How To Use A Red Dot Sight? [Tips & Tricks]

You can enhance your shooting performance in numerous ways – steady aim, refining shooting technique, and practice are three examples. But the easiest way to improve it is using a red dot sight. This article will provide the necessary information and guidance to enable you to confidently use a red dot sight. Additionally, we will provide some tips and tricks on caring for your red dot sight and improving your shooting performance with a red dot sight if you have astigmatism.

How To Use A Red Dot Sight

image of a red dot sight mounted on a pistol

1) Zero Your Red Dot Sight (RDS)

The first step is to zero your red dot optic or ensure it is zeroed – meaning the firearm and sight are aligned so that your red dot indicates precisely the point of impact. Feel free to check out our article on how to sight in a pistol red dot sight.

2) Don’t Need To Align Dot With Iron Sights

It’s natural to feel that you must align the weapon’s front and rear sight with the illuminated dot. However, this is not needed. Rather focus on making sure your red dot is placed accurately on the target.

Iron sights are still a great backup if you have an absolute co-witness or 1/3 co-witness mount.

3) Keep Both Eyes Open

One of the advantages I love the most about red dots is the fact that I can keep both eyes open when shooting. This allows me to have a visual on both the target and the surroundings – boosting target acquisition rate and peripheral vision. I do this with all my SIG red dots to boost situational awareness!


So try it for yourself, it might feel unnatural at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will start to notice the advantages it has in store.

4) Focus On The Target – Not The Sight Picture

Remember, the gun sight picture is a means of providing you with better accuracy over iron sights. Therefore, your primary focus should still be on the target instead of the sight picture. This can be difficult if the sight picture is distracting, so I recommend testing the red dot sight to ensure it has a proper sight picture. Even if you have the best red dot for Ruger mark iv you will need to stay target focused to shoot accurately!

5) Know Your Equipment

When using any piece of equipment related to firearms, it is important to familiarize yourself with your equipment. Therefore, characteristics you should know of your red dot sight include battery life, elevation and windage adjustments, brightness settings, durability, and compatibility with different firearms.

How To Clean A Red Dot Sight

First, you want to remove large debris or dust with compressed air or a soft brush that won’t scratch the glass and its coatings.

Next, you want to use a microfiber cloth (similar to the ones used for glasses) and a cleaning solution to gently clean the lenses. Don’t touch the lenses with your fingers, the oils on your fingers will stick to the lens, and you will have to repeat the cleaning process.

Pro Tip: Clean your red dot optics every time you use them in an area where dust or even rain is present. If the debris accumulates, it is much harder to clean the scope.

How To Choose A Red Dot Sight

image of a vortex venom red dot

When choosing the best red dot sight for AR15, it’s important to keep your use case and firearm in mind. Additionally, price is also a major fact to consider.

Red dot sights typically fall into three categories:

  • Holographic sights
  • A mini or normal reflex sight
  • Standard red or green dot sights

Each has its own unique advantages and drawbacks. You can read the comparison between these sights here.

Some other things to keep into consideration include:

  • Battery life – 500+ hours is good
  • Dot Size – smaller dots (2 MOA) are ideal for long range shooting, and larger dots (3-6 MOA) are ideal for short and medium distances
  • Brightness settings – If you are going to use the red dot in various ambient lighting conditions, you want a red dot sight with various light-emitting diode (LED) brightness settings.
  • Weight and Size – If you are one for agility and a small weapon profile, then a min reflector sight might be the way to go.

How To Use A Red Dot With Astigmatism

I have astigmatism, and I know that using a red dot sight can sometimes be challenging – the red dot can appear blurry or even distorted. Here are some tips I myself have employed to overcome astigmatism challenges when shooting red dot scopes:

  • Prescription shooting glasses – You might already have prescription glasses for your astigmatism. If not, consult your optometrist and consider a pair – they really help a lot!
  • Reticle Colors – If you still encounter problems with distortion, consider a green dot. I have found that the green dot appears less distorted than the red dot, especially in bright light.
  • Brightness Settings – Some people with astigmatism have claimed that lower brightness settings have helped them see the dot better. Personally, this method does not work for me, but you are welcome to try it!
  • Magnifier – A magnifier can enhance the clarity of the illuminated point and make it appear less distorted for you. Note that a magnifier makes the weapon profile bulkier, and if you are one for optimal maneuverability, this might not be the best way to go.
  • Prism Sights – Prism sights use an etched reticle instead of an LED – making it easier to see if you have astigmatism. For more on prism sights, feel free to check our red dot vs prism comparison.

Red Dot Sight Technology Explained

We created a detailed guide on the technology and how red dot sights work. But here is a summary:

An LED projects a dot-shaped red or green reticle onto a glass or polymer lens. The lens then reflects the LED back to the shooter’s eye. Most red dot sights are parallax free and have unlimited eye relief – allowing the shooter to position his head anywhere relevant to the sight and still have an accurate shot placement.

Difference Between Red Dot vs Reflex Sights

As already mentioned, reflex sights are a specific type of red dot sight that projects an LED onto a reflective sight. Red dot sights refer to the broader category of non-magnifying optics that includes holographic sights.

Reflex sights are typically more compact and lighter than other red dot sights.

Best Use Cases For A Red Dot Sight

Red dot sights have a variety of use cases, but the most popular ones include the following:

  • Hunting – Perfect for mounting on your shotgun or short-range hunting, such as turkey shooting.
  • Recreational and Competitive Shooting – A red dot sight gives you the edge at the range by providing you with faster target acquisition and improved accuracy.
  • Self-Defense and Concealed Carry – A red dot sight improves your accuracy and target acquisition rate – two things that are very important in life-or-death situations, and you need to rely on speed and precision.
  • Tactical, Law, and Military – Many law and military personnel use a red dot for close-quarter combat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you aim with a red dot?

Instead of focusing on the sight picture, rather focus on placing the red dot specifically on where you want the bullet to impact.

How does the red dot sight work?

Red dot sights work by emitting an LED light onto a curved lens. The lens reflects the red dot back to the shooter, providing he/her with an aiming point.

What distance is a red dot sight good for?

A red dot sight is perfect for use within 100 yards but is accurate for a couple of hundred yards.

Do you open both eyes with a red dot?

Yes, when you shoot with both eyes open, you have better peripheral vision and target acquisition rate.

Do red dot sights turn on automatically?

Many modern red dot sights features shake awake technology, a feature that automatically turns the sight on whenever it detects motion.

The Bottom Line

Remember to familiarize yourself with the red dot sight and all its features – it will help you build confidence to shoot with the red dot sight. Additionally, try to shoot with both eyes open. You will notice a dramatic improvement in your shooting performance. If you have astigmatism, try some of the tips I provided – it worked for me. Ultimately, using a red dot sight is very straightforward, and it has numerous advantages over using an iron sight once you get used to aiming with it. Happy shooting!

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