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Red Dot on Top of Scope – A combination worth considering?

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 scope and red dot combo 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 all of 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 sight for close-range shooting and the combination of red dot and magnifier for short-range to medium-range shooting.

This solution with combining a red dot sight and a magnifier works 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. However, it’s not as useful for short-ranges as a red dot sight is.

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 green or red 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 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 the scope and the red dot sight 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 when you have the scope with red dot combination.

Should you use a red dot or holo sight for your AR-15?

Burris TAC30 with red dot mounted on top

What magnification do you need for an AR-15?

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 a red dot sight with a scope into a single setup makes sense if you use your rifle in all cases. – Check out the best red dot sights for AR-15 here!

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.

What are the best red dot magnifiers?

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

What are the best affordable RDS optics?

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 sight 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 of offering a scope red dot combo. 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, the Burris Fullfield TAC30 1-4×24 scope with the FastFire III reflex red dot on top is 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.

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 same is true for the Trijicon RMR which is an outstanding red dot sight that’s available today.

Have a look here at the best ACOG clones

The features the ACOG 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 in this scope red dot combo 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!

Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9×32 with Illuminated Reflex Sight

Pinty has started to provide a number of innovative, affordable, yet qualitative weapon optics. One of these is the Pinty Rifle Scope 3-9×32 with the Illuminated Reflex Sight and a green target laser. The best about this combo upfront – it’s very affordable.

Now, that does not mean it’s not a good scope or reflex sight. But, don’t try to compare it with the Burris or Trijicon offerings. However, for the day-to-day use on the range you’ll be happy with this combo. With a wide field of view and clear optics, the Pinty Rifle Scope is a great choice for hunting, tactical shooting, home security or other outdoor activities.

The magnification goes from 3x to 9x on the scope. That leaves the 1x for close-quarter engagements to the reflex sight. The scope part of the combo makes it easy to acquire your target on medium distance ranges. It’s without a question a worthy 3-9x scope by itself.

The 32 mm objective lens diameter keeps the scope reasonably light and easy to mount on a variety of rifles. It also ensures that the front portion of the scope doesn’t interfere when you’re using the reflex sight. The illuminated rangefinder reticle of the scope is on the second focal plane. You can illuminate it in red or green and it comes with 5 brightness settings.

The reflex sight is mounted on top of the scope. It provides a clear sight image with four different reticles to choose from. Similar to the scope you can either have a red or green reticle illumination. With a wide range of brightness settings on the reflex sight you’ll be able to dial in the right intensity for the surrounding light without a problem.

The Pinty Scope with Reflex sight combo is affordable and offers good quality. If you’re not looking for the highest-end optics then it’s a great choice based on our evaluations.

Can you Build your own Riflescope with Red Dot on Top?

Yes, you can! And, it’s quite simple to do. You take your preferred scope, use a Scope Ring Adaptor and mount your preferred red dot on top.

Well, is it that easy? It kind of is. You’ll be running into some restrictions that you need to consider. First, are you using a scope with a large objective diameter? If yes, then you will face some challenges. Your red dot will need to sit high enough to look over the objective bell. When you use a large objective lens, you have to mount the red dot very high by using a riser. In our opinion, you’ll end up with a pretty useless setup as you’ll have a hard time carrying it around.

However, if you use a scope with a rather small objective lens, like 24mm or 32 mm then you should be in good shape. You mount the scope ring adapter around the scope tube and it provides you with a short mounting rail. Simply mount your red dot on that mounting rail and you’re good to go. Well, almost as you have to zero the scope and red dot in first.

What we like about this setup is that you can pick the optics you want. Within limits certainly but you are not tied to a specific scope and red dot. You can pick the best of each world to make your own combo. The scope ring adaptors you can get are very affordable and easy to setup. You’ll get a high-quality rifle scope for medium-range to long-range and a red dot for engaging targets at close range.

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

Using a combination of a riflescope 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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Hard to get Red Dot/Scope Combos

Below we keep a list with reviews of red dot/scope combos that are excellent but hard to come by.

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 of scope with red dot on top 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 setup of a scope with red dot on top at a great price.

Rifle Scopes Center Staff