How To Choose A Red Dot Sight | Buyers Guide For Red Dot Sights

Choosing the right red dot sight can enhance your shooting experience for sport, tactical, or hunting use. However, with the many options available, choosing the best one for your needs can be daunting. This guide applies our decades of experience in buying and using red dot sights to help you choose a red dot sight. We also include links to some of our other helpful guides on optic terminologies, such as co-witnessing and magnifiers – enjoy the read!

What Is A Red Dot Sight?

A red dot sight is an optic usually without magnification (1x). The red dot sight provides the user with an illuminated light-emitting diode (LED) dot (either green or red) as a point of aim. The dot is centered in the field of view and superimposed on the target – improving accuracy and focus over iron sights.

Red dots are mostly used on pistols, shotguns, and ARs.

Red Dot Sights

8 Factors In Choosing The Best Red Dot Sight

There are various important factors to consider before choosing red dot or green dot sights. Below we discuss these factors, so you can confidently buy your next red dot optics.

1) Reticle Size & Shapes

The first factor to consider is the size and shape of the reticle. The reticle size and shape should align with the intended use of your optic and firearm. If you are going to shoot primarily close range, then you need a large reticle (3-6 MOA). If you want something for long-range precision, then you need a smaller reticle (2-3 MOA).

Most of my red dot sights have a 3 MOA reticle size – it’s a great intermediate size, providing excellent short and long-range performance.

Red Dot Sight Reticle

2) Red Dot Size & Weight

The size and weight of any optic are very important to me. I hate dealing with an optic that makes my firearm feel cumbersome. Remember, the red dot’s size and weight affect the firearm’s balance and ease of use.

Therefore, find a red dot sight that is light and small enough to be highly maneuverable but large enough to provide an excellent field of view from the sight picture.

3) Battery Life

Battery life plays right into the user-friendliness and practicality of the red dot sight. The longer the battery life, the more appealing the red dot or reflex sight gets. A red dot sight should preferably have a battery life of 500 hours. I also like seeing features that boost the battery life, such as “shake awake” and the Holosun 507c solar panel.

Another major factor is the location of the battery compartment. Avid readers of my articles know how much I despise a battery compartment located at the bottom of the red dot sight. If the battery dies, you need to detach the red dot to replace the battery and sight in your red dot again. I like seeing a side or top-located battery compartment.

4) Different Co-Witness Options

Co-witnessing is a sighting method where you can simultaneously use the front and rear sight and the red dot sight. This is great for when your red dot’s battery dies, and you still need an aiming point.

The most popular co-witness options are an absolute co-witness and a lower 1/3 co-witness. Feel free to read our guide on co-witnessing to help you decide which option suits your needs better.

Red Dot Sight Co Witness

5) Magnification

Generally, red dot sights work on a 1x magnification, and you seldom get one with a 2x or 3x magnification. However, you do get red dot magnifiers, which magnify the visual picture. If you want to boost your versatility in shooting distance, then I would advise you to get a red dot sight that is compatible with a magnifier from the start. We have a great article on red dot magnifiers if you want to conduct further reading on the subject.

6) Durability

Durability is a very important factor – look for a red dot sight that can endure repeated recoil as well as withstand challenging environmental conditions (snow, rain, dust, fog, and heat). Also, look for a red dot sight that is shockproof, waterproof, and fog-proof.

7) Field Of View

A fast target acquisition rate is pertinent to a red dot sight. Therefore, look for a proper sight picture with a wide field of view. But remember, the larger the field of view, the larger the size and weight of the sight.

8) Adjustability

User-friendliness is always a valid concern for any consumer. I like to see features such as multiple brightness settings or even auto-brightness. The windage, elevation, and brightness controls should also be easily accessible and controlled.

How To Pick A Shotgun Red Dot Sight

Now that you understand the factors you should consider when choosing a red dot sight, we can apply them to different types of firearms. The first on our list is the shotgun.

When you choose a red dot sight for a shotgun, you should prioritize the field of view for quick target acquisition, especially if you are going to be skeet shooting or hunting birds and waterfowl.

Also, you should get a red dot sight that is robust and shockproof – able to withstand the intense recoil of a shotgun. I also prioritize adjustability when picking a shotgun red dot sight – you are going to be hunting in bright and low-light conditions, and you need a red dot sight capable of providing a highly visible illuminated dot in both these conditions.

How To Pick An AR-15 Red Dot Sight

When picking a red dot sight for an AR-15, look for something with an intermediate reticle size (2-3 MOA is perfect). You should also consider a red dot magnifier. This ensures that you have a good balance between precision and speed. Durability is also important, so look for a sight that can withstand heavy recoil.

Co-witnessing capability is another factor to consider so that you can use the back and front sight of the rifle as a backup.

How To Pick A Pistol Red Dot Sight

With a pistol red dot sight, you want something small, compact, and lightweight. This is to ensure that you can maintain the optimal balance and maneuverability of your pistol. An intermediate to large reticle size is preferable (3-6 MOA). I also like using prism sights instead of standard glass sights because of the better optical clarity.

If you are going to use the pistol primarily for concealed carry, then I would advise you to get a reflex sight or a smaller red dot sight.

Benefits Of Using A Red Dot Sight

There are numerous benefits of using red dot sights over iron sights. However, I found the benefits listed below to be the most advantageous for improving your shooting performance.

  • Speed: Red dot sights allow you to perform quicker target acquisition compared to iron sights – making them perfect for fast-paced shooting scenarios.
  • Accuracy: A single focus point is a much more accurate aiming point than having to align the front and rear sights.
  • Versatility: Red dot sights can be used at various ranges as well as in different lighting conditions.
  • Ease of Use: Red dot sights don’t have a very steep learning curve, which makes them particularly beneficial for beginners learning to aim and shoot.
  • Situational Awareness: A red dot sight allows you to maintain a high situational awareness, thanks to the wide field of view.

What Are The Different Types Of Red Dot Sights?

Red dot sights come in different sizes and shapes, but the four most common types of red dot sights are:

  • Reflex Sights: A reflector sight is a lightweight, easy-to-use red dot sight that uses a single lens to reflect the dot back to the shooter. These sights are small and have a small viewing window. They are typically used on handguns and shotguns for close to medium-range shooting.
  • Tube Sights: These red dots resemble traditional scopes with cylindrical tube housing. They allow for the use of filters and lens covers. These sights are commonly used on rifles.
  • Holographic Sights:  A holographic sight uses a laser transmission hologram of a reticle image that is illuminated in the viewing window. These red dots are more expensive than other types of red dot sights, but they have better accuracy.
  • Prismatic Sights: Prism sights use a prism to reflex the red dot back to the shooter. They focus light to create the reticle, which allows for a more compact design compared to other sights. They are also more durable and have better optical quality. However, they can be quite expensive and complex, especially if you are just starting to shoot with red dot sights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all red dot sights battery-powered?

Most red dot sights are battery-powered, but some models use tritium or fiber optics as a light source, which don't require batteries.

How much does a good red dot cost?

A red dot sight's price varies, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to well over $500.

When should you use a red dot magnifier?

A red dot magnifier should only be used if you are going to engage with targets at medium to long ranges. They can be quite cumbersome, especially when used at close range.

Can you use a red dot sight with a laser?

Yes, a red dot sight can be used in combination with a laser. The red dot can provide a precise point of aim, while a laser can be used for hip firing.

The Bottom Line

Navigating the world of red dot sights doesn’t have to be intimidating. Simply understanding and applying the factors discussed in this guide will help you choose the red dot sight that best fits your shooting style. Remember, the best sight isn’t necessarily the most expensive or feature-packed one – it’s the one that best suits your requirements. Happy shooting, and we hope you find the perfect red dot sight!

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