Most AR-15s do not ship with basic iron sights - meaning the first thing that you need to do with your new rifle is add a sighting system.
The most popular question we get is: “What is the best red dot for my gun?”.
Our staff at Rainier Arms has compiled a list of our top five recommended red dot optics.
But let’s start with some basics before proceeding further with the list.
Table of contents:
- Why Should You Buy Red Dot?
- What to Consider Before Buying a Red Dot?
- The Best Red Dots for Your Rifle
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should You Buy Red Dot?
Red dot sights are becoming increasingly popular among firearm owners and that’s not happening by coincidence.
The reason behind their increased popularity lies in the benefits red dot sights provide.
So why should you get one too?
Using a red dot on sight on your rifle allows you to focus on the target instead of the front sight, which is the main advantage.
With traditional iron sights, you will need to align your eye, back sight, and front sight into a straight line which is challenging.
If somehow, that alignment is off, your shot will probably result in missed targets.
But, if you have red dot sight, you can tell a different story for sure.
For a red dot sight, you need to focus on an illuminated dot or reticle which shows where the bullet you fire will go. This makes aiming and targets acquiring much faster.
What to Consider Before Buying a Red Dot?
Choosing the red dot sight, however, is not a 5-minute job. First and foremost, you have to consider your needs and for what purposes you’re gonna use that red dot sight.
First, are going to use your rifle for long-range or short-range shooting? If you’re going to shoot distant targets, then you should consider magnified optics.
If however, you’ll shoot the short-range target, the red dot is for you.
Now, let’s see what should you look for when you decide to buy a red dot sight.
Consider the conditions in which you’re going to use your red dot sight. For example, if you’re more likely to shoot in harsh conditions like extreme temperatures, or you’ll expose it to dust and water, go for a more durable red dot sight.
Not all red dot sights come with the same reticle - except red dot, you can find crosshair or circle-dot reticles.
When looking for a different reticle type, just focus on what you want the most as different reticles won’t affect your shooting skill and accuracy.
Before buying a red dot, check are mounting options compatible with your rifle. For example, the most popular mounting system is the Picatinny rail.
Field of view
For example, if you’re going to shoot in fast-paced shooting scenarios look for the red dot sights with a wider field of view. This is just an example, as different situations would require different red dot sight characteristics.
Imagine shooting your rifle and the red dot suddenly disappears. The scenario you probably wouldn’t like to experience.
Hence, when looking for a red dot, consider checking the battery life because you don’t want to get caught in the field with a dead battery.
Prices of red dot sights go from less than $50 to over $1000. Decide your budget and choose one fitting all your criteria.
The Best Red Dots for Your Rifle
So, here’s the list of our picks:
- Swampfox Liberator 2 Mini Dot Sight
- Vortex StrikeFire II Red Dot Sight
- Holosun HE515CT Circle Dot Optic
- Trijicon MRO 1x25MM HD 2.0 MOA Adjustable Red Dot Sight - Full Co-Witness
- Atibal AT-MCRD PRO Micro Red Dot
- Swampfox Trihawk 3x30 IR BDC Prism Sight
- Swampfox Blade 1X25 IR BRC Prism Scope
#1: Swampfox Liberator II
We will open this list with a budget offering that almost everyone can afford - the Swampfox Liberator II.
The revision of the Liberator features the same 2 MOA dot, anti-scratch and anti-glare coatings, and a 50,000-round guarantee of the original.
However, the new Liberator II now has Shake ‘N Wake for conserving battery when not in use, 2-night vision brightness settings, and a battery life of 10,000 hours (over the original 3000 hours).
The optic ships with both a low & an absolute co-witness mount but also utilizes the T-2 mounting footprint allowing you to mount it on your favorite aftermarket mount.
Finally, this optic features a 22mm objective lens with either a red or green LED emitter.
With the large feature set - most would think the price point is high to match but this optic is the most affordable on this list.
#2: Vortex Strikefire II
The Strikefire II is the tried and true offering from Vortex Optics. This red dot features a 4 MOA dot - one of the largest dots on the market.
With its 30MM objective lens, this optic makes it easier to acquire targets compared to using a smaller objective lens.
The optic ships with a 1/3rd lower co-witness mount but is compatible with any 30MM scope ring for use with any platform - not just AR-15-type rifles.
This dot manages to squeeze out 80,000 hours of battery life from a single CR2 lithium battery - the highest battery life on the list.
At 5.6” long and 7.2 ounces - it is the largest and heftiest optic on this list but the price is right.
With both red and green LED emitters in the same form factor - the Vortex Strikefire II offers the most flexibility as long as weight is not concerned.
#3: Holosun HE515CT
This Holosun is one of the most expensive Holosun optics in the lineup. This optic is packed with features not seen on the lower-end Holosun optics.
The optic body is completely built with titanium making it extremely strong and lightweight. The 20mm objective lens is coated for anti-glare and scratch resistance as well as covered by a removable Killflash.
Of course, this optic is equipped with shake-awake technology and features 50,000 hours of battery life.
Even when the battery finally depletes - the solar failsafe will still allow use in daylight conditions.
The reticle can swap between a 2 MOA dot and a 65 MOA circle with a 2 MOA dot on the fly. Included is a T-2 footprint quick-release optic mount but any aftermarket T-2 mount can be swapped to the bottom of the optic body.
Finally, offering capped turrets and 10 daylight bright (and two-night vision settings) this is the most feature-packed optic Holosun currently offers.
#4: Trijicon MRO 1x25MM HD 2.0 MOA Adjustable Red Dot Sight - Full Co-Witness
The Trijicon Miniature Rifle Optic (MRO) is a top-of-the-line red dot sight that provides quick target acquisition for rifles, carbines, and shotguns
Although it is a bit expensive, it comes with a lifetime warranty, making it an excellent investment for serious shooters.
You can use this red dot sight with both eyes open, giving you maximum awareness of your surroundings. The MRO is built to last, with a hard anodized forged 7075-T6 housing that is waterproof and sealed.
One of the MRO's notable features is its ambidextrous brightness control, which allows you to adjust brightness levels to suit your needs and shooting conditions.
The high-quality lens used in this red dot sight provides a clear and crisp viewing experience, thanks to its advanced coating.
Additionally, the MRO HD is optimized for use with a magnifier, featuring a re-engineered objective lens that produces a refined 2.0 MOA center dot surrounded by a 68 MOA segmented circle reticle.
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#5: Atibal AT-MCRD PRO Micro Red Dot
The Atibal AT-MCRD PRO Optics red dot sight is an affordable option for those looking for a quality optic without breaking the bank. It has a low price point, making it accessible to many shooters.
The optic is also designed with low power consumption, giving you up to 1,000 hours of battery life.
It has 11 manual brightness settings, allowing you to easily adjust the brightness according to your needs and lighting conditions.
Additionally, the optic is parallax-free, which ensures precision accuracy in your shots.
The wide field of view and lightweight design also makes it easier for you to acquire and track targets.
The lens is multi-coated to reduce glare, giving you a clear view of your target.
However, the unit's length on the rail may be a bit too long.
#6: Swampfox Trihawk 3x30 IR BDC Prism Sight
The Trihawk 3x prism scope from Swampfox is an impressive optic that offers a true 10-degree field of view and greater eye relief than comparable prism scopes.
It is perfect if you need a tough, compact, and fixed power scope and want to take fast and accurate shots from CQB distance out to the medium range.
The scope's wide 52ft field of view at 100 yards is a big advantage as it increases your situational awareness, allowing you to spot multiple targets simultaneously, quickly move between them, and confidently track moving targets such as game animals.
The Trihawk's chemically etched reticle and fast focus adjustable ocular present a clean, crisp, and fast sight picture.
The BDC reticle is compatible with 5.56 NATO and .308 Win bullet trajectories, which makes it a complete solution if you're looking for versatility. Additionally, the scope's premium glass features rare earth metals and state-of-the-art coatings that provide maximum light transmission, anti-glare, anti-fog, anti-scratch, and hydrophobic performance.
One potential downside of the Trihawk is that it is a fixed power scope, so if you prefer variable magnification you may not find it suitable for your needs.
Further, the scope's Shake 'N Wake system may be a pro for some shooters, but some may find it unnecessary or annoying.
#7: Swampfox Blade 1X25 IR BRC Prism Scope
The Blade is a 1x prism scope designed for home defense and law enforcement.
Its Bullet Rise Compensating reticle compensates for optic height over bore at 5, 10, and 15 yards when mounted on an AR-15.
The reticle is etched and appears black when the illumination is off. The Blade has green illumination and is an ideal choice if you have astigmatism and issues with dot sights.
Blade has a key feature called Bullet Rise Compensation that compensates for the mechanical offset, or "height over bore," at close ranges.
This red dot also has a Shake 'N Wake system like the previously mentioned Swampfox sight.
Blade's etched reticle provides a great sight picture and is fast-focus adjustable, making it suitable for shooters with imperfect vision.
The scope's forgiving eye relief and 13.5mm exit pupil make for a lightning-fast target acquisition speed.
Using a red dot sight on your rifle can greatly improve your accuracy and overall shooting experience by aiding in aiming and target acquisition.
Consider the factors we've discussed, such as price, durability, battery life, and reticle options, when making your selection.
With any of these top picks, you can feel confident that you're investing in a high-quality red dot sight that will enhance your shooting experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
MOA stands for Minute of Angle, which is a unit of measurement for angular measurement. In the context of rifle scopes and red dot sights, MOA is used to describe the size of the reticle and the adjustments made to it. One MOA is equal to 1.047 inches at 100 yards or roughly 1 inch at 100 yards.
Parallax is the apparent shift in the position of the reticle when the shooter moves his or her head. This can cause the reticle to appear to be off target, even when the gun is properly aimed. Most modern red dot sights are designed to be parallax-free, meaning that the reticle will appear to stay in the same position no matter where the shooter's head is.
What's T-2 mounting?
T-2 mounting is a type of mounting system used for some red dot sights. It features a base with a series of holes that allow the sight to be mounted in different positions. The T-2 mount is designed to be extremely sturdy and durable, making it a popular choice among shooters who need a reliable and secure mounting system.
How do different reticles affect shooting?
Different reticles can affect shooting in a number of ways. Some reticles are designed to be very simple and easy to use, while others are more complex and offer a wider range of aiming options. Some reticles are also illuminated, which can make them easier to see in low-light conditions. Ultimately, the choice of the reticle will depend on the shooter's preferences and the specific shooting conditions they will be using the sight.