Updated Jun 14, 2022 11:33 AM
Red dot sights are everywhere these days. Newer shooters might not even remember a time when they weren’t a readily available accessory for rifles, pistols, and shotguns. The truth is that red dot sights aren’t even 50 years old. It all goes back to 1974 when Aimpoint introduced the first one to the market. Over the next few decades, the concept really caught on and is now booming.
If you’re in the market for any kind of red dot sight, there’s never been a better time to buy than right now. The market is bursting at the seams and prices keep coming down. Just be sure to do your homework first, though, because, with so many options out there, it can get confusing and overwhelming if you don’t. Here is a summary of the best red dots sights out now.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Red Dot Sight
If you decide that your next gun-related purchase is going to be a red dot sight, then here are some of the things you should think about before you make your final choice:
All red dot sights have batteries in them, but the battery life and even battery type can vary widely depending on the specific make and model. You’ll want to look at how long the average battery life will be, what kind of battery it uses, how expensive they are to replace, and how easy it is to replace the battery. The best red dot sights will have battery life that can be measured in years, not days. Some even feature solar panels to keep them charged.
Size and Weight
Bigger isn’t always better, especially when you’re talking about red dot sights on concealed carry handguns. In that instance, you’ll want something with as small of a footprint as possible. Similarly, you’ll want to pay attention to how much the sight weighs, as those ounces can add up quickly even on a larger rifle setup. Still, the best red dot sights only weigh a fraction of what a traditional scope does.
The most expensive option isn’t always the right option. Once you narrow down your choices, compare their features and see which one is giving you the best bang for your buck. You may have to make some sacrifices here and there, but at the end of the day, you want to make sure that the red dot sight you select is worth the amount of money you spend on it.
You’ll need more than just a red dot to hit the range, though. Check out our roundups of the best hearing and eye protection. Take it all with you using the top range bags. And find a safe place to shoot thanks to this handy locator from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Why It Made the Cut
The entire red dot sight industry owes its very existence to Aimpoint, and the Patrol Rifle Optic continues their legacy of excellence.
- 30,000 hours of battery life
- Vibration and shock resistant
- Includes mount and spacer
- Two MOA dot for fast target acquisition
- Ten brightness settings: six daylight and four night vision
- Submersible up to 150 feet
- Only compatible with Aimpoint magnifiers
Aimpoint pioneered the red dot sight. The Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO) continues that lineage, with excellent results. Designed to handle the rigors of law enforcement, you can be certain it will stand up to recreational use at the range or in the field. The PRO features a hard anodized, high strength aluminum housing that provides vibration and shock resistance and is submersible up to 150 feet.
The sight is powered by a single DL1/3N battery and ACET technology provides over three years of constant-on use at daylight position seven and even longer on the night vision settings. It can be attached to Picatinny rail with no tools needed and is operationally parallax free no matter what angle your eye is in relation to the sight. This means that users can achieve first round hits faster with greater confidence.
Why It Made the Cut
The Sig Sauer ROMEO5 punches way over its weight class, with features typical of much more expensive units.
- Ten illumination settings
- Motion Activated Illumination (MOTAC) powers up when it senses motion
- IPX7 rated for protection against immersion
- Side-loading CR2032 battery for quick replacement
- 40,000 hours of battery life
- Includes low mount and co-witness mounts
- This model not available with a green dot for those who prefer it
- Stories of fakes abound, so be sure you’re buying from a reputable seller
Weighing just 5.1 ounces and featuring a 2 MOA dot, the Sig Sauer ROMEO5 is a lightweight, feature-packed red dot sight that punches above its weight class. It’s not the least expensive option on the market, but the value you get for the extra money is well worth it. It’s a simple yet robust red dot option for those looking to outfit an AR, shotgun or carbine. To fit a variety of platforms, it includes low-mount riser as well as a co-witness height 1.41” riser.
The red dot sensor will automatically adjust to your lighting conditions but is also still fully adjustable by the user. With the MOTAC power sensor, the optic will power up and down on its own based on usage. Even when you have to change the battery, it’s easily done via a side-loading access point so that you don’t have to remove the optic to get it back up and running. You won’t have to worry about the elements, as the IPX-7 rating means it will survive a total submersion up to one meter for 30 minutes. Despite all these features, it’s just a little extra money over the Bushnell TRS-25.
Best for Pistol
Why It Made the Cut
The HEX Dragonfly is another solid option that utilizes the same footprint and physical specs as a number of other popular models to make fitment to your handgun simple.
- Auto-off feature
- 100,000-hour battery life
- Built with hardcoat anodized aluminum and scratch resistant glass
- 3.5 MOA dot with manual brightness settings
- Under normal conditions, batteries will last three years
- Co-witness channel for integrated use with regular pistol sights
- They’re still a newcomer to the optics game, so time will tell if the line continues
Machined from hardcoat anodized aluminum and outfitted with a scratch resistant, anti-glare glass lens, the HEX Dragonfly is a durable reflex red dot that delivers fast target acquisition and the ability for equally fast follow up shots. It is larger of the two options in the HEX lineup, but is still a very versatile reflex sight that is perfectly suited for pistol applications. With almost identical physical specs to the Vortex Venom and the Burris Fastfire 2 and Fastfire 3, the HEX Dragonfly is all but guaranteed to fit handguns from Springfield or any other manufacturer.
You can set the brightness of the 3.5 MOA dot exactly where’d you like it within the eight settings, and can count on it to be that way when it turns back on. The 16 hour auto-off feature prevents your battery from draining if you accidentally leave it on but won’t turn off if you place your firearm down for a second. The Dragonfly comes with just about everything you need, including a Picatinny mount, hex wrench, Torx wrench, sealing plate, three sets of screws and a CR2032 battery. If you want more info on the Springfield Armory Hex Dragonfly red dot sight, check out our hands-on review.
Best for Rifles
Why It Made the Cut
Aside from EOTech, Vortex is the only other company making a truly holographic sight and its features cannot be beat.
- Parallax free
- 15 different brightness levels
- Bigger rear window that Gen I model
- Dedicated night vision button with four settings
- Quickly attaches to Weaver or Picatinny rail
- FHQ technology virtually eliminates stray light emissions for stealth shooting
- Backed by an unrivaled industry lifetime warranty
- Pricy compared to other units
The Vortex AMG UH-1 Gen II is an improvement on the already-great AMG UH-1 Gen I. This new model has 15 different brightness levels for the one MOA dot and multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. Speaking of air-to-glass, the optic’s interior is purged with argon to ensure the highest levels of water and fog resistance. The arrangement works well enough to achieve an IPX8 rating, ensuring it will survive an immersion or other encounters with water.
The FHQ technology virtually eliminates stray light emissions for stealth shooting, letting you use the AMG UH-1 Gen II for hog control or other night ops. Speaking of night moves, there is a dedicated night vision button with four settings so you can hit the ground running. Weighing in at 11.6 ounces, this red dot optic is powered by one CR123A battery with a battery life of 1,500 hours – more than double that of the comparable EOTech. Best of all, like all products made by Vortex, it is backed by the Vortex VIP lifetime warranty that is without equal in the firearms community. If you want more holographic options, you can check out our roundup of the best holographic sights.
Best Solar Powered
Why It Made the Cut
The Holosun HS510C has solar backup power in case you forget to turn it off for more than five years.
- 50,000 hours of runtime on one battery
- Choice of red or green display color
- Total of 12 brightness settings
- Two of the brightness settings are compatible with night vision
- Battery tray is conveniently located for changes without removing the unit
- Shake-awake feature turns it on instantly
- Using the 65 MOA circle drains the battery faster
Featuring a 2 MOA dot within a 65 MOA circle (available in red or green), the Holosun HS510C has fantastic battery life of 50,000 hours, shake-awake on/off capabilities, and best of all: solar power backup. So even if the batteries are totally dead, this Holosun unit will still allow you to draw a bead on your target. The sensor/solar panel combo also adjusts the brightness of the reticle to match ambient lighting conditions.
This sight is a compact little package that weighs just under five ounces and is tall enough to provide an absolute co-witness with iron sights. With 10 daylight and two night vision settings, you can use the HS510C in any situation. The HS510C is parallax free and is made of aluminum and titanium for maximum durability while still being lightweight. Multi-layer coatings ensure excellent light transmission and true color rendering while reducing glare.
How I Made My Picks
While I only personally own three red dot sights and am only currently using them on a pistol and an AR-15, I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot a wide variety of other red dots on other guns both when at the range with friends and at media events. As a result, I’ve arrived at a place where there are certain must-haves and other nice-to-haves on red dot sights that I’m considering for personal use.
When it comes down to picking the best red dot sights, I evaluated them using the following criteria:
- Build Quality: Even if you’re not going to be using your red dot optic in the toughest environments, you still want to make sure that it can withstand normal and slightly abnormal use in a variety of different situations and weather conditions. A red dot sight is of no use if it fails under pressure.
- Features: What’s the battery life like? How does it mount? Are the batteries easy to replace? Is it waterproof, or at least water-resistant? Does it have an auto shut-off feature? Is it compatible with night vision? All of these and more are bonus features outside of the basic “it has a red dot for aiming” function that are found on each red dot sight.
- Cost: Is this red dot sight providing an ample amount of value for the price the company is asking?
Q: Is a holographic sight better than a reflex red dot?
While both kinds of technology produce essentially the same result, there are benefits and drawbacks to both when trying to determine if a holographic sight is better than a reflex red dot. Generally speaking, holographic sights will be larger and more expensive than their reflex counterparts because of the advanced technology that goes into them versus a reflex optic. If you want to use a magnifier in front of a reflex sight, your dot will get proportionally larger, too. However, this is not the case with a holographic sight.
Q: Are red dot sights worth it?
If you like shooting technology and you have the money to buy one, then sure, a red dot sight can be considered worth it. Determining if red dot sights are worth it is a very personal question that will vary from one shooter to the next.
Is the technology really cool and does it make shooting very easy? Yes. Should you get a red dot sight because you don’t want to learn how to use regular iron sights? No. Do you need to spend close to $1,000 or more for a red dot? Only you can answer that question.
Q: How does a red dot sight work?
Red dot sights work in one of two ways, depending on whether the sight is reflex or holographic. Reflex sights use an LED and coated glass to bounce the image of the red dot back to the user. A holographic sight, on the other hand, uses a laser and mirrors to project a red dot that appears to be in front of the optic back to the user.
Some people still view red dot sights as a sort of newfangled gimmick despite having been around for almost a half-century. However, red dot optics allow you to work (shoot) smarter, not harder. If ever there was a way to just “point and shoot,” it would be with a red dot sight. Keep the preceding advice in mind, and you’ll find the best red dot sights for you and your shooting style.