Sights

History Of Red Dot Sights Explained

history of red dot sight

The genesis of red dot sights can be traced back to the early 20th century. Sir Howard Grubb, an Irish telescope maker, patented the first reflector sight in 1900.

This technology evolved significantly over the years, particularly during World War II, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that red dot sights, as we know them today, came into widespread use, thanks to Aimpoint.

This was primarily due to the introduction of LED-based sights, which offered improved reliability and usability.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how red dot sights developed into what we know them today.


When Were Red Dot Sights Invented?

The red dot sight was conceptualized in 1900 with the reflector sight patent by Howard Grubb.

However, the modern form of the red dot sight as we know it today, using a light-emitting diode (LED), emerged much later, around the late 1970s.

red dot history


Were Reflex Sights Invented Before Red Dot Sights?

Yes, reflex sights were developed before the modern red dot sights.

The term “reflex sight” originated around 1902, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Aimpoint introduced the electronic reflex sight, integrating a battery-powered illuminated reticle into this technology.


What Was The First Red Dot Sight?

The Aimpoint Electronic, introduced in 1975 by Aimpoint AB of Sweden, is often regarded as the first electronic red dot sight.

This sight used an LED paired with a curved mirror to provide the aiming point.

The Aimpoint Electronic features almost the same exact design as we know red dots today but in a bulkier, more basic form.

red dot sight history


Which Brand Invented The First Red Dot Sight?

Aimpoint AB, a Swedish company, is credited with inventing the first electronic red dot sight with their Aimpoint Electronic model in 1975. They also invented reflex sights that have since become very popular.


Which Was The First American Brand To Make A Red Dot Sight?

While no concrete evidence is available, many believe Trijicon is the first American brand to produce a red dot sight.

Trijicon is known for their advanced optics and innovative firearm accessories, with their products gaining widespread use and recognition in the United States.


How Has Red Dot Sight Technology Evolved?

Red dot technology has evolved in five main aspects.

  1. Size and Weight
  2. Reticle Design
  3. Battery Life
  4. Mounting
  5. Accuracy

1. Size & Weight

Initially, red dot sights were bulky and heavy, primarily due to the size of the electronic components and the housing required to protect them.

Over the years, advancements in miniaturization and material science have allowed for the development of much smaller and lighter red dot optics.

Modern mini reflex sights are compact enough to be mounted on handguns without significantly affecting the balance or handling of the firearm.

The reduction in size and weight has made red dot sights more versatile and suitable for a broader range of firearms, from rifles to pistols.


2. Reticle Design

The design of the reticle in red dot sights has evolved to cater to different shooting applications and personal preferences. Initially, most red dot sights featured a simple dot as the aiming point.

As the technology matured, various electronic red dot sights emerged with different reticle designs, including different dot sizes, circle-dot reticles, and even customizable reticles, like Holosun’s MRS. These designs provide options for faster target acquisition, better precision, and improved visibility under different lighting conditions.

The ability to change reticle brightness and color (red or green, for example) has also enhanced the versatility of these sights in various environments and ambient light conditions.


3. Battery Life

One of the most significant advancements in red dot sight technology is the dramatic improvement in battery life. Early models had very short battery lives, requiring frequent replacements or recharging.

Modern LED technology, combined with efficient power management systems, has resulted in red dot sights that can operate for thousands of hours on a single battery, with Aimpoint and Holosun models exceeding 30,000 hours.

Some models even feature solar panels to extend battery life further or use motion-activated technology, where the sight powers down when not in use and instantly turns on when the firearm is moved.


4. Mounting

The mounting systems for red dot sights have also seen considerable development. Early red dot sights often required proprietary or specialized mounting solutions, which limited their compatibility with different firearms.

Today, standardization in mounting systems, such as the Picatinny or Weaver rail, has made it easier to attach red dot sights to a wide range of firearms. This standardization allows for quick swapping of sights between different guns and compatibility with a variety of aftermarket accessories.


5. Accuracy

The accuracy of red dot sights has improved significantly from early reflecting curved mirror sights. Early models sometimes suffered from parallax error, where the point of impact could shift depending on the shooter’s eye position relative to the sight.

Modern red dot sights are nearly parallax-free, especially at greater distances, ensuring that the point of aim is consistent regardless of eye position. Advances in optics and their manufacturing process have also improved the clarity of the sight picture and brightness of the reticle, aiding in more precise aiming and faster target acquisition.


How Has The Manufacturing Process Of Red Dot Sights Changed?

The manufacturing process of red dot sights has undergone significant changes, largely driven by technological advancements in various fields.

The use of new, lightweight, and durable materials like advanced polymers and aerospace-grade aluminum has become more common, leading to the production of lighter and more robust sights.

red dot sights history

In optics technology, there have been significant improvements in lens coatings (Vortex’s ArmorTek) and manufacturing precision, resulting in clearer and more reliable sights with better light transmission and reduced glare.

Additionally, advancements in electronics, particularly in LED technology and power management, have enabled more efficient and longer-lasting sights.

Finally, The integration of compact and energy-efficient components has facilitated the miniaturization of red dot sights.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The History Of Red Dot Sight Use In The Military?

Red dot sights saw military use as early as World War II. However, their widespread adoption in the military primarily started in the late 20th century, with significant usage in various military operations.

Were Red Dot Sights Invented For Military Use?

While red dot sights have been extensively used in the military, their invention was not solely for military purposes. They found early use in sports shooting and hunting before becoming popular in military and law enforcement.

Were Scopes Or Red Dot Sights Invented First?

Optical scopes were invented before red dot sights. The first practical telescopic rifle sight was invented in the 1830s, well before the concept of red dot sights emerged. However, iron sights, particularly a standalone rear sight or front sight, still remain the oldest form of an aiming platform for firearms.

The Bottom Line

The evolution of red dot sights represents a significant leap in aiming technology.

From the early reflector sights to the modern, compact, and efficient LED-based red dot sights, this technology has transformed how marksmen, hunters, and soldiers aim and shoot.

As someone who has used various types of sights, the ease of use, speed of target acquisition, and overall efficiency of red dot sights make them a game-changer in shooting sports and tactical applications.

About the author

Charles Neser

I'm a life long hunter & gun lover. Currently pursuing my Master's Degree (M.Sc.) in Animal Nutrition at University of the Free State.

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