A red dot sight (RDS) is a gun optic that projects a bright, colored dot reticle the shooter can use as an intuitive aiming point. Unlike traditional scopes, red dot sights do not provide any magnification, making them primarily suited for close-quarters applications.
If you’re ready to graduate from iron sights or need an easy-to-use sighting device for your firearm, a red dot sight is a great choice. Learn about the different types of red dot sights, what features and specifications to look for, and how to select the best red dot sight for your firearm.
Features to Look For
Although the essential purpose of all red dot sights is to provide the shooter with an aiming reticle, not all red dot sights are suitable for every firearm or every application.
The essential features to look for are intended platform, housing design, reticle size, and battery specifications.
Red dot sights are generally categorized by their intended platform. Some models are meant for long guns (e.g., AR-15 red dot sights), and others are intended for handguns. These smaller models may be called micro red dot sights.
While there is no hard and fast rule, review the overall dimensions, weight, and reticle to determine which platform a specific model will fit. The more compact the dimensions, the more likely it is intended for handguns.
All red dot sights fall into two categories: Tube sights and open sights (also called window sights or reflex sights).
Tube sights feature an enclosed, tube-shaped body with a circular lens reminiscent of traditional rifle scopes. Open sights use a window-shaped, typically square or rectangular lens.
Each housing design has its pros and cons. For instance, tube sights are generally bulkier and have a more limited field of view but protect their lenses more effectively. Open sights are smaller, lighter, and offer a better field of view, but the lenses are more exposed to the elements.
Reticle sizes are measured in minutes of angle (MOA). 1 MOA means the reticle covers a 1” wide circle at 100 yards, 0.5” at 50 yards, 0.25” at 25 yards, and so on. In other words, the smaller the number, the smaller the reticle.
The best red dot reticle size depends on your intended application. Smaller dots (1-2 MOA) are more precise and better suited for accurate shots but require a little more time to acquire. Larger reticles (3+ MOA) do the opposite; fast and easy to acquire but unsuited for long-range engagement.
Battery and autonomy
Like tactical flashlights and laser sights, red dot sights are battery-powered. Typically, red dot sights require button cells, such as the CR2032 or CR1632. Larger models may use standard AAs or AAAs instead.
Regardless of the battery type used, always check the manufacturer’s listed autonomy. Although higher is better, battery life varies wildly, even between highly reputable brands. Some models may have no more than a few hundred hours of life, while others are rated to last several years.
For additional peace of mind, look for models with automatic switch-off and other power-saving measures.
1. Best Red Dot Sight for Pistols: Trijicon RMR Type 2 3.25 MOA
Reticle size: 3.25 MOA
Weight: 1.2 oz.
Autonomy: Over 35,000 hours
The original Trijicon RMR red dot sight (now retroactively known as the Type 1) was a critically acclaimed micro red dot sight and one of the best Trijicon sights overall.
The Trijicon RMR Type 2 improves on its predecessor in nearly every way: Better battery life, more robust internals, and new battery-saving features. However, it has the same footprint and external dimensions as the original, meaning it will fit mounts and holsters cut to accommodate a Type 1 RMR.
As any IWB carrying shooter can tell you, putting a sight in close contact with the body can sometimes result in accidentally pressing controls, causing the sight to fall out of adjustment.
One of the RMR Type 2’s new key features is the lockout mode button, blocking all other controls until the user presses the button again. This mode is ideal for preserving your sight’s zero and brightness adjustment while concealed carrying.
Although the Trijicon RMR Type 2 is a micro red dot intended for pistols, you can also use it as a backup sight on your other firearms. The RMR Type 2 is proven to withstand the recoil generated by magnum-caliber revolvers, shotguns, and full-powered rifles.
If you need further proof that the RMR Type 2 may be one of the best red dot sights ever made, it passed stringent special forces testing processes, leading USSOCOM to select it in 2018 as the new official Handgun Reflex Sight.
In short, this is the micro red dot sight that can fit every platform and almost any application: Home defense, concealed carrying, law enforcement, or military.
2. Best Red Dot Sight For ARs: Vortex Sparc AR
Reticle size: 2 MOA
Weight: 7.5 oz.
Autonomy: Over 50,000 hours
If you’re a frequent visitor of the optics aisle, you may be familiar with Vortex red dot sights and riflescopes. The company is well-known for offering high-quality optics at a fraction of the competition’s prices.
The Vortex Sparc AR has everything the serious shooter needs: compact dimensions, reasonably low weight, and high autonomy on a single commonly available battery.
Its crisp and precise 2 MOA reticle, ideal for accurate shooting with an AR-15 from 0-300 yards.
One of the most impressive features of the Sparc AR is its durability. On top of offering resistance to heavy recoil and impacts, it is also fog-proof, IPX7 waterproof at up to 20 meters, and capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions. Independent torture testing revealed that even being encased in ice won’t stop the Sparc AR.
You will find no questionably placed battery compartment or adjustment buttons on this red dot sight. The Sparc AR has both under the optic tube, leaving no wasted space and giving it a slim, streamlined design.
The Vortex Sparc AR holds its own against other popular sight manufacturers, including Aimpoint, EOTech, and Leupold. It may be one of the best red dots for AR platform rifles today.
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We The People Holsters is a Las Vegas, Nevada manufacturer of high-quality, 100% US-made Kydex holsters suitable for IWB and OWB carry. Whether you like to use a red dot sight or prefer iron sights on your carry handgun, we have a holster, magazine carriers, and many other accessories for you.
For more information about our product range, call us today at (888) 998-6191.