What to Consider When Choosing the Best Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights arent new technology. Theyre been around for decades and have a long history of providing reliable service in military, law enforcement, hunting, and self-defense applications.
- Size/Weight: The size and weight of any red dot sight can be an important factor when choosing one that will fit comfortably on your firearm. Some models may fold up into a smaller package but still add significant heft to the gun. Others may not look bulky but could easily fall out of your pocket or get hung up on other gear while youre trying to work.
- Battery Life: Battery life is usually measured by how many rounds it takes to fully charge the battery. Most batteries last between 30 and 50 shots before needing a recharge. However, some manufacturers include extra batteries with their products so you always have a spare charged up and ready to go.
- Eye Relief: This refers to the distance from the front of the lens to the eye itself. It helps determine if the sight is too big (more than 15 millimeters) or too small (less than 5 millimeters). If its too close, glare can interfere with clear vision, potentially causing discomfort or even damage to the eyes.
There are several types of red dot sights available, each suited to different situations and purposes.
- Aiming dots: These are simple circular aiming points that dont require batteries. Aiming at them works like looking through the scope of a rifle. Its useful for quickly establishing a target range without having to set up a tripod or mount.
- Scope only: A scope-only sight has both the reticle and crosshair features of a red dot sight, but they’re attached to the actual scope instead of a mounting base.
- Mounted: Mounted sights consist of two parts: the main body and the rear bracket that secures to the firearms barrel. Theyre very common on handguns because they’re easy to install and remove, though they do increase the overall length of the weapon.
- Tripod: Tripods provide stability for mounting cameras and binoculars. Because they attach directly to the guns barrel, they’re also called thread-on sights.
- Magnetic: Magnetic sights consist of either a disc or a tube mounted magnetically to the side of the barrel. Theyre often used on long guns such as rifles and shotguns since they’re much easier to use than mounted versions.
The material of which most red dot sights are made affects durability, comfort, and price. There are three basic materials used for making these devices: plastic, steel, and glass.
- Plastic: Plastic is lightweight, affordable, and durable. Many inexpensive red dot sights consist entirely of plastic. While this type of sight is less likely to break, it tends to show more dust and fingerprints, and plastic does eventually crack.
- Steel: Steel is heavy duty and incredibly strong. But, it costs more and requires regular maintenance to prevent rust. Also, steel doesnt dent or scratch easily, so cleaning is recommended after every use.
- Glass: Glass is the heaviest option and generally considered the best choice for high magnification and night vision. However, it breaks relatively easily and must be cleaned regularly.
A comfortable pair of shooting glasses can help improve accuracy and concentration. For those who wear prescription glasses, there are plenty of options that allow shooters to keep their shades on during a session.
For those who dont need prescription lenses, there are non-prescription options that offer good protection from debris and harmful UV rays. Additionally, sports goggles come in all shapes and sizes, offering full coverage and preventing fogging.
Some people prefer not to wear anything over their nose and mouth when they shoot; however, others find earmuffs offer better hearing protection. Still, others might consider a face shield or a gas mask if they’re concerned about being harmed by errant bullets.
Accuracy & Concentration
One aspect of red dot sighting that has received little attention until recently is the importance of proper focus. Properly focused optics produce significantly more accurate results than off-focus ones. In fact, research shows that focusing improves aim time by almost half a second. That means if you miss the first time you take aim, you’ll hit the target sooner rather than later.
Focus is typically adjusted using diopters, ranging from -5 to +5. Diopter adjustment consists of placing lenses in front of the user with plus and minus markings. By aligning the markings with the intended targets center, the user can adjust the focus.
Most red dot sights feature adjustable brightness, allowing users to choose between a bright, glaring light that draws unwanted attention away from the sport or a dimmer lighting mode that allows the user to see detail in low-light conditions.
Many of the best red dot sights incorporate additional safety and convenience features.
- Safety: All red dot sights should have a mechanism to shut off the lights if the slide or bolt handle gets caught in the down position. With older designs, this was commonly achieved by twisting the knob back and forth to release the catch. More modern models have a button thats pushed to activate the lights.
- Magnification: Not all red dot sights offer magnification, but those that do tend to be higher quality. Higher magnifications make it easier to see the tiny aiming point and reduce eye strain.
- Adjustability: Adjustable brightness and contrast levels enhance visibility in varying lighting conditions.
- Interchangeable batteries: Batteries are interchangeable among multiple brands of firearms. This makes it possible to use the same batteries in a variety of compact flashlights, camera flashes, and even drone batteries.
- Night vision compatibility: Some red dot sights are compatible with night vision equipment, increasing the usefulness of the device beyond just daytime viewing.