ACOG vs Red Dot – What’s The Difference?

ACOG & red dot sights are two of the most popular sights amongst gun lovers. Both sights have their own unique set of pros and cons. Choosing the wrong sight for your gun can significantly lower your accuracy, consistency, and confidence when pulling the trigger. In this post, we’ll help you choose between ACOG vs red dot sights depending on your specific needs!

ACOG vs Red Dot: Which Is The Best?

comparing red dot vs acog rifle scope

Like most things in life…it depends. If you are looking for a short to medium range option, the red dot is superior. In my experience, the majority of people use their weapon from inside 100 yards. For most people, the red dot sight is the way to go. If you want to explore your options, check out our post on the Best Red Dot Sight for AR-15s!


However, if you plan to shoot from longer distances, you should strongly consider an ACOG scope.

What Is An ACOG?

The ACOG, or ‘Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight’, is a prismatic sight made by Trijicon. It was very popular in military and law enforcement communities for years. In fact, it was originally designed for military use on their M4 & M16 rifles. Nowadays, Trijicon has moved on to making premium red dot sights like the SRO & RMR optics.


In nighttime conditions, ACOG scopes make use of their an illuminated reticle. This is done using a tritium phosphor, which emits a light. This allows the user to see the reticle in low-light conditions, such as at night. Some ACOG scopes use an LED reticle & are powered directly by battery.

In daytime conditions, ACOGs make use of a reticle or crosshair that is illuminated by a fiber optics light source. This allows the ACOG to be used in both low-light and daytime conditions.

ACOGs also typically have a bullet drop compensation feature, which allows shooters to take into account the effects of gravity on a bullet over long distances.

Pros & Cons

There are plenty of reasons to love your ACOG scope. Here are the main pros of using this scope.

  • Great scope magnification – You’ll be able to see your target clearly from long distances.
  • Durability – It’s made to withstand all sorts of weather conditions and rough terrain, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking at the worst time.
  • Does not rely on battery power – You never have to worry about it running out of juice in the middle of a crucial shot.
  • Bullet drop compensator – Allows a shooter to make quick adjustments for long range shots

ACOG scopes are often lauded for their features and benefits, but there are also a few potential drawbacks to consider.

  • Price – Generally more expensive than other types of red dot & iron sights, so they may not be the best choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
  • Size – Most ACOGs are larger and heavier than red dots, making them less suitable for use on lightweight firearms or tactical situations.
  • Eye relief – ACOG scopes typically have poor eye relief, meaning that they must be mounted fairly close to the eye in order to be used effectively.

What Is A Red Dot Sight?

Red dot sights have become very popular with handguns, shotguns, and rifles. They are also used on many military and law enforcement weapons. Red dot optics are becoming increasingly popular with weekend shooters because they are so simple to use.


The technology of a red dot sight, such as the trijicon rmr vs deltapoint, is really quite simple. It relies on a spherical mirror that reflects light emitted from an LED. The reflector is coated with a material that absorbs all wavelengths of light except for red. This is what makes most red dot sights highly effective in both day and night.

The red dot reticle can come in a variety of sizes measured in MOA, or minute of angle. For most close to medium range I usually recommend choosing between 6 MOA & 3 MOA.

Pros & Cons

Here are some of the main benefits of using a red dot sight.

  • Better sight picture – Allows you to shoot with both eyes open. This increases your awareness of the surrounding enviornment.
  • Adjustability – Red dot sights like the Holosun 508t are very adjustable, which allows the user to customize the sight for their particular needs.
  • Cheaper – Typically cheaper than ACOGs .
  • Fast target aqcuistion – The red dot does not obstruct the shooters field of vision, which allows you to quickly lock onto tarets from short to medium range.

Red dot optics are great for many reasons, but they are not perfect. Here are some of the drawbacks to using this optic.

  • Poor at long distance – Red dots are not great at long distance.
  • Durability – Not as durable as some other types of sights.
  • Battery powered – The batteries in red dot topics can die relatively quickly.

Other Differences Between ACOG & Red Dot Sights

Now you know the main pros and cons of ACOG vs red dot optics. But let’s dive into some more specific comparisons.

1) Target Acquisition

There’s no question that red dot sights are faster when it comes to target acquisition. With a red dot, you simply put the dot on your target and pull the trigger. Red dots offer a larger field of view.

With an ACOG, you have to line up the crosshairs with your target, which can be a bit more challenging (especially if you’re moving around a lot). In a close-quarters situation, the red dot is definitely the way to go.

2) Accuracy

ACOGs are better than red dot sights when it comes to long-range accuracy. ACOGs have fix magnification (usually 4x), making it easier to hit targets at a distance. They also have a crosshair reticle, which can be more precise than the red dot from a long range.

Red dot sights are better for close-range accuracy. The red dot is easier to see in low light conditions and the sight is not blocked by the gun’s iron sights.

3) Versatility

When it comes to overall versatility, there is no doubt that red dots take the prize. They can be used on just about any weapon, from pistols to rifles. In addition, red dot sights are much easier to use than ACOG sights, and they can be mounted in a variety of positions.

4) Zeroing Your Scope

Although some optics will claim to be “pre-zeroed” by the manufacturer, I always recommend sighting your own weapon. Both ACOG & red dots need to be zeroed.

A red dot sight should be sighted from 36-yards. ACOGS should be calibrated from longer distances.

5) Popularity

The red dot sight is considerably more popular than the ACOG scope with gun owners today. They are cheaper & easier to use, which makes them appeal to much large audience.

6) Weight & Size

The ACOG scope is larger and heavier than the average red dot. For many people, this is a deal breaker. Rifles are heavy enough, most shooters do not to add even an extra pound if it is not 100% necessary.

7) Cost Comparison

ACOG scopes are much more expensive than the average red dot sight. Although the cost of an ACOG scope or a red dot sight can vary, red dots are generally the cheaper option. Here is a list of reasons why ACOG scopes are more expensive than red dot optics.

  • Technology: ACOG scopes utilize more advanced optical technology compared to red dot sights. They even offer magnification that allows shooters to aim from longer distances.
  • Specialized Features: ACOG scopes often have special features like bullet drop compensation (BDC) reticles. Red dot sights are essentially a projected LED light.
  • Size: ACOG scopes are larger optics and require more materials to construct.

ACOG Mounted On Red Dot

red dot mounted on acog

To get the best of both worlds, some gun owners have mounted a red dot on top of their ACOG. In this situation, they can toggle their focus between the two sights to optimize their accuracy for short and long-distance shooting.

ACOG vs Holographic Sight

Holographic sights are actually a type of red dot sight. Essentially, this means they also have no magnification. Compared to the ACOG, they are much faster to acquire a target, which can be critical in a close-quarters situation.

Holographic sights also provide a wider field of view than ACOG sights. This is because the holographic reticle is projected onto the glass lens, rather than being etched into the sight itself.

When Is It Better To Use An Holographic Sight On Your AR-15?

A holographic sight is better than an ACOG scope on an AR-15 for close range shooting scenarios. They excel in close-quarters combat (CQC) scenarios where rapid target acquisition is very important. This is why military and law enforcement personnel use holographic sights on their tactical situations. The design of a holographic sight, with its illuminated reticle projected onto a transparent display, allows for fast and instinctive aiming. And if you have an eye condition, you’re better off shopping for the best astigmatism red dot to minimize reticle distortion. 

FAQs – ACOG or Red Dot

What range is an ACOG good for?

ACOG scopes are good for long-range shooting, typically out to 800 meters. Now there is definitely a lot of skill that goes into hitting an 800-meter shot. So don't expect to buy an ACOG scope and be shooting like Chris Kyle the next day! ACOG scopes offer a combination of compactness, clear optics, and durability that make them a favorite among many shooters. By magnifying the target, the ACOG allows the shooter to more accurately place shots at longer ranges.

Does ACOG have red dot?

The ACOG sight uses an illuminated reticle that projects an image onto the target. More specifically, it uses a red crosshair aiming reticle. The ACOG scope reticle can be either green or red. This is especially important for people with eye conditions. They need to choose between green vs red dot Astigmatism.

Are ACOGS obsolete?

There is no doubt that ACOG sights are great optics and have served the military well for many years. However, with the advent of new technology, they are slowly being replaced by newer and more advanced sights. The bottom line is that ACOGs are outdated technology and their days are numbered. The creation of the red dot and holographic weapon sight has made ACOG sights far less common.

The Bottom Line

Now you are an expert on ACOG and red dot sights. As you can tell, these are two completely different optics that have different use cases. Depending on your specific needs, either scope can be right for you. Let us know which is better ACOG vs red dot in your own opinion or experience!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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