Ammo & Gear Reviews

Simplifying Sight Systems: A Guide To Red Dots


Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Richard Douglas,

While the venerated cowboy of the Wild West has long been admired for his ability to “shoot from the hip,” and take down his targets with perfect accuracy, most marksmen realize they will not be able to achieve this prowess. And the ones who have perfected their craft to the point of shooting without sighting assistance are truly masters of their craft. Props to you! In this article, however, I will speak to the not-yet-gun-gods who seek a better understanding of their red dot sights. 

What’s A Red Dot?

“Red dot” is often applied to any type of sight that makes a target easier to hit by doing exactly what the name implies: casting a red or green dot on the target. This type of sight makes accuracy easier to accomplish because it allows the shooter to focus on a single object without having to overlook the various other foliage, scenery, and background objects that could disrupt a perfect shot. In fact, I’ve been using a red dot sight on my AR15 to achieve stunning accuracy and fast target acquisition. Depending on the type of firearm you’re using, there are three main types of red dot sights you can use: reflex, prismatic, and holographic.

Reflex (Reflector)

The reflex optic utilizes an LED and spherical reflector, bouncing the red or green light off the angled mirror in a way that creates a focused beam of light. Some reflex sights have an exposed beam, but many reflex scopes are made to where you can see the reticle while your target cannot. Depending on the distance you’re shooting from, there are varying sizes of dots that can be created by using different size holes located in front of the light source. A larger dot would be beneficial if you’re shooting closer and wanting to lock onto targets more quickly. A smaller dot would make it easier to shoot from longer distances. Perhaps the most versatile of the “red dot” scopes, the reflex is a great option for the average hunter because of its lower cost and ease of use. You could be looking through it from a very weird angle and still be able to lock your red dot on the target with relative ease.


The prismatic optic uses, you guessed it, a prism to focus the beam of light. Often, this type of sight will have a reticle etched into its glass. Like the reflex sight, the prismatic sight is also useful for rifle hunting. However, this type of scope is more specialized for longer distances because it has a small amount of magnification available. The downside to using this optic is that it takes longer to lock on to a target because of the narrower eye relief.


Our final contestant on “Which Red Dot Sight Are We Talking About Now?” is the holographic sight. Patented by EOTech, these less common types of red dots are also the most expensive of the three. This is because they use state-of-the-art technology that basically takes the light from the target area and reforms it in the scope’s viewing mechanism. This type of optic is touted for its ease of use and high quality. The EOTech scopes come in several reticle patterns, but even though they are somewhat customizable, each EOTech product makes a beam impossible for the target to see.


With a basic understanding of the different types of red dot sights, you can optimize your shooting speed and accuracy by choosing the sight that works best for your firearm. So, whether you use your sight for hunting game or for defensive carry, go saddle up and make Wyatt Earp proud. Just don’t forget your red dot!

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in The National Interest, SOFREP, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog. Click here to visit