Red dot optics have evolved in leaps and bounds since the mid 70s when Aimpoint originally introduced their first red dot optic. Since that time their efficiency, size, clarity, and everything else has become so much better. Red dots have also evolved into a wide variety of different sizes, and essentially size is no longer an issue, it’s essentially only restricted by actual usefulness and battery sizes.
Now simply typing in red dot sight into a search engine is going to give you pages, upon pages of results. There are hundreds of different options, different companies, styles, different prices, and it goes on and on. It can be quite intimidating, and someone can easily get lost. This is especially true for new shooters, who may not have the time, or inclination to filter through all these results. With that in mind we’ve formed this guide to help you find the red dot optic that works for you.
- 1 7 Steps For Finding Best Red-Dot Optic
- 2 4 Top Red Dot Optics On Market Today
Aimpoint COMP M4S
|Reticle Size:||2 MOA||65 MOA ring/1 MOA dot reticle||2 MOA|
|Brightness Settings:||9 daylight, 7 night vision||20||8 ( 6 daytime + 2 nightvision )|
|Battery:||AA, typical 80,000 hours for quality battery.||Two 1.5 V AA, 1000 hours of continuous use||One CR2032, 5 years of continuous use|
|Length:||4.7 inches||5.6 inches||2.6 inches|
|Weight:||9.4 oz||11.9 oz||4.1 oz|
|Product Page:||Click Here||Click Here||Click Here|
7 Steps For Finding Best Red-Dot Optic
1. Finding The Ideal Size
Size is a huge consideration when it comes to equipping your weapon with a red dot optic. First off what kind of weapon are you running? A rifle, shotgun, handgun, or even a bow and arrow? There are options for every style of weapon. If you are searching for a red dot for your tactical handgun the best option is probably a miniature red dot optic, a window or open top style sight will work best. If you are using certain handguns, usually 22 LRs like the Ruger Mark series, or Beretta Neo, they may feature a full on scope rail, and be more accommodating for larger optics like the C-More systems.
Small, miniature red dots can work on rifles and shotguns well, but they present a small reticle, and a small optic when it’s not necessary. Full sized red dots like the Aimpoint M4S and Eotech 512 are more efficient when it comes to long guns, and give the user longer battery life, a big window or tube, and often additional versatility with accessories. The bigger an optic is, the more battery life it tends to have, as well as a larger window, and often more reticle options.
Some rifles and most shotguns have limited rail space, often a small short section. This small section of rail may be an important consideration when mounting an optic, especially if the user wants to utilize additional accessories. So the user may want something like the Eotech XPS2 that provides a full-sized window, with a smaller mounting requirement.
Always know the rail space available on your weapon, and keep in mind the amount of space the optic will be using, and if you’ll want to use additional accessories. Keep in mind the weight ratios of weapons, a lightweight handgun can be turned into a brick when utilizing the wrong optic. Optics add ounces, and ounces equals pounds and pounds equal pain.
2. Open or Tube Style?
Red dot optics comes in two basic style, open, or window based design, and the more traditional tube-like style. These styles are exemplified by the two most popular red dot companies, Aimpoint, and Eotech. The tube style Aimpoint uses is a cylinder the shooter simply looks through. The open window design used by Eotech is a square shaped window, that is often more compact and low profile than the tube style.
The square, open red dots offer a wider field of view for most shooters. Using the two eye aiming method, there is simply less to interfere with your vision. These open sights are often less bulky, and models like the C-More systems are often lighter.
The tube design, for the most part, is not heavy, but tube styles are often heavier than comparable open sights. The benefits of this is a more durable, and protected optic. Tube sights like Aimpoint are often capable of suffering more abuse than an open sight and is often more waterproof.
3. Your Weapon and Caliber
Even though red dot optics are inherently simple, it’s still important to consider what weapon and what caliber that weapon is with certain optics. Some red dots, like Eotechs, features aiming spots for specifics weapons and calibers. A basic Eotech 512 is most likely going to be designed for 5.56 from an AR 15 style platform. If you are running an AR 15 in 300 Blackout, those dedicated aiming points will be inaccurate.
A problem that may be encountered with small budget red dots is recoil. If you are using a weapon that has more recoil than the optic is rated for you may end up damaging the optic, and losing zero. Another issue is the mounting method. A design that’s made for a flat top upper receiver AR 15, will not be as precise when mounted to the gas tube of an AK 47.
It’s important to keep in mind that some red dots will swap between weapons with nothing more necessary than a simple zero. However, some optics do not interchange easily, and will be detrimental to accuracy and precision. Also having a single optic that you can use on multiple rifles is a great way to save money, learn how to do it here.
4. Battery Considerations
Battery considerations come down to two main issues. types of battery, and battery life. With some many red dots available, and made by different manufacturers, those batteries vary wildly between companies. As a shooter, you should examine any other electronics mounted to your rifle and attempt to consolidate to a single battery source.
Another issue is battery commonality, are CR 123s available locally? Or only online? If not perhaps you should consider an optic is Double A. Luckily some of the big manufacturers offer multiple battery options.
A long battery life is desirable in any electronic device, but we know how that varies. Some optics are capable of being used for hours, and others are capable of being used for years. A competitor, a plinker, or hunter may not need to have their optics on all the time, and having a dead battery is a relatively small issue. An optic on a rifle dedicated to military or law enforcement, or even civilian self-defense, should have an outstanding battery life and should be ready to go as bright as possible, at any time.
5. The Dilemma of Reticle Size
Like everything else in the world, optics are give and take, especially when it comes to reticle size. Most red dots are measure is MOA or minute angle. A 1 MOA red dot is 1 inch in diameter when aiming at something 100 yards away, 2 inches at 200 yards, 3 inches at 300 yards, and so on and so forth. Red dots fall anywhere between 1 MOA on the center of an Eotech and keep getting bigger.
A small reticle is better for placing more precise shots at longer ranges. The dot will cover less space, and avoid obstructing the target, making it much easier to use a red dot at say 200 yards. The downside is that a small dot is less ‘eye catching’, and more difficult to see. This is especially true in areas with extremely bright daylight.
On the flip side, a larger MOA red dot is much easier to see and much easier to rapidly get on target. Predictably a large reticle can obscure a target at longer ranges and make it more difficult to place precise shots.
6. Tactical Considerations
A red dot is not the end all accessory for rifles. Users often start with optics that eventually gateway into other accessories or methods of shooting. So when buying your first red dot, keep the future in mind. If you are a hunter, or tactical user night vision compatibility may be a major consideration, and not all red dots have night vision compatibility.
Another consideration for any shooter, self-defense, hunter, competition is the ability to co-witness with iron sights. Co-Witnessing allows you to either use the optic as a rear sight, or to have a set of rear iron sights that you align with the optic and allow you to see through it. Basically, if the optic can co-witness with iron sights you can use the iron sights in case the optics fail.
7. Last, but not least – Price
The last consideration is going to be the optic’s price. Red Dot optics runs the gauntlet price wise from close to a thousand dollars, to ten dollars. A lot of people claim you are buying a name, but in the optics industry I don’t believe this is true. You get what you pay for.
A competitor or hunter can spend a few hundred bucks and get a decent optic like the Vortex Sparc, and it will perform. The same optic could be used as a home defense optic, but I would feel nervous about using one for military and police work. Something akin to a seven hundred dollar Aimpoint would be more comforting in my opinion.
At the end of the day individuals, user budgets will always be a major consideration. If it becomes a choice between a simple hundred dollar TRS 25, and nothing at all, the TRS will work, but don’t expect to be a Navy Seal with it.
Better Red than Dead
Red dot sights have grown substantially more popular since their original introduction. The reason being is that we’ve realized most fighting and most shooting, is done at ranges less than 300 yards. A red dot optic is in its home at these ranges. With red dot popularity rising, more and more manufacturers will produce red dot optics, making the choice even harder. The most important step is to know your weapon, know yourself, and understand what your specific needs are.
4 Top Red Dot Optics On Market Today
Aimpoint COMP M4S
The Aimpoint M4S is arguably one of the best red dots out there. First off the optic itself has been adopted by the United States Army and has more than proven itself in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The M4S thrives in extreme circumstances and has a number of features that make it a desirable warfighting red dot optic.
The Comp M4s is compatible with night vision optics and works well with Aimpoints 3 power magnifier. The optic is capable of co-witnessing with standard AR 15 sights, as well as numerous aftermarket accessories. The Comp M4S runs off a single double A battery, that allows the weapon to continually operate for 80,000 hours, or roughly 8 years. This outstanding battery life means you can simply leave the battery on for years, and never have to worry about turning the unit on and off. The optic has 9 daylight settings, and seven-night vision settings, and can work with nearly all night vision optics and binoculars.
The Comp M4S is capable of withstanding complete submersion in water, and can go as deep as 150 feet underwater and still function. The Aimpoint Comp M4S works with rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, and machine guns. The Comp M4S is an extremely simple optic to use and users can learn how the optic functions, including zeroing in less than an hour. The M4S utilizes a simple 2 MOA red dot that works well for 200 yards and under, and at higher brightness settings the M4S’ reticle is still easy to see.
Length: 4.7 inches
Weight: 9.4 oz
Battery: AA, typical 80,000 hours for quality battery.
Reticle Size: 2 MOA
Brightness Settings: 9 daylight, 7 night vision
MSRP: Not listed on the manufacturer’s web site
The Eotech 517 is an upgraded version of Eotech’s flagship 512. The Eotech 517 has had the control placed onto the side of the optic instead of the rear. This makes the optic more ergonomic, especially when combined with a magnifier. The model 517 is capable of co-witnessing with most standard iron sights. The Eotech functions off of two double A batteries and offers a thousand hours of continuous use. This seems short when compared to an Aimpoint and it certainly is, however, a thousand hours is still a long battery life.
Part of the reason the Eotech optic burns battery so much faster is its complicated and dynamic reticle. This reticle is not just a red dot. In fact depending on the reticle you choose it can be quite complicated. Eotech offers options for the 300 Blackout, the 5.56, 308, and the 5.56 reticle can double as a shotgun optic. The optic offers a large 68 MOA ring for close range fighting and a small 1 MOA circle for precision shots out to 200 yards.
The smaller red dot is typically matched to your chosen round from 50 to 200 yards. The Eotech 517 is a diverse and is plenty capable for self-defense, police, and military forces. The weapons have been adopted by numerous police units, and several Special Operations teams. The Eotech 517 is an excellent option for a carbine and excels in its ability to instantly transition from close to medium range engagements.
Length: 5.6 inches
Weight: 11.9 oz
Style: Heads Up
Battery: Two 1.5 V AA, 1000 hours of continuous use
Reticle Size: 65 MOA ring/1 MOA dot reticle
Brightness Settings: 20
The Trijicon MRO, or Miniature Rifle Optic, is one of the newest red dot optics on the market, and already it is being declared a triumph. The Trijicon MRO has a 25 mm objective lens, so it’s not miniature like the previous RMR, but it is smaller than the typical red dot optic. The MRO works well in a variety of roles, and can function on numerous weapons. The glass is crystal clear and comes naturally to the eye.
The MRO uses a single CR2032 battery to power the optic for 5 years of continuous use. This is with a lithium battery, and when the choice is given lithium is what will always work best. The MRO has 6 daytime settings, and at 6 the dot is so bright it can be uncomfortable in anything but the brightest days. The optic is night vision compatible with two dedicated N settings. The MRO is easy to use, and the reticle consists of a simple 2 MOA red dot.
Like all Trijicon products the optic is designed to last, and to be extremely durable. The MRO is shockproof and capable of taking a beating and keep on ticking. The optic can be submerged up to 100 feet and is sealed to prevent any internal fog from building up. The optic is made from solid aluminum and is 7075-T6 forged aluminum. The MRO is an excellent carbine option and is rated to handle the recoil of more powerful rifles. Trijicon has designed what is sure to set the industry standard for miniature red dots.
Length: 2.6 inches
Weight: 4.1 oz
Battery: One CR2032, 5 years of continuous use
Reticle Size: 2 MOA
Brightness Settings: 8 ( 6 daytime + 2 nightvision )
MSRP: Not listed on the manufacturer’s web site
The Leupold LCO
The Leupold LCO, or Leupold Carbine Optic, is an interesting combination of both tube and window designs. The LCO attempts to provide the same protection and durability a tube style optic has, with the wider field of view a square window. The LCO is a compact optic that utilizes very little rail space to mount. This leaves a lot of extra room for accessories, and since the optic is night vision compatible this is an advantage.
The LCO uses a small, but very precise 1 MOA red dot. This small red dot can become very bright, with its sixteen brightness settings. Even at the highest settings the dot does not have any ‘wash out’ caused by extreme red dot brightness. The LCO operates off of a single CR123A battery has an active run time of five years.
The LCO is made entirely from aluminum and is a hefty, and durable optic. The LCO is made from 6061 T6 aircraft grade aluminum and is extremely tough. The LCO also uses ¼ MOA adjustments, the common unit of measurements makes zeroing the optic simple, and there is a variety of targets available that use MOA measurements for zeroing. The LCO also features a single simply control to turn the optic on, and change the brightness settings. The LCO is completely waterproof, as well as shockproof. The LCO may lack the brand recognition of other optics, but users can’t go wrong with giving the underdog a chance.
Length: 3.6 inches
Weight: 9.5 oz
Battery: single CR123A, 5 years
Reticle Size: 1 MOA
Brightness Settings: 16