Burris FastFire 3 Review
The following is a hunter’s review of the Burris FastFire 3 Reflex Sight. It is written from personal experience after 3 seasons of use, and over a dozen deer killed. In this article I’ll discuss why I started using the sight, what I like and dislike about it, my thoughts on who it would work best for, and some tips for new users.
The Problem With Most Archery Sights
Working as a bow tech in my younger days, I realized that most sights that were popular at the time were made for range shooters, not hunters. They were set up to allow you to shoot at small, stationary targets at long ranges and with ample prep time. They weren’t made for the whitetail woods. Customers at my counter often lamented deer that they missed because of issues caused by these sites. Some of the more popular lines went something like:
“I held that pin dead on him, squeezed the release, and the arrow went plumb over his back! I couldn’t figure it out until I looked down at the sight’s dial. It was set for 40 yards, not 20 like I thought. I must have bumped it walking in.”
“Man, I could just barely see him with my naked eye. But when I put that sight up, all of those pins glowed and washed him out. I must have raised and lowered my bow five times.”
“You’re gonna laugh at me, but I get buck fever really bad. I don’t remember quite what happened, but I’m 90% sure I shot at him with my 30 yard pin instead of my 20. I practice at 30, and I think it was just muscle memory.”
All of this considered, my bow wore a very simple, fixed-position, single-pin sight. It was actually a freebie, pilfered from a pile of unwanted sights left by customers who “upgraded” their equipment. It started life as a multi-pin sight, but I removed all but one pin, which stayed set at 20 yards.
As time went on I abandoned my compound bow in favor of a Hickory Creek Mini Vertical Crossbow, mainly because I found myself increasingly hunting from the ground, which makes drawing a bow undetected quite difficult. The bow shipped with a simple 3x scope on it, which was adequate but not ideal for the type of hunting I do. A friend, aware of my conundrum, gifted me a Burris FastFire 3 reflex sight.
Criteria For A Red Dot Sight
I was unfamiliar with red dot sights, but my friend assured me that this would be right up my alley. “Don’t thank me,” he said. “I just cost you money. You’ll like this one enough that you’ll buy another.”
His confidence intrigued me, since he knows that I’m extremely particular about hunting gear. I don’t have expensive taste and I’m not a “techie” guy, but I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to what I call “fiddle factor.” I want to use gear, not tinker with or fix it. If a piece of equipment raises my blood pressure, even for a second, it usually goes out of my pack and onto a gear classifieds forum.
For something to earn its way into my hunting pack, it must possess three, simple traits. It must:
- Be easy to use: If I have to consult an instruction manual or Google a problem I’m having, I’m out. I think for a living, and I refuse to do it during my free time.
- Be well-built: If a piece of gear can’t handle bouncing around in the back of my car or in the bottom of my boat, it’s of zero use to me. If it can’t handle dirt and rain, it’s of less than zero use.
- Work: Not, “usually,” or “kind of.” If it doesn’t do exactly what it says it will do on the package, every time I go to use it, and do it well; I don’t want it and refuse to keep it. It’s not my job to make a product work. I’ll just admit that I wasted my money and move on.
I’m disappointed to say that my buddy was right, he did cost me money. But, I’m pleased to say that I now own two FastFire 3s. I have one on my crossbow, and one on my deer slug shotgun.
The Burris FastFire 3 has been the easiest to use sight I’ve ever mounted on a weapon. It came with a Weaver/Picatinny Rail mounting plate, as well as the screws and the allen wrench required to mount the site to the plate. Plate attached, the site can be tightly fastened to any Weaver or Picatinny rail with nothing but your bare hands thanks to the knurled screw that clamps it in place. The battery can be installed with any flathead screwdriver, or a coin or house key in a pinch.
Once installed, press the button on the side, a red dot shows up on the sight window, and you’re operational. To sight the optic in, you can use the included eyeglass screwdriver to move the dot until POI lines up with POA. With both my bow and my shotgun, I had the sight mounted and zeroed at the range in under 10 minutes.
In the field, the unit is very easy to use. Click the button on the side once to turn the sight into what Burris calls “Automatic Adjustment Mode.” I’m not sure what wizardry Burris uses to adjust the brightness of the sight on-the-fly as you move from well-lit fields to dark forests, but it works well. I usually park the sight on this setting, since it automatically brightens the dot throughout a morning sit and dims it in the evening as the sun sets. This means that the dot is always eye-catching, but never so bright that it washes out a deer slipping out of thick cover in greylight.
I give full points here. My Burris FastFire 3 has hunted in temperatures from 14-104 degrees, and has survived several hard rains. I transport my bow sans-case in my truck and in my boat, and I have never even bothered to slip on the included cover that Burris includes. The only sign of use is a small area on the battery cover screw slot that had some paint removed when I over-enthusiastically tightened the cover. Aside from that, there’s not a scratch on the unit. The rubber on the button and the lens coating both look good, despite exposure to 98% DEET on early season hunts. There is no sign of corrosion inside the battery compartment and no scratching on the lens.
I attribute part of this resilience to the fact that the sight is tiny. It weighs just under an ounce, and is barely 2” long. There’s just not much there to get knocked about. But, I’d be unfair to not give Burris credit where due. They’ve built a very durable sight.
If I could use only one word to describe how the Burris FastFire 3 has performed in the 3 years I’ve used it, it would be “flawlessly.” I’ve shot over two dozen critters with the sight, and at no point have I ever had to think, much less worry about, the sight.
My experience, which is confirmed by several studies like this one, is that most whitetail archery kills happen at 20 yards. It’s also my experience that they happen quickly. I’ve killed right at 100 deer and hogs on Alabama public land, and when I look at my trophy wall my memory floods with encounters that happened quickly and at close quarters in thick vegetation. Usually within the first or last 10 minutes of shooting light, to boot.
A red dot sight is perfect for those situations. I have a self-imposed limit of 30 yards, based on personal experience on shots beyond those distances. If you’d like to read more about what starts to happen when you shoot whitetail beyond those distances, this is a good article on the topic. I shoot with a 20 yard zero, and have a fast enough arrow speed that I am confident using that pin out to 30 yards. Basically, if a deer walks by within range, I can put the dot on the animal and pull the trigger. I gave up carrying a rangefinder years ago, and have never missed it or a deer (at least not due to yardage confusion). Target acquisition is very fast, and the arrow goes where the dot is.
One of the neat things about a red dot sight is that at short range, your form or cheek-weld matters very little. With a rifle scope or with a bow pin, a very small change in these parameters can result in an errant shot. With a reflex sight like the FastFire 3, you don’t have to perfectly center the dot in the sight window. If you can see the dot, and if it’s on the vitals, that’s where the projectile is about to go. This is a godsend in situations where you’re contorting to shoot a deer that snuck up behind you, or when you’re wearing heavy clothing or a face covering.
This was my biggest fear when I started using the sight. What if the battery died mid-hunt? The ability to quickly change the battery with a field-expedient tool such as a coin, key, or pocket knife blade was a big draw to this particular sight. Other designs (such as Burris’ own FastFire 2) require the sight to be removed from the mounting plate to change the battery. With the FastFire 3, as long as you have a spare battery tucked away in a pack pocket or taped to the weapon, you’re insured against a dying battery.
But, after having hunted with the original battery included with the unit for two years, I can tell you that battery life is a complete nonissue. Once it finally started to run down, the red dot started to blink when turned on. It was still usable, but it served as a very noticeable reminder to change the battery. Out of curiosity, I put off changing the battery to see how long it would last. It lasted the entire evening’s sit, and the next morning’s sit as well.
Long story short? You’re highly unlikely to be caught in a bad way with a dead battery.
Final Thoughts On The Burris FastFire 3
After 3 years of use and after mounting a Burris FastFire 3 on two different weapons, I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed. As a hunter, I can’t imagine a better sight to go on a weapon that is going to be primarily used at short ranges. I think they’re perfect for crossbows, and with something like this, they’re a solid option for compound bow users who have aging eyes or difficulty with their anchor point. After mounting one on a shotgun and taking it to the range a few times, I wouldn’t want to use one on deer past about 75 yards. But, I’ve shot many more deer inside that distance than outside.
Ultimately, my buddy was right. I will slowly be collecting several more FastFire 3s to add to a pistol and a turkey gun I’m putting together. It’s a distinct possibility that I add one to my duck gun as well, using Burris’s nifty SpeedBead adapter. My experience has been that if you want to quickly put a projectile down range at a game animal, a red dot is tough to beat.
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