How to find the best red dot sight for the money…
In the last fourteen years of war our military has grown expansively and the equipment they use has also changed dramatically. During the war on terror our troops moved rapidly from iron sights to optics. What was once the territory of snipers and designated marksman was now granted to every grunt with a rifle. This expanded their capabilities tenfold; so much so that an investigation was launched into a Marine unit scoring so many headshots that some began to believe that they were executions.
Enter the Red Dot
The red dot is a popular culture term for a wide variety of close range optics used for reflexive shooting (point shooting). The term red dot refers to the reticle utilized by these optics, which is often a single red dot. A red dot is much easier and faster to get on target than a set of iron sights and are designed for rapid engagement.
The benefits of Red Dot Scopes
A red dot optic is built around the need for an optic that can be brought to ready rapidly on target. Red dot optics popularity has increased greatly with hunters on brush guns because of how easy and quick it is to get the reticle onto a moving target. Another primary advantage is the ability to place follow up shots rapidly and accurately. Unlike a magnified optic the sight picture is disturbed very little from the recoil of most rifles.
Red dots give the user a wide field of view that for the military is critical for multiple target engagement and increased situational awareness. The user can move from target to target quickly and accurately, shooting or otherwise. The user is not trapped focusing on a single threat; instead they can focus on the potential danger of multiple threats occupying the world around them. Of course this translates over for hunters looking to hunt pack animals like wild boar.
An unofficial slogan of the U.S. Military is “We own the night.” Simply put American forces have invested heavily into their ability to pursue, punish, and conquer the enemy in low to no light situations. The use of illuminated reticles on red dots makes accurate night engagements possible. A traditional scope uses a black crosshair that is almost impossible to see in the dark, and the same goes for iron sights. An illuminated red dot however is a cinch for troops to use in the dark, and the majority of these optics can be utilized with a night vision optic.
This is great for the military but it does translate to the early mornings hunters often start their day in. Hunters may even find themselves without adequate light even after sun up if the canopy above them is thick enough. Of course this also translates over to home defense encounters that can happen at high noon, or three in the morning.
Red Dot Scopes & Market Demand
The market for red dots has expanded greatly over the course of the war on terror. Of course the military demand is high, but the non-military demand has also grown significantly. There are several reasons for this increased demand, including former veterans looking for the optics they have experience with, police looking for proven optics, and the new American fascination with semi auto rifles like the AR 15.
Red Dots have become so popular in my opinion simply because of how easy they are to use. For someone new to firearms a simple and uncomplicated optic is perfect. Not only that but as rifles become more and more sought after for home defense a close range optic is the perfect option for the close encounters a home can provide.
To meet this demand optics manufacturers have stepped up their game to provide supply. It seems these days you can’t throw a stick without hitting a new red dot manufacturer. However two companies who have been producing optics for over a decade stand out amongst the crowded marketplace, having red dot scopes for both military and civilian use. These companies are Aimpoint and Trijicon and their respected red dot scopes are often considered the market standard for quality, durability, precision, and ease of use. So, allow me to introduce the two best red scopes currently on the market:
The AimPoint Comp M4
The AimPoint Comp M4 is not only one of the most popular red dot scopes, but one of the most popular optics period. It was adopted by the U.S Army for their M4 and M16 rifles and are now standard issue amongst even non combat troops. The Aimpoint M4 has proven itself to be a dependable, and durable optic, and has served downrange in both Afghanistan and Iraq with significant success. It uses a traditional red dot reticle that is exactly how it sounds, a red dot, reflected onto a piece of glass.
Aimpoint has a wide variety of different red dots, but their flagship model is the Aimpoint Comp M4. This is the model adopted by the U.S. Army after submitting the optic to 18 months of testing. This optic has served the military faithfully ever since, in the most brutal of environments. The optic has reliably stood up to combat conditions in some of the worst environments imaginable.
The Aimpoint’s simplicity lowers the level of necessary training to effectively use it. Aimpoint claims the Comp M4 can last up to 8 years on a single battery. The red dot has zero magnification, which allows it to excel at close range. However the optic is compatible with an Aimpoint magnification device to extend its range beyond point blank & the traditional close quarter battle range.
The use of a simple red dot reticle is one of it’s primary strengths. Shooters do not find themselves stuck behind a complicated bullet drop compensator, or constantly fighting parallax and scope shadow. Once you’re behind a Comp M4 you’ll notice you can use it in all the awkward positions one could find themselves in during a firefight. A firefight is never as simple as a square range, a shooter can find themselves crammed into a variety positions chasing the ever elusive cover, and being able to use your optic at odd angles can be life saving.
The Aimpoint Comp M4 has lasted so long in the militaries arsenal for a reason, its simple, tough, reliable, and mission capable. When it comes to Special Forces, who have a wider variety of options, they still choose to use the Aimpoint Comp M4.
Whilst you might not be looking for a locked and loaded, ready for battle red dot scope, the Aimpoint Comp M4 has proven it’s self time and time again, as being a durable, lightweight, flexible & reliable optic which can be used in and outside of the battlefield.
The Trijicon Reflex
Trijicon is a well-known and well-respected optics company that has designed numerous optics for the military and police. Trijicon optics are renowned for their strength and durability. Trijicons are the choice of U.S. Marines, and more than once has a Trijicon optic been shot on the field of battle and still been fully functional.
The Trijicon Reflex is an extremely simple optic designed for modern fighting rifles. The Trijicon Reflex is built from a lightweight, but durable aluminium alloy and depending on the model, they come with a 6.5 MOA dot, 4.5 MOA dot, or a 12.9 MOA triangle. The optic is not designed for one specific weapon, but can be applied to rifles, sub machine guns, and shotguns.
The Trijicon Reflex is parallax free, meaning it can be utilized from any angle without throwing off the red dot’s accuracy. The main selling point for the Trijicon Reflex is the fact it is completely battery free. The optic utilizes a combination of tritium and fiber optics to generate a high visibility reticle, without ever worrying about batteries.
The Trijicon Reflex can be used for hunting, police and military applications, self-defense, and shooting competitions. The Reflex’s versatility and the lack of batteries make the optic extremely capable in a variety of different environments, on a variety of different weapons.
What to understand about Red Dot Scopes
With so many manufacturers out there creating red dots it would be a lie to simply say they are all the same. Red dot is a term that can be applied very liberally to a variety of optics. You should understand the different models and their strengths and weaknesses.
Optics like the Aimpoint Comp M4 are traditional tube style red dots, which is one of the older designs. The tube style is often the somewhat larger, but is also considered more durable. The full circular frame reinforces and protects the optics from being bumped around.
The alternative is an open sight. Optics like the Eotech sight are square shaped and lack a tube design, they are one- small piece of glass a square frame. This optic’s main strength is the fact they offer a wider field of view, and make it easier to see around the optic. Another strength is the fact the optic can be extremely small, but remain effective.
Speaking of Eotechs and Aimpoints, we should address the different styles of reticle projection. The Aimpoint uses a reflected laser to position a dot onto the glass. This optic is incredibly simple, and easy to use. Put the dot on what you want to shoot, and proceed to ventilate. This style of projection is commonly known as a reflector sight.
The Eotech uses a reticle that is recorded and projected into three-dimensions via holographic film. This allows the optic to be more open and gives it a bright, and large reticle. This reticle is more complicated than a simple red dot and can often be a variety of different styles. These styles include circles, squares, chevrons, triangles, and even as complicated as a biohazard sign.
Keeping the Lights on.
To generate an illuminated reticle a source of power is required. The lasers used inside optics are often of low intensity and use batteries relatively slowly. Most optics will last some time on a single battery. In my opinion the biggest flaw in a red dot is using an odd and expensive battery. If your battery lasts five years on an oddball battery, but you can’t find replacement then it’s not that useful.
Models like the Comp M4 utilize a simple and common battery that is able to power the optic for nearly a decade. If it comes down to a competition between battery life versus battery commonality, commonality should always win hands down. If you are using an optic like the Trijicon, which is powered by a light capturing chemical, then you are good during the day. However you should insure the optic can hold enough charge to stay illuminated throughout the entire night.
Choosing your Red Dot Optic
You are the only person who can choose an optic for you, what’s right for one is rarely right for all. The best way to figure if an optic works for you is to try it. If you can borrow or rent one and take it to the range then great. However this is not always possible. Simply being able to handle a rifle with the optic mounted can give a good idea if the optic is comfortable for you.
The best way to insure you are getting a quality optic is too look into who uses the optic and their opinions of it. The door kickers who use Aimpoints, and Trijicons have established a decade of high stress performance with these optics and they have proven themselves in two wars now. Across the internet you can observe the individual opinions of soldiers and Marines who faced the bull, and faced it looking through one optic or another. That is the greatest endorsement you can get.
What are the weaknesses of Red Dot Scopes?
The red dot’s main weakness is also one of its major strengths. Without sounding like a hack programmer I have to say, “it’s a feature, not a bug.” That weakness is its isolation to the short-range realm. The Aimpoint has a magnification device, and so do most red dots, but these often add weight and consume rail space. However red dots rule short-range shooting, in both combat and hunting. There speed is unparalleled when getting on target, and their precisions allows for rapid engagement and follow up shots.