Reflex Sight vs. Red Dot: Know the Difference

Reflex Sight vs. Red Dot

In the battle of reflex sights vs. red dot sights, which one is right for you? Learn about the differences between the sights, so you can make the right choice.

When it comes to getting a new sight for your firearm, you want to make sure that you are getting the best option possible for your weapon. You want it to work well for the type of shooting that you are doing, and if you are shooting at close range, it means you are probably looking at reflex and red dot sights. Some people make the mistake of thinking that these terms are interchangeable, but that’s not entirely true. Let’s look at the reflex sight vs. red dot sights, to help alleviate some confusion.

When you are trying to determine which type of sight will work best for you, you must take time to learn and understand the differences between the reflex and the red dot and what makes them similar.

Why the Confusion?

Why are people often confused about reflex and red dot sights? It’s because the term red dot sight has become something of a catchall term that many have used to include holographic sights, reflex sights, and even prismatic sights. Reflex sights will often use a red dot as a reticle, which makes it easy to confuse the two.

After all, it means that a reflex sight could be considered a red dot sight, but not all red dot sights are reflex sights. It’s easy to see the confusion, but we may be able to clear up some of it below.

The Dot

The big difference tends to come from how the dot is created. In a reflex sight, an LED is used to project the dot onto a lens, which then reflects and hits your eye, so you can see where it is located. One of the issues that some people have with the reflex sights is parallax, so they aren’t the best option for long-distance shooting.

The red dot sights have more technology in them, which means the housing is larger and bulkier. They create the light that you see within the sight. These may have some issues with parallax, but it tends not to be as pronounced.

The Reticles and Magnification

Both red dot and reflex sights can have a range of different types of reticles from which you can choose, and many will allow you to choose between red and green. Just because you hear the term red dot does not mean that the dot always has to be red.

Reflex sights will not have magnification, but you might find some red dot sights that offer magnification options. Just keep in mind that the reflex sights are usually used for closer distance shooting, so magnification of the sight is not usually a factor.

Still, depending on the housing and the optics that are used, you can find red dot sights on more powerful scopes for rifles that will provide you with a substantial amount of magnification. After all, a red dot is more a characteristic than just a specific type of sight.

The Types of Red Dot Sights

To help clear things up further, it’s important to look at three of the main types of sights that fall into the umbrella of red dot sights. As mentioned, reflex sights do fall under this umbrella.

Reflex Sights

These tend to be common and relatively inexpensive, but they are limited to shorter ranges due to parallax, as mentioned. They have an exposed, open HUD design with a window that reflects the dot that you will use for aiming. The lens will often have some type of protective housing around it, but the type of protection can vary from one sight to the next.

You can also find tube-style reflex sights available, which look similar to scope in miniature form. You will find that reflex sights have a range of benefits including easier shooting when at angles, a low mount profile, and infinite eye relief. You can shoot while keeping both eyes open, as well, and they work wonderfully for close-range shooting.

Prism Sights

Prismatic sights, also called prism sights, are red dot sights. They are a small tube that looks similar to a rifle scope, albeit somewhat smaller. These sights are characterized by a prism in the system, and they will have a lens at each end of the tube.

With these types of sights, you will often find some magnification available, as well as illuminated, glass-etched reticles. They are easy to use, particularly for those who suffer from astigmatism. This is one of the areas where reflex sights tend to suffer.

Since the reticle is etched into the glass, it means that you should be able to see it even when you don’t have the battery turned on and powering the sight. However, the eye relief does not tend to be as good as you will find with a reflex sight. Additionally, they will go through batteries faster than most reflex sights.

Holographic Sights

Another type of red dot sight, holographic sights could be an option to consider, as well. Even though these are often considered red dot sights, it is important to understand that the technology used to create them are different. With these sights, a hologram reticle is placed between the glass. The holographic sights available today have a range of different types of reticles available.

Many enjoy using holographic sights because they can allow for accurate shots, even at longer ranges than what you might be able to do with a reflex sight. They have an open HUD system, which means you should be able to use them with both of your eyes open. As with the reflex sights, these will provide infinite eye relief.

Great Reflex and Red Dot Sights to Consider

Now that you have a better understanding of what makes these types of sights different, it should be easier for you to start to narrow your selection and know the style that you should be using. Below, you will find two reflex sights and two red dot sights that could be nice options for your shooting needs. Check out their features and see which might be a good choice for you.

Sightmark Ultra Shot SM26008 Reflex Sight

The reflex sight could be a good and cost-effective choice for those who are seeking a quality sight that is easy to use and can provide nice results. The sight is available in black and dark earth, and one of these colors should match the aesthetics you want for your firearm.

The sight will be easy to add and detach from the weapon thanks to the quick-detach weaver mount. You will be able to get up to 1,000 hours of battery life from the sight, as well. The reflex sight is made from cast aluminum and features a protective shield. This ensures that it is lightweight and that it is durable enough to stand up to whatever use you put it through.

You can choose from red and green with multiple reticles

  • 5 MOA dot
  • 3 MOA dot
  • 50 MOA circle
  • 3 MOA dot with 50 MOA crosshair
  • 3 MOA dot with 30 MOA circle/crosshair

This allows you to find a reticle that’s right for your shooting style.

The digital switch controls are easy to use, and you can choose from five different brightness settings. Settings one to three are good for indoors, while four and five are best suited for outdoor use. It’s a quality reflex sight that may be worth considering.

Feyachi Reflex Sight

For those who may be looking for a low-cost reflex sight that has many of the same features as more expensive models, the Feyachi reflex sight might do nicely. The sight has a 33 mm lens that can allow for a wide field of view and fast target acquisition.

Users will also be happy to know that it has a quality rail mounting system. It will not come loose once you have installed it properly. Overall, this is a durable reflex sight that can work well in the field.

One of the other nice features is that it has been parallax corrected and features unlimited eye relief. Being able to fix the parallax problems that are common in reflex sights is a great touch.

The reflex sight is light, as well as waterproof and shockproof. It features both red and green options in four different reticle patterns – starburst, cross, bullseye, and dot. You will also find five different brightness settings that are easy to change on the fly.

4 reticle sight

The reflex sight requires a 3V lithium battery, which is included. The battery life is respectable with the sight.

Vortex Optics Crossfire Red Dot Sight Gen II

Vortex Optics is a popular name in firearms optics, and you will find that their reputation is apparent when it comes to this Crossfire red dot sight. This is a high-quality sight that can be used for a range of applications. It can be used on a rifle, a shotgun, or a rimfire with ease.

The battery life of 50,000 hours is very impressive, so you shouldn’t have to worry about changing your battery very often, even when you are using some of the higher illumination settings, of which there are 11 in all. On the two lowest illumination settings, you will find that the red dot sight is compatible with night vision.

The sight features a 2 MOA dot reticle that makes it easy to acquire targets when you are in closer quarters, but it can still be used when you are shooting at range. You will also find that the multiple antireflective coatings help for improved light transmission, providing you with a clearer picture when looking through the sight.

This sight also has unlimited eye relief. It is extremely durable, has a matte finish, and is O-ring sealed to prevent moisture and dust from getting into the housing. It has windage and elevation controls, and you can opt to use either a high mount or a low mount with the red dot sight.

Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 Red Dot Sight

Sig Sauer is a recognizable name, and you will find that they do more than just make quality firearms. This is a popular red dot sight that is durable and easy to use. The Romeo5 features a 2 MOA red dot reticle with 10 different illumination settings. The lowest two settings are compatible with night vision.

One of the other interesting features of the red dot sight is the Motion Activated Illumination or MOTAC. This technology will power the sight when motion is sensed and powers it down when there is no motion. The battery life for the sight is 40,000 hours.

The Romeo5 has an integrated M1913 Picatinny interface, which will make it easy to use with a wide range of firearms. The sight is waterproof up to one meter, and it is fog-proof. The quality and durability make this a top choice.

Conclusion: Reflex vs. Red Dot – What’s the Best Choice?

When you break it all down, there’s not really an answer to this question. This is because reflex sights are technically red dot sights. The question you want to ask is what type of red dot sight is best for your needs. This will depend on a range of factors that are unique to you and your shooting style.

If you are only going to be shooting at closer ranges, and you like the look and functionality of a reflex sight, then it could be the perfect choice for you. On the other hand, if you want to have some added magnification, or you prefer the functionality of a prism sight, then that would be a better choice.

Always think about the way you shoot and what you are going to need from a sight before making your choice. We’ve included some great options for you to look over when you are trying to decide. One of those might be the perfect sight for your firearm.