Sights

Red Dot vs Scope – Which Is Best For AR-15?

If you’re in the market for a new AR-15, you may be wondering if you should purchase a red dot or scope. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so which is right for you? In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each option across several different criteria to help make your decision between red dot vs scope easier. By the end, you’ll know which optic is best for your needs.

1) Red Dot vs Scope: Speed & Agility

When it comes to shopping for a new gun optic, speed and agility is key. After all, you don’t want to be caught in the middle of a firefight or hunting with a poor-quality sight that slows you down. Instead, you want an optic that can help you take aim quickly and accurately.

There’s no question that red dot sights are much faster than magnified scopes from close range. After all, you don’t have to line up the crosshairs with your target – you just put the red dot on your target and pull the trigger. Many of the best 300 Blackout red dots I tested were very fast and easy to use!

This is because scopes & magnified optic have critical eye relief, which means that your eye has to be positioned in just the right spot behind the scope in order to see the target clearly. On the other hand, red dot sights don’t have this problem. Just put your red dot on the target and shoot.

2) Red Dot vs Scope: Size

comparing red dot sight vs magnified optic size

The physical size of a red dot or scope is a very important factor when shopping for a new red dot sight. Size plays a major role in the function of a new optic:

  • Takes up rail space – Reduces space for additional attachments
  • Adds Weight
  • Determines the amount of light that can be channeled through the optic

There is no question that reflex sights & red dot sights are much smaller in size and weight than a magnified scope. After all, they are designed for close-range engagements in which speed is a major factor.

However, scopes have different use cases. They are made for long-range shooting and the larger optic is a fair trade-off for the magnification range a scope adds. Say you have an AR-15 or AK assault rifle. If you plan on shooting from close or medium range, you should shop for the best AK red dot. But if you’re going to be more a long-range shooter, get a scope!

3) Red Dot vs Scope: Precision & Accuracy

Precision and accuracy are very important when shopping for a new gun optic. After all, you don’t want to end up with an optic that is wildly inaccurate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hunter or a weekend range shooter, accuracy is king.

When it comes to accuracy, I give scopes the edge. Scopes allow you to see your target more clearly, which means you can take a more precise shot. Plus it is very easy to set a factory zero on your scope. Although they often don’t have unlimited eye relief, magnified optics can create a much better sight picture.

Red dots are fine for close-range shooting, but when you’re trying to hit a target that’s further away, a scope is a much better option.

4) Red Dot vs Scope: Durability

The durability of a gun optic is just as important as its performance. After all, what good is an optic if it gets damaged after a few shots? This is why so many shooters are willing to invest in the very best red dot sight for m&p 15 sport 2 & other rifles.

When it comes to durability, it is pretty much a draw. It really depends on the brand & manufacturer of your optic. There are no inherent durability advantages with a red dot optic compared to magnified scopes.

However, I will say that scopes are much larger so there is a better chance it gets hit unintentionally. But the best scope and best red dot sight will both be equally durable optics.

5) Red Dot vs Scope: Target Visibility

picture of clear sight picture from magnified scope

It is important that the optic has great target visibility. After all, what’s the point of having an optic if you can’t see your target?

If you’re primarily interested in long-range shooting, then a magnified scope is a clear choice. The magnification power of a scope helps to make distant targets appear larger and clearer, making it easier to line up a shot.

Red dot optics provide adequate visibility from close range, but magnified scopes are superior in this category. However, I will say that there are ways to adjust your red dot scope to improve your sight picture and accuracy. You can switch between red and green dots as well as absolute co-witness and bottom 1/3 co-witness.

Main Differences: AR15 Scope or Red Dot

If you’re still unsure which type of optic is best for your AR-15, then you need to consider your use case. Here are the major differences to help you decide between rifle scopes or red dot sights.

  • Magnification – Scopes allow for much higher levels of magnification, making it easier to hit small targets at distance. In addition, scopes typically have a higher field of view than red dot sights, making it easier to track moving targets. Red dot sights normally offer a standard 1x magnification.
  • Size – Scopes are usually much larger than red dot sights, which can make them more difficult to use in close quarters. Red dot sights normally only take up a few square inches. On the other hand, the extra size of a scope gives you a more powerful magnification, which can be helpful when you’re trying to hit a target at a long range.
  • Eye Relief – One of the biggest advantages is that red dot sights have unlimited eye relief. This means that you don’t have to worry about getting the perfect cheek weld in order to see the red dot. Scopes normally have a more fixed eye relief that is needed to get a clear sight picture.

When Is A Red Dot Best?

Red dot sights are becoming increasingly popular among target shooters, self-defense enthusiasts, and military and law enforcement personnel. There are several reasons for this popularity.

  • Red dot sights have extremely fast target acquisition – This is especially important in close-quarters combat situations where there is little time to take careful aim.
  • Red dot sights are very forgiving of target movement – This is important because even a small target movement can throw off your aim with precise scope crosshairs. Switching between a red or green dot can also make a bg difference in low-light situations.
  • Red dot sights allow you to keep both eyes open when aiming – This gives you a better view of your target and your surroundings. Situational awareness is key in any combat or stressful situation.

When Is A Scope Best?

Scopes are best in just about any situation in which you need to be accurate from a long range. The best long range scope on a budget creates a crystal clear image for hunters from a wide range of distances.

  • Long Range Accuracy – Improve accuracy by magnifying the target and making it easier to hit.
  • Great In All Lighting Conditions – They can be very useful in low-light conditions, allowing the shooter to see their target clearly even in dim lighting.
  • Less Eye Fatigue – Magnified rifle scopes can also help to reduce eye fatigue, particularly when shooting at long range.

Which is better holographic or red dot?

It ultimately comes down to personal preference when deciding between holographic and red dot sights. In fact, holographic sights are actually a type of red dot.

Red dot sights are more popular because they’re less expensive, but they do rely on batteries. Holographic sights are pricier, but they don’t require batteries since they use a laser to produce holograms.

FAQs – Scopes & Red Dots

What range is a red dot good for?

A red dot sight is good for targets that are 100 yards or closer. Beyond that distance, the dot will become too small to be effective. For shooters who need to accurately hit targets at longer distances, rifle scope or other type of sight may be a better choice than red dot sights.

Are red dot scopes good for hunting?

Red dot scopes are good for hunting in certain circumstances, but they have a limited range. They are perfect for close-in shooting, especially when you need to take a shot quickly. However, if your target is further away, you’ll need to use a magnified scope.

Is sighting in a red dot the same as a scope?

Yes, sighting in a red dot is the same as sighting in a scope. However, scopes usually have crosshairs instead of a red dot. This is because the crosshairs help you to more accurately aim the rifle from longer distances.

Are red dots better than iron sights?

Yes, red dots are better than iron sights in most situations. They allow you to keep your eyes on the target while you’re shooting, which makes it easier to hit your target. Additionally, they’re great for people who wear glasses because they don’t obstruct your vision like iron sights can.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the best way to decide which optic type is right for you is to try them both out. See what feels comfortable and natural in your hands. Experiment with different distances and see how well each performs at various ranges. And finally, take into account what you will be using the optic for most often. I run both red dots and scopes depending on the situation!

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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