Do You Need Iron Sights With A Red Dot?

Red dot and iron sights

It is not necessary to use iron sights with your red dot sight. However, there are several factors to consider before decide if you need backup iron sights with your red dot such as your intended use, reliability concerns, and personal preference.

Iron sights offer a dependable backup in case of red dot failure and can be useful for training purposes. However, they add weight and complexity, and their need may be lessened by the reliability of high-quality red dot systems.

If you’re a new gun owner, chances are you have already gotten the itch to buy some accessories. There is no better place to start than with a red dot sight.

Are Iron Sights Mandatory With A Red Dot?

picture of an AR with a red dot sight and iron sight attached

I recommend iron sights with a red dot, but you don’t need them. Using canted iron sights with your red dot is important for several reasons.

  • Provide a backup aiming point in case your red dot fails.
  • Co-witnessing can help you to line up your shot more accurately.
  • Iron sights give you a reference point in case you need to make a quick adjustment to your dot or sighting system.


However, there are some people who feel that iron sights are unnecessary with a red dot. They argue that the dot is so easy to use that you don’t need backup sights. And if you want to use iron sights on their own, be sure to know how to aim with iron sights as well!

Takeaway: Chances are your red dot sight or reflex sight never has any issues…but if it does you’ll want a backup iron sight.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Iron Sights With Your Red Dot Sight?

The table below contains the main benefits of using back-up iron sights along with your red dot sight.

Benefit Description
Reliability and Backup Iron sights serve as a fail-safe in case the red dot sight fails due to battery depletion or damage.
Co-Witnessing Allows for alignment of iron sights with the red dot for a redundant aiming point, enhancing accuracy.
Training and Skill Development Using iron sights can improve fundamental shooting skills, which are transferable to any sighting system.
Operational Versatility Provides options in various shooting conditions; useful in environments where electronic sights might be less reliable.
Increased Confidence Having a backup sighting system can increase shooter confidence in the reliability of their setup.
Cost-Effectiveness Iron sights are generally less expensive and do not require power, offering a cost-effective sighting solution.

Why Would Someone Only Use A Red Dot Sight?

As I mentioned, there will always be some shooters that think using a red dot alone as a rear sight is good enough. They will argue that the red dot alone is best for a few reasons:

  • Better sight picture without the iron sights
  • Red dots are reliable – No need to keep the extra weight
  • Iron sights can even be distracting for some people
  • Finding the proper co-witness sight alignment can be tricky

Personal preference is always a factor when it comes to choosing the best gun accessories. When shooters get stuck choosing between red dot vs iron sights…I always recommend to use both! For example, Ak47 Red dot sights work well with backup iron sights for emergency situations.

What Is A Co-Witness Set Up?

Most shooters will choose to use their iron sights with a new red dot sight. When a shooter takes aim, they will see both the iron sights and red dot in their sight picture.

You can choose between lower 1/3 and absolute co-witness red dot set ups. Again, it will come down to personal preference to determine which sight height is best for you.

Lower 1/3 Co-Witness

If you choose a lower 1/3 co-witness, this means the iron sight will appear in the bottom 1/3 of the sight picture. Most shooters elect to use this front and rear sight setup. In fact, most of the best AR-15 red dot sights are made for this setup. This co-witness setup minimizes obstruction while still providing backup sights.

Absolute Co-Witness

With an absolute co-witness setup, the iron sight and red dot have the same exact aiming point. When you aim through your reflex sights, you will see the red dot and tip of the iron sight overlap. Many shooters find this set up to be distracting as the front sight takes up too much of the sight picture.

However, if your red dot does malfunction then you will have an aiming point that you are already used to. As we say with our analysis of the Crossfire problems, red dot sights do have issues!

Do You Need To Center Your Red Dot?

Most hunters are accustomed to thinking that a red dot needs to be exactly centered within a sight. This is actually a myth that most hunters carry because they are used to rifle scopes for elk hunting!

However, most red dot sights are parallax free! This is especially true with the Aimpoint T2 and Comp M5. With these sights, the red dot does NOT need to be perfectly centered to shoot accurately.

Some Red Dots Don’t Need To Be Zeroed

Many sight manufacturers make claims that their sights come “pre-zeroed”. This can be misleading for new shooters. If you just bought the Holosun 507K or 407K, you might think these red dot sights are sighted in already. However, you will always need to zero a new optic no matter what! Don’t buy the fake advertising.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need sights with a red dot?

No, you don't need sights with a red dot, but they are recommended. The red dot sight is one of the most popular types of Pistol Sights and they are great for target shooting and hunting because they allow you to quickly acquire your target. They are also very easy to use and can be very accurate.

Do you need iron sights with a red dot on a pistol?

No, you don't need iron sights with a red dot on a pistol, but they are recommended. Red dots are designed for targets that are 100 yards or more away, and since pistols are not typically used at distances this great, using them with a red dot can be very inaccurate. Iron sights help to correct that issue.

Can I use iron sights through a red dot?

Yes, you can use your iron sights through a red dot. Some shooters prefer to use their iron sights for certain types of shots.

Is red dot sight better than iron sights?

Red dot sights are superior to iron sights when it comes to sight picture, target acquisition, and overall shooting accuracy. Most shooters elect to use red dots for close or medium-range situations.

The Bottom Line

By now you know that red dot sights do NOT 100% need iron sights. However, most shooters choose to absolute or lower 1/3 co-witness their red dot with the front sight post. This will ensure that you still have an effective aiming point in the event that your red dot sight malfunctions. For now, I recommend you keep your iron sight in place!

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.

Leave a Comment