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Red Dot on Top of Scope – A combination to consider?

Using a red dot mounted on top of a rifle scope

Red dot sights and rifle scopes are typically used in different situations. A red dot comes with no magnification but offers quick target acquisition in tactical situations and home defense. Rifle scopes have complex optical lenses that play together to provide magnification to ensure success for medium and long-range shots.

Using a red dot mounted on top of a rifle scope

A combination of both would allow you to use one rifle for nearly any conceivable situation. Whether you’re looking to hunt, go target shooting, or for home defense, a combination of the features of a traditional riflescope and a red dot gunsight would provide the ultimate flexibility.

Many modern rifles are capable to be used for tactical and hunting needs. Yet, to use the same rifle for those purposes, you need a red dot sight when you want to use it for home defense. If you then want to use the same rifle for hunting, you have to take the reflex sight off and mount your rifle scope. Unfortunately, your scope won’t be zeroed so you have to do that before you can go hunting. It doesn’t only sound cumbersome, it actually is.

Red Dot Sight with Magnifier

One approach that is commonly deployed by hunters and shooters is to use a magnifier with the red dot sight. This typically works great and it’s fairly easy to use a quick detach mount on your Weaver or Picatinny rail for the magnifier. If it’s not needed, you simply flip it to the side and it’s out of your line of sight. You can then use the red dot for close-range shooting and the combination of red dot and magnifier for short-range to medium-range shooting.

This solution does work sufficiently in many situations. However, when you want to hunt or shoot medium to long ranges, then it’s simply not as good as a traditional rifle scope mounted on your rifle. You’ll be able to acquire your target easily and reliably in short-range situations but it’s getting harder if you shoot a few hundred feet out.

What’s the Solution? Having a Red Dot in your Rifle Scope?

You might say that there are rifle scopes that have a red dot in the reticle for target acquisition. That does help in some cases as it does make the targeting easier.

New riflescopes, like the SIERRA 6BDX from Sig Sauer use electronic reticles to guide you to make your best shot. And, these do work great and make targeting easier compared to a traditional rifle scope.

Scopes with an illuminated reticle do indeed offer some of the advantages of a red dot sight in your scope. But, they don’t provide the rapid target acquisition, unlimited eye relief, etc. that a red dot gunsight provides you.

So, while using an illuminated dot on your reticle is a step in the direction of having the ultimate versatility, it’s not the final answer.

Red Dot Sight Mounted on Top of a Rifle Scope

Combining the advantages of a red dot sight and of a rifle scope is only possible if both are mounted on the rifle at the same time. Your typical mount will not be able to do that.

So, what’s the solution?

You mount the rifle scope the usual way. Use a Weaver or Picatinny rail and mount the scope with rings or mount onto it.

Then, mount the red dot sight on top of the rifle scope. Voila, both optics are mounted and available at the same time if needed.

You get the unlimited eye relief, aiming point, and rapid acquisition from the red dot sight on the top and the magnification and accuracy through the rifle scope on the bottom. Both are zeroed at all times and none of the optics needs to get removed for different shooting scenarios.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, you have the matching gunsight available instantaneously without fiddling or mounting.

Burris TAC30 with red dot mounted on top

Does it Make Sense to Mount a Red Dot on top of a Riflescope?

It does make sense for some to use such a setup. If you are often using the same rifle for a lot of different tasks where you switch your shooting from short-range to medium or long-range then it can be a great option for you.

There are a few things you need to consider though. It does not make sense to combine a red dot sight with a rifle scope that has a magnification starting at 1x. You basically cover the sweet spot in which the red dot performs best already with your scope.

You want to combine the two optics when you have a rifle scope with a fixed magnification, like a 4x ACOG, or if your scope has a variable magnification like for example a 4-16x. Combining the scope with the mini red dot on top in those cases makes a lot of sense.

Advantages of a Mini Red Dot on Top of your Riflescope

We’ve touched on a few upsides of mounting a red dot on top of your scope before. The issue you’re having when you have to choose either the sight or the scope is that you won’t be able to cover the whole spectrum of your typical hunting and shooting requirements.

Red dots are excellent in short-range situations. Most times these are the situations that the military or law enforcement officers find themselves in. Outside of those scenarios, you would want a red dot sight when you want to use the firearm for home defense uses or for shooting or hunting at short-ranges. The unlimited field of view, parallax-free optics, and rapid target acquisition are the outstanding features of the red dot.

However, as soon as you need to shoot longer ranges than around 100 yards you run into the limitations of the red dot sights. At that moment you need a magnified optic like a variable rifle scope. Or, as previously mentioned, combine a magnifier with the sight. Yet, you don’t have the flexible magnification that a variable scope gives you.

On the flip side, the advantages of red dots are the disadvantages of a scope and vice versa. Therefore, combining both into a single setup makes sense if you use your rifle in all cases.

The setup with both optics does also make some sense for hunting. If you are potentially aiming across a large range of distances from short to long-range then it can make a lot of sense to have the combination of a red dot sight on top of a rifle scope. This enables you to use one rifle and be prepared for any game whether it’s close-by or in the distance. The micro red dot on top of your scope covers the shorter distances and your scope covers longer distances. It’ll take a little getting used to it but it can be a great setup for those scenarios.

A competitive shooter can make use of such a setup in 3 gun matches with target ranges below 100 yards. You can use the top-mounted gunsight for targets that are close and the rifle scope for targets that are more distant.

Fullfield TAC30 1-4x24mm with FastFire III mounted on top

Disadvantages

There are not many downsides to combining your riflescope with a mini red dot sight if such a setup makes sense for your needs. As mentioned before, if you don’t need this setup, then don’t run out and buy one. If you have one rifle for home defense and one for hunting at medium to long distances, then get a red dot for the home defense rifle and a variable scope for the hunting rifle!

If you have two rifles then getting two optics is actually cheaper than combining both on one firearm. The reason simply is that you will need an extra (special) mount to place your mini red dot on top of your riflescope. That mount costs money that you don’t spend if you have two rifles.

The second disadvantage is that the combination of two optics certainly is heavier than just a single scope or red dot sight. It’s not like a red dot would weigh as much as a kettlebell in the gym but if you don’t need to carry the extra weight of the sight and the mount while making your way through the brush during a hunt then don’t do it.

Which are the Best Red Dot on Scope Combinations?

You can find more and more combos of these two optics for purchase everywhere. Yet, there’s not yet a lot of top brand manufacturers that jumped on this bandwagon. Quite a few of the combos you can find are cheap scopes and sights out of Asia and you won’t be happy with their performance if you’re a serious hunter or shooter. Thus, we only picked four combinations where we are certain that you get good performance out of the optics and won’t want to throw the setup away after you were hunting for the first time!

We left some cheap combinations out and also didn’t include a second Burris setup you can get as it was in our opinion covered by the Trijicon offering. While the ACOG solution is more expensive, it’s also simply the best you can get!

Burris Fullfield TAC30 1-4x24mm Scope with FastFire III Reflex Red Dot

On paper one of the best combinations that you can get. Burris has a reputation for excellent rifle scopes and red dot sights. And the combo does look quite impressive and interesting.

Burris created this offer specifically for 3-gun competition shooters and dangerous game hunters. For both uses, it kind of makes sense with one exception. As mentioned before, using a combo like this when you have a scope that has a 1x lower magnification seems to duplicate at least some of the capabilities between the two optics.

You do certainly still gain the advantage of the rapid target acquisition from the reflex sight that the scope doesn’t offer. Yet, it does seem to make more sense to have a lower end of the magnification on the scope starting higher than 1x.

Now, to be clear, both optics in this setup are excellent. The Burris FastFire III is one of the best reflex sights you can get. The Burris Fullfield TAC30 is additionally a great scope for short to medium ranges.

The TAC30 features an illuminated reticle making it a good choice to use in low light environments. Dialing in all the settings on the scope is easily done as Burris did a great job with turrets and the design of the power ring.

All in all, you get a great setup if the magnification range of the scope matches your needs for shooting. It definitely is priced a little higher than some of the cheap combos you can find but in our opinion you get a great setup for the money you spend.

NcStar Mark III Tactical P4 Sniper 3-9×42 Scope and Red Dot Combo

This combo features a NcStar Mark III 3-9×42 scope with a NcStar Red Dot Sight. The scope features a red or green illuminated reticle.

While the scope somewhat resembles the Trijicon ACOG, it’s not in the same league. Neither from the performance and quality perspective and certainly not when it comes to the price.

It’s a low-cost combo that combines a nice compact 3-9x scope with a decent red dot sight. Nothing earth-shattering but also nothing where you throw your money out the window!

The lenses are multi-coated and the glass is good. The red dot does its job mounted on top and the combination provides you with a wide range of distances to shoot. If you’re not trying to use it in the most challenging environments then you’re getting a good set up at a great price.

Trijicon 4×32 ACOG/RMR Combo

There’s not much to say about the Trijicon ACOG that hasn’t been said before. It’s one of the most commonly used scopes for the military. The reliability, precision, and quality are top-notch and have been proven in many combat situations.

The features it offers are one of a kind. There’s probably no other scope that can match the ability to adjust rapidly to different lighting conditions. The battery-free illumination of the reticle is outstanding and makes the scope so special.

Yet, there’s a minor downside to the scope. It has a fixed 4x magnification which can be a little problematic at close range. Combining the ACOG with a great red dot makes a lot of sense. Both optics are matched nicely to cover all ranges from short to medium with two fantastic optics.

However, everything good also has some negatives. In that case, there’s really only one and that is the price. The combination of ACOG and a red dot is by far the most expensive setup in our list. If you use it in tactical situations for the military or law enforcement then they are certainly worth every penny as your life might depend on them!

Should you go for a Red Dot Sight on Top of a Scope?

Using a combination of a rifle scope with a quality red dot optic can be a smart setup. The question is whether you need it.

If you have multiple rifles and you use them for different purposes then using your hunting rifle with a magnified optic and your second firearm with a red dot for home defense seems to be the best way to go. However, if you want to use one firearm for close encounters and short/medium/long ranges then it’s a great option to invest in a combo of a red dot mounted on top of a rifle scope.

The same is true if you are hunting dangerous animals that in an instant can run towards you to attack. Being able to instantly switch from magnified to close-range red dot makes all the sense in the world as your life might depend on it.

Using a red dot mounted on top of a rifle scope
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Rifle Scopes Center Staff