Written By
Updated May 25, 2022 11:25 PM

A red dot sight will help you shoot better with any kind of firearm. That’s because the optic reduces skills like sight alignment and sight picture down to simply aiming a dot — usually red, sometimes green, and occasionally gold — at a target. Unlike a magnifying scope, red dots are reflex sights meant for quickly engaging targets out to 100 yards (or more with magnifiers). 

For many, it isn’t a question of do you want a red dot sight, but rather why the hell wouldn’t you want one? Today, we’ll look at the best red dot sights available and help you find the perfect option for whatever task and purpose suits you.

Best Overall

Aimpoint created the first modern red dot in 1975, and since then, they have been a dominant force in the market. The CompM5s is the latest in their lineup of full-sized, duty-ready red dots. It was introduced in 2019 as a new edition to their professional-grade red dots dubbed the Aimpoint Comp series.

The Aimpoint CompM5s shares many of the same features and specifications as the original CompM5 model, but it has a low battery compartment, so it’s less obtrusive to your view and physically smaller.

The CompM5s mounts low, right below the objective lens, and there are numerous options of mounting hardware, which fit a variety of weapon and rail systems. It’s equipped with 10 brightness settings, four for night and six for daylight use. The 50,000-hour battery life is powered by a single AAA battery. Plus, the 2 MOA dot is ultra-crisp and clear. It’s a perfect little circle.

Aimpoint maximizes durability by utilizing aircraft-grade aluminum and a single tube design, so the CompM5s can take a beating and keep working. You can throw it, drop it, drown it even, and it will still keep glowing. Additionally, the CompM5s comes with a transparent rear lens cover that allows for rapid use while still protecting the lens.

The CompM5s can function with night vision, magnifiers, and more. It’s perfect for professional use and a star for home defense and range use. The CompM5s doesn’t do anything crazy, but it excels in the basics of being a rugged, professional-grade optic.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 5.8 ounces
  • Length: 3.3 inches
  • Reticle: 2 MOA red dot
  • Battery life: 50,000 hours
PROS

Crisp 2 MOA Dot

Lightweight design

Compatible with NVGs and magnifiers

Extremely rugged

CONS

Expensive

No fancy features

Most red dots offer about 50,000 hours of battery life, but the Vortex Sparc Solar offers 150,000 hours on a single battery. Perhaps even more notable is the Sparc Solar manages to squeeze out three-times the average while on a medium setting (as opposed to low).

Vortex accomplishes this by powering the device almost entirely off of solar. According to the company, solar power is the default. It kicks in whenever the panel is exposed to sunlight or even ambient light. The energy generated by the panel powers the optic in real time, so the battery is only engaged in the absence of solar energy.

But the Vortex Sparc Solar offers more than just great battery life. The 2 MOA dot appears clear at all but the highest brightness setting. Clarity through the lenses is rock-solid, with a slight blue tint. It’s also night vision compatible. The shockproof, waterproof, and fogproof design ensures it can take a beating and keep functioning. On the range, it’s easy to transition targets, get on target, and lead on target rapidly without complaint or issue. The device is equipped with a set of big, tactile side buttons, which makes it easy for rapid adjustments.

Measuring in at 2.6 inches in length and weighing 5.9 ounces, the Sparc Solar is compact and requires very little rail space for mounting. The Sparc Solar’s use of the Aimpoint Micro footprint opens it up to a wide range of mounts. This includes mounting to extremely low shotgun mounts, backup mounts for magnified optics, and many more. Plus, it’s compatible with a range of aftermarket mounts of various sizes and firearm types.

Although the Sparc Solar has a high MSRP, the street price is often well below $300, so we’re naming it the best value red dot optic.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 5.9 ounces
  • Length: 2.6 inches
  • Reticle: 2 MOA
  • Battery life: 150,000 hours
PROS

Insane battery life

Auto switches from solar to battery

Aimpoint Micro Mount compatible

Night vision compatible

CONS

Broad 1 MOA adjustments

Somewhat crowded view

Editor’s Pick

The Meprolight Foresight is one of the most highly advanced commercial optics available. It might be the proof of concept that drives red dot optics into the next century. It’s heads-up display gives you access to a digital compass, sight leveler, and shot counter in addition to five different reticles.

The Foresight connects to Android and iOS operating systems via Bluetooth, so you can use your smartphone to make adjustments. You can simply change the brightness or reticle settings, or auto-zero the optic and store up to 10 different weapon profiles. You can load the profiles with a variety of data like gun model, zero, load, and more. For example, one profile could be a shotgun zeroed for buckshot, the second profile is that same shotgun zeroed for slugs, and the third might be a suppressed AR zeroed for .300 Blackout subsonic loads.

The other electronic features come in handy as well. Reticle-wise, you get tons of choices. While you can use up to five reticles, you can actually mix and match from 20 different combinations. Your options include a 2 MOA dot, crosshair, square, or circle. And, the compass in the top left corner provides an accurate degree scale for the direction you are looking.

The only downside to the Foresight is that it isn’t the most compact or lightweight design. It measures in at 4.6 inches in length and weighs some 9.9 ounces, so it’s a full-size red dot. It’s also powered by a rechargeable battery, which oftentimes is a plus, but if it runs out of juice, you have to wait for it to recharge.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Length: 4.6 inches long
  • Reticle: 20 total choices
  • Battery life: 50 hours with brightest setting and maxed out HUD feature
PROS

Highly customizable

True heads-up display

Can save 10 different zeroes

Wide field of view

CONS

Rechargeable battery only

Tough to use without an external device

Expensive

Best Red Dot Sight for Handguns

The Trijicon RMR Type 2 is the current champion of red dot handgun sights. It’s small, rugged, reliable, and the choice of most armed professionals, including SOCOM. RMR sights, or Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sights, are specifically tuned for handguns and the recoil of a reciprocating slide.

The Trijicon RMR Type 2 is equipped with three dot sizes that include 1 MOA, 3.25 MOA, and 6.5 MOA. While most red dots are equipped with a 2 MOA dot, many seasoned pistol shooters, like myself, prefer a larger reticle. They’re easier to see when you’re shooting at close range, especially at a moving target. Looking through the lens, you’ll see a bright and very crisp dot that doesn’t obscure the target.

The Trijicon RMR weighs a mere 1.2 ounces, which matters because you don’t want a heavy handgun. And, although it doesn’t weigh much, it’s no lightweight. The Trijicon red dot is as rugged and reliable as it gets. It’s constructed from forged aluminum and waterproof for depths up to 20 meters. There’s a reason why it’s the choice for armed professionals.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.2 ounces
  • Length: 1.8 inches
  • Reticle: Varies
  • Battery life: 4 years
PROS

Extremely durable

Long battery life

Various reticle sizes

CONS

Bottom-mounted battery

Expensive

Best Budget Red Dot Sight

If someone asked me to name the best budget red dot sight, I would say the SIG ROMEO5. The no-frills optic checks all the boxes of a competent red dot. It’s a simple, compact, and rock solid design.

The ROMEO5 has intuitive controls like tactile adjustment buttons for toggling between the 10 illumination settings, and elevation and windage knobs. Internally, you’ll see an LED dot instead of a holographic dot, so you won’t have to worry about the dot moving when you change shooting positions.

The red dot design will mount to any Picatinny rail and SIG says it’ll fit on most types of guns, including AR platforms, shotguns, and even full-size handguns. It comes with a high and low mount as well. You’d use the latter if you planned to co-witness your sights.

Additionally, the ROMEO5 features the MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) shake awake illumination to preserve battery life. As the name implies, the device powers up when it senses motion and powers down when it does not. The ROMEO5 is also IPX7-waterproof rated so it can be submerged up to a meter for half an hour. And, SIG even backs up the ROMEO5 with a generous warranty. Not bad for a budget optic.

Product Specs
  • Length: 2.46 inches
  • Weight: 5.1 ounces
  • Reticle: 2 MOA dot
  • Battery life: 40,000 hours
PROS

Affordable

Tactile adjustment buttons

Multiple mounts

MOTAC Shake Awake Tech

CONS

Large 1 MOA adjustments

Heavy blue tint

Best Red Dot Sight for Shotguns

Although the Holosun 507C was originally designed for pistols, it’s become a pretty darn popular shotgun red dot sight. That’s because the miniature design mounts low, has a range of reticle options, and can hold a zero through load after load, from birdshot to buckshot, without a flicker or flutter.

Constructed from 7075 T6 aluminum with an anodized finish, the 507C is lightweight but built like a tank. The rugged optic has an IP67 rating, so it can be completely submerged in water for half an hour and still work. And last but certainly not least, it’s been tested to withstand vibration levels of 5,000g, or units of gravitational constant, meaning it’ll work after being shaken really freaking hard.

The 507C packs a multi-reticle system that includes a circle dot, 2 MOA dot, and a 32 MOA circle. That last one, the 32 MOA circle, is perfect for shotgun shells because it gives you an idea for a point of impact and the pattern area. When you fix the red dot in the circle onto a target, you’ll have a frame of reference of how far the pellets will spread. As long as you’re within shotgun range, they’ll stay within the circle, too.

Additionally, the Holosun 507C packs a number of other desirable features like solar and battery (CR1632) power options; 12 brightness settings (10 day and two night); shake awake technology, so it powers up when it senses motion and powers down when it doesn’t; a lock mode, so you don’t inadvertently lose your settings; and a variety of mounting options.

Product Specs
  • Length: 1.78 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 ounces
  • Reticle: Multiple
  • Battery life: 50,000 hours
PROS

Solar panel

Multiple reticles

Affordable price point

Side-mounted battery

CONS

Small controls

Best Mini Red Dot Sight

Mini guns need mini red dot sights, right? Even the smallest of handguns can benefit from a red dot, and the market has responded as such. The Holosun 507K brings you a red dot sight small enough for the most popular concealed carry pistols like the Sig P365, the Walther PPS M2, the Glock 48 and 43X MOS, and so many more.

The 507K took the 507C and shrunk it. You get the same durability, aluminum construction, and recoil-proof design, with a side-loading battery on top of that. You get three reticle choices, and the only thing you lose going this small is the solar panel backup. The clarity is top-notch, with crisp and clear reticles for easy use.

The 507K comes with two adjustment buttons, and most competitors only come with a single button to cycle through the various brightness settings. On top of that, the 507K uses the Shield footprint, which is the industry-dominating footprint for optics this small. In my experience, it’s the most feature-filled, most ergonomic, and most reliable of the ultra mini red dots.

The micro-sized design of the Holosun 507K means you have a tiny window, but with a two-eyed, open design, the window size doesn’t matter. The 507K’s multiple reticles allow you to choose a small 2 MOA option, a 32 MOA circle, or a combination of the two. The big reticles work exceptionally well for concealed carry ranges.

The optic adds a single ounce to your gun and helps keep your compact pistol compact. The Holosun 507K also adds an integral rear pistol sight that makes it possible to cowitness without a problem. The little optic is made from 7075 aluminum and ready to take the beating that concealed carry offers it. The optic can be fully submerged for half an hour without issue.

When it comes to concealed carry, you want a tough and reliable optic that will function flawlessly after hundreds and hundreds of rounds. Most mini red dot sights can’t keep up with the 507K. Most are fragile, yet the 507K works wonderfully for concealed carry and gives all the red dot advantages without the red dot size.

Product Specs
  • Length: 1.6 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Reticle: Multiple
  • Battery life: 50,000 hours
PROS

Robust

Three reticles

Two button controls

Side-loading battery

CONS

Heavy blue tint

Best Red Dot Sight for AR-15s

I blame the SAS for this suggestion. A few years ago in Nairobi, a lone SAS commando stormed a mall and took down terrorists with an M4 equipped with a ROMEO4T red dot. This led me to grab one and quickly figure out it might be the perfect optic for the average AR-15 user. It’s a duty-grade, compact red dot optic that is packed with features that propel it well beyond its humble price point.

First, you get four reticle options, and for AR-15 users, the ballistic circle red dot works best. It offers four dots, one as the main aiming point and three representing ballistic drop. This allows users to figure out their holdovers with their 5.56 rifle and instantly compensate for ballistic drop. When paired with a magnifier, you have a very potent and capable optic for carbine ranges.

Additionally, you get a solar panel for backup power, and you get 100,000 hours of battery life when you combine the two. The ROMEO4T is IPX8-rated, meaning it can be submerged deeper than a meter and be fine with it. The ROMEO4T is built to Mil-Spec 810G testing for submersion to 20 meters. If your AR-15 is semi-aquatic, then the ROMEO4T is made for it.

The ROMEO4T is most certainly a professional-grade optic that doesn’t come in at a professional-grade price. The ROMEO4T provides a compact red dot for shooters looking not to go too big or too small. It’s that Goldilocks porridge situation. The 20mm objective lens pairs well with a magnifier, as does the reticle.

Size-wise, the optic is 3.33 inches long, 1.92 inches wide, and 2.66 inches tall overall. The optic weighs 7.6 ounces, which is somewhat heavy for the optic’s overall size. The IPX8 rating helps keep the optic tough and durable, and it’s easy to see why the SAS would choose it.

Also, let’s not forget the 12 brightness settings, with 10 dedicated to daylight shooting and two for night vision use. The adjustments are fantastic, and the two big buttons are plenty tactile and responsive.

Look, that SAS operator was pretty cool, but the ROMEO4T is an excellent optic all by itself. Even without SAS-Bro’s approval, the optic is excellent for AR-15 owners. The reticle is fantastic, the included mount is perfect for an AR-15, and it’s just rock-solid for AR-15s. Plus, the price isn’t bad for such a well-made optic.

Product Specs
  • Length: 3.33 inches
  • Weight: 7.6 ounces
  • Reticle: 4 options
  • Battery life: 100,000 hours
PROS

Awesome reticle

Solar power backup

Long battery life

Tough as hell

CONS

Somewhat heavy

Best Red Dot Sight Under $100

If you had asked me a year ago to suggest a red dot for under a hundred bucks, I would’ve chuckled. No such thing, in my opinion and then I found the SIG MSR. Overall, it’s a no-frills design with simple controls and it’s rugged in just about every way. I dropped it, tossed it, drowned it, blasted it with heat, froze it, and then shot it. No matter what I did to it, it still worked.

The SIG MSR brings simplicity home. It’s nothing more than a well-made red dot that lacks any and all fancy features. You get a wheel to adjust the brightness level, a bare-bones mounting system, and a simple 2 MOA red dot. I’d have no problems using the SIG MSR for hunting or home defense by any means. The little dot is easy to see, even if it isn’t the most precise. It’s slightly starburst, but perfectly usable.

The SIG MSR is an AR-height optic with a simplistic mounting system. The objective lens is a very compact 20mm, and the optic itself is 3.1 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and 2.6 inches tall. At 4.9 ounces, it’s fairly light. The optic itself is a little long and looks a bit awkward, but looks don’t matter much when it comes to quality.

Surprisingly, the optic comes with 12 settings, and two of them are even night vision compatible. If you have night vision and are using this optic, well, I’m not sure where your budget lies. Anywho, it’s an option, and options are always good.

The SIG MSR packs 20K hours of battery life off a single CR2032, and that’s not a terrible rating for a cheapo optic. Is it perfect? No, but it’s as close to perfect as an optic that costs less than $100 can get. It’s a perfectly usable red dot that can take a serious beating, and the optic has no reason to be as nice as it is — yet here we are.

Product Specs
  • Length: 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 4.9 ounces
  • Reticle: 2 MOA red dot
  • Battery life: 20,000 hours
PROS

Super cheap

Oddly robust

Out-of-the-box ready

CONS

Reticle is not crisp

Adjustment wheel is super stiff

Best Red Dot Sight Under $200

Primary Arms revolutionized the budget optics market, and they rose so fast and so high in prominence that companies like Trijicon have adopted their always-awesome reticles. The Primary Arms SLX Microdot brings you a premium grade red dot at a very low and pocket-friendly price.

The street price is right around $190, but you get a much higher value red dot. The reticle is one of Primary Arms’ awesome ACSS reticles, specifically the ACSS-CQB. As such, the ACSS-CQB allows you to take rapid-fire shots without issue and slow down and elevate and estimate for ballistic drop.

It’s a great reticle that is absurdly easy to use and perfect for a variety of weapons. From shotgun slugs to 5.56, you’re covered. The SLX Microdot gives you a 25mm objective lens for a nice, wide field of view. The view through the optic is crisp and clear, with an outstanding reticle clarity as well.

Microdot is a weird way to say full-sized red dot. It’s somewhat compact, but the 25mm objective lens and the 6.5-ounce weight takes it well out of the Micro realm. However, it’s still compact, and I’m splitting hairs with the weight. The SLX is an awesome little optic that has four different height mounting options, so it can mix with any gun and sight height requirement.

That ACSS-CQB reticle works well for close-range use, but also longer-range use. Primary Arms lists the holdover points for different ranges for nine different rifle and shotgun setups. This includes 5.56 caliber rifles, 9mm rifles, .308 rifles, 1-ounce slugs, and more. It’s super versatile and very easy to use.

For under $200, I had a hard time finding something that mixed quality and innovation with a lower price point. The Primary Arms SLX Microdot is rather new but has already won the 2021 Industry Choice Awards Red Dot Optic of the Year. The SLX met the requirements for a Silver-Tier rating by the National Tactical Officers Association. All that, and it’s still priced below $200.

Product Specs
  • Length: 2.35 inches
  • Weight: 6.5 ounces
  • Reticle: ACSS-CQB
  • Battery life: 12,000 hours
PROS

Awesome reticle

Durable design

Awesome price point

Versatile

CONS

Low battery life

Why you should trust us

I could tell you all about my Marine Corps service, my competitive shooting experience, and my years as a gear reviewer. Still, honestly the best credential I can offer you are my credit card statements. Over the course of years, I’ve purchased tons of optics — good and bad — and I’ve learned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. 

Types of red dot sights

Miniature and micro red dot sights

Miniature and micro red dot sights are small. Miniature sights like the RMR work well on pistols, as backup sights on magnified optics, and even as primary optics on some long guns. Micro red dot sights are almost entirely used with pistols. 

These little optics have a very small window and are best used with a two-eyed, open shooting style. They often won’t pair with magnifiers, and what you see is what you get. Their main benefits are small size and low weight. 

Compact red dots 

Compact red dots refer to red dots with an objective lens or window from 18mm to 25mm in size. They can be used with magnifiers and night vision devices. Compact red dots are often enclosed optics and can be tubular or square in shape. These optics are extremely reliable, and offer a smaller, lighter alternative for long-gun red dots. 

Full-sized red dots 

Full-sized red dots are often 25mm and higher. While they are falling out of favor slightly, they still have a place in the shooting sports. Full-sized red dots offer a massive window and a wide field of view. Plus, they pair very well with magnifiers and clip-on thermal or night vision optics. They are perfect for duty rifles because they’re incredibly durable. 

Key features of red dot sights

Reticle 

Red dot sounds pretty dang simple when it comes to picking a reticle, right? Most of the time, the reticles are just red dots, but you might want to consider the size of the dot. Smaller dots work best for weapons designed for precision, i.e., rifles like the AR-15. Bigger dots are easier to see and often faster to get on target, but lack precision for long range use, making them perfect for shotguns, subguns, and pistols. 

Additionally, the modern red dot might incorporate any number of reticle designs these days. These reticles are awesome and provide some added versatility to your optic. These can be the addition of a large circle around the dot, drop points, and more. 

Brightness levels 

On the high end, a red dot needs to be bright enough to see in the brightest part of the day. Some cheaper red dots are challenged by the brightness the sun delivers at high noon. On the flip side, you might need a setting low enough to allow for night vision use. Night vision settings used to be relevant for professional shooters only, but night vision has become absurdly popular within the civilian shooting realm, so this feature matters more now than ever. 

Controls 

How do you zero the optic? How do you adjust brightness settings? You should consider both when it comes to buying a red dot. Buttons are often better than wheels, and recessed turrets provide a simpler system for getting you on target and staying there. Buttons allow for smooth and quick adjustments, and recessed turrets won’t slip and lose zero if they get bumped or dumped. 

Benefits of red dot sights

Speed

With a properly zeroed red dot sight, all you need to do is put the dot on target and pull the trigger. It’s much quicker than aligning iron sights and simplifies the entire shooting process. Shooters with red dots will be faster than shooters with iron sights. The speed red dots offer has made them the CQB sight of choice for professional gunslingers in the armed forces. 

Accuracy 

Iron sights are accurate, but are often large and easily obscure the target, plus they require sight focus. Red dot sights present a very small reticle that is less likely to obscure the target than a front sight. Additionally, shooters can focus on the target and keep it clear, versus focusing on the reticle or sight and having a blurry target. This makes it easier to shoot accurately. 

Versatility

Red dots are insanely versatile optics. They can be used on nearly any platform (handgun, shotgun, or rifle), they fit on tactical weapons, hunting tools (including bows), and competition guns. 

Pricing considerations for red dot sights

Budget 

Good budget red dot sights often cost a little more than $100. They’re designed for personal use like plinking and recreational shooting, but it’s not unheard of to use them for hunting or even some light competition. They’re generally not built for professional or duty use. 

Mid-tier

Mid-tier red dot sights cost anywhere from $200 to $500. They tend to have a higher quality construction than budget optics, but usually aren’t built for the most extreme conditions. Nonetheless, they’re usually tough and designed for things like home defense, hunting, competition, and even limited duty. While I wouldn’t jump out of a plane with one, I could see a mid-tier red dot succeeding in the hands of police and security forces. 

Duty-grade 

When you need to issue an optic to Joe, you want the toughest optic in the market. They’re priced $500 or more, but they’re designed to resist a range of punishment. From full submersion to being dropped or kicked and misused by the least intelligent PFC in the platoon. 

How we chose our top picks

For this review, I researched a wide range of red dot optics and considered all the options I could find that would be considered proven, not just the ones I’ve personally used. Why be boring when the world has so many great options out there? However, I did handle all the red dots on this list. My picks were informed by my personal experience and the experiences of firearm instructors, competitive shooters, and professional gunslingers. 

FAQs on red dot sights

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What red dot sights do the Navy SEALs use?

A: Aimpoint and Trijicon are the go-to for Navy SEALs — specifically the Aimpoint Micro series and the Trijicon RMR for handguns. 

Q: What is the clearest red dot sight?

A: The Aimpoint CompM5s provides a crystal clear viewing window tied to a very crisp and awesome little red dot. 

Q: Do soldiers use red dot sights?

A: The Army currently issues the M68 CCO, aka the Aimpoint CompM4, to most soldiers. Additionally, SOCOM commandos utilize the Trijicon RMR on handguns. 

Our gear section

Travis Pike is a former Marine machine gunner who served with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines for five years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He plays in the great outdoors of Northwest Florida and enjoys good beer, sharp knives, and long walks in the woods.

Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. We independently evaluate gear by putting products in the hands of subject matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by Task & Purpose, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures and our assessments remain free from third-party influence. Learn more about our product review process.