Whether you’re new to the world of firearms or a seasoned veteran, you’ve heard of the term “red dot sight.” These are some of the most popular weapon sights today.
They offer many advantages, like being lightweight, compact, cheap, and easy to use. However, there are also notable downsides compared to other optics.
If you’re curious about what red dot sights are, their ideal use case, and how to maximize the use of your red dot sight, you’ve come to the right place.
What Is A Red Dot Sight?
A red dot sight is an optic used on many types of firearms. As the name suggests, the reticle is a single red or green dot projected on optical glass to show where a bullet will hit when aimed and zeroed correctly.
Don’t confuse the red dot sight with a red laser, which is attached below or beside the barrel of your firearm and projects a laser directly onto a target.
A red dot sight is only seen by the shooter through the eyepiece. Its simplicity allows for many benefits, like being lightweight, clutter-free, and quick to aim.
For comprehensive insights into the functionality of red dot sights, along with recommendations for exceptional options across various price ranges, read Shooting Mystery’s articles.
Strengths Of Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights have many strengths that allow them to be usable on almost every firearm and even on weapons like crossbows! Here are some of their most notable strengths.
Fast to Aim Through
Red dot sights are lightweight and have a simple reticle, giving you a largely unobstructed sight picture. Other weapons have multiple markings and are much heavier, so you take more time to aim.
Red dot sights simply require the shooter to point and shoot. Unlike the weapon’s default iron sights, the red dot is easy to find even in a busy background.
Instead of the shooter needing to find the aiming point and match it with the target, they just need to focus on getting the red dot over the target, which is quite intuitive.
Easy to Use
Eye relief is one of the things that determines whether a scope is easy to use or not. The shorter the eye relief, the closer your eye has to be to the sight to aim clearly.
On weapon sights like long-range scopes, the eye relief is usually unforgivingly short because of the large number of different-sized lenses it carries, increasing its length and weight.
On red dot sights, it only has one small lens with a red dot. This means you’ll have much longer eye relief. Some red dots have basically unlimited eye relief.
These make red dot sights lightweight and the opposite of bulky. This means you won’t get any tunnel vision when aiming and can remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
Increased Accuracy in Close Quarters
The ease of use and quick aim-in-time both contribute to making it accurate for close-range uses. In close-quarters situations, the priority is fast aim-in and situational awareness.
A red dot sight can help a shooter easily transition between targets from different directions without losing situational awareness. You can aim well while being able to determine where the next threat is.
Since you don’t need to adjust for windage and elevation at close range, red dot sights are the perfect type of optic for these kinds of self-defense situations.
Weaknesses of Red Dot Sights
Despite its benefits, red dot sights aren’t the perfect type of weapon sight with no drawbacks. They do suffer in certain situations, which you should keep in mind if you want to buy one.
While red dot sights are great for close-range engagements, they don’t do well once you start stretching the ranges past 100 yards.
The large, simple, easy-to-find reticle becomes a weakness because there’s no way to rapidly adjust for bullet drop, windage, or elevation on a red dot sight.
Finally, the low zoom level, which is perfectly fine and ideal for close range, isn’t suitable for looking at targets far out. They’ll look like little specks of dust from the small 1x zoom, covering your target or blending in with the environment.
This is why red dot sights are usually meant only for close-range situations. An alternative optic or external magnifier is needed if the range stretches farther.
Not Good for Those With Astigmatism
Astigmatism is an eye condition where any bright light will look either blurry or hurt the eyes, depending on how bad your condition is.
While some corrective and contact lenses can help make this effect not as jarring, they won’t completely eliminate it. When you’re under pressure, you don’t want things to be “good enough.”
On other types of sights, like the standard iron sights or rifle scopes, this isn’t a problem since they don’t use illuminated lights or lasers. You’re better off using non-holographic and non-illuminated sights in these cases.
If you’re attentive, you’ve probably noticed that red dot sights will need a source of power to project a red dot onto the optical glass. On red dots, this is done through a small battery.
While the battery is easily replaceable and can be found at most online and retail stores, it can still run out. You don’t want to need your weapon only to be met with a blank sight picture with no reticle.
However, this downside is becoming less and less of a problem since modern red dot sights have far better battery life than older versions. Some last up to 5 or more years, depending on what batteries you use!
How to Maximize Your Red Dot Sight
After learning about the pros and cons of red dot sights, you might be wondering how to make full use of one. Here are a few ways you can improve your shooting skill and accuracy.
Experiment With Different Shooting Positions
If you’re used to firing at a target from the same position with a different optic, try practicing with a different grip position in relation to the sight. Try altering and adjusting your stance as well.
This will increase your skill as a shooter while allowing you to get used to how the red dot sight aims and looks from different angles. This is vital as, at close range, you won’t always have the ideal shooting position.
Follow Through With the Shot
Most people immediately look up and away from the optic after firing the shot. This isn’t a bad thing that will affect your accuracy, but following through helps with consistency.
Following through with your shot means resetting your aim back onto the target after you’ve fired. This gets you used to how the gun’s recoil affects the red dot’s sight picture.
Doing this also puts you into the good habit of keeping your gun pointed on target if you ever need to fire a follow-up shot.
Control Your Breathing
Control your breathing by slowing it down when aiming with the red dot sight. This allows you to hold a steadier aim, as breathing heavily and rapidly will make your hands sway and move.
Exhale and empty your lungs right before firing for the best results (and also so that you’re not breathing in all the time).
Zero the Sight
While most red dot sights are zeroed into the printed range on the box or product information page, you should also zero in on your own.
Zero in your sight at around 25 yards for the best results. You won’t be trying to aim at targets past 100 yards, so a zero at 25 yards is more than enough.
Practice Makes Perfect
The above methods can only be done well if you practice them consistently. Your red dot sight will help make you more accurate, but only to a certain extent.
Your skill and the way you use the sight will determine if you can maximize its potential.
Frequently Asked Questions
After learning more about what red dot sights are used for, their pros and cons, and how to maximize them, you might have related questions.
Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about red dot sights.
What’s the Difference Between Red Dot Sights and Holographic Sights?
Holographic sights are different from red dot sights in the way they project the reticle onto the optical glass. Holographic sights usually have a more complicated construction and process than red dots.
Red dot sights use power-saving LEDs, while holographic sights use lasers, contributing to red dot sights’ often longer battery life.
Do Red Dot Sights Work at Night?
Red dot sights work very well at night because of the illuminated reticle. This makes it easy to find targets and distinguish the reticle from a busy background.
Red dots are also compatible with most night vision goggles, making them the ideal choice for nighttime operations.
How Long Do Red Dot Sights Last?
Red dot sights have a much longer battery life than they used to. Modern red dots can last up to 50,000 hours on a single battery, which equates to around five years!
Many red dot sights also implement battery life-saving features like automatically turning it off if it doesn’t detect any movement.
While red dot sights aren’t the one-size-fits-all weapon optic, they have obvious advantages and are the perfect sight for the right situation.
They’re ideal for close-range situations, meaning those less than 100 yards. Their fast target acquisition, lightweight, and simple sight picture combine to make it an ideal optic.
If you plan to get a red dot optic but want to have more zoom when needed, consider getting a side-flip magnifier.