Using a red dot sight offers increased accuracy compared to using the iron sights on your gun. However, they come in a variety of designs and rely on various technologies. Here is a closer look at the best red dot sights.
- 1 What Are the Basics of a Red Dot Sight?
- 2 What Different Kinds of Red Dot Sights Exist?
- 3 What Are the Best Red Dot Sights?
- 4 Conclusion
What Are the Basics of a Red Dot Sight?
A red dot sight is typically a non-magnified optic designed for use at close to moderate ranges. Most red dot sights feature a viewing window with a reticle image containing a red dot in the center. They were initially developed for tactical situations, as they allow you to quickly center your target in your sights.
Red dot sights have also become popular among small game hunters. When hunting rabbits, badgers, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, and other small mammals, you are typically within 25 to 50 yards of your target.
Unlike iron sights [What are Iron Sights?], you can line up your shots without perfectly aligning your head with the optics. You can shoot from slightly to the left or right and still hit your target, which allows for faster target acquisition.
Red dots are suitable for use on almost any type of gun [Check out the best red dots for shotguns!]. People frequently use red dot sights on handguns and rifles.
Some red dot sights include fixed magnification. However, most designs use true 1X magnification. Without magnification, red dot sights are best suited for closer distances – have a closer look at red dots and their capabilities!
The average shooter can hit targets at 50 yards with no magnification with about 50% accuracy. Adding a red dot sight may not significantly increase your range but should boost your ability to hit a target at distances that you typically shoot.
Many sights simply have a dot reticle with no crosshairs or markings. The bullet drop compensation (BDC) reticles are occasionally found on prism sights that are compatible with magnifiers (Red Dot Magnifier Buying Guide – What you need to know!). However, as red dots are mostly used for close distances, BDC reticles are less common – how do holo sights, scopes, and red dots compare?
Adjusting for windage and elevation is also less of an issue with red dot sights when firing at targets 100 yards away or closer. As you may not need to frequently adjust the turrets, most red dot sights use coin-style turrets. You use a small tool or coin to rotate the turrets when adjusting for windage or elevation.
As with scopes, light transmission impacts the performance of red dot sights. High-end sights use quality glass to create a crystal-clear display, while less expensive sights often produce blurring around the edges of the HUD or reticle. Compared to holographic or reflex red dot sights, prism sights tend to offer better light transmission as the prism concentrates the light – Are Red Dot Sights Useful In The Dark?
The less expensive sights also often come with more brightness settings, which may be included to create the impression of greater flexibility. You only need half a dozen or so brightness settings for a quality sight.
The battery life also tends to vary significantly between sights. Holographic sights (Should You Use a Red Dot or Holographic Sight for Your AR-15?) typically have the shortest battery life.
What Different Kinds of Red Dot Sights Exist?
Several types of optics can produce a red dot, including reflex sights, holographic sights (like the EOTech 512 or 518), and prism sights. Each option provides slightly different advantages and disadvantages for various situations.
When people discuss red dot sights, they are often referring to reflex sights (comparison of the Sig Romeo1 and Romeo3). A reflex sight typically consists of a compact tube or a single viewing pane. The red dot is produced by a small LED emitter at the rear of the sight.
The LED is pointed toward the lens. A reflective surface on the lens allows the red dot to appear when you look through the sight (Bushnell TRS-26 Review – An AR Red Dot Sight worth Considering?). This offers unlimited eye relief. You do not need to bring the sight close to your eye to see the dot and line up your shot.
The disadvantage of a reflex sight (review of the Dagger Defense DDHB red dot reflex sight) is that they come with limited reticle options. Reflex sights also require a battery, as the viewing window does not include an etched reticle. When the battery dies, the dot disappears. However, reflex sights tend to offer better battery life compared to holographic sights.
Holographic sights also lack an etched reticle but often come with a greater selection of reticles for the holographic image. Instead of using an LED, holographic sights rely on lasers to transmit a hologram of a reticle image onto the viewing window.
Unlike a reflex sight, you do not need to align your head with the optic to keep the sight pointed at your target. The holographic sight is always pointed in the same direction of the rifle instead of shifting to the side as you move your head.
Holographic sights tend to cost more compared to reflex sights and prism sights. Creating a holographic image also drains the battery faster. However, they start up faster and can produce smaller dot sizes.
The holographic image also allows for smaller dot sizes. Many holographic sights have a 1 MOA dot, while reflex sights and prism sights may include 2 or 3 MOA dots (for example Tacticon Armament Predator V1 Red/Green Dot Sight Review). If you add a magnifier, the dot remains the same size – Find the Best Red Dot Magnifier – Reviews and Buying Advice.
Prism sights contain prisms to focus the light that passes through the sight, which provides greater low-light performance. Unlike holographic sights and reflex sights, prism sights include etched reticles. When the batteries die, the reticle remains visible but without the dot.
Prism sights are often larger compared to other red dot sights. Instead of providing unlimited eye relief, many designs resemble scopes and require you to put your eye close to the sight.
Along with the technology used to produce the red dot, red dot sights feature different designs. Most sights either have a scope-style body or a HUD-style frame. The HUD-style frames offer a wider field of view, allowing you to shoot with both eyes open.
What Are the Best Red Dot Sights?
Based on the information discussed, here are the best red dot sights.
The Aimpoint PRO is a highly rated red dot reflex sight with a 2 MOA dot. It is a durable sight, built for use in the harshest conditions. It is submersible up to 150 feet, which far exceeds the waterproof rating of most red dot sights.
The Aimpoint PRO is tested to operate in temperatures of -49 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It is one of the few recommendations that includes flip-up lens covers to shield the lens from dirt and debris. The front lens also includes threading for adding an optional anti-reflection device (ARD).
Without the ARD, the Aimpoint PRO still delivers reliable performance across all weather conditions. Under bright sunlight, the six daylight settings ensure that the red dot remains highly visible. It also includes four night-vision compatible settings.
The Aimpoint PRO has a 30 mm tube, which is nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed to protect the internal components and shield against moisture and fog. The exterior also has a non-glare finish.
The windage and elevation adjustments are found on the top and side of the sight. Both adjustments use coin-style turrets with caps. To adjust the turret, you need to remove the cap and use a coin or a small tool. However, the cap protects against accidentally changing the settings.
The Aimpoint PRO comes with a space for co-witness mounting with the iron sights on your gun. It is also operationally parallax-free and provides a large field of view for faster target acquisition. Overall, the Aimpoint PRO is well-suited for anyone who wants a reliable red dot for closer to moderate ranges.
- Incredibly durable design and construction
- Includes a large field of view and clear optics
- The red dot remains visible in all lighting conditions
- The 2 MOA dot is a little small for long distances
Interested in a more affordable sight than an Aimpoint? Have a look at our evaluation of Aimpoint Clones!
The Bushnell TRS-25 is an affordable, entry-level reflex sight for those who want to test the technology before investing in a better sight. Due to the low price, it does not include the best glass or components. The view through the lens becomes noticeably less clear in extremely low light conditions. However, it is one of the few options that cost less than a hundred dollars that are worth using.
You can mount it with or without risers, depending on whether you want to continue using your iron sights. Despite the low cost, the Bushnell TRS-25 is a reliable sight. It has a waterproof, fogproof, shockproof design. It is also nitrogen purged, and O-ring sealed to protect against moisture and condensation.
Unlike some of the other options, the Bushnell TRS-25 has a 3 MOA dot. The dot size may be a little large for use on handguns and close distance shooting. It should work well with rifles at moderate to long distances.
The TRS-25 has a 20 mm objective lens, which is a little small for quickly bringing your sight up and aiming with both eyes open. However, this should not be a problem when using the red dot on a rifle at moderate or longer ranges.
The TRS-25 is also small. It measures 2.4-inches long and weighs about 3.7 ounces. As with most reflex sights, the TRS-25 does not have an etched reticle. When the battery dies, the reticle no longer appears in the lens. Bushnell claims that the battery should last about 3,000 hours, which may only require you to replace the battery every two or three years.
While the Bushnell TRS-25 may not include the highest-quality components, it remains a reliable option for those on a tight budget.
- One of the least expensive red dot sights
- Includes a large 3 MOA dot
- Durable, reliable design
- It only measures about 2.4 inches long
- Inferior light transmission in low light settings
The Trijicon MRO is not as long and offers a larger field of view (FOV) compared to the Aimpoint PRO. It also has one of the most durable designs. It can be submerged in water up to depths of 100 feet and continue working. It also includes standard shockproof and fogproof construction.
Along with durable construction, the Trijicon MRO stands out for its clear optics. The glass is fully multi-coated and crystal-clear most times of the day. If you struggle to see the 2 MOA dot clearly, you can use the ultra-bright setting.
The sight also has five additional daylight settings and two night-vision settings. However, the brightness dial uses a coin-style turret that is placed on top of the sight. It is not the most convenient design, as you may accidentally change the brightness. Placing the knob on top of the sight also increases the height.
The windage and elevation adjustments also use coin-style turrets. However, they are smaller and require a coin or a tool to adjust.
The battery should last for years before needing a replacement. Trijicon claims that the battery can provide five years of use on average, which is useful as you need to remove the sight to replace the battery.
The Trijicon MRO is recommended for anyone worried about breaking their new red dot sight. You can drop the Trijicon MRO, submerge it in water, and expose it to the harshest elements without it breaking.
- One of the most durable red dot sights
- Includes a large field of view
- Includes a crystal-clear lens with reliable light transmission
- The design is bulky due to the brightness knob on top of the sight
- The turrets are not capped
Sig Sauer Romeo5 Red Dot Sight
The Sig Sauer Romeo5 is a step up from the budget Bushnell TRS-25 but still costs significantly less compared to the premium red dot sights. It includes a 2 MOA dot, two night-vision modes, and eight daylight settings. It also features a motion-activated sensor to automatically turn the red dot on when it senses motion.
The motion-activated sensor conserves power, helping to extend the battery life up to 40,000 hours. However, the highest brightness settings will likely limit the battery life. On the brightest setting, the red dot remains clear and crisp even when standing under bright sunlight.
Along with reliable performance, the Sig Sauer Romeo5 red dot sight is designed to withstand abuse. It is rated for complete submersion in water up to one meter deep. It is also fogproof and shockproof. Even when paired with a high-caliber rifle, recoil should not cause a problem for the sight.
While the display is clear, the Sig Sauer Romeo5 has a 20 mm objective lens, which is relatively small. Due to the smaller lens, you have a limited field of view at longer distances. If you need a red dot sight for distances beyond a few dozen yards, you should consider getting a sight with a larger lens. However, the scope-style design is still a top choice for close-range hunting or tactical training.
- Affordable, midrange red dot sight
- Offers long battery life
- The motion-activated system keeps your red dot ready
- Provides clear optics for this price range
- A little taller and longer compared to some options
- It does not offer the largest field of view
Trijicon RMR Type 2
The previous options were designed for use on rifles and carbines, while the Trijicon RMR Type 2 was built specifically for handguns. It has a wide viewing window that allows you to shoot with both eyes open.
Unlike some of the other designs, the Trijicon RMR Type 2 has a top-loading battery compartment. You can swap out the battery without having to remove the sight. However, the battery should provide about four years of use before needing to be replaced.
The Trijicon RMR Type 2 measures just 1.8-inches long, making it one of the smallest red dot sights on the market. It also weighs 1.17 ounces, which is just a fraction of the weight of most other options.
The compact design is best suited for handguns but could be used on almost any weapon. Keep in mind that without magnification, your range remains limited, which makes it useful for short- and medium-range shooting.
The Trijicon RMR Type 2 can be milled directly to the slide on a handgun or mounted to a mounting plate. When adding it to a rifle for long-distance shooting, consider pairing it with a scope. The RMR Type 2 is compatible with variable and fixed magnification optics.
The RMR Type 2 is also available with different brightness settings. You can use the manual setting to increase or decrease the illumination of the red dot or allow the sight to automatically adjust the brightness to suit the environment.
The main drawback is the price, as most red dot sights of the same size tend to cost less. However, the higher price is reflected in the quality of the sight. The red dot technology emits a crisp red dot in the center of the reticle.
- It weighs just 1.17 ounces, making it one of the lightest sights
- The wide viewing window offers a large FOV for shooting with both eyes open
- Compatible with scopes for adding magnification
- Produces a crisp, clear dot in any lighting conditions
- Relatively expensive compared to other red dot sights
The Vortex Venom is another compact red dot sight designed for handguns. However, it comes with a Picatinny rail mount and should work on most rifles. It is a small sight available with two different dot sizes. You can choose between 3 MOA and 6 MOA dots.
The 6 MOA dot is not recommended for close to moderate ranges. At 100 yards, the 6 MOA dot appears about six-inches wide. The 3 MOA dot makes it easier to center your sights on your target.
The design of the Vortex Venom immediately stands out compared to other reflex sights. It has a wide viewing window with fully multi-coated lenses. The display is crystal clear in most conditions and offers unlimited eye relief.
If you need to adjust the brightness of the red dot, the controls are on the left side of the sight. You can choose from 10 brightness levels. As the sun grows brighter, you may need to increase the brightness, which can also drain the battery faster.
Instead of a CR2032 battery, the Vortex Venom uses a CR1632 battery. The CR1632 batteries have a typical capacity of 130mAh, while CR2032 batteries have a typical capacity of 220mAh. Luckily, changing the battery only takes a few seconds. The battery is top-loaded, which eliminates the need to remove the sight.
Windage and elevation are adjusted with 1 MOA clicks using tiny coin-style turrets. The turrets are not capped but are not easy to accidentally adjust. You will also need a tool or coin to adjust the turrets.
The Venom red dot sight was built to handle tough environments. It is O-ring sealed to keep moisture out and protect the internal components from dust and debris.
- The objective lens is wide and offers an open field of view
- The large 3 MOA dot may increase accuracy at distances closer to 100 yards
- Includes two night-vision brightness settings
- The battery is top-loaded
- Inferior battery life compared to other red dot sights
- The windage and elevation turrets are not capped
How does the Venom compare to the Viper? Have a look at our side-by-side comparison of the Vortex Venom and Vortex Viper! Or rather find out how the Burris Fastfire 3 matches up against the Venom!
The Holosun 510C is a relatively affordable holographic sight with surprisingly long battery life. It includes a solar panel to help conserve battery power during the day. It uses a CR2032 coin battery as backup, which can provide up to 50,000 hours of use.
Another useful feature is the shake awake motion sensor. When you need to use the Holosun 510C, you simply bring it up to your eye level, and the motion sensor should activate the red dot. When the rifle remains motionless, the sight turns off.
The reticle can display a single dot or a 65 MOA ring with a 2 MOA dot in the center. It is not an etched reticle, which means that the display disappears when the battery dies.
The Holosun 510C is slightly heavy, weighing about 9.3 ounces. Many of the other options come in at 6 ounces or less. It is also larger compared to the reflex sights. It measures 3.3 inches long and 2.31 inches tall. If you prefer a small profile sight, you should consider one of the other recommendations.
If you do not mind the size, the Holosun 510C is effective for longer distances, especially when paired with a magnifier. It offers an unlimited field of view and quality light transmission. The red dot remains visible in the daytime.
The design is suited for rugged environments. As with most options, it has an aluminum body and is built to be shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof. The lens has multi-coatings, but it is not fully multi-coated.
The Holosun 510C has 12 daytime and 2 night-vision brightness settings. However, the red dot can be difficult to see under extremely bright conditions or at dusk or dawn.
- Includes a solar panel to conserve battery power
- A single battery can last up to 50,000 hours
- The holographic dot appears quickly
- Relatively heavy compared to other red dot sights
- The design is long and tall
- The red dot may not remain clear in certain lighting conditions
Aimpoint Micro H-1
The Aimpoint Micro H-1 is another reflex sight that relies on an LED emitter to produce a red dot in the center of a reticle. The dot color is red and visible in any lighting conditions, as Aimpoint has used high-quality components, from the lens to the tube. It is designed with aircraft-grade aluminum and includes fully multi-coated optics.
The design is fully waterproof up to depths of 15 feet. It can withstand shocks, vibrations, and moisture. You should not have to worry about damaging your sight in rugged environments.
The Aimpoint Micro H-1 comes with a Weaver-style mount. The profile is small, as the sight measures 2.4-inches long and 1.4-inches tall. It also weighs just three ounces. Despite the small size, the Micro H-1 has an unlimited field of view and is parallax-free. You can easily aim with both eyes open.
The Aimpoint Micro H-1 is available with a 2 MOA or 4 MOA red dot. The 2 MOA red dot appears about two inches big at 100 yards, while the 4 MOA red dot appears about four inches big. Unless you plan on adding a magnifier, the 2 MOA red dot is recommended for closer distances.
No matter the size of the dot, a variety of brightness settings are available. The sight includes 12 settings for use during the daytime or low light conditions. However, the lower settings are not designed for use with night vision.
As with many red dot sights, the Aimpoint Micro H-1 includes precision adjustment for windage and elevation. It uses 1 MOA click adjustment and features coin-style turrets. To adjust for windage and elevation, you simply need to remove the cap and use the cap to rotate the turret.
- Lightweight design with a small profile
- Includes a wide range of brightness settings
- Fully waterproof up to 15 feet
- The lowest brightness settings are not designed for night vision
Vortex Optics Crossfire
The Vortex Optics Crossfire is another affordable red dot reflex sight and comparable in price to the Sig Sauer Romeo5. As with the Romeo5, the Vortex Optics Crossfire has 2 MOA dots and variable illumination settings. You can choose from nine daytime settings and two nighttime settings.
The Crossfire is compact, measuring just 2.5 inches long and weighing 5.2 ounces. However, due to the smaller design, it also offers a smaller objective lens. If you plan on shooting at targets 40 or 50 yards away, you may prefer a larger field of view.
The Crossfire also comes with two mount options. You can use the low mount or a low mount with a one-third co-witness. With the second option, you can continue using your iron sights if the battery in the optics dies.
As with most sights, the Vortex Optics Crossfire is shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof. It has a durable frame that should protect the lens in most situations.
The lens is fully multi-coated to improve light transmission. The glass is also superior compared to most optics in the same price range. However, you may notice minor blurring in extremely low light conditions. Luckily, the lower two brightness settings are compatible with night vision.
The batteries should provide up to 50,000 hours of use on the lower brightness settings. It also comes ready to use out of the box, making it a good option for those who have not used a red dot sight before.
The sight also has dials for windage and elevation adjustments. The dials feature audible clicks and 1 MOA adjustment for easier tuning. The dials are capped and can be turned using the cap or a coin.
- Lightweight and compact design
- Exceptional battery life
- Ready to use out of the box
- One of the more affordable options
- Limited field of view compared to other red dots
To find the best red dot sight for your preferred handgun or rifle, consider the distances that you typically shoot. If you mostly aim at targets 20 to 30 yards away, you may not need a large viewing window. Compact sights, such as the Vortex Optics Crossfire, take up minimal space and can improve your accuracy at close ranges.
For moderate distances, look for red dot sights with a larger field of view and quality light transmission. Examples include the Vortex Venom or Trijicon RMR Type 2. Red dot sights are not typically used for long-distance shooting. However, some sights are compatible with magnifiers for bringing distant targets closer, such as the Holosun 510C or the Aimpoint Micro H-1.
You should also pay attention to the mounting options. Most of the red dot sights discussed work with Weaver-style rails. However, the Vortex Venom is compatible with Picatinny rails. You can also find options that work with one-third co-witness to line up your red dot sight with the iron sights.
The clarity of the lens and the overall quality of the sight typically increases or decreases with the price. If you want the best overall value, the Trijicon MRO red dot sight provides surprisingly good light transmission for its price range.
The battery life also varies from one sight to the next. However, every red dot sight listed should offer enough power to keep you from needing to replace the battery frequently.