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How to Select the Best Red Dot Sight

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

1. How to Select the Best Red Dot Sight

A red dot sight is an optic that uses a projected reticle, often a single dot only, as an aiming device. Most red dot sights are zero power or one power. Same thing. This means they do not magnify. Therefore, they do not have a set distance of eye relief like a traditional riflescope. Red Dot Sights provide a cleaner sight picture than iron sights and allow the shooter to stay focused on the target rather than on the front sight. A red dot sight can be used for precision shooting but is ideal for very close or very fast shooting. Much of our military use red dot sights on their small arms because the hit percentage is drastically higher than with iron sights. Competitive speed shooters also use red dots on their handguns for the same reason. The larger the dot, the quicker most people find they can find and shoot their target. Shotgunners are not left out either. A red dot is ideal for hunting turkey or deer, and some people even use red dots for target games like trap, skeet, and sporting clays.

Red Dot Sights can be an "open" design, which is where there is a single lens located in front of the emitter. A "closed" or "tube" design incorporates a lens behind the emitter and seals the space inside so that foreign elements or environmental conditions have less of an effect on or interference with the projected reticle. While the original sights were only offered in red, today green reticles are very common, and some other colors are available.

Red Dot Sight Reticle Sizes Most red dot sights are defined as Reflex Sights, which use an LED emitter, as opposed to holographic sights which use a laser diode. Red dot sight reticles will not appear defined and sharp like in a riflescope. Look at the reticle with one eye, then the other. Often, they look different from eye to eye. The same goes from person to person. Dots will look a bit fuzzy, and this is normal. No dot will offer a crisp contrasting outline, so when selecting a red dot sight, don't worry about finding a perfectly crisp reticle.

EOTech Red Dot Holosight View The smallest dot currently available is 1 MOA. Most red dot sights are around 4 MOA which means the dot will cover 4 inches at 100 yards, 2 inches at 50 yards, or 8 inches at 200 yards. Larger dot sizes are helpful for fast acquisition while smaller dot sizes are better suited for precision shooting.

Red Dot Sights and Batteries Another detail to be aware of when you're in the market for a Red dot sight is that they are battery-powered. Illuminated reticles in a rifle scope appear black without power, but nothing is visible in a red dot sight without power. Keep in mind that cold weather drains battery power so having backup batteries on hand is highly recommended, especially when hunting. Red dot sights naturally have a long battery life so you don't need to turn them off when you put them away, but eventually, batteries will die so it is a good idea to replace the battery on a regular schedule. Many red dot sights have a battery life of 10,000 hours or more, which is 5 years, so you can replace the battery every year or two without worrying about it being dead when you need it.

Prismatic Red Dot Sights have an etched reticle so they can be used without batteries. They are a fixed power magnification, typically between 1x and 5x. If you have an issue with your eyes that makes red dots hard to use, such as astigmatism, then a prismatic red dot can often be a good alternative.

Red Dot Sight Co-Witness Customers often ask about co-witnessing. This means that you can still see and use your iron sights in conjunction with or instead of a red dot placed at the appropriate height. Appropriate height is the key. These iron sights are also called BUIS (backup iron sights) since they offer a secondary sighting system in case of optic failure. A lower-1/3 co-witness means the front sight is visible in the lower portion of the optic window, but the sight post doesn't align with the red dot reticle. There are aftermarket red dot sight mounts that are even taller and make any kind of co-witness impossible. These mounts are optimal when using night vision or gas masks. A taller mount also allows you to keep your head upright and often increases sight acquisition speed during firearm presentation.

Red Dot Features and Accessories If you do plan to use night vision, then make sure you select a red dot sight that is night vision compatible. This means the dot will adjust so low that you can put a night vision monocular behind it and not be blinded by bloom. Bloom is the intense explosion of light caused by a night vision device multiplying an existing light source hundreds of times. When a red dot sight is set on a night vision mode, the dot is so faint you cannot see it with the human eye. A Red Dot Magnifier Is a great accessory that allows you to add magnification to your red dot sight setup. This can be useful when shooting farther distances or smaller targets. If your red dot sight has a reticle with various holds for drop, a red dot sight magnifier is an excellent addition. Most magnifiers are 3x or 4x and have a flip-to-side mount so you can easily switch between red dot only or red dot plus magnification.

What to Spend on a Red Dot Sight Your application should determine your budget. Inexpensive red dot sights are perfect for plinking guns. Plinking is just fooling around shooting at different targets like pop cans, marshmallows, or anything just to enjoy shooting without any formal structure, often with a .22LR. When choosing a red dot sight, or any optic, remember that price is a good indicator of quality. More expensive red dot sights will handle higher levels of abuse/recoil as well as offer better glass quality and various features. A mid-to-high-quality red dot sight is less expensive than an equivalent quality riflescope, making them a great option for first-time owners or when adding optics to multiple firearms.

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