Sights

Red Dot vs Holographic Sights

Many shooters & hunters get stumped trying to choose between red dot and holographic sights. These scopes may seem similar, but they have different features and use cases. Picking the wrong scope for your specific use case can hurt your performance and accuracy. In this post, we’ll help make the decision between red dot vs holographic sights easy.

Main Differences: Red Dot vs Holographic Sights

showing different views between red dot vs holographic sights

Both red dot sights & holographic sights are very popular sights with some key differences.

  • Red Dot Sight – Utilized LED emitter to create a reticle image.
  • Holographic Sight – Utilizes mirrors and lasers to create a reticle image

First, red dot sights use an LED emitter to project a red dot onto the target. This red dot is used as an aiming point.

Holographic sights use a laser and mirrors to create a holographic image of the target. This image is then projected onto the reticle, providing a precise aiming point.

Another key difference between red dot vs holographic sights is the price point. A holographic sight is generally more expensive than most red dot sights. For example, if you’re looking for the Best M&P 15 Sport 2 Scopes, you won’t find a holo sight cheaper than $500 (Eotech Holographic Sight). We don’t all have the budgets to purchase sights for hundreds of dollars.

Technology Differences

As we just mentioned, both red dot and holographic sights create their reticle using different technologies.

technology differences between red dot vs holographic sights

Red dot uses an LED emitter to send a red beam of light toward the front glass, which reflects back and creates a red dot on the target. The red dot itself is created by a coated piece of glass that reflects a laser back to your eye. This allows you to see the red dot superimposed on your target, making it easier to hit your mark.

Holographic sights are a bit more complicated. They utilize a laser diode & folding mirror to create the holographic reticle. Holographic sights superimpose the reticle over the target making it easier to hit your mark.

Pricing Differences

Price is one of the largest factors when it comes to comparing any two products. Red dot and holographic weapon sights are no different.

To put things simply, there’s no denying that holographic sights tend to come with a heftier price tag. This is because they are built using a complex system of lenses and mirrors to create a three-dimensional image of the target. The fancy technology results in a higher price tag.

Red dot sights use a simple dot reticle that is superimposed over the target. This makes them simpler…and cheaper.

I can’t tell you how much money you should spend on a gun accessory because I don’t know your personal budget. If you are deciding between holographic & red dot sight reticles be sure to take price into consideration. And if you can spend at least $150 on a sight, stick with the traditional iron sights for now.

Size & Weight Differences

Red dots are generally smaller and lighter than holographic sights, making them a good choice for shooters who want a light and compact optic.

Holographic sights, on the other hand, tend to be larger and heavier. This can make them more difficult to carry, but the extra size also provides a larger field of view and better sight picture.

Takeaway: If you prioritize mobility then red dot sights will be your best bet.

Quality & Reliability Differences

Both types of sights are reliable, but it really depends on your individual needs as to which one is better for you. The quality of your electronic sight will depend more on the individual brand & NOT the type of scope.

Popular High-Quality Brands:

  • Vortex
  • Eotech Holographic Sights
  • Holosun

When it comes to the quality of construction, there is no discernable difference between red dots and holographic sights.

Power Source Differences

Red dots use LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, to create a dot that is then projected onto the target. Holographic sights require lasers to create a reticle.

But how long do the batteries last?

  • Red Dot Sight: Maximum battery life of 50,000 hours.
  • Holographic sights: Maximum battery life of 1,000 hours.

Dot Size & Color Differences

Color and reticle size are considerations when deciding between red dot vs holographic sight.

You need to decide between red & green dots. For the longest time, both scopes used red reticles. However, green reticles have become popular as they are even more visible to the human eye.

When it comes to dot sizes, red dot sights give you more flexibility. For example, Eotech holographic sights have 1 MOA center dot that is surrounded by a larger circle. However, red dot sights come in 3 sizes: 1 MOA, 3 MOA, and 6 MOA.

Performance In Poor Lighting

When it comes to low light performance…I call it a tie.

In fact, both red dot sights and holographic sights are visible through night vision. Now unless you are a navy seal, you likely don’t really care. But if you plan on operating your weapon at night, you should know that both optics are night vision compatible.

What About People With Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a vision condition that causes objects to appear blurry at all distances [1]. It occurs when the front surface of your eye, the cornea, has an irregular curve.

For obvious reasons, this can affect your ability to properly for a sight picture and acquire a target.

The holographic sight reticle tends to perform better for people with this eye condition. Many red dot sights can appear blurry to those who suffer from Astigmatism.

Differences In Magnification

Both red dots and holographic sights do not magnify the image. However, both can have magnifiers attached to increase the optics’ sighting distance. However, you need to remember that when you magnify an object, the MOA increases. For example, a 1 MOA may turn to a 3 MOA after magnification.

Target Acquisition

It is debated which type of scope makes target acquisition easier. Many shooters think target acquisition speed is faster with holographic sights. However, in my personal experience, the holographic sight reticle is distracting. The standard red dot narrows my focus and improves my accuracy.

What I Prefer

When it comes down to making a decision between red dot vs holographic sights, there is a legitimate case you can make for both options. However, standard red dot sights are my preference.

For me, a red dot sight provides better target acquisition from close to medium range. It also has a less intrusive profile that obscures less of my target. The specific sight I use depends on the weapon. At this point, I have built a small arsenal of rifles, handguns, and shotguns.

If you are a normal person and don’t have a stockpile of sights and scopes of all kinds…that’s ok. I know that some people prefer holographic sights or even iron sights. For me, nothing beats the traditional red dot sight.

Red Dot vs Holographic vs Prism sights

Now you have a firm understanding of red dot and holographic sights, but what about prism sights?

Prism sights work by reflecting and folding the light into the eyepiece. These sights are unique as they are much more compact compared to holo sights or reflex sights. This makes them especially good for close-range shooting.

And because they don’t rely on batteries, they are a great option for shooters who want a reliable sight that won’t fail them at the worst time.

FAQs – Red Dot vs Holographic Sights

Is red dot better than holographic?

Technically speaking, holographic sights are a type of red dot sight. However, if you have to choose between red dot vs holographic sights, I always recommend a traditional red dot sight. They produce clearer images and have a significantly better battery life than holographic sights.

What is the point of a holographic sight?

A holographic sight can provide significantly less parallax distortion than a traditional iron sight. This is because the holographic sight projects an image of the target onto a glass window that is located in front of the gun barrel. The target image is then reflected off of a mirror and back into your eye, which eliminates the need for you to “line up” the front and rear sights on the gun.

Does military use red dot or holographic?

Military forces usually use red dot sights for close-quarters combat, as they provide a clear aiming point without obscuring the target. For close-range combat, a 6 MOA red dot is perfect for fast target acquisition and accuracy.

Whats the difference between red dot and holographic?

Red dot sights work by using a red LED to illuminate a red dot inside the optics, which is then projected onto the target. Holographic sights use a laser diode to create a hologram of a simple reticle inside the sight window. That means when you look through a holographic sight, you are actually seeing a projection of a reticle.

What range are red dot sights good for?

Generally, red dot sights are accurate and reliable for up to 100 yards. However, there are some sights that are reliable up to about 300 yards. If you plan to shoot from a range greater than 100 yards, and are choosing between a 3 MOA & 6 MOA dot sight, I recommend you pick 3 MOA. The smaller reticle image will increase your accuracy for longer shots.

Do you have to zero a red dot?

Yes, you need to zero a red dot sight in order to shoot accurately. When the red dot is in the center of the lens, it is properly aligned and your shots will be on target. If the dot is off to one side, you’ll need to adjust the elevation and windage screws on the sight to bring it back into alignment. To get the best accuracy for medium to long range, I would usually recommend going with a 36-yard zero. But everyone has different preferences depending on their needs.

Do red dot sights work at night?

Red dot sights work very well at night because they are illuminated. The illuminated red dot allows you to see the sight more easily in low light conditions. This is one of the primary benefits of using a red dot sight.

Do you use front sight with red dot?

The red dot of your optic should be slightly above the front sight in order to achieve the proper sight alignment. This will ensure that the bullet will impact where you are aiming with the red dot.

The Bottom Line

So which is better, red dot sights or holographic sights? It depends on your specific needs and goals. If you want to be able to shoot quickly and accurately in close quarters, a red dot sight might be the best option for you. However, if you need to see your target at a distance or are looking for greater precision, then a holographic sight may be the right choice. I would recommend that you give both a try and see which works best for you!

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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