We’ve all seen the action packed combat movies that feature these insanely advanced weapons and optics. If not, I’m sure you’ve played a video game or two that includes a holographic sight or something similar. Well, if you want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place.
ACOG scopes and red dot sights are two different kind of advanced optics. Both are used in real world combat and gun enthusiasts and hunters all around the world. They are both great options and each have their own set of pros and cons. So, which one is better and what should you choose?
Let’s dive into some basics about both sights first.
ACOG stands for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight. ACOG is just a name for a style of optics; the optics themselves can vary when it comes to size, illumination, and even magnification. These optics are fixed and range from 1.5x magnification all the way up to 6x magnification. We are going to focus on the creator of ACOG scopes: Trijicon. Trijicon is the go-to brand for ACOG scopes and is the only brand that offers an ACOG scope on the market. They designed and created the ACOG scope and have plenty of options for you to choose from.
We will use their line of 12 ACOG scopes as a demonstration of what an ACOG is. Directly from Trijicon is a comparison table of the ACOG scopes that are available for you to choose from. This chart will give you an idea on what to look for in a scope and give you an overview of the features we will be discussing.
How Does it Work?
The concept of the ACOG scope was brought to light in 1986. The idea was actually brought about from a pair of binoculars and how they are constructed with lenses and prisms. The scope uses fiber optics that will react with light to provide a consistent and always on sight picture, especially in low light.
The ACOG utilizes something called tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. This element is luminescent and will glow even in complete darkness, giving you an illuminated reticle at any hour of the night. That is what distinguishes the ACOG from other any other magnified optic.
The ACOG absorbs light during the day and stores it. Then, when it hits low light, the stored light energy is used to illuminate the crosshairs or sight picture of the scope. So, the brighter it is outside, the brighter the sight picture will be in low light. Makes sense.
Because of the tritium, this style of optic requires no external power source or batteries. The brightness of the sight picture is made to automatically adjust based on the light around you, which makes it ideal for any light conditions. The magnification options that it provides help with shooting from medium to long distances, which makes it a favorite of military special forces.
What Are the Advantages?
First, these scopes are very lightweight. They are actually a very simple design and are constructed with minimal materials and components. They also don’t need an external power source or battery. Because of that, they are very light and won’t hold you down when you’re trying to aim. If you’re using a heavier weapon, or are just looking to not add any extra weight, then an ACOG scope is a very good choice.
Another great feature is the ability to be illuminated in low light conditions. Between the tritium and the design of the scope itself, it will give you a glowing sight picture without the need for an external battery. The ACOG scopes are made to give lasting light with no power source. They allow you the option to fully illuminate the whole reticle, which is great if you really need that boost of light in a pinch.
The ACOG scope will give you the closest thing you can have to night vision, without actually using a night vision product. The features of the ACOG will enhance the light level that you can see through your rifle scope, it will give you the best “night vision” that you can get with your naked eye.
These ACOG scopes are military grade; this means that they are built for the toughest combat situations and will last you forever. The scopes are made of high quality materials.
Because of the illuminated scope design and objective lens, the ACOG allows you to aim and shoot with both eyes, which can be more accurate and quick when shooting. This concept was given the name Bindon Aiming Concept, named for the man who created the scope.
ACOGs are also known for having a very precise bullet drop compensating feature.
What Are the Flaws?
As amazing as the ACOG scope sounds, nothing is perfect. The scope has some possible drawbacks that you might want to consider when choosing which scope is best for you.
For starters, these scopes are pretty pricey. For the average consumer, they’re not reasonably affordable, especially if you’re not an avid shooter. This style of scope started as purely for military primary arms, which might give a little more insight to the price tag.
Another issue might be excess illumination. Because the ACOG scope can fully illuminate your reticle, often times the light will end up spilling out from the front of the fiber optic. So, if you’re hunting at night or need to conceal yourself, you’ll have to keep the reticle set to low to avoid any light exposure.
A lot of the ACOG scopes don’t have very good eye relief. So if you’re a plain iron sights user, you might want to look into eye relief a little bit before you use a scope. Do some research before you purchase one of the ACOG scopes as your primary optic.
After many years of use, the tritium in the scope will have to be recharged in order to continue working properly. After 15 years, you will have to send your scope to the manufacturer to have it recharged and for maintenance. This comes with a pretty heavy price tag.
Red Dot Sight
Now that we’ve discussed the ACOG, let’s dive into holographic sights. A red dot reflex sight is just another type of optic that is available on the market. It’s one of the most popular and widely used scope styles by the general public because of its quality and simultaneous affordability. It’s quickly over taking the use of an iron sight; the red dot optic is becoming widely available for all weapons, now including some pistols.
Typically, a dot sight is geared towards close range shooting. It’s pretty much just what the name sounds like. You look through a reticle and locate a red dot that is the aiming point. This is a much easier concept to understand than the ACOG sights. So, how exactly does it work?
How Does it Work?
Most holographic sights use an LED to provide the red dot. The sight itself is made up of a rounded mirror that reflects the red light; the mirror is actually formulated to only allow red light to be seen through it, sort of like a special one way mirror. This way, you will only get the red dot reflected back to you. This will also make the red dot much easier to see against dark or colored backgrounds.
The LED light is small and consumes small amounts of energy; the battery life of a holographic weapon sight can last up to thousands of hours. The amount of battery life is also determined by the brightness settings; the higher the brightness the lower the battery life.
As contradicting as it sounds, the red dot sight can’t be seen on it’s target. The red dot LED is actually only reflected in towards your eyes, which means that no one else (or animals) will be able to see it coming from out of your scope.
What Are the Advantages?
Red dot sights are also lightweight, even more than the ACOG. Using this as a primary optic will give you little to no extra weight. Most red dots are pretty small and they are simply constructed, so they are very light.
With a smaller size dot, like a 3 MOA or 2 MOA, it can give you great precision, even at a longer range.
This type of optic has a great range of options to choose from. If you’re looking for a rapid target acquisition, then a larger size like a 5 or 6 MOA would be easiest to see when aiming. If you’re mostly into target shooting, a close quarter red dot sight is a great option.
The open reflex sight style of red dots is proven to be faster and give more rapid target acquisition than iron sights or other types of scopes.
Because of the style of the aim point, your chance of actually hitting your target is much higher if you used a red dot reticle.
What Are the Flaws?
Unfortunately, the red dot is mostly made for target shooting and close quarter engagements, meaning that it’s not accurate at long distances.
Red dot holographic sights are battery reliant, so they will have to be charged eventually.
They aren’t as accurate as an ACOG scope.
Side by Side Comparison
So, we’ve broken down each type of scope separately. Now, using that, let’s put them together and see where they fall. Let’s make a summary of the key important features of each optic.
- Is extremely durable and made to withstand extreme conditions. Is also military grade.
- Comes with many magnification options.
- Doesn’t need any batteries or power sources.
- Will compensate your aim for bullet drop.
- Scopes are very expensive.
- Is heavier than the red dot optics.
Red Dot Advantages:
- Easy to use.
- Is equipped with adjustable reticle brightness.
- Can be either green or red.
- Allows for rapid target acquisition.
Red Dot Drawbacks:
- Is not accurate at longer range.
- Requires a battery.
There’s plenty of options between these two styles of optics to fit your exact needs. It all depends on your shooting style, weapon, budget, and personal preferences. There’s so many different products out there; make sure you look through all your options before choosing the scope that’s right for you.
Mike Hardesty is a published freelance gun writer. 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.