When choosing your new optic, it’s important to understand the features that are offered and what you need to look for. So, you’re looking for a red dot scope; great choice! The red dot sight is an advanced optic technology that has evolved over many decades. This is the choice optic for many professionals and is even used by military forces all over the world.
Red dot optics are great for all kinds of gun owners; there’s even some pistol red dot sights that are starting to become more popular. So, whether you’re looking for your trusty rifle, or adventuring into new handgun territory, there’s a red dot optic out there for everyone.
Before we get into the best red dot sight, let’s talk a little bit about what a red dot actually is.
- What is a Red Dot Sight?
- Why Should I Choose a Red Dot?
- Choosing Your Best Red Dot
- The Best Red Dot Sight
What is a Red Dot Sight?
A red dot sight is an electronic step away from the traditional old iron sights. A red dot optic is a sight that displays a red dot where the aiming point will be. Instead of crosshairs or iron sights, the red dot is the only thing you’ll use to aim. Because of the design of the optic, the single red dot is very easy to see and is great for fast target acquisition. There’s many different types of this particular optic; red dot is more of a general term.
A red dot scope is just any optic that relies on a red dot in the center to aim your firearm. The red dot is projected as an electronic image to where you can see it when you aim. This dot can be a green dot or even in the shape of a small crosshair. The electronic component is really what distinguishes a red dot.
There’s actually three different kinds of a red dot. The majority of people are probably the most familiar with the reflex sight, but there’s actually so much more than that!
A reflex sight is a type of red dot sight. When it comes to red dot optics, a reflex sight is probably the one you’re going to find a lot of people using since it’s so common. The way this type of red dot works is fairly simple. The reflex sight uses a small LED beam to reflect the red dot onto a lens that’s inside the optic. This is where you’ll see the red dot on your sights when you’re aiming.
The lens essentially acts as a mirror and reflects the LED back to your eyes so you can see it. It might look like the red dot is actually hitting your target, but only you can see it.
If you go for a more expensive red dot, then you’ll find that your parallax will decrease. Parallax is when the red dot on your optic moves when you move. So, if your red dot scope has no parallax, then the red dot will stay centered on your target no matter where or how you move your head. Typically this is accomplished by adding some more lenses to the optic to reduce the parallax effect.
Reflex sights are most well known for their shape. The reflex red dot has just a clear window that the shooter can look through to aim. Rather than other red dots that are known for a tube or cylinder like shape. However, the higher quality reflex sight will have additional lenses and will be in a tube.
Those that use two lenses will reflect the red dot from the rear sight lens to the front sight lens. The LED beam would still be inside of the tube and just passing back and forth between the two lenses.
What Are the Advantages?
Reflex sights, just like any other optic, will have its strengths and flaws. There’s a lot for you to consider when it comes to buying a red dot optic. Here’s some tips to think about when you’re mooring over a reflex sight:
- They’re usually cheaper.
- There is unlimited eye relief.
- You can move your head around and still aim.
- You can aim with both eyes open.
- There’s some that offer battery free operation.
What Are the Flaws?
- They aren’t standardly magnified.
Reflex sights are the most easy to use and affordable red dot optic there is. This type of sight is best for the average shooter and can be used in many applications like defense, tactical, and any other shooting that you’ll be doing.
Prism sights are usually small and tube shaped. These optics are a lot like a normal scope just in red dot form. A prism sight will use a prism to reflect the beam of LED light through the tube and scope. Because the mechanism relies on a prism instead of lenses or other devices, these optics tend to be much smaller and lighter. The prism will focus the dot onto your target clearly and easily.
What Are the Advantages?
Prism sights might not be the most common, but they still have a lot to offer. Before you think about purchasing a red dot optic, you’ll want to make sure you take a lot at prism sights as well:
What Are the Flaws?
- They are more expensive.
- They don’t have good eye relief; you must be very close to the scope in order to see the red dot properly.
Since the prism sight red dot offers a red dot magnifier, this feature can grant you greater accuracy over a longer distance. This makes it a great choice if you do competitive long distance shooting or hunting. If you’re a typical long distance shooter, the prism is a great choice.
If distance accuracy is not your concern, then you might want to think a little more before you buy one. A prism sight won’t offer you the fast target acquisition that red dot sights are famous for. The eye relief is poor which will make finding your target longer than a reflex sight would.
The holographic sight is the least common of the three types of red dot. Holographic sights are actually patented by one company, so they are currently the only manufacturer of this style of red dot. EOTech is the company that produces the holographic sights and they remain the only one on the market.
A holographic sight uses a laser hologram of a reticle style that is pre-recorded. The hologram is recorded at the time of manufacturing onto a holographic film. The reticle hologram is built into the window that you look through when you go to aim. Then, there is a built in laser that lights up the reticle that was recorded onto the film in your scope.
Since a holographic sight is an advanced piece of technology, these things are pretty expensive. Reasonably though. The holographic sight will allow you to shoot without closing an eye, have fast target acquisition, and is extremely accurate.
What Are the Advantages?
Holographic sights may be expensive, but they offer tons of great features for you to consider:
- It’s very accurate.
- You can use it with both eyes open.
- It gives you fast target acquisition.
What Are the Flaws
- They’re very expensive.
If you’re okay with shelling out some bucks, then the holographic sight is an amazing device that can improve your shooting experience. If you are a shooter that needs accuracy, whether that’s for hunting or competitions, then the EOTech sights are definitely your best bet. The holographic sight is the most accurate of all the red dots because of the technology that is behind it.
Why Should I Choose a Red Dot?
Now that you know the basics of every type of red dot optic, well, why should you buy it? There’s tons of types of sights out there, whether that’s a traditional rifle scope or an iron sight.
Just think of it this way. Shooting is so much more than just firing. It’s drawing, aiming, sighting, and so much more. In order to get the best experience and the best shot, you’ll want to have the best gear on your side.
If you’re new to rifle shooting, then having and using a red dot optic would greatly benefit you. The optic is very easy to use and takes much less training time and effort to learn. If you’re picking up some competitive shooting, then the red dot sight is also good for that. With the red dot’s fast target acquisition, you’ll be able to aim and shoot, and have a greater chance of landing that critical one shot.
So, let’s dive into the features that will give you the great benefits we just talked about.
Red Dot Optic Features
The red dot optic is one that sits between traditional iron sights and rifle scopes; it combines the advantages of both types of sights to give you an advanced aiming technology. So, why does the red sight offer these benefits over other types of sights?
Let’s talk about the reticle of the red dot first. There’s something called focal planes at work when you use a red dot sight. Focal planes are basically what puts something further away from your eyes’ focus. Just take a look at something that’s next to you. If you focus on something that’s behind it, then that object will go blurry and will no longer be in focus. That means that whatever is behind it is on a different focal plane.
With a red dot, the reticle style is located on the same plane that you’ll see your target on. That way, when you’re aiming, both of the images will be in focus, giving you greater target acquisition, accuracy, and precision. You won’t have to shift your focus. This will also enhance your ability to shoot with both eyes open, which will also give you a greater field of view and precision.
This one is important, so let’s talk about it in some more detail. Parallax, as we talked about before, is when the reticle moves when your head moves. So, if you move your head, the red dot won’t remain centered on the target like it should. This is a challenge with many types of sights, like iron sights, but the red dot has almost no parallax.
The red dot optic is designed in a way that doesn’t rely on the position of your head to aim the laser. So, if you’re a hunter that usually finds yourself shooting from some awkward positions, you won’t have to worry about struggling with the parallax on your sights any longer.
Unlimited Eye Relief
Eye relief is how far your eye is from the rear sight of the scope. If your scope has short eye relief, then you’ll have to be closer to the scope in order to use the sight properly. With red dot sights, you’ll be able to move the sight however far up your rifle that you want without worrying about eye relief. The sight doesn’t rely on magnification so you won’t have any issues with aiming if you move your sight around.
Even if you move your scope far away, it will only give you more benefits. With a further scope, you’ll have a wider field of view and still retain the enhanced accuracy of the red dot optic.
When it comes to red dot sights, there’s something called MOA which relates to the size of the red dot that you’ll see when you use the scope. We’ll talk more about MOA later, but just know that red dot optics come in different sizes.
A larger dot will give you faster target acquisition and will be easier to see. However, it can also be too big and take up a large portion of your field of view. A larger dot will also be less accurate since it will take up more of the target.
A smaller dot will be a little harder to see on your target, but it will give you the best precision. The dot won’t expand over so much of your target like a larger size will.
We’ve talked about a lot of information that might be confusing if you’re new to the optics world. When looking for the best scope, you want to make sure that you’re familiar with how the optic works and what the important concepts are. Now that you’re familiar with how a red dot sight works, let’s talk about some other concepts and terms that you should be aware of in your search for a red dot.
We know how the red dot protects against parallax, but we haven’t discussed the details of parallax itself. Parallax is the displacement of the position of something against your sights that is on another focal plane or line of sight. When using any sort of sights, the reticle or crosshairs will appear to move with you as you move your head or eyes, resulting in an inaccurate reticle picture. This is a common problem with traditional rifle sight scopes and iron sights.
Minute of Angle (MOA)
MOA, or Minute of Angle, is an angular measurement that will measure how big your red dot will appear on the target when you aim. A single MOA is about 1.047 inches for every 100 yards. What this means is that the diameter of the red dot will show up as 1 inch on a target that’s 100 yards away. The MOA dot will show up as 2 inches at 200 yards, 3 inches at 300 yards, so on and so on.
Let’s talk dot sizes now. A dot size that’s a 2 MOA dot will be very small and more accurate when it comes to aiming and firing. But, it will also be much smaller and can be harder to see if you don’t have practice in locating it. The smaller the dot size the better it will be for accuracy, if that’s your main priority.
Now, a dot that’s 6 MOA is going to be much bigger and easier to use. This size will provide a much faster target acquisition will be faster to locate, aim, and shoot than the micro red dot. However, this means that the dot will also cover more of the target, decreasing the accuracy. This dot size is the standard for many professionals including military and police officers.
What actually is eye relief? We know already that eye relief is the distance between your eye and the scope itself. But what does that actually mean?
Eye relief is also a measurement. The eye relief will tell you how far away your eye can be in order to use the sight to its full and correct potential. Being within the eye relief will give you the best field of view and the best accuracy when it comes to the sights. A lot of traditional scopes and magnified sights have very small eye relief, which means that your eye must be close to the scope in order for it to function correctly.
For red dot sights, that’s not the case. Red dot sights have unlimited eye relief, which means that you can place the scope how ever far away you would like. This gives you the advantage of comfort when it comes to your personal shooting style. If you’ve always used something that has a large eye relief, then you’re in luck; red dots will still work just as well with a large eye relief compared to a smaller eye relief.
Field of View
This one might be a little tricky. Field of view is not just an optics term, it’s just a general name for the range of sight that you have when you look around. When it comes to optics, your field of view is what you can see through the scope. Or, in the case of red dots, the lens window.
You shouldn’t even notice any field of view issues when you’re using the red dot scope. As we said before, the red dot allows for a wide look and shooting with both eyes open. And, because they typically don’t have magnification, the field of view should be exactly like it is normally. What you see through the window should be what you see out of your eyes on any given day.
Choosing Your Best Red Dot
You’ve got a great base to build your red dot expertise on. Now, let’s talk about what you should be looking for when you start your search for the best red dot sight.
Now, a lot of these features can be subjective and based on what the intended use of the scope is. If you’re a competitive shooter, you’ll probably be more looking for a scope that provides the best accuracy. If you just want to try out a new red dot and get a feel for it, there’s plenty of red dots that are recommended for beginners or for casual shooters. A lot of this decision will come from what you think you need and what will be best for you.
A good one you’ll want to read up on is the reticle style. The reticle style is pretty standard for a red dot sight but there are still some variations. Most common is the obvious red dot or green dot. Other shapes might include a hollow circle, triangles, crosshairs, hash marks, or chevrons. There can even be a scope that uses a combination of some of these elements for their reticle picture. All of these types have their advantages and drawbacks, but, if used properly, all can be equipped for maximum shooting performance.
Circular shapes are the easiest to see and will come to the center naturally. It’s a more familiar shape and very easy to aim with. These types of sights make it easier to compensate for bullet drop.
Crosshairs can be used to split your target into fourths which can be a very easy way to find the center of your target.
Hashes will allow you to compensate your aim for bullet drop or other factors that might affect where your shot will land. You can use hash marks to aim at targets that are further than what you zeroed your firearm for.
If you happen to have a reticle that is oddly or unevenly shaped, then you can sight in at the finest point of the reticle. The finest point will give you the accuracy that you’ll need when that is your main priority.
Most red dot sights will come equipped with options to adjust the brightness. This way, you can make the reticle picture easier to see depending on the situation you are in.
If you turn the brightness up high, that will allow you to see the dot much easier and give you that fast target acquisition. However, turning up the brightness will also saturate the reticle picture, which can blur the edges and reduce precision of aiming.
If you reduce the brightness, that’s where you’ll get the better accuracy. A lower brightness setting will allow you to fine tune your aiming to give you more accuracy.
In the daytime is when you’ll want to hike up the brightness, just so you can see the dot easier. If you’re shooting when it’s dark out, you’ll want to turn the brightness down so the reticle doesn’t take over your target.
This is another category where your personal priorities will come in. Think about what you want to have for your weapon. Fast target acquisition is your main priority? Then you’ll probably want to go for something that’s bigger. If you want precision the most, then smaller is the move for you. But there’s also sizes in between that will give you a good balance if both are important to you.
This is also where the MOA comes in. A 2 MOA scope will have a very small red dot and will grant you greater precision. However, that also means that it will be harder to see and aim in quickly. A 5-6 MOA or greater will be very large and easy for fast target acquisition. This comes at the sacrifice of accuracy the bigger you get. A 3-4 MOA is probably the best size range for an average shooter since it will give you a nice balance of both target acquisition speed and accuracy.
Battery or Power Source
A lot of red dot sights can operate without a battery or power source. While this can prove beneficial for some, there’s also some drawbacks you should be aware of. Those kinds of reticles that don’t need a power source will probably be a fiber optic lens. These optics don’t have the brightness toggle, which can be a deal breaker for some shooters. This kind of optic, when in super bright conditions, can over take the target with the reticle. They also don’t function well in low light and will be very hard to see.
If you go for an optic that has a battery or power source, this is what will allow you to adjust the brightness of your reticle and keep it to your needs. You can also purchase one that has a long battery life so you can enjoy these features for your entire hunt without having to worry about it.
Red dot sights don’t come equipped with magnification as a standard feature. However, you can purchase a red dot magnifier that will mount to the back of your scope and allow you to zoom in on your target and see all the details.
While you might be able to see your target very clearly from a distance, the red dot magnifier will also increase the size of your reticle or dot. So, when you blow up the image of your target, your reticle is going to turn into a huge mass.
The Best Red Dot Sight
Now that you’ve got your foundation ready, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of today’s article: what is the best red dot? Well, that’s a tricky one. So, I’ve gathered a list of plenty of products that meet a wide range of needs and perform well. These products are different in terms of what features they offer, but are all highly rated and from trusted brands.
1. Aimpoint PRO
The Aimpoint PRO is a very high quality optic that brings durability, battery life, and accuracy. This is probably the best overall red dot sight that’s on the market when it comes to the combined features that it offers.
The reticle itself on the PRO is a 2 MOA dot, which is a great choice for accuracy when you need it most. The glass lenses are slightly blue tinted which will give you great clarity overall.
Not only that, but the Aimpoint PRO offers 10 different brightness settings. This will allow you to adjust the red dot brightness based on the time of day and any other situations that you might need it. You can adjust it to go from a small dim light, to a nearly blinding dot; whatever you might need. Four of these settings are made for night vision compatibility.
This scope also has the unlimited eye relief that red dots are known for. This way, you can aim at your target with both eyes open. This also grants you a wider field of vision to allow you to be better aware of your surroundings. It is on the bigger side for scopes, but that is what gives you the better field of vision.
The Aimpoint is extremely durable. It’s fogproof, waterproof, and even shockproof. The lenses are sunk into the scope, protecting them from getting scratched or smudged.
The elevation and windage adjustments are very easy to use. They offer distinct clicks that are easy to count the amount of ticks you are moving the sight. This style of adjustment will stay zeroed pretty much forever without much deviation.
This red dot has no parallax either, so that’s not something you’ll have to worry about accounting for.
Unlike a lot of other scopes out there, this one comes with the mounting hardware that will be needed to add it to your rifle. It also comes equipped with front and rear lens covers. The rear one is actually clear, which means you can still see through it even if you forget to flip it up.
The battery life is exceptionally long and will last you for years.
Why We Like It
- Extremely long battery life.
- Very durable.
- 2 MOA dot is extremely accurate.
- Has 10 brightness options.
- Is expensive.
- 2 MOA dot can be harder to get fast target acquisition.
- 4 of the brightness options are only for night vision.
2. Sig Sauer Romeo5
This optic is the real budget option. However, it competes with others that are nearly twice its price and still stands up to the competition.
For the price, the glass is great quality and offers enormous clarity on the target. The lenses are coated in a special coating that reduces glare and reflections, which will better help you see your dot and your target.
The dot size is 2 MOA and also has 10 different brightness settings, 2 of which apply to night vision. You’ll be able to see your target day or night. The dot iself is clear and round, so, while it’s a smaller size, it’ll still be easy to see.
As almost all red dots do, you get unlimited eye relief. So, regardless of how you’re shooting, your field of view will be wide and allow you to be aware of other surroundings.
This sight is made of solid aluminum and can withstand water submersion and any other bumps and knocks it might sustain.
The scope offers a unique motion activation feature. Whenever you move it or the scope detects any sort of vibration, it will turn on, allowing for quick draw and use. It will also turn off by itself if no activity is detected after a few minutes. This greatly conserves the already long battery life. Just keep in mind that if you’re driving with it or taking it on a travel, you’ll want to find a secure place to keep it so it doesn’t keep turning itself on and off because of bumps in the road.
The knobs are easy to adjust and don’t require any tools. They will hold a zero for a long time.
This sight has a little more parallax than others might have, but not enough to affect the aim very much. It will give you a great shot at a target anywhere from 10-100 yards away, but not much further than that. It’s mostly made for self defense or target shooting.
The Romeo5 comes equipped with two different mount options. It also comes with an adjustment tool, a mounting tool, a battery, a lens cloth, and even a lens cover. For the price, that’s an insane amount of products that come with it.
Why We Like It
- It’s affordable.
- It has 10 brightness options.
- It has a motion sensor to activate.
- It has great battery life.
- The 2 MOA can be difficult for fast target acquisition.
- The red dot is not as crisp as other products.
- It’s not as reliable or durable as other products.
- Many consumers have reported issues out of the box.
3. Trijicon MRO
The Trijicon is an optic that is on the smaller side, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices the quality or features. For its size, this optic is impressive.
The glass on the reticle is clear and allows you to easily see the red dot. No details on your target will be lost when you look through this reticle. Not only that, but there is no visible tint, which may be a feature that is important to some shooters. The style of glass and lenses also cuts glare.
The MRO actually uses a green dot. Some shooters find that the green dot is easier to find on different targets and different light conditions than the red dot.
The MRO offers 8 different red dot brightness settings. It gives a good balance between day shooting and night vision, with 4 of the settings typically working for both.
The reticle and the lenses are clear and won’t distort the target or dot. This tends to be a common problem with a lot of scopes, and can decrease your accuracy. With the MRO, you won’t have to worry about that.
The battery can run continously for up to a year. So if you forget to turn it off a couple of times, you won’t have to worry about having to get a new battery.
This optic also has the unlimited eye relief. The viewing area is huge and gives you a great field of vision when using the scope. It’s also designed to be used with both eyes when shooting. Since it’s a reflex sight, there is no parallax whatsoever.
Even though it’s small, it’s extremely durable. Fogproof, shockproof, waterproof, you name it! This little scope can take it. It can be used under nearly any conditions without obtaining any damage. With a weight of only 4 ounces, it’s pretty incredible that it can stand up to these conditions.
The adjustment knobs are clean and crisp, so you can easily use them and keep track of how many times you adjust it. It doesn’t have any tendency to stray away from the original zero and will hold its accuracy for a long time. The adjustment knobs have a slot that requires a screwdriver or something similar to use them. This might be a disadvantage while using, but it also means that the zero won’t ever be affected, so you won’t likely need to use them anyway.
The MRO is compatible with tons of mounts, so you can attach it anywhere and to whatever firearm you choose. It doesn’t include lens caps, which is something that you’ll want to take into account before purchasing. Trijicon offers a slip on cover for purchase though.
Why We Like It
- Small and lightweight.
- It’s very durable.
- Has 8 brightness settings.
- Up to 5 years of battery life.
- It’s expensive.
- It does not come with a mount.
4. Vortex Venom
This sight is on the cheaper side and will definitely give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to affordability.
Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s made cheap. The lens is still a high quality clear glass and won’t distort the target. It offers a wide view as well.
The Venom offers 10 brightness settings for the dot as well. This lets you adjust the dot so that it’s clean and easy to see regardless of light or other conditions. You can either adjust it manually or turn on the auto brightness mode. The auto brightness also reacts when you draw or move the weapon. So if you want conserve some battery and need to draw your weapon in an emergency, the auto brightness will instantly illuminate your reticle without fail.
The dot itself is a 6 MOA. This size gives great consistency over distances and different targets, while still giving that fast target acquisition and ease of use. This makes it ideal for carrying or self defense applications.
The unlimited eye relief allows you to shoot with both eyes as well. The field of view is insane and actually outperforms many other red dot sights on the market.
The sight is also waterproof and scratchproof. The lenses are coated with a special formula that allows them to resist scratching and other damage to the glass. The sight is small and slim, which is great for concealed carry options.
The adjustment options are clean but also small and less distinct clicking when it compares to other sights. They are still easy to use, and the small buttons are what gives the sight its compact construction, so this one is up to your personal preferences. It will hold a zero for a long time as well.
This sight is small and is not compatible with a red dot magnifier. There is very little parallax and it remains accurate when you need it most. The Venom comes out of the box with a mount that’s typically meant for use on a pistol. It also includes a spacer that you can use to mount the sight to a rifle as well. It’s insanely light and won’t add any noticeable weight to your firearm.
The battery will last you up to 30,000 hours, which is impressive for such a small profile. There is a tool provided to help you with battery change to save you the headache in advance.
Why We Like It
- It’s affordable.
- It’s extremely lightweight.
- It will give you fast target acquisition with a size choice.
- It has 10 brightness settings.
- It’s not made for all pistols; some firearms will need additional hardware.
- The adjustment knobs require a screwdriver.
5. Trijicon RMR
The RMR is a great option for those who what a high quality pistol red dot. It’s very lightweight and will add no weight to your pistol.
The red dot is clear but has a black ring around it, which might be difficult for some shooters to use. This might add some fuzz to the red dot, but it’s not enough to add an issue. The glass is extremely clear and won’t distort the target.
The RMR has up to 100 continous hours of battery life; that’s impressive when you consider the small profile and no weight.
There is unlimited eye relief with the optic and you can use both eyes to shoot. This allows you to see the rest of your surroundings, as well as a decent field of view around your target through the optic as well.
The optic is extremely durable and can take a lot of damage with no issues. The lenses don’t have any protective coating like other products might offer, so you’ll want to be careful with fog or dust that can scratch the lens.
The adjustment system for the RMR is clean and easy to use. It sights the weapon to an extremely accurate point and will hold the zero for a long time.
The RMR comes with mounting rails and hardware and will be very easy to install on your firearm.
Why We Like It
- It has an automatic brightness setting that also conserves power.
- It’s durable.
- It has 8 adjustable brightness settings.
- It’s very expensive.
- The 3.5 MOA dot size can be hard to see.
Those are just some of the examples that we thought were a good start. If none of these are suiting your style, remember there’s still plenty of great brands out there that you can start from:
- Ozark Armament
- Burris Optics
Just remember that the best red dot scope will depend a lot on your personal needs and preferences. And, if you’re looking for the best pistol red dot, the same goes here. For the pistols, see if your pistol is optics ready. That will make the search much easier since you won’t have to buy adapters and mounts for the pistol optics.
Mike has been shooting, reloading, and bullet casting for over 40 years. He lives in rural Indiana where he has a backyard target range. Married for almost 40 years, Mike and his wife teach adult education in their home county and have four sons with their families, totaling 10 grandkids.