Table of contents
- Red Dots Vs Iron Sights
- Red vs Green Dots
- MOA Dot Size
- Pros/Cons of Red Dots
- Our Favorite Red Dots
- Honorable Mentions
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
A red dot sight can be an awesome addition to any pistol. They come with many benefits, but they are not perfect. Although for many of us, a red dot is much easier to use than iron sights, and you will be more accurate with it. There are plenty of red dots out there, and it can be hard to pick one to buy. In this post, we will go over everything you need to know about red dots before making a purchase, and then show you a few of our favorite picks.
Red Dots Vs Iron Sights
In general, a red dot sight is easier to use than your standard iron sight. Plus, it is much easier to acquire your target with a red dot. While you can get irons that glow in the dark, red dot sights show up much better in a dark environment than glowing iron sights.
Red dot sights are also just easier to use than iron sights. A red dot will always stay on target in the moment. When you are using iron sights, if your head moves left, right, up, or down, then your sight does not clearly show you where you will be shooting. That is not the case with a red dot, and while you are using one, you do not need to worry as much about keeping your head perfectly still. Which is very helpful in the competitive shooting space.
While you can definitely hit long-distance targets with some iron sights on rifles, iron sights are much harder to use at long distances on a pistol. Of course, red dots are not made for distance either, but if you have to aim high at a 100-yard target, you may still be able to see it with a red dot. Whereas your iron sights would require the side of the pistol to completely cover the target.
The only place where I put iron sights over red dots is in concealed carry. Red dots are great, but you will have to have a specialized holster to carry one and the added bulkiness of your firearm may not make it the best to conceal.
Red vs Green Dots
Many of us have used red dots before, but what about green dots? As it turns out, our eyes can actually pick up green better than red. Since I have a degree in physics, I find this fascinating and I could talk about it for hours, but here is the skinny.
Color is based on the wavelength of light. Each of these wavelengths has a different level of energy that defines them. The sun as you know it is yellow, but the light it emits has many different wavelengths in it. However, the sun emits the collection of wavelengths that we call green with the most intensity. So in a way, the sun is mostly green but you will have to take my word for it.
Anyway, since humans(and their predecessors) have been on earth for millions of years, our eyes have perfectly evolved to pick up the easiest to see wavelengths, aka the most intense wavelengths. So our eyes pick up green better than any other color.
I say all that to say, you will be able to see and acquire a target slightly better with a green dot vs a red dot. So why do we not use all green dots? Well if you remember what I said before about wavelengths and energies, green has a shorter wavelength than red, which means it has a higher energy. So to produce a green dot, our batteries will expend a little more juice.
Since most people can see and use red dots just fine, it is generally a plus to have a little more battery power in our sights. Although if you want peak performance and you can keep an eye on your battery levels then try out a green dot.
MOA Dot Size
MOA dot size is an important thing to look at when buying a sight. This number basically describes how big the dot is. A dot that is 1 MOA will cover a 1 inch circle at 100 yards, 2 inch circle at 200 yards, and 3 inches at 300 yards, etc. a common MOA for close quarters is 8 MOA, which will cover a 8 inch circle at 100 yards, 16 inches at 200 yards, etc.
Your initial thought might be that you want the smallest MOA possible then right? Well, that may not be the case. Generally, we only want to use a red dot sight at short ranges. So if you are shooting at targets at 20 yards, an 8 MOA dot is going to be easier to see and use than a 1 MOA dot. 6 or 8 MOA is a pretty safe bet for most applications, including shotguns.
Pros/Cons of Red Dots
- Shooting With a Red Dot Is More Intuitive
Red dots are extremely easy to use. If you are in a competition and the adrenaline is pumping, you can not go wrong with an easy to use red dot. These are so easy to use that my dad outfitted my first deer rifle with a red dot sight which I used to shoot my first deer at the age of 5. If I can figure it out at 5, anyone can.
- Red Dots Put Your Focus on Your Target
With iron sights, you really have to pay attention to your target, and for me personally, I find eyes going in and out of focus because I either focus on my sight or the target. With a red dot, you can put all your focus on the target and just allow the bright red light to cover it.
- Red Dots Can Be Easier to See
There is no doubt that a bright red dot is much easier to see than your basic irons, plus you can actually see under the dot, which means you can see more of your target. This is not the case with iron sights.
- Red Dots Can Lose Zero
Even the most expensive red dots can lose zero after a harsh bump, or even the change of a battery. There is no doubt that this is something you have to check periodically, but this is true for every type of additional sight. Stationary Iron sights are as close as you can get to a sight that never loses zero.
- Red Dots Are Not Indestructible
Red dots are small, but they are made to be as tough as possible. Sadly, that does not mean they are indestructible. They can break, or get worn out over time. I wouldn’t say you have to baby your sight, but try to avoid hitting it.
- Red Dots Are Battery Powered
The worst thing that could happen is that your red dot loses its dot. You will have to make sure you check your battery and make sure it is still working before a competition. Also, the easiest way to kill a red dot is to leave it on after you use it. So double check your dots and make sure they are turned off after use.
- Red Dots Can Be Hard to Carry
You will need to buy a specialized holster for your pistol that accommodates your red dot sight. Sometimes you may even need to buy a specialized holster for your pistol that accommodates a specific sized red dot.
- Red Dots Are Not Weatherproof
Some red dot sights are water resistant, but by large most red dot sights are not weatherproof. Leaving them out could ruin them altogether. If you do not use the particular pistol you have your dot on very often, I recommend getting a case for it or putting it in a gun safe.
- Red Dots Are Expensive
The sad truth about red dots is that if you want a good one, you will likely have to spend nearly as much as the pistol costs you. Of course, you can get cheaper red dots, but they are likely to break or lose zero. You get what you pay for when it comes to pistol red dots.
Our Favorite Red Dots
1 | Trijicon RMR Type 2
The Trijicon RMR Type 2 is one of the best red dots on the market. It comes in three different MOA settings: 1, 3.5, and 6.5. The glass on this sight is also very clear and easy to see through with its true color multi coating, which allows you to easily see targets.
This red dot also has an automatic brightness setting, but you can also control it manually if you want. This means that the dot will become brighter if you were to take it from inside to outside in the sun. Plus the battery will last for years before dying.
This red dot is also one of the most durable ones out there. It has been battle proven over and over again. Even though it comes in a small package, it is still made of military aircraft grade aluminium. It can also withstand water at 66 inches for up to an hour.
2 | Trijicon SRO
The SRO is made specifically for pistols, which is not true for the RMR. It is constructed out of aircraft grade aluminium, and is very durable. This means it is going to do a great job at staying on target while your slide is slamming it back and forth. This red dot comes in 1 MOA, 2.5 MOA, and 5 MOA options.
Like the RMR, you can set this sight to do automatic brightness, or you can control it manually. If you set the brightness level at 4 or less, the battery is rated to last at least three years.
You may need a mounting plate for this sight though, it is a little smaller and can be hard to get on most firearms. To play it safe, I would pick up a mounting plate. Although once you mount it, it will hold zero for a very long time. It is a solid sight that you can rely on.
With the round instead of rectangular housing, you can get a wider field of view. That is pretty nice when you have to acquire multiple targets in something like a pistol competition. All and all this is a great little sight that is very reliable and easy to use for years to come.
3 | Sig Romeo1 and Romeo1 Pro
The Sig Romeo 1 is a great little sight that works well on any Picatinny rail. This 3 or 6 MOA red dot sight weighs just 8 ounces, and has a very strong CNC magnesium housing. This is a tough sight that is rated to be able to maintain its zero for over 10,000 rounds of 230 grain 45 ACP.
This is a very clear sight, and since its design tapers out, it also has a fairly large field of view. The dot of this sight is also very bright and is easy to pick up right away. Its battery is rated to last for years, but it also is top loading so you do not need to remove the sight to change it.
This red dot also has a MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) feature. When you pick this pistol up, before you can get your eye to the sight, it will be turned on at the last brightness level it was set at. This system works very well too, many users report not even being able to game it to make it not work.
Sig also makes a slightly upgraded version called the Romeo1 Pro. The major differences between the two are the mounting pattern, longer battery life in the pro, and better dot brightness and adjustability in the pro version.
4 | Leupold Delta Point
The Leupold Delta Point is an awesome little sight that comes in 2.5 and 6 MOA. Leupold has a reputation for making awesome optics, and this red dot is no exception. The glass on this sight is very clear, and it comes with Diamond Coat Scratch Resistant coating. This lens keeps the sight protected from scratches without adding a noticeable tent.
The worst part about this red dot is its battery life. This sight has a very bright and easy to see dot, which takes a lot of power. Their batteries are estimated to last 300 hours on the maximum brightness level, and 1600 hours on the lowest level.
Luckily, the battery access is located on top of the red dot, so you do not need to remove the sight to change it. To help the low battery life, this sight comes with Motion Sensor Technology that will turn the sight on and off when it is in use and when it does not move for an extended period of time.
All and all this is a good sight. It has a tough housing made of aircraft grade aluminum, and it has a wide glass window for maximum situational awareness. It is also a very bright dot, at the expense of a shorter battery life. Plus Leupold is a trusted brand in the industry and has great product warranties.
5 | Holosun 407, 507, 508, and 509
Holosun makes a few awesome red dot sights. The 407 and 507 are fairly similar. They both are made to withstand a beating from repeated use. They do well on pistols with high recoil, and they are also waterproof up to a meter. Plus their class is treated with an anodized treatment which keeps it protected.
The lens on these two sights is very clear other than a slightly bluish tint. This is common on many sights, and the blue tent is not an issue. All and all both of these sights are extremely clear and allow you to easily pick up targets.
Where these sights shine is their battery life. These red dots do have a battery, but they also have a tiny solar panel on top of them. With the addition of the solar panel, these sights are known to have a 100,000 hour battery life which is over 11 years. Plus these sights have a shake awake feature that turns them on, and off after periods of inactivity, which saves more battery. These sights have 10 daylight brightness settings, and 2 night vision settings.
The difference between the 407 and 507 are the reticle options. With the 407 you can get a 2 MOA red or green dot sight. The 507 on the other hand has a 2 MOA dot option, or a 2 MOA dot with 32 MOA circle around it. Lastly, you can set it to only show the 32 MOA circle. The 507 also comes in green dot options.
The 508 and 509 are similar to the previous sights, although they are made of titanium instead of stainless steel, and they are a little bigger. They still have a very clear lens, and they offer multiple reticles. However the 508 has a more open style which can keep you more situationally aware vs the 509 which gives you more tunnel vision. Also the 509 only comes in a red reticle option, whereas the 508 comes in red or green.
6 | Burris Fastfire 3
This red dot is extremely compact and works great on any pistol. The glass on this red dot is very clear and easy to see through. It has four brightness levels which you can switch between with a button on the side. It comes in a 3 MOA and 8 MOA model.
This sight will hold its battery life for a long time. It even has a timer that automatically turns the sight off after 8 hours if you forget to. Although this could be a problem if you use it for conceal carry.
The Burris Fastfire 3 is also waterproof and shockproof. Since it is shock proof, it will do well on larger caliber pistols with generally higher recoil. The sight itself sits in a stainless steel housing that is sure to keep it protected from bumps or drops.
This sight can be hard to get on and off, but luckily the battery sits on the top portion of the sight, so you do not have to take the whole red dot off to change it. This also means you do not have to mess up your zero while changing the battery.
While the previous sights are some of the most popular on the market, they are not the only ones out there. Here are a few of our honorable mentions that you may want to take a look at.
NcStar Flipdot M2
The flip dot is a bit unique. It flips up and down which also turns the sight on and off. It is a 3 MOA red dot and is primarily made to fit a Glock. It includes a mounting plate, and is much cheaper than the average red dot.
Truglo has a couple of red dots that we really like. They are 3 MOA dots that also feature an idle auto off function. This ultra light red dot has 10 brightness settings and you are sure to find one for any situation. This dot also mounts on a picatinny rail, which means it can be included on pistols and rifles alike.
Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec
Sightmark makes a respectable mini reflex red dot sight. This sight is 3 MOA and weighs 3 ounces. This sight fits on the rail of any firearm and features a lever arm to make sure it is held in place. It also has very clear glass, with a slightly purple hue, and a bright red dot.
Riton X3 Tactix
Ritons 3 Tactix PRD V2 is a powerful pistol red dot with shake awake, auto brightness and auto off. The PRD V2 will ensure rapid target acquisition and ultimate precision. Designed with an RMR footprint, the optic features a precise 3 MOA dot, making it ideal for pistol and AR platforms.
Lucid Optics Litl Moe
This little det dot sight is waterproof and shockproof, even on .458 SOCOM. So you can be sure that this optic is going to hold its zero after repeated use even on higher caliber firearms with more recoil. It features a 3 MOA dot and clear glass with a slight orange hue.
This red dot is designed for use on rifles, pistols, shotguns and modern sporting rifles. Featuring brighter daylight bright settings perfect for competition or hunting in bright daylight, strengthened internal contacts for an increased recoil rating and to improve cosmetics and reduce contrast visible signature. It is also compatible with the Glock mount plate #1.
Crimson Trace CTS-1200
The cts-1200 electronic sight is a compact open reflex sight for pistols. Featuring a 3.25 moa round aiming dot, the cts-1200 will elevate your pistol’s performance instantly. Easily user-installed by utilizing an industry standard mounting interface, the cts-1200 boasts high efficiency led for years of use.