A red dot sight is a go-to for gun enthusiasts and shooters. It can go by a few different names, which can be confusing if you’re new to the field. A red dot sight is also known as a reflex sight or a holographic sight. These types of scopes are mounted to your gun to provide an exceptionally precise and easy to use dot sight. A red dot reflex sight gives you a better chance of quick target acquisition and accuracy in your shots.
There’s probably a few different terms you’ve heard flying around. 2 MOA, 3 MOA, 6 MOA, even maybe 9 MOA. What does all of that mean? Let’s explore the details of each type of sight and what makes it special.
What is a Red Dot Optic?
Let’s start with the base of the topic. A red dot reticle is a type of aiming sights for a weapon. It’s composed of a glass lens that is mounted to the weapon where the normal iron sights would be. The shooter looks through the glass and locates a red dot (it might not always be red) and uses that to show where the bullet will land.
While it might seem that the red dot is projected onto the target, that’s not actually true. Red dot optics are reflected onto the glass that makes up the sight itself, giving the illusion that the dot is hitting the target. In reality, the dot you see is actually just a clever science trick with a couple of lenses. Pretty cool.
There’s a lot of reasons why a specialized reflex optic is the go-to for many hardcore shooters. The holographic sight is a super precise scope option, giving you a great target acquisition time and accuracy with every shot. When target shooting, the bullet will go just where the red dot lands.
Unlike with typical iron sights, a red dot sight won’t become unaligned when you move slightly, like when you breathe. This is called the parallax effect. To demonstrate this effect, line up a finger with an object in the distance using one eye. Now, if you move your head even the slightest, your finger is no longer in the right alignment like it was before. This is the same thing that happens when you are using an iron sight, which might prove to be inconvenient and annoying for a lot of users.
That’s why so many people choose a red dot optic. With a dot, you won’t experience the same phenomenon like you would with iron sights or other physically aligned sights. Because of it’s design, the red dot will actually move with you and will remain on target with precision.
What is MOA?
The first question you probably have is what MOA even stands for in the first place. MOA, or Minute of Angle, is a measurement that’s most commonly used when you’re adjusting a rifle scope. A MOA is equal to 1 inch for every 100 yards. It’s used to find out the target distance and predict where the bullet will land. Let’s break that down into simpler terms.
One MOA is 1/60th of a degree. There’s 360 degrees in a circle. There’s 60 minutes in a degree, so an MOA is equal to one minute of an angle. As the measurement gets further and further away, the radius of the angle will spread out by 1 inch for every 100 yards. If you want some extreme accuracy, the number is actually 1.047 inches, but we’ll round it for now.
As this diagram shows, you can see how the red dot sight will spread as distance grows. This means that for longer distances you can become up to 5% less accurate when shooting because of this phenomenon.
For example, if you were standing one hundred yards away from your target and you have a 2 MOA red dot, your bullet would land between 2 inches of exactly where you aimed. Whichever point you aimed at on the target is the center for the MOA measurement. So, a 3 MOA red dot would create a 3 inch circle on the target, giving you a 3 inch range of where the bullet will impact. A 6 MOA reflex sight would create a 6 inch circle, so on and so on.
As your target becomes further away, your red dot will grow and will consume more of the target in your field of vision. This is what creates the MOA measurement and also what will decrease your accuracy of the aiming point. If your red dot covers the whole top side of the target, you can’t really tell if you’re aiming at the exact point that you want to hit.
MOA also depends on the distance. An MOA of 1 at 100 yards would be equal to an MOA of 2 at 200 yards. Think of it like a flashlight beam. The further away you go, the wider the light beam will become. The same goes for dots. The further away the target is, the bigger the dot size will appear on said target. The MOA measurement will get bigger with distance.
3 MOA vs. 6 MOA
With your understanding of dot optics and MOA, let’s dive into the big question. Should I buy a 3 MOA or a 6 MOA?
There’s a lot to talk about here, but a lot of this decision is also going to depend on your shooting style and personal needs. The type of reticle that is best for you can be decided on a lot of factors that we’ll cover here. The two most common reticle sizes are 3 MOA and 6 MOA, which both have different benefits and drawbacks.
3 MOA vs. 6 MOA Distances
|Distance (yards)||3 MOA Dot Size (Rounded)||3 MOA Dot Size (Exact)||6 MOA Dot Size (Rounded)||6 MOA Dot Size (Exact)|
A 3 MOA red dot will create a 3 inch circle on the target from 100 yards. This is a smaller dot size and is very precise. Because of its small size, it can be hard to see and have a quick target acquisition.
A 3 MOA is mostly geared towards accuracy. If you’ve got good eyesight, enough to see a smaller dot, and are most concerned about precision and accuracy, I would go with the 3 MOA. A 3 MOA is recommended to use with night vision as well; the 6 MOA dot can be too bright and disturbing when you are trying to shoot at night. The 3 MOA dot is a lighter and easier on the eyes when it comes to using night vision.
However, since the 3 MOA red dot is much smaller, that might make it hard to see in brighter environments, especially if the brightness is not set properly. If you go for the micro red dot, you should make sure that you have some iron sights installed as well in case you aren’t able to see your red dot very well. The high brightness settings might also burn out the battery quicker; just to be safe you should always have a backup sight no matter what. A red dot reflex sight is reliable, but still has it flaws.
Why Should I Buy It?
- It grants a higher level of precision because of the smaller red dot size.
- You’re using it for night vision; it won’t be too bright.
What Are the Flaws?
- It is much smaller and will decrease the speed of your target acquisition.
- It can be harder to see in bright environments.
A 6 MOA red dot size will create a 6 inch circle on the target from 100 yards. This red dot is much larger and much easier and quicker to see. It can give you the better time for target acquisition and will allow you to draw, aim, and shoot faster initially. However, because it’s one of the larger dots, it will be less precise than a smaller size.
If you’re looking for the holographic sight that’s easiest to see, then the 6 MOA is right for you. If your main concern is target acquisition and the rate of shooting, then this is also a good choice for that. But if you’re more into precision and accuracy, the 6 MOA probably isn’t the best choice.
The 6 MOA is also the most common red dot reticle for law enforcement and military uses. Since it is quick to draw and aim, it’s used in situations where you will need the speed the most.
This is often the best pistol red dot. Because of the larger size, that means that it’s better equipped to shoot from a shorter distance. Since most pistols aren’t going to be used to shoot over 100 yards, the 6 MOA is a great choice for a pistol owner.
The 6 MOA rifle scope can be hard to sight and aim. Some users report that their dot sight covers a lot of the target and makes it hard to aim, especially from long distances.
Why Should I Buy It?
- It gives a better target acquisition and aiming time.
- It’s easier to locate and see on the target because of the bigger red dot size.
- It’s the best red dot choice for a pistol.
What Are the Flaws?
- It’s less accurate with aiming.
- It might cover too much of the target when shooting from long distances.
In the end, the choice you make will be completely up to you. There’s nothing that constitutes a right or wrong answer in this situation; that will depend on you and your shooting preferences. If you’re a precision guru, go for the 3 MOA. If you’re more into the wild west gun duel action, the 6 MOA is your better option. All in all, both have their strengths and weaknesses. So, make sure you consider the situations that you will be using the sight in order to make the proper choice. Situation, preferences, weapon choice, and even your shooting goals should all have a role in deciding which sight you want.
The Best Red Dot Optics
Now that you’ve made your decision, let’s talk about some quick brands and product recommendations to get you started on your product search. This is only a list of some of the more popular red dot optics. This list is not extensive; there’s plenty of good brands and products for you to discover. I’m giving you this as more of an idea of what a quality dot will look like so you know what you want in a product.
- SIG Sauer Romeo 5
- Holosun 407C
- Vortex Venom
- Vortex Razor
- Vortex Viper
- Trijicon MRO
- Trijicon RMR
- Trijicon RMRcc
- Crimson Trace CTS-1250
- Shield RMS
- Burris Fastfire
All of these brands and products are well known and recognized for their outstanding quality and range of optics that they offer. There’s plenty of other MOA sizes besides 3 and 6. If you feel like you want a balance between precision and target acquisition, you can go for a 4 or a 5 MOA. There’s also even 2 MOA, for accuracy shooters, and even a 8-9 MOA for rapid fire shooters. It all depends on your personal shooting style.
Mike Hardesty is a published freelance gun writer. He also possesses specialized expertise in rifle scopes With dozens of articles and reviews published in Pew Pew Tactical, Snipercountry.com, and TTAG (The Truth About Guns), Mike is considered a firearms expert. His special area of expertise is handguns.
Mike is a long-time shooter. He has been punching paper targets, taking deer and other game and shooting at competitions since about 1975. Other related pursuits include reloading and bullet casting. He currently reloads for over 10 calibers, both handgun and rifle. His reloads, particularly for 9mm, were in great demand during the height of the ammo shortage among family and friends. He donated hundreds of rounds to informal shooting sessions. He was quoted as saying “I do not sell my reloads but I sure will help my guys shoot ’em for free!”. He has a few cherished firearms that he has inherited or otherwise procured — those are his favorites.
He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana State University in 1974-1975.
He’s a firearm experts and is the founder of mhardesty.com.