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8 Best Red Dot Sights [Hands-On]: Rifle, Pistol, & All Budgets

There’s a lot of red dots out there.  And probably even more GUIDES to finding the perfect red dot.

What sets this guide apart?

We have everything in-hand and tested them across tons of rifles, shotguns, and pistols.

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Scopes & Red Dots

By the end you’ll know the best red dot for your specific firearm AND budget.  Plus some of the great reasons to even use a red dot in the first place.

Best Red Dot Sights For Your Gun

1. Aimpoint PRO

The Aimpoint PRO is our Editor’s Choice if you want the very best red dot that can handle everything from range plinking to all-out war.

Aimpoint PRO Testing
Aimpoint PRO Testing

Literally bomb-proof with 30K hours of continuous use…you can just leave it on and forget it.  And then change out the batteries every few years.

Aimpoint PRO, 3x Brighter Dot
Aimpoint PRO, 3x Brighter Dot

Plus it has a crisp 2 MOA dot (dot will cover 2 inches at 100 yards), is night vision compatible, waterproof up to 150 feet, and has an operating range of -49 to 160 degrees F.

If you need more than that…then I don’t know what to tell you!

We now have a YouTube review of it as well after 3+ years of testing and thousands of rounds.

And check out our full-on written review of it where we bash it real good with a hammer.  It kept zero and didn’t even hiccup.

2. Bushnell TRS-25 AR Optics

We understand not everyone has $400 to spend on a red dot.  The Bushnell TRS-25 is our go-to for something around $70.

Bushnell TRS-25
Bushnell TRS-25

It’s served me well on my first AR and now currently lives on my AK pistol…which has even more recoil.

Bush TRS-25 on AK
Bushnell TRS-25 on AK

3000 rounds total (with 1000 on the harsher recoiling AK and still going strong…plus some rain here and there.

Not the greatest glass but she’ll work!

If you’re thinking of going even cheaper…don’t!

This is the lowest I would go for something that will stand up to range plinking here and there.

Most Affordable Red Dot
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Don’t get the TRS-25 with a riser…it’s terrible!  I highly recommend getting it with the UTG 1″ Riser so it’s the perfect height (1/3 cowitness) on an AR-15.

UTG Slim Riser
UTG Riser (Slim Version)

Check it out more in our Best Under $100 Red Dots article and video.  Or now the standalone review of the Bushnell TRS-25.

3. Trijicon MRO

Another favorite is the Trijicon MRO which sits in the same price range as the Aimpoint PRO at around $400.

Trijicon MRO Midwest QD Mount
Trijicon MRO Midwest QD Mount

However, it comes in a smaller profile AND a larger field of view.

Beefy and now an often chosen duty optic…the MRO gives you 6 daylight settings and 2 night vision with 5 years of battery life at a medium setting.

Trijicon MRO Red Reflex Sight in Desert on Steel
Trijicon MRO Red Reflex Sight in Desert on Steel

It survived a lot of punishment in our High-End Optics Torture Test…from water immersion to drop test, heat/cold cycling, and being shot with a variety of loads.

Trijicon MRO 12ga Birdshot
Trijicon MRO 12ga Birdshot

And it took them like a champ with only a slight shift in POA with the drop test.

Want a place where we sum it ALL UP? Check the full Trijicon MRO review plus video:

It comes in a variety of mount flavors from no mount to 1/3 cowitness and full cowitness.  We prefer the 1/3 cowitness so you can still use irons as a backup but they aren’t in the way.

Best Green Dot
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. Sig Sauer Romeo5

The Sig Sauer Romeo5 takes our current Editor’s Pick for Best-Bang-For-the-Buck red dot at around $140.

Sig Red Dots
Sig Romeo 5

Clear and crisp 2 MOA dot, 8 daylight settings and 2 night vision modes, and motion on/off.

The daylight settings are enough for our desert days and you get 40,000+ hours of batter life at the medium setting.

We’ve put a lot of rounds through several units and you can check out the full Romeo5 review here.

Brutally Tested Budget Red Dot
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What do you think of the Sig Romeo5?

Readers' Ratings

4.97/5 (1159)

Your Rating?

5. Trijicon RMR Type 2

Now we’re entering the realm of micro red dots…or red dots that fit on your pistol.

We’ll start with the Gold Standard…the Trijicon RMR Type 2 ($469).

RMR Type 2 on Polymer80 Glock
RMR Type 2 on Polymer80 Glock

If you’re serious about a red dot enabled fighting/competition pistol…you go with an RMR.

RMR Type 2 with Suppressor Height Irons
RMR Type 2 with Suppressor Height Irons

Trusted by professionals and has the most widespread “cut” for pistol slides so if you’re upgrading your slide it will likely be RMR cut.

RMR Type 2 Sealing Plate and Milled Slide
RMR Type 2 Sealing Plate and Milled Slide

4 years of battery life (always keep it on) plus night vision compatible.

Best Pistol Red Dot

Find out more about the RMR Type 2 in our Best Pistol Red Dots article.

6. Vortex Venom

Now how about a pistol red dot for the rest of us?  Enter the Vortex Venom ($230).

Vortex Venom Mounted on Buckmark
Vortex Venom Mounted on Buckmark

It’s the lowest and smallest of the bunch that we tested.  Plus it comes with a Picatinny rail mount for other pistols and even rifles.

Tested Pistol Red Dots
Tested Pistol Red Dots

We like the Venom over Vortex’s older Viper because it comes in two dot sizes (3 MOA or 6 MOA) and has slightly better reviews.  Check out our video on both:

If that helped, please subscribe to our YouTube channel since we’re adding new videos every week!

It’s “cut” is not as widespread as the RMR but there’s adapters for out-of-the-box optic-ready slides such as the Glock MOS and M&P Core.

Or you can always get a Outer Impact dovetail mount.

Vortex Venom on Outer Impact Mount
Vortex Venom on Outer Impact Mount

Check out the install in our video:

Learn more about the Venom and the other pistol red dots in our Best Pistol Red Dots article.

7. EOTech EXPS-2

This one is technically a “holographic” sight.  The technology of showing the reticle in front of your eyes may be different…but it still does the same thing as a red dot.

The EOTech EXPS-2 ($490) is my go-to for a serious rifle.  As it is for a lot of our military.

EOTech EXPS2-0
EOTech EXPS2-0

EOTech pioneered the reticle that has become synonymous with other holographic sights.  The large 68 MOA circle and small 1 MOA center that gives you both quick acquisition and precise targeting.

Battery life is less for holographics overall.  The EXPS2-0 has 600 hours…but you get a much larger view window and the great reticle.

We took an EXPS model and also subjected it to untold horrors in the High-End Optics Torture Test.

EOTech EXPS 3 .22 LR Killshot
EOTech EXPS 3 .22 LR Killshot

It survived everything (with no POI shift in the cold/heat cycling) until the .22LR Mini-Mag which took down all but one optic.

But due to the holographic technology which doesn’t need the rear glass…it still technically worked.

Learn more in our Best EOTech Holographic Sights.

Three EOTechs, Back
Three EOTechs, Back
Best Holographic Sight

8. Holosun 510C

And you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging without a more affordable holographic option…

Holosun’s 510C ($299) combines the typical holographic reticle with red dot technology.  Now you get tons of hours, a great view window, and the ability for quick snap or more precise shots.

Holosun 510C Reticle
Holosun 510C Reticle

Plus…it even has a solar panel to not use up battery power during the day.  Not that you have much to worry about…it’s rated for 50K hours.

Most Worth It Holographic Sight
at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Check out more pics and videos of the 510C in Best Holographic Sights.

Why Do You Want a Red Dot?

Now that we’ve gotten our favorite picks out of the way…why would you even want a red dot?  Haven’t iron sights worked for hundreds of years?

Well…there’s always room for improvement!

PWS MK116 Mod 2-M with Goodies
PWS MK116 Mod 2-M with Goodies

1. Eye Relief

This means you don’t need to have a set distance of your eyeballs from the sight.  More apparent for scopes…but it’s also a thing you deal with on iron sights.

2. Parallax Free

This means when you move your head around…the red dot still stays on target.  This combined with eye relief gives you a lot more freedom in position.

3. Co-Witness

You always want a backup since electronics can fail…even if you go with the gold standards.

Red dots let you either absolute co-witness or lower 1/3 co-witness with your existing iron sights.

Co-Witness, Absolute vs Lower Third
Co-Witness, Absolute vs Lower Third

I prefer the lower 1/3 so you don’t always see the front post in your face until you drop a little lower and WANT to see it.

You can select the specific co-witness height based on models and riser heights.  Don’t worry…we cover everything in the in-depth articles!

4. Both Eyes Open

Lastly…you can keep both eyes open with red dots which opens up your entire field of view.  No more squinting behind your irons and ignoring potential threats on the side.


There you have it…our picks of the best red dot (and holographic) sights for all types of guns.  Here are the specific articles we referenced if you want to see more in-depth reviews.

How did we do…anything else you’d add to our list?  If you’re looking for something with a little more magnification…check out our Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics or more general Best Rifle Scopes post.

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51 Leave a Reply

  • Zach

    Anyone have experience with micro dots like the RMR for use on rifles?

    August 19, 2021 9:10 am
  • Mike Rohwedder

    I have the Bushnell TRS-25 and love it. It didn't break the bank either. It's mounted atop my SW 22 Victory serving target practice. I am more accurate and can deliver more lead on target with this Red Dot. Not for concealed carry but you know that already anyway.

    December 3, 2020 6:31 pm
  • Jonathan E Bartel

    No love for the PA SLx MD-25? I've been running it for a while and I love it. HUGE field of view, 2 night vision settings, great battery life, and a nice price. I'd recommend it for sure. And yeah, good call on the Bushnell TRS 25. That was my first red dot and I've had it on a bunch of guns in 5.56 and 7.62 ... holds zero like a champ.

    November 14, 2020 8:48 am
  • jc

    Probably just me, but while I have optics on my AR and Tvor; just not that impressed with handgun optics. Inside 15m the dot moving in the figure-8 is distracting. Shot just as well with irons; outside 15m absolutely. One single advantage of irons is they won't die on you; with tritium IMHO you can shoot equally accurately in no-light/low light conditions.
    Yeah, Im in the minority.

    September 15, 2020 6:26 pm
  • Rick

    Sig sauer Romeo 8T

    August 23, 2020 4:33 pm
  • MAF

    Hi, I really like the information on the Bushnell TRS-25 for the economy and the testimony of the quality. Can this red dot be mounted on a Weaver rail?

    August 21, 2020 11:10 am
    • David, PPT Editor

      Yes! It should have no problem mounting to Weaver or Picatinny

      August 21, 2020 11:14 am
    • Easton Schlabaugh

      I have a trs 25 I would suggest u don’t get I have it on a Ruger 10/22 it doesn’t hold it’s zero very well and now brightness stopped working with a brand new battery in it I’ll have it on highest setting and u can barely see it

      September 1, 2020 9:20 am
  • MK

    hi, really great article, thanks!!
    I'm very new to guns and trying to learn more.
    In the section of why one might want a red dot one of the pros is that you can keep both eyes open.
    Does that mean that one should keep one eye closed when shooting with iron sights?
    p.s. I read all of your articles and find them very informative so thanks!

    August 20, 2020 9:50 pm
  • Doug

    I may be way off, but that backyard photo sure reminds me of the San Gabriel Valley

    June 18, 2020 6:19 pm
  • Jeff

    I'm getting into rifle target shooting 22lr at 100-200 yards. Is a scope better than a red dot for that? Excuse my lack of knowledge.
    Thank you.

    May 10, 2020 5:21 am
    • David, PPT Editor

      I would highly recommend a scope for that! 200 yards is considered long range for .22 LR and having the magnification will help a lot with calling your shots.

      May 10, 2020 6:33 am
    • Curtis

      At those ranges, consider high-velocity ammo as well.

      November 9, 2020 9:59 pm
  • Alan Ley

    Great and informative article. Thxs.

    March 28, 2020 3:55 pm
  • Mike Hunt


    March 21, 2020 4:14 am
  • John

    I don't wish to appear overtly vitriolic in my self-criticism but after reading this and a few other articles on this site I feel rather like an "Idiot"!! I just purchased a Nikon P-Tactical Superdot and placed it upon a Ruger AR556 MPR thinking I really had something nice. For me the combination worked fantastically well albeit I am new to these types of products. Now I feel like I should toss them in a river as junk since to the best of my knowledge none of these items have ever been mentioned by experts like yourselves. My question is have I made an egregious mistake and if so what shall I do? Thanks for your assistance.

    March 5, 2020 8:54 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      Nikon isn't bad at all, I don't think you've made an error of any kind. The issue with Nikon is that they got a bit lazy over the years and stopped trying to push their optics design. As the market got more crowded, Nikon was content to rest on their laurels. Over the years, the rest of the market simply left Nikon behind in price and quality.

      That isn't to say Nikon scopes are bad, they aren't generally. But you can normally get better for cheaper. However, that is kind of changed right now because Nikon scopes are all on firesale prices. Nikon recently announced that they would be stopping their scope lines and exiting the market. The Nikon scopes that are being sold right now will be the last ones on the market. As such, every retailer is having huge sales on them.

      At the firesale prices you can find a Nikon, it's a solid deal. Good glass for a really good price! The downside is that if something breaks and you need to warranty it, no one knows what Nikon will do. They have said that they will be honoring warranties still, but you never know with a big company and since they want to get out of the market -- they don't really have much motivation to honor their word in the long run.

      tl;dr -- Nikon is good, just not competitive at MSRP. If you can get one on a steep discount, they are a solid buy generally. However, there is some risk involved with that now.

      March 6, 2020 3:40 am
  • Kevin Coats

    I am surprised the Sig Romeo 5 or any of their red dot optics was not on the list. 10 times better than the Bushnell.

    February 17, 2020 8:40 am
    • Eric Hung

      Yup, we've subbed in the Romeo5 for the Holosun in the $100-$200 category! Bushnell we still like for sub-$100.

      February 29, 2020 2:43 pm
      • Shock

        Isn't the Romeo 5 contracted through Holosun?

        March 13, 2020 3:06 pm
        • David, PPT Editor

          No, it is not. I asked Sig Sauer about that rumor several months ago and they stated that it was completely false.

          March 13, 2020 5:57 pm
  • Frank T Mayes

    What would you recommend to put on a Ruger Super Redhawk 44 magnum for hunting?

    September 14, 2019 8:03 pm
  • Chiff

    Clueless noob here - What warrants the MASSIVE price difference between these and airsoft replicas when both seem to do the same thing? Is it just sheer ruggedness?

    September 1, 2019 6:56 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      More or less, yes. Airsoft optics will not survive on a real firearm. The recoil and shock will ruin their electronics very quickly, depending on the gun and the optic - 10 shots or less isn't surprising. The outside housing is also much more robust on real firearm optics since many of these are used for self-defense where your life literally depends on them working. Lastly, real firearm optics need to hold zero. Airsoft can walk a little and it doesn't matter too much since they aren't very accurate to start with. A real firearm optic needs to hold a zero at fairly long ranges while also enduring much more force and shock.

      September 1, 2019 7:22 pm
  • ninja95

    Where is the sig romeo5?

    July 20, 2019 1:39 pm
  • Marcelino

    I went red dot on a G-19 RMR Trijicon (holding up) Type 1. Slow at IDPA but accurate. On the PCC went with reflex Sighmark Ultra 79.99 at Midway; because of red/green choice. I favor green. Fast and accurate with PCC on steel. Learning curve is huge but I like them. And thanks for article Eric very enlightening. P.S. Be careful with the clones.

    March 4, 2019 7:50 am
  • B .

    what saith thou... Holosun good to take to battle?

    August 6, 2018 1:09 am
  • Andrew

    I vote for the SPARC-AR from Vortex. First off they have their lifetime warranty and second it is a nice crisp 2moa red dot. I have one on a Ruger 10/22 and one on a SBR.

    July 27, 2018 6:53 am
  • dennis Bechtel

    a steiner 536 is pretty great also 529 bucks and am Burris 536 is good and has an 6 minute reticle and focuses well its a 5 x good to 200 yards

    July 26, 2018 4:43 pm
  • MarkE

    Just picked up an Aimpoint Pro for $378, including expedited shipping, from Sportsman's Guide.. Discounts included membership (-$43.80) and current code SK1760 (-$40). Current code takes $40 off anything over $250, so this could be used for other products...

    July 24, 2018 8:41 pm
  • Notalima

    Aimpoint PROs 'can' be picked up as low as $350-$360 if you are patient and get the right sale. They used to happen more often, but not so much lately. Watch for a LAPG discount code; PSA occasionally drops them into the $360 range as well.

    Get the right coupon at Sportsman's Guide and you can pick up a XPS2-0 or XPS2-2 for right at $399 after discount (Buyer's Double Discount code for 20% off) plus about $15 shipping.

    Sig's Romeo5 and Primary Arms 50K hour RDS are also both 'bang for your buck' solutions, the Romeo5 around $129 shipped at a few places right now, and the Primary Arms ~$150 every day. The PA dot is Holosun sourced and the Sig is believed to be Holosun sourced.

    July 24, 2018 4:34 pm
  • dennis Bechtel

    just got a Burris 536 a 5 power 36mm objective and a focusable eye piece ,took 3 rounds to shoot in absolute Co witness on a sig 716 .7.62 x 51 dmr ,shoots about an inch at two hundred yards bi pod and butt rest ,I have 4 acogs for some pretty nice fn heavy and light sca r rifles the Burris was a present from my gf who shoots with me .this Burris 536 is just as clear an my acogs and its reticle is pretty well set up for up to 600 yard hold overs .im surprised at the build quality I think this was manufactured in Japan because the glass is excellent ,came with non reflector filter and a sun shade ,I have seen them go for 499 ,mine came with a leupold delta point on the top rail ,I really like this set up ass its as nice as an acog and my gf who works at Amazon got it for me cause she loves me and I give her a magic injection almost every night .

    July 24, 2018 4:29 pm
  • Charlie

    How does the Romeo1 show up if the weapon light is on in a nighttime condition?

    June 5, 2018 8:32 am
  • Kbdizzke

    Do you recommend co-witnessing on a pistol with Red dot?

    March 8, 2018 9:08 pm
    • Eric Hung

      I personally don't since my red dot pistols are more for competition or fun. If you're using one for duty it might make sense.

      March 9, 2018 11:29 am
  • Todd

    What is easier to aquire with, a smaller red dot sight or larger one, I use on a 10/22 for speed steel shooting?

    October 9, 2017 2:32 am
    • Eric Hung

      Hey Todd, a larger red dot (in terms of the size of the dot) will be easier to acquire. You can check out 6 MOA sizes.

      October 17, 2017 3:23 pm
  • William

    I'm new to the AR "scene" and just finished building my 3rd. My first 2 have flip up "open" sights but, my 3rd, I put a Vortex Sparc AR on it and plan to install a set of back-up open sights. I have two questions; 1) In "zeroing" in my Red Dot, does the dot have to be centered when setting it up? I've zeroed in scopes but Red Dots are new to me. 2) When co-witnessing open sights with a Red Dot, is there a simple process for setting it up at 1/3? Sorry for the dumb questions, I've been a handgun guy most of my life.

    August 2, 2017 5:41 am
    • Eric Hung

      The dot does not have to be centered when you are zeroing.

      And for having absolute or 1/3 cowitness will depend on your red dot height. When setting it up you have either the optic or the irons zeroed, and then move the other to match it up.

      August 6, 2017 2:14 pm
      • dennis Bechtel

        or a bore laser/

        July 24, 2018 4:31 pm
  • Robert OBrien

    Eric I have a sig 320 9mm with a romeo1 red dot. when looking at red dot I see a clustered group of red all around the dot which is hard to find the single red dot. its like red clouds all around the window

    July 24, 2017 12:46 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Not sure if its the sight or your own eyesight...do you have astigmatism?

      August 6, 2017 1:58 pm
      • Larry

        The red dot is round, astigmatism causes this. Sight through your glasses.

        November 8, 2017 7:45 pm
  • Rick

    Great help, good article - thanks for the info! I think I'll get me an ACOG

    July 3, 2017 3:31 pm
    • Eric Hung

      You're welcome Rick!

      July 4, 2017 10:50 am
  • Peter

    Loved the article! I enjoy using these sights on a few of my rifles and handguns, but I learned some new info. Thanks!

    March 25, 2017 3:08 am
    • Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, Peter!

      April 5, 2017 4:26 pm
  • dave

    Great background, thanks. I would like to know more about trajectory and distance using a red dot. Can't seem to find much about that.

    August 20, 2016 5:14 am
    • ehung

      Hi Dave, thanks for the suggestion! I'll be adding in that soon. I would personally use it up to 100 yards but I've seen people in competitions outshoot me easily up to 400 yards with a red dot while I'm using a 6x scope. Just depends on your eyes and if you know your holdovers.

      August 22, 2016 9:35 pm
  • P.Shields

    Thanks for commenting on the different types. I'm (now) a civilian shooter, and this technology is new to me. I am researching to understand, and your explanations help.

    August 11, 2016 11:19 am
    • ehung

      Thanks so much...glad I could help!

      August 11, 2016 11:23 am