Red dot sights are superior in fast fire, close combat situation. It has proven statistically to be better than iron sights in terms of accuracy. Due to no magnification, you can use it with both eyes open comfortably. Signature benefits of red dots are unlimited field of view and eye relief. Shooting become much easier to the point that even beginners can hit targets fairly well on 50 yards range.
Due to many models and variations in the market, picking the best red dot sight is a challenging task. But I’ve provided both the “how to pick” and my own favored red dots for you to see. That way, you can lessen your time spent and hopefully prevent frustration of not getting ideal red dots.
To summarize, here’s my list of the Best Red Dot Sight.
Best Red Dot Sight
To appreciate these red dots, one must first know what to look for. Let’s dive into the ‘how to pick a red dot” section.
Table of Contents
What to look for in a red dot?
Type of red dots
There are 3 types of red dot in the market :
Reflex sight – low power LED is reflected on the objective lens to create the red dot. Due to simpler construction, it’s generally lighter and less bulky than holographic sights. An example of this is the Aimpoint model.
Holographic sight – A more powerful laser is bounced on mirrors to generate the red dot. Due to its structure, parallax error is less than reflex sights. However, it consumes batteries much faster. EOTech products are examples of this model.
Laser sight – This is just a laser pointer attached to your firearms. The dot is placed on your target instead of a glass.
As the name suggests, A dot is the most common reticle for a red dot sight is the dot. And its size is measured in MOAs. Basically you want a red dot that is large enough for you to see but not too large that it obscure targets or make shooting inaccurate.
Larger dots, like more than 3 MOAs, is easier to spot, thus making target acquisition much faster. It is ideal in a close combat situation where pin-point accuracy is not important.
Smaller dots on the other hand, has the advantage of accuracy as the dot size permits for finer aiming. However the split second spent finding the dots and placing it will make slower target acquisition compared to larger dots.
As a general guideline, 1 MOA equals to 1 inch at 100 yards, 2 inches at 200 yards, 3 inches at 300 yards and so on. Imagine placing a shot at 100 yards away with a 3 MOAs red dot. Your dot will have 3 inches in diameter.
Choose reticle size that is appropriate for your range and target size. Note that standard red dots are about 2-4 MOAs.
Dot Shapes and Color
Other than a plain dot, some red dots offer shapes like crosshairs, dot with circle, dot with semi-circle and many others. There are many colors apart from red such as green or blue. But in my opinion, red is the easiest to spot on most occasions.
Reticle Intensity and Night Vision Compatibility
An ideal red dot must be easily seen both in bright daylight and in close quarter rooms with few lightings. Plus it should provide gradual adjustment in brightness settings. Some models offer auto-brightness settings which is a plus as you don’t have to frequently adjust this in different lighting situations.
Another useful feature is red dot’s compatibility with night vision optics. When turned on, night vision brightness settings should be faint enough that it will not blind you while using night vision optics. This will gives you the edge when shooting in the dark, but normally is with higher price tag.
Glass and Lens Coating
As with any optics, quality glass and lens coating help with image quality and reduces glare from looking in the direction of the sun.
There are 2 style of shapes to consider
- Tube – This looks similar to a scope. It’s advantage is durability. And in case of very bright sunny days, you can use filters to make red dot more visible.
- Open Sight – This features a square screen you can look through. It is generally lighter and less bulky. But doesn’t go along with filters.
A quick mention on field of view (FOV), even though open sights generally give more FOV, it isn’t much of a plus as you probably would be using both your eyes and see surrounding areas without looking through the red dot pretty well.
A crucial factor for red dots, as no dot is visible if you run out of power. Since battery technology has improved so much, some red dots can be turned on for 3-5 years straight (albeit not the highest power). Thus many people turned it on all the time, even though firearm may be sitting in a storage.
Holographic sights use lasers, not LED, as normal red dots, so this eats up lots of energy. Holographic sights’ battery tend to have shorter life span.
Auto on-off feature is a plus if you plan to make your red dot ever ready, as in turning it on all the time.
One thing to note, cold weather drains more battery power. So if you live in colder areas, you need to prepare backup or check your battery frequently.
For battery life, reliability is key. No one wants to have dead batteries in the middle of an operation.
Durability and Warranty
A practical red dot needs to be water-proof, fog-proof and shock-proof. The optic must be able to withstand lots of abuse. Thus the reliability factor again. And it should handle high recoil rounds.
The highest durable red dots are made by Aimpoint. If you are going on a military operations, it’s a good choice to look at. Note that super durable optics also come with higher price tag.
Lastly, if all else fails, one needs a good warranty and customer service from the manufacturer. Defects and accidents do happen. And there’s the matter of transferability warranty, which normally makes reselling value higher.
Co-witnessing is about mounting red dot sights while retaining iron sights to serve as a backup. This is not a necessary thing to do, but it can help you when the red dot fails.
There are 2 popular setup for this :
- Absolute Co-witness – Aligning rear sight, red dot sight and front sight on a same line
- Lower ⅓ – Aligning the red dot sight higher while iron sights are at about ⅓ of overall red dot sight picture
It’s a matter of preference and mostly comes down to tube size and mount used. With a bigger tube, one might be forced to use the Lower ⅓. Other than that, you can line up whichever way you want with the right mount.
Some red dots offer a parallax free feature which is favorable. However, no optic is truly parallax free. Note that the term “parallax free” in industry standard is parallax free from 30 yards onward.
Best Red Dot Sights Recommendations
1. Aimpoint PRO Patrol Rifle Optic
Aimpoint Pro is one of the more affordable red dot model from this brand. It is a no-frill-but-excel-at what-it-does reflex sight. It has 2 MOA dot and 10 brightness settings. On higher power, the dot is easily seen under sunlight. There are 4 levels of night vision compatible brightness.
The real selling point for any Aimpoint product is the reliability in real world situation. This red dot is designed to take some serious beatings and is favoured by the military. It can withstand a lot of shock (40 +/- 4 g in y and z axis, 500 g in x axis) and is waterproof up to 150 ft. The warranty is 2 years for professional or competition use and 10 years for personal use which is very acceptable in my opinion.
Battery life is dependable to 30,000 hours on power setting level 7. This is a reliable number as Aimpoint Pro is known to work for more than 3 years under a single battery. You can leave the optics always on, knowing that you do not have to fumble on on/off switch during an emergency, and be ready from the get go.
The downside is that, due to high durability, it’s a bit heavy for a red dot (7.8 ounce) with not so much additional features. Plus, even though it’s a cheaper model in Aimpoint’s arsenal, it’s still higher priced than other optics mentioned above.
|✓ Reliable and Durable
|✗ A bit heavy for red dots
|✓ Long life battery
|✗ Not much additional features
|✓ Clear, bright and night vision compatible
|✗ Higher priced
|✓ Decent warranty
Price : $$$$$
2. C-MORE Systems Railway Red Dot Sight
The C-More red dot is an open sight red dot with 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 MOAs to choose from. This means that you can get the right size reticle for whatever intended task, be it short range, CQB, fast target acquisition type or the longer range shooting.
It’s built in rail system makes mounting on any weaver or picatinny rail easy. Plus it can be absolute co-witness on AR-15 with ease.
The simple dot reticle is very clear and good for fast target acquisition. It’s also very bright that you’ll have no problems in bright sunny days. Another favored feature is its lightweight (5 oz).
These features make it one of the more favored red dots for USPSA and other 3 gun competition. Battery life is great as it is still going strong for me after 2 years of normal use.
One thing to complain is that the zeroing procedure is a bit complex. Furthermore, the elevation adjustment is very sensitive. But it’s a one time thing and once sighted in, its ability to hold zero is admirable. Make sure you follow the instructions provided carefully in the zeroing part.
It’s great in terms of durability and is perfect for home defense. However, in military operations, it’s durability is still inferior to Aimpoint products. The C-MORE has 1 year original owner only warranty that does not cover normal wear and tear.
|✓ Clear dot, fast target acquisition
|✗ Hard to zero
|✓ Daylight bright
|✗ Not great warranty
|✓ Many reticle MOA size
|✓ Easy to mount
Price : $$$
3. Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sights
The Vortex Venom is another open, reflex sight which has 3 MOA red dot reticle. It has super lightweight (1.1 oz) and is generally ideal for pistols and handguns. It can also be used on other firearms of your choice and is nice for USPSA and other 3 gun competition.
Mounting the Vortex Venom is an easy process as you can ask for assistance from Vortex. I needed a screw for my Glock 17 MOS and they even send it to me for free. Once mounted, it sits pretty low and has a wide glass with good FOV. This is a plus for people who is irritated by tunnel vision issue.
The red dot is clear and daylight bright which is good for sunny days. Light transmission is also nice for low light situation. Auto-brightness feature is a plus as you don’t have to constantly adjust brightness in different lightings.
Battery life is ok and it has auto-shutoff feature to save batteries, even though the 14 hours criteria is a bit too long. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have auto-on feature when picked up.
Now to the downside, the Vortex Venom really do have quality control problems. There are many reports of defects like shutting off from recoil, blurry red dots, multiple dots and poor battery cover. If you decide to purchase this, order them early on so that you can detect and defects and have Vortex replace it for you. This is a big nuisance, yes. But once you get a good one, you’ll appreciate it.
If you didn’t land a jackpot and get defect ones, the Vortex Venom is durable for field use. Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof, the optic also comes with Vortex reliable and transferable warranty which is crucial for optics with this much quality control issue.
|✓ Very lightweight (1.1 oz)
|✗ Quality control problem
|✓ Good for pistols and handguns
|✓ Clear dot
|✓ Auto brightness and Auto off features
|✓ Durable with reliable and transferable Lifetime Warranty
Price : $$$
4. AT3 LEOS Red Dot Sight with Integrated Laser & Riser – 2 MOA Red Dot
This red dot is crisp with 6 brightness settings. It is bright enough to be used under sunlight. And it comes equipped with a built in laser, which is bright and can point out to at least 25 yards distance on dim light environment.
The optics is not night vision compatible and seems to have Quality Control problem. There are some reports on defectives since purchase. Some says that the battery cover is not tight and would results in the red dot occasionally turning off after shots.
Luckily, the AT3 offers Lifetime Warranty which is very satisfactory as they will repair or replace the product once it becomes unusable. From various reports, their customer service is very attentive and tries to really fix any issues with their products.
This red dot features 2 MOA dot size and boasts 50,000 hour of battery life which is rather an over exaggeration, but still lasts reasonably long. There is only one option for reticle shape. The optics is parallax free at 25 yards upward.
Flip up lens caps are spring loaded and works well. If you don’t get a lemon (defect ones), the red dot is durable. It’s also waterproof, fogproof and shockproof of up to 800 G’s impact and would hold zero well enough. That said, the AT3 LEOS is a bit heavy at 8.3 oz.
|✓ Bright and crisp red dot
|✗ Quality Control problems
|✓ 2 MOA dot
|✗ Battery cover not tight
|✓ Reliable warranty with great customer service
|✗ A bit heavy (8.3 oz)
|✓ Durable and weather resistant
|✓ Acceptable battery life
|✓ Parallax free at 25 yards
|✓ Comes with Laser and flip up caps
Price : $$
5. Sig Sauer Romeo 5 1x20mm Compact 2 MOA Red Dot Sight
This Sig Sauer Romeo 5 has 2 MOA dot reticle with 10 brightness level of settings. 2 of which are night vision compatible, meaning it will be invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen with a night vision device.
The dot itself is clear and crisp. It’s bright enough that you can use in broad daylight. Furthermore it comes with Motion Activated Illumination, meaning that with enough motion the red dot will automatically turn on. And it can go standby when idle for a while. And yes, you can manually turn it off, so no worries about depleting the battery when the red dot rides in your vehicle.
It comes with a low mount and an absolute co-witness mount for AR platform. This makes mounting process easier to do. Sighting in is also simple. Note that the adjustment knob covers can be turned into screws to dial in elevation and windage adjustments.
The optic can hold zero really well. It can even withstand magnum and shotgun recoil. That said, it’s not air gun rated so don’t use it on those as they have 2 directional recoil and unique vibrations which the Romeo 5 isn’t built for.
Durable, waterproof, fogproof and shockproof, Sig Sauer also offers 5 years warranty on the electronics and lifetime warranty on the rest. The Romeo 5 boasts 40,000 hours of battery life. I haven’t been able to verify this claim but it good battery life. It’s also not heavy at 5.1 oz.
With its price point, the optic still suffer from Quality Control problem, albeit much less than lower end red dots. Not round, starburst, multiple dots can still be found. Another downside is that it’s higher priced than the rest of the red dots recommended.
|✓ Bright and crisp red dot
|✗ QC problems
|✓ Night vision compatible
|✗ Not airgun rated
|✓ Auto on-off feature
|✓ Acceptable battery life
|✓ Hold zero on magnum and shotgun rounds
|✓ Durable and weather resistant
|✓ 5 years warranty
Price : $$$
If you have enough budget, the Aimpoint Pro is one of best red dot sight in my opinion. Granted, it will not be as rugged as the Aimpoint Micro T-2 but it is less than ⅓ of the price. For most people, or even some military operations, the Aimpoint Pro can offer you a peace of mind, knowing that it’ll never fail you in the time of need.
However, not everyone has lots of money to spend. If you’re rather tight on budget, go for Sig Sauer Romeo 5 1x20mm Compact 2 MOA Red Dot Sight. It offers good quality with very affordable price. Daylight bright, clear dots, night vision brightness, lightweight with Motion Activated feature, this is the best value for money in my opinion. It’s less reliable than an Aimpoint, but is rugged enough for the majority of people including me.