight the sight, but soon it became very comfortable. My wandering eyes started to settle down the sight, and I soon became more comfortable shooting one of my better rounds of sporting clays.
I also immediately began to place my head down tighter on the stock in a much better alignment than I had been shooting previously. While the Burris FastFire 3 does not compensate for the lead, I felt as though my misses were more associated with the lead than being over or under the target. Depending on how dominant your eye is, as opposed to shooting with both eyes open, it might take several rounds to begin to better know where to look. At the end of the day, I shot very well on the sporting clay course as well as the skeet field. Trap has always been tough for me and the five-stand was out of this world as far as being difficult.
After almost 400 rounds I can say I believe I improved my shooting with the addition of the Burris FastFire 3. I would not expect everyone to have the same outcome as myself, but I do think you will take away some critical improvements in your shooting. My in-depth shooting of the FastFire 3 brought me to the following conclusions and results:
- A need to re-visit the stock alignment of my gun
- A much more solid connection of the stock to my cheek
- Much better eye coordination and target acquisition
- A thought process before shooting
- A recognition of the bead on the end of the barrel
- Kept my head down longer
- I am a better shooter
I would recommend the FastFire 3 to anyone willing to shoot enough targets to get used to the sight and anyone willing to let someone instruct them in correcting some bad habits. The FastFire III can be removed with two screws so I would recommend shooting a couple hundred rounds with and without the sight and re-installing to see and feel the improvement. I would not suggest to anyone to take the FastFire 3 and install it right before a big hunting trip. I believe you have to spend some time getting used to the sighting and using the red dot for what it is intended. I think the FastFire 3 goes beyond a training device and if you learn to use it you will likely leave it on the gun.
The battery lasted through all my shooting so I never thought much about losing the sight. Should that occur you can still sight through the optic. The FastFire 3 is waterproof, recoil proof and thoroughly tested, and a cleaning cloth is provided to keep the lens clean and scratch-free. The FastFire 3 mounts are available for:
- Magnification: 1.07x
- Sight Window: 21mm x 15mm; .82in x .59in
- Elevation Adjust Range: 3° or 190 in. @ 100 yds
- Windage Adjust Range: 3° or 190 in. @ 100 yds
- Set Value for one Scale Division: 1 MOA or 1 in. @ 100 yds. w/ 60 scale divisions per turn
- Subtension of the Aiming Dot: 4 MOA (10.5cm @ 100m)
- Parallax-Free Sighting Distance: Approx. 50 yards
- Recoil Resistance: At least 1000 G’s
- Operating Temperature Range: -10°F to +130°F (-25°C to +55°C)
- Storage Temperature Range: -40°F to +160°F (-40°C to +70°C)
- Power Supply: 3V with one CR 2032 Lithium battery
- Dimensions(LxWxH): 1.8in x 1in x 0.9in
- Weight (in operating condition without mount): 25g
- MSRP: Approximately $269
I am a fan of the Burris FastFire 3 and will continue to use the product. For some, it will be a training tool and for others, it will become a part of your permanent shooting equipment.
Images by David Vaught