This is going to be a guide to help you select one based on price durability, quality, and overall feature set on these different red dots. A lot of people are getting into the firearm shooting sports as well as using these for personal protection and they want to know what’s what as well as is it worth the price.
Let’s dig into some popular models and overall just feel of different style red dots and reflex sights and talk about why you might want to select one over the other. This is a great idea because the market is flooded with a wide variety of red dots and reflex sights for your rifles ar-15s and air pistols
Starting from the cheapest style red dots to the more expensive style red dots.
BEST RED DOT SIGHT
The first thing I want to talk about are those budget they’re truly budget red dots and that’s what I cut my teeth on and a lot of people will go to these red dots first. They generally start around the 25 price point and work their way up to the 40 to 50 dollar price point and I’m going to label these in one category. The representation I have from this category today is the Pinty red dot. Now a lot of these budget red dots come with these picatinny mounts on the bottom and they sit really low to the rail system, meaning you’ll have to purchase an independent riser something like a UTG riser or something like that to lift it up to the height you want. We talk a lot about co-witnessing red dots if you choose a one-inch riser, meaning a fairly high riser. You’re going to have a lower one-third co-witness with your iron sights and if you choose about a 0.83 riser you’re going to have an absolute co-witness with your iron sights, meaning when your sights are flipped up the dot will be on the front sight post when you align everything up with a 0.83 riser and then again if you select a one inch riser your dot’s going to be a little bit higher and your post is going to be in the lower one third.
These red dots are nice and a lot of them work but the issues you run into with these budget style red dots is mainly quality control in battery life as well as overall feature set. I am not knocking these by any means. In fact I actually recommend a lot of these high value red dots, I really recommended this Pinty as well as the OTW, the Hiram, the TWOD and the original field sport I did the torture test on. A lot of these can be found that are really durable but again the battery life can be an issue for some, as well as the image quality and the overall construction and quality control. A lot of them advertise to be waterproof, some of them are, some of them aren’t. But this is a great option for overall range use to get something on your rifle just to begin shooting and have fun with, but i kind of stay away from these for personal defense because again the quality control issues and things like that. But with that being said, if you get one you like it it’s reliable for you and it passed your test and evaluation and you feel comfortable with changing out the battery a lot, this is an absolutely great option for this price category.
ABOUT $100 TO UNDER $300
Now i’m going to transition over to about the hundred, two hundred and fifty dollar price point and i know that’s a rather large jump but as some of the intermediate red dots we’re going to be talking about, those will be those turnstile optics.
One thing i want to bring up while i have the Pinty here is you can see the emitter on the bottom and you can see that kind of interfering with your view. You can also see a little bit of a hue but honestly this one is pretty good meaning the glass clarity.
So when you talk about jumping from this turnstile optic up to that hundred dollar price range or 75 dollar price range, you’re gonna start getting into the AT3 tactical turnstile red dots, The Bushnell TRS 25 and one of my favorites is this Anderson red dot. This again may have an elevated price point but what you’re looking at between this and the Pinty is a way better build quality, a lot longer battery life they use a different led diode and system, so you can get up to about 20,000 to 30,000 hours instead of the about 4,000 to 5,000 hours with the Pinty.
You get a little bit better glass clarity and overall again, a better build quality it’s kind of hard to see but the emitters are also buried a little bit better. And honestly if you’re talking about personal defense or range use these are definitely a better quality than the Pinty but the overall feature set is about the same, the same color brightness red dot, the same mode of operations. I tend to stay away from that intermediate price point if i can, i like to spend a little bit extra and go to a push button optic like we’re going to talk about with the Hollow Suns, the Sig Romeos and the Truglos. I think it’s a much better step to go to that because they have a much wider feature set, but if you’re just not content with the quality control on one of the Pinty red dots, stepping it up to the AT3 Tactical red dot.
The representation I’m going to use for this optics category is the Hollow Sun HS403B but Sig has the Sig Romeo and Truglo also has a red dot that kind of compete with the Hollow Sun. Out of all of those I really do like the Hollow Sun. I’ve used a wide variety of them and they come in at a good price anywhere from 130 to 200 dollars for the traditional push button model. Now you’re going to see a wide variety of these red dots with different features, but a lot of the cool things about these is they have a nice side ceiling battery compartment, they’re fully waterproof and they will be waterproof, they have nice adjustment turrets, the dots automatically turn on, the glass is crystal clear, the emitter is buried and they overall function really well. They hold zero a lot better than some of those twenty and thirty dollar optics and you can truly depend on an optic in this category. This is where it transitions from range use to actual use for a personal defense or a duty use scenario, something like this is pretty slick. You’ve got a push button style optic on the top where you can adjust the brightness up or down, a shake awake technology a 50,000 hour battery life, something like this is pretty cool because you can mount it to a duty rifle or a personal defense rifle and when you go to pick up the rifle to engage your target, it automatically turns on and you don’t have to worry about fumbling buttons or turning a knob on this style optic. The other cool thing is it turns off the safe battery after it doesn’t detect motion for a certain amount of time. The differences in the Hollow Sunline where you can go all the way up to about 300 dollars includes solar panels, protected turrets, a better build quality, better material quality and different style reticle features. But overall, if you’re looking for a good optic for that $150 price point, check out the very basic model of the Hollow Sun, the Sig Romeo series or the Truglo series. Hollow Sun though seems to be my favorite out of these.
I get a lot of questions about a reflex style sight versus a tube style sight and these are the main differences. A reflex style sight has a large viewing window in a more open viewing window, whereas a tube style sight has a tube style. These seem to be more adorable than the reflex sights especially in the budget category, when you start spending over 300 dollars on a reflex style sight though, the durability is there. I would stay away from any reflex style sight and this is my humble opinion anyways. Under a hundred dollars, they seem to always fail on me or break on me, whereas a tube style red dot sight is very good for a hundred dollars at least when it comes to durability.
The reflex style sight offers a wider field of view and a wider field of view is nicer for engaging a target, this allows you to really kind of have a seamless transition, also if you move your head left or right you have a lot wider viewing angle than if you move the dot left or right. This allows you to not have your cheek placed quite as nicely on the rifle or have your head offset if you’re shooting around the car or in a personal defense situation, so you can see the dot longer and this helps you engage your target more because as long as the dots on the target, you’re going to hit your target within a slight variation. This allows you to have in under a stressful scenario in a three-gun competition or a personal defense situation. A wider field of view to help you engage your target especially if you don’t have the proper cheek weld, the downfall though is you start to pay more for a quality one of these than you will for instance $150 – $300. The quality and durability is about the same on both of these optics but again you’re going to get a wide viewing angle but you’re going to pay for it.
With an led emitter on Hollow Sun reflex style sight, meaning it actually projects the led onto the screen. The problem with that is is you can block the emitter with dirt or debris which is a problem especially in a combat style optic. This one does have a solar panel which is nice a 50,000-hour battery life reticle selections, these are great options for a reflex style sight. But if you want to spend a little bit more, you can get a truly Holographic weapon sight. The Holographic weapon sight actually projects theirs with a laser, so it is much more crisp, the parallax meaning the adjustment left and right when you shift your optic is going to remain more true than on an led model style reflex sight, this one is completely enclosed so you can’t block the emitter with dirt and things like that, the downfall to a truly laser reflex style sight like an Eotech or some of the Vortex ones is the battery life is rather low you’re getting back down to about 1500 to 2000 hours again, something to consider and the price on this is quite substantial about $500.
I’m going to transition over now to the intermediate category of the tube style sights as well as talk about handgun reflex sights, i only want to bring these up because a lot of people I see put these on top of an AR-15 and they spend a lot of money on these to put them on an AR-9 and I feel like these are not worth the money on an ar-15, they’re primarily designed to be mounted to a handgun with an RMR cut and I feel like that is their place I would shy away from these micro reflex style sights on AR-15s. They don’t have the field of view, you’re paying extra so it can be mounted to a handgun but you’re not mounting it to a handgun, so I feel like you’re wasting your money if you pick up one of these for an AR-15, that is just my opinion.
Now let’s talk about that intermediate price point category and I’m going to call that intermediate price point category between the mid-range stuff and the top steer stuff of about $350 and pushing the limits to 400 and that’s where you start getting into the top tier Hollow Sun optics as well as some other good manufacturers like Trijicon. The Trijicon’s going to be a little bit more money and have a lower feature set but it’s going to be built like a tank and it’s going to be that trusted quality of Trijicon. Trijicon makes one with a slightly slightly larger front lens and rear lens than the traditional tube style dots which gives you a wider field of view but still protects.
The overall optic like a tube style dot versus the reflex style sight now these are very nice, but again you’re paying for that quality. They have a very long battery life, an easy to use operation protected turrets, they’re pretty slick. The Hollow HS530C does push the limits though even more, they include things like a kill flash, a solar panel, a titanium housing, an incredibly wide field of view, different reticle selections, a buried emitter, you are getting such a quality optic with very good drop and durability ratings a quick detach mount, a waterproof rating, all of this for right around that $350 price point or you can buy some of the military-grade tube style dots with the solar panels for right around $250 and i find they are %100 trustworthy.
I’m going to try to wrap all of this up because I know I’ve given you guys a lot of information. Where I draw the line between range use and actual duty use to trust your life with, starts at writing about the Sig Romeo, the basic Hollow models and things like that with the auto-on feature and the 50,000-hour battery life, that’s kind of my go-to.
I honestly shy away from things like the rotating Anderson the at3 tactical the Bushnell TRS-25 because they don’t have that auto-on feature and you have to crank the knob. It’s a little bit more difficult to engage your target rather quickly for a personal defense situation, but they do make quality optics and some of those other ones I mentioned are a little bit better than these basic budget ones.
If you had the extra money to spend and bump it up to about the $300 range, I would recommend either of these Hollow Suns 510C and HE530C-GR, and I’m really focusing on Hollow Sun because these are two of my favorite Hollow Sun options in this intermediate category. They come with solar panels, really long battery lifes, a wide field of view, quality construction and cutie mounts included in the box, and I’ve never had a Hollow Sun fail on me.
If I had to take it up to a top-tier optic for a truly personal combat style defensive use. Having a Trijicon MRO is a very nice option and honestly I don’t buy much of the Eotechs anymore. I’m not a fan of the battery life but I hope I explained a lot of different options and a wide variety of considerations when it comes to that glass clarity.