Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot

Long-range shooting is a popular choice for hunters. When choosing a sight for your AR-15, you have two main options; reflex sight vs. red dot.

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Reflex sights and red dots are two of the most popular types of gun sight on the market. While both sights are used for quick target acquisition, so it can be hard to figure out which one you need for your specific needs.

If you are in the market for a new sight for your rifle, then there is no doubt that reflex sight vs. red dot has crossed your mind. To make this decision more accessible, we have gathered some information about reflex sight vs. red dot.

Reflex Sight Vs. Red Dot

Reflex sights and red dots are two very different things that seem to have some similarities at first look. Both devices create an aiming point in the form of an illuminated reticle pattern in front of the shooter’s eyes; both are battery-powered, often used on small arms like rifles or pistols. 

The key distinguishing feature is where they place that illuminated aiming point image: reflex placement is positioned below the optical axis (alongside iron sights), while red dots sit above it (like scopes).

Key Differences (Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot)

Here are some differences in features of a reflex sight and red dot.


reflex sight

The reflex sight has a glass lens that is usually found in upper-end sights. They are more expensive, have higher quality lenses, and have drawbacks, including glare and fogging when you are out in the rain or snow.

Red dots will not do this because they project an image through a tube onto an illuminated screen. The display of the red dot is projected onto your target and doesn’t produce any glare. It’s pretty simple to use, and almost anyone can get used to it very quickly.

Red Dot


Red dots are considered to be a better choice of optics for shooting at longer ranges. Reflex sights do not magnify the target as red dots do and have a thicker reticle, making it hard to see your target if you’re looking through a scope at anything past 100 yards or so.

If you are going hunting with a range of 200 yards or more, then a reflex sight probably isn’t the best choice for an optic. Also, since reflex sights don’t magnify anything, trying to shoot something that’s moving very fast might be difficult, but on the other hand, red dots only cost about as much or even less than some of the low-end reflex sights.

Field of view

Red dots might not be as good for long-range targets because of their limited field of view. Most red dot sights are made with a circular field of view that lets you see around 35 degrees at 100 yards in front of your gun. If you think about it, this means you most likely won’t be able to see anything past the infinity mark on the scope if you were looking from eye level.

While reflex sights have more extensive fields of vision and more magnification, they will also have less battery life than a red dot sight and are a lot more pricey. I prefer using a compact laser or tactical light for my rifle over both types of scopes because I can hold my hand steady better without using a slight scope to aim with.


The aiming technique used when using a reflex sight, and red dots share some similarities but also have their differences:

When you aim at short distances (up to 50 meters), both sights employ a similar method that uses rapid eye movement to track moving targets. In this case, reflex and red dot sight use a more or less similar aiming technique which involves the track-and-hold method. This method enables the shooter to acquire the moving target while maintaining his aim simultaneously quickly.

Advantages And Disadvantages

– Reflex sight: very clear scope. Accurate even at night. Great for looking around bushes while keeping your gun in the same place. More zoom than a red dot

– Red dot sight: Great for long-distance shooting at targets. It Doesn’t clutter up your view as much, like with a reflex sight. Better for moving target practice

– Reflex sight: More expensive but can be used on multiple guns. The battery lasts for a long time. It sometimes includes a built-in laser (it’s not very precise, though).

– Red dot sight: Cheap and easy to find replacements if it breaks from regular use. Requires brightness adjustments when going outside or inside, depending on what type you get. Best for short-range shooting because it creates a blurry dot which is harder to see at farther distances.

– Reflex sight: Can zoom in a lot more than red dot sights. 1x and 4x are the most common, it seems.

– Red dot sight: You have to turn off your brightness settings, or else you’ll keep going blind when looking at it for long periods because of the light reflection from turning up the brightness too much. It is also hard to see outside unless you adjust your brightness down, but that can be annoying when using it at night.

– Reflex sight: More helpful in looking around objects because you can see through a tube with a lens to focus your view.

– Red dot sight: Better if you want to use it on multiple guns because they’re cheaper and easier to find (but you have to buy extra mounts). easier to install. Less bulky than large scopes. There is no need for batteries, but it also doesn’t have a built-in laser-like some reflex sights do.

– Reflex sight: Can be used at night by turning up the brightness and seeing everything more clearly.

– Red dot sight: Doesn’t need to be adjusted for bright light or dark light situations. The same is accurate with long-range shooting because you don’t have any extra lens tubes that blur your view. also more manageable when moving targets because there’s no tube in front of you for them to shoot through, only a tiny circular reticle.

– Reflex sight: Not helpful in moving targets unless it has a laser built in. Many military uses use red dot sights because there’s no tube to look through, leaving your field of view open at all times.

– Red dot sight: Great for moving targets because they don’t require a lot of aiming; just shoot at the reticle while trying to keep it lined up with your target. Best when in close range or practicing because you don’t have to worry about the tube blocking your view like with a reflex sight, and there’s no chance that you’ll yaw your barrel away from the target thanks to a scope being attached in front of your gun.

Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot Installation

Installing a reflex sight and mounting a red dot go through some similarities, but there are also some differences to consider:

Reflex sights are permanently installed by using an angled mount placed to the side of the firearm’s bore axis, while you can install a red dot sight generally above or below the bore axis (clamp-on type).

Reflex sights are generally installed close to iron sights like on most AK family rifles. However, there are several situations where mounting distance is critical for proper sight usage: an example might be installed on an AR rifle with a rail system or a dissipator shotgun.

How Does A Red Dot Works

A red dot sight is a non-traditional sighting device that superimposes a tiny (about 1-2 millimeters) red aiming spot or dot onto the target. It may be projected onto the lens by using a laser beam. An illuminated LED, a lens could generate the aiming dot or an objective mirror arranged in front of the LED assembly.

Using light reflection, aiming is achieved by aligning the dot on the target and then keeping it there until the shot breaks. A red dot sight generates a collimated (parallel) image of an illuminated point source as seen from infinity, analogous to that produced with a laser pointer. Red dot sights are therefore described as collimated optics.

Reflex sight vs red dot

One of the primary benefits common to all red dot sights is enhanced target acquisition, allowing faster and more accurate shot placement than open or iron sights (iron sights have a very narrow view, partly blocked by the front blade).

In addition, since the eye sees best at arm’s length (i.e., at a distance most commonly used to aim a weapon), many sights are designed with a focal plane or “eye relief” set at this range, which allows sighting without straining the eye. Red dot sights may have an illuminated reticle to be seen more easily in low-light conditions.

Some early red dots use simple filaments as the light source. This shortcoming is a fraction of a second worth of time to align the sight, though its effectiveness depends on the target range.

However, because such dot sights are non-magnifying, you can use them with both eyes open; that is, both have their vision unimpeded and can effectively scan for other threats. It allows the operator to move quickly and easily between close-quarters targets and long-distance targets without changing the aiming point or focusing their eyes.

How Does A Reflex Sight Works

The camera lens is behind a mirrored glass. When you look downrange, the image of your target reflects off to the side, into the lens. The mirror in front of it flips the image to view it right side up through a tube. You can’t see anything between your eye and the target with this type of sight, but all you have to do is line up center mass on your target and squeeze the trigger. It’s easier to hold a rifle on target than it is with any other kind of sight.

reflex sight vs red dot

The image is bright and clear. It doesn’t have the ghosting or black shadows you sometimes get with iron sights, especially when you’re in bright sunlight or a dark cloud. The reflex sight has no cross-hairs like a traditional scope, but you can still use them if that would be helpful. You just have to remember they’re a little high and left of center.

The reticle color changes depending on how much light is available, so you’ll always see an illuminated inside edge around your aiming dot. That way, even in shallow light conditions.

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  • Reticle allows for 4 different styles. Dot, Circle/Dot, Crosshair/Dot, Crosshair/Circle/Dot combinations. All in one sight!
  • A 33mm lens provides quick target acquisition. Wide field of view to maintain situational awareness.

Which Type Is Better For You, Or Which One Should You Buy First?

I believe that every rifle or carbine should come with a reflex sight. You could easily change the battery of a reflex sight. But, if you are using a red dot, you can try something else to change the battery because it is not easy to do so. As one guy commented, if you want to change the battery on your red dot, there is a trick to overcome this problem.

However, let’s stop talking about how bad it might be and how good reflex sight is because we all know that reflex sight has both advantages and disadvantages compared to a red dot. It would be better at close range than red dot but not as good as looking through iron sights at long-range shooting, requiring more time investment for practice.

 If you look for accuracy at long-range shooting, the better choice is to buy a good rifle scope. But if you do not like looking through the iron sights and want something easy to install on almost any rail, then reflex sight would be an intelligent choice.

As a beginner, a red dot will give you an advantage because it is straightforward to use. You do not need complicated instruction or training to learn how to use it. The same thing goes for reflex sight, and if you are looking for a fast shooting with your rifle, then reflex sight is the way to go.

Building up muscle memory takes time, but there won’t be any problem once you get it. It would be more comfortable for you to switch between targets at long range. There would be minor deviation of your shots, and if you are shooting a moving target, then reflex sight would allow faster adjustment of the mark as it moves.

Suppose you think that better accuracy in long-range is more critical than going with the rifle scope. If fast aiming is what you are looking for, it is a reflex sight that will serve you best.

If there is one thing that many people do not seem to get, you can use either of them for any purpose, but they have different advantages and disadvantages.  But, if you are looking to get used to iron sights and want to save some money, then choose the reflex sight.


The red dot sight has a laser that projects an illuminated dot onto a reflective surface on the target, while the reflex sight uses reflected light to form an image on a piece of glass in front of your eye. However, it depends on your needs.  To determine which one would be best for you, I recommend reading the above blog post and then deciding which one suits your needs.

Holographic sights are more expensive, but they offer a wider field of view and unlimited eye relief with no parallax. Reflex sights have a narrower field of view but can be used with both eyes open and have a very short learning curve. The choice for which sight to use will ultimately depend on the individual client’s needs and preferences to ensure they are getting the best product possible.

Reflex sights are a popular accessory for firearms. They have two lenses that allow the shooter to see more clearly and quickly than with iron sights while at the same time reducing glare. 

 Reflex sights are more challenging to manufacture than a regular sight because they contain many parts that must be assembled and aligned perfectly for the sight to work correctly. It is one of the reasons that there is such a wide range in price for them, but other factors include quality of materials used and person-hours put into assembling it. 


I hope this blog place has helped you understand the clear difference between a reflex sight and a red dot. 

If accuracy, precision, and speed are essential, then a reflex sight will serve these purposes well. The red dot would be preferred for fast target acquisition as there’s less time wasted in transitioning from target to reticle or vice versa.

And if cost matters more than anything else, go with the red dot! You can find some great deals out there while still getting quality optics that won’t break the bank. Whether you prefer a reflex sight or not, both sights have their pros and cons, so take your pick based on what benefits suit your need. 

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

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