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Red Dot Sight Buyer’s Guide [2021]

The world of Red Dot Sights never takes a moment to rest on its laurels, but instead sprints forward in rabid pursuit of something lighter, more affordable, with longer battery life, or capable of withstanding the knuckle-dragging, beat-to-hell-and-back torture tests that make the military's specifications look gentle. While the world as a whole may be undergoing a new evolution in what manufacturing looks like with increasing automation, the ability for these sophisticated, durable, and reliable optics to be produced at such a rate to ubiquitously replace Iron Sights as the new norm for rifles, and for what we see, pistols soon following, should not be lost to history. So much has changed in the last ten years alone to show what to look for in a Red Dot Sight in 2020.

We've been told, whether by statisticians, or pundits, that last year Millions chose to take responsibility for their own lives by purchasing their own firearm. And of those, anyone who has been to the local gun store in the last few months will remember the walls empty of carbines, rifles, and braced pistols, many likely in the hands of new gun owners. At the same time, micro red dots have opened up a whole new world for handguns. Let us be clear, mounting a red dot on top of a pistol has moved past being a trend, and is creeping towards the norm as most handguns are now released with an option for an optic plate. Whether looking to top a new home defense shotgun, or are going for a blue-collar build, here's the best red dot sight list available in 2020.

Considerations and Red Dot Terms

When sorting through the prolific category of Red Dot Sights, the subjects worth considering are less about size and weight, as manufacturers strain to balance between minimum mass and maximum durability. Instead, the design of the housing will drive use, while the size and intensity of the dot itself helps sort between sub-models. Price is tightly married to the end-user's goal and circumstances, and should not be reduced to merely a spending limit. Optics using LED's drain so little that battery life regularly measures in the 10,000's of hours.

Outside these main considerations, various models offer additional features such as solar panels, shake-on systems, and the ability to choose between reticles.

 

aimpoint t-2 micro red dot sight

A longstanding staple, from professional to private use, the Aimpoint Micro series has made a name for itself lasting longer than it's battery, which is saying something.

Aimpoint T-2 Micro / T-1 Micro

A long standing icon of the Red Dot Sight market, at one time this rugged optic went toe-to-toe against the EO Tech despite it's military sex appeal. The T1 shook the market as video after video floated across the internet of the new science of torture testing. After a few shots, we'd watch the small optic removed from the rifle, thrown across the concrete, and then reinstalled, only to hold a consistent zero across multiple tests. The T1 was later replaced by the T2 with a redesign including an even more protective body, and an improvement to the glass, reducing the blue-tint common across led-reflecting sights.

While the cost of the Aimpoint T-2 Micro rides higher than similarly designed red dots, they bring with them not only the reputation of being the trend-setter, but also considerable aftermarket support. Featuring night vision settings and a 5-year battery life, the Micro Series by Aimpoint isn't going away any time soon.

Aimpoint T-2 Micro Features

Weight: 4.6 Ounces
Length: 3.1 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Battery Type: 2032
URL: aimpoint.com
MSRP: $910 with AR height mount

A key player in night-vision capable red dot sights, as rising the height of the optic has become more popular, companies like Scalarworks and Unity Tactical provide a series of options to futher extend the utility of this enduring piece of equipment.


sparc solar

Vortex Sparc Solar

New for 2021, the Vortex Sparc Solar has brought together many of the most desired features in red dot sights, and added to an already impressive battery life by partially powering the optic by the sun. While some debate about the validity of green energy in the commons, the addition of a small solar panel to boost the battery live north of 50,000 hours, it reinforces one of the already strong points about the category.

The 2 MOA dot projects crisply in the improved housing, which has been redesigned to considerably reduce how much the optic obscured the shooter's sight lines. This is especially noticeable with the emitter no longer taking up a slice of what's visible through the tube.

Shipping with two of it's own mounts, one short base, and one for the ubiquitous lower 1/3 co-witness, the perk of the Vortex Sparc Solar is more than it's balance of price and performance. Rather, paired with Vortex's Warranty, and with the tune-ups derived from years of use, it belongs on any Red Dot Sight Buyer's Guide.

Vortex Sparc Solar Features

Weight: 5.9 Ounces
Length: 2.6 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Battery Type: 2032
URL: vortexoptics.com
MSRP: $399


holosun 503 red dot sight

While similar in design to the Aimpoint T-2 Micro, Holosun brings its own features to the table.

Holosun 403/503/515/530

The Holosun lineup continues to impress with a variety of options, and confuse with difficult-to-remember naming conventions. Early to adopt the implementation of a small solar panel into some of their designs, a Holosun can still run batteries down, but sells itself on sporting multiple reticle options that can be selected by the user. Options in dot color or to have an EOtech-like ring, Holosun has effectively found their way onto more than one professional rifle.

Holosun HS503CU Features

Weight: 3 Ounces
Length: 2.6 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Ring Size: 65 MOA
Battery Type: 2032
URL: holosun.com
MSRP: $302


aimpoint PRO

With years of service behind it, the PRO, or Patrol Rifle Optic, takes newcomers to task with high performance at low cost.

Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (PRO)

Following after the militaristically successful Comp M3, the Aimpoint PRO continues a legacy of successful and enduring red dot sights. Taking after its predecessors with a large aperture, and gaining features like a smaller, brighter dot, this latest evolution of a classic is worthy of respect amongst competitors, for even though its family of optics has been topping military rifles for well over a decade.

With 4 Night Vision intensity settings, and 6 daytime brightness levels, the 30,000 hours of battery life doesn't keep up with smaller optics, but vastly outperforms holographic sights. This is in part due to its use of a different battery, as the DL1/3N, which can still be found with relative ease.

Aimpoint PRO Features

Weight: 7.8 Ounces (Optic Only), 11.6 Ounces (With OEM Mount)
Length: 5.2 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Battery Type: DL1/3N
URL: aimpoint.com
MSRP: $445

 


trijicon MRO

Not a brother to the Aimpoint T-2, but a cousin, the MRO stays more fashionable than the weird uncle, but more useful than your hipsters in July.

Trijicon MRO

Breaking the pattern of straight-tube optics, the Trijicon MRO is a red dot sight that bears a larger front aperture that turns the body of the optic into a funnel facing outward to minimize the tunnel-vision feeling of many alternatives. Ruggedized just like we expect from Trijicon, the MRO entered into the tight market and has since retained a place complete with various mounting options. Bearing similar size and weight to that of an Aimpoint T-2 Micro, but with a larger field of view and a variety of reticles and dot colors, the MRO sacrifices some durability while retaining the excellent glass quality typical to MRO.

Trijicon MRO Features

Weight: 4.1 Ounces (Without Mount), 5.9 Ounces (with 1/3 CoWitness Mount)
Length: 2.6 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Battery Type: 2032
URL: trijicon.com
MSRP: $639


trijicon rmr adjustable

Crowning the RMR lineup, the adjustable LED option still comes with a 1, 3, or 6.5 MOA dot, depending on which is purchased. Where RMR's mounted in tandem with a magnified optic might prefer a smaller dot, 3 MOA balances speed and accuracy for a pistol.

Trijicon RMR

The reigning champion for many years of micro red-dot sights, the RMR, or Ruggedized Micro Reflex Sight by Trijicon has been supported by such a thorough aftermarket variety that it can be found topping shotguns, rifles, and pistols, as both a primary and secondary option. Of the challenges that face micro optics, balancing size versus durability leads the way, and the RMR has long been venerated as the cream of the category. Even as challengers have recently risen, Trijicon continues to diversify how the RMR is deployed, securing a USSOCOM contract and supporting civilian and military markets through multiple options for illumination and reticle size. While for most shooters, the adjustable LED models tend to fit the most roles best, but the dual-illuminated choice should not be looked over, so long as you know what you are getting into.

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Features

Weight: 1.2 Ounces
Length: 1.8 Inches
Dot Size: 1, 3.25, or 6.5 MOA options, exclusive to specific models
Battery Type: 2032
URL: trijicon.com
MSRP: $699


trijicon SRO

The while it isn't as rugged as the RMR, the SRO will take a beating.

Trijicon SRO

Taking cues from the competition market, and willing to sacrifice some durability for a wider aperture, the Trijicon SRO features many similarities to the RMR, including the same footprint. While utilizing the same mounting pattern, the SRO fits into many of the roles its predecessor paved the way for, but brings with it the ability for the user to change the battery without removing the optic. After spending some time with the SRO, it can be tough to go back to the smaller, more protected RMR, but they both have their place.

Trijicon SRO Features

Weight: 1.6 Ounces
Length: 1.8 Inches
Dot Size: 1, 2.5, or 5 MOA options, exclusive to specific models
Battery Type: 2032
URL: trijicon.com
MSRP: $750


The Holosun 507C RMR-style red-dot sight.

With a matching footprint to that of the RMR, one doesn't need to worry about compatibility, as most optics-ready pistols cater the industry giant.

Holosun 407, 507, and 508 series

Much like their more rifle-designated counterparts, Holosun lacks nothing in variety, ranging from titanium frames to having the ability to switch between reticle options, to integrated solar panel for extended battery life. While most conversations regarding Holosun center around their sudden, yet effectual breach into the market, the language is changing as they are beginning to reign as the budget optics champion, which has its place in any collection. No longer for airsoft, if you're shopping for Holosun Optics, buy new. Here's the Full Review.

Holosun 507C Features

Length: 1.8 Inches
Weight: 2.65 Ounces
Dot Size: 2 MOA Dot, 65 MOA Ring
Battery: 2032
URL: holosun.com
MSRP: $365


What's Not Listed

At this time, both Holographic sights like the Vortex AMG UH-1 Gen II, or EOTech EXPS, and zero-magnification prism optics  await further introductions as each bring a little something different to the table. On the outset, they may look similar, but it's the guts that make the difference. Look forward for more.

Closing Off Red Dot Sights

From military rifles to hunting coyotes to competition pistols, the optics world has been dominated by the Red Dot Sight. Which is why we've put together this list of what to look for in 2020. While these options have been on the market ranging from a few years to about a decade, they each serve a purpose and do it well enough to reach our recommendation. In the end, practice makes the purchase worth it, so stay sharp with practice as we look forward to what comes next.

[Editor's Note: Updated June 2nd, 2021.]



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