Fast target acquisition makes red dot sights highly effective in tactical situations and a favorite among target shooters.
The market is crowded with options, but not all of them deliver the accuracy and durability you should demand from such a critical piece of gear. We have compiled a list of the best red dot sights available along with a buyer’s guide explaining sight types and considerations.
Before you buy a sight, consider the gun and your use. Configuration can be as important as features.
You’ll want a sight with a higher profile or higher mount if you have a gas block sight configuration, but you may prefer a low profile sight for a rail mount rifle or pistol.
Offset mounts allow the sight to sit at a 45 degree angle to the main scope for use as a back-up sight.
In spite of the name, red dot sights offer many different reticle options. The most common remains the simple red dot. Other common configurations include bullseye, starburst, and crosshair.
Many sights have adjustable brightness which can be used to reduce the size and visibility of the reticle. Adjusting brightness can also help resolve reticle astigmatism, which is the bluring or bleed of the reticle caused by light refracting from multiple focal points.
Reticle color – Most sights have a red reticle, but some models are available in green or can be switched between the two. Green can have less astigmatism, but may also be harder for the eye to pick up.
Target Acquisition – The point of a red dot sight is rapid targeting, so you will typically want to look for a sight that maximizes field of vision and reticle clarity. Most variations of red dot sights have unlimited eye relief and wide fields of vision for this purposee. If you are considering at a prism sight, you will get some magnification at the cost of field of view and eye relief.
Battery Life – Red dot sights will not operate without a battery, so battery life is important. Brightness settings, motion activation, and solar power can be incorporated in some sights to enhance battery life.
Mounting position is another important consideration. The high eye relief provided by red dot sights allows for them to be mounted further forward on your weapon than a traditional scope. This allows for better situational awareness and may improve gun balance.
Types of Red Dot Sights
There are mainly three types of red dot sights available in the market: reflex, holographic and prism sights. Each has distinct operating mechanisms that are used to achieve the end result.
Also known as reflector sights, these are the most common type of red dot sights. They use a LED to project a dot onto the field of view through which the shooter aims. The projection of the dot or the reticle is reflected by a mirror to make the dot visible to the shooter.
Reflex sights are further classified into exposed reflex sights and tubed reflex sights.
Exposed reflex sights -This is a simple type of reflex sight and uses only a single mirror to reflect the dot through a small window which is mounted on top of the firearm or at a 45-degree angle. Advantages of these sights include high eye relief and quick target locking. They do not come with any magnification and are most effective in short-range or close-quarter shooting.
Tubed reflex sights – These sights use two different types of lens to reflect back the reticle from the rear to the front lens. Tubed reflex sights can have a variety of functions and are available in many different shapes and sizes.
Prism, or prismatic sights, are more compact than traditional scopes, but offer slight magnification. As suggested by the name, these sights use a prism to focus light and create the sight instead of using lenses.
The drawbacks include short eye relief and a higher time for locking the target. These drawbacks are offset with the magnification that is being offered by these scopes. However, the magnification in these sights is also not as strong as a regular scope.
Holographic Red Dot Sights
Holographic sights are known for their superiority over other types of sights in terms of precision and accuracy. The shooter can acquire his target through a window while keeping both his eyes open while using holographic sights. Another great advantage of these sights is the floating reticle which automatically adjusts for angle variations.
EOTECH has the patent on holographic sights and is the primary producer.
Sig Sauer Romeo 5 is without a doubt the best red dot sight available in the market right now. Not only is it a premium quality red dot sight, it is also the best value for money item in this category.
The sight has crystal clear optics and unlimited eye relief. It zeros easily, usually in just a few rounds. We found it to hold zero even after lengthy shooting sessions.
It comes with some extraordinary features which are not typically offered in a sight of this price range. The sight is “motion-activated” which means that the sight will automatically turn-on because of any movement or vibration. This feature is especially helpful in preserving battery life as the sight also automatically turns off after 15 minutes of inactivity.
All in all, its quality, durability, extra features and the Sig Sauer brand-name warranty at a relatively low cost makes this sight the best choice.
The Dagger Defense sight is a really solid option for anyone looking for a reliable red dot sight. It offers four different reticle options, which makes it more customizable than some other sights that we tested.
While it is a bit more expensive, we found that it held its zero really well, even after a high volume of shots. The only issue that we had with the sight was making sure that it was mounted properly. If it was not on just right, the sight image seemed to blur a bit, which would not make for accurate or easy use.
Summary: We feel that this is really solid option for someone looking for several different reticles. While it was accurate once installed just right, it was a bit harder to install, which made the reticles split.
The Holosun HS510C is an exposed reflex optic in a holographic shell design. The latest LED technology and innovative solar feature allows this sight to give a massive 50,000 hours of operation on one battery.
The other standout feature of this sight is its ability to toggle the dot and the ring.
It is made from a titanium alloy which makes it durable and is fitted with a shock resistant hood. The quick disconnect mount allows for easy and quick mounting and removal. It has a relatively low profile that makes it good for both rifles and pistols.
With a great battery life, sturdy build and the beautiful titanium shell, this is a great choice especially if you are on a budget.