Red Dots vs Green Dots: The 5 Best Green Dot Sights

Fifteen years ago, equipping a red dot on your rifle was a pretty novel concept.

Having it on your pistol? Almost unheard of.

Fast-forward to the present, and we have red dots, green dots, and even…amber dots?! Not only are dots widely available, but they also come in many different flavors.  

Pandemic AR-9 with EndoMags and Holosun HE510c GR Elite (2)
Pandemic AR-9 with EndoMags and Holosun HE510c GR Elite

But the colorful world of dots can be confusing. As the technology continues to evolve, you may be pondering the hows, the whys, and which optic is ultimately right for you.

Today, we’re going to delve into the science, history, and applications of red and green optics. And, after we’ve examined the benefits of going green, we’ll wrap up this article with a list of our top green dot recommendations.

Table of Contents

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Get On My Wavelength

Optics usually come in two main colors: red and green. There are a couple of weird outliers, but let’s ignore them for now, seeing as they’re primarily one-offs.

Trijicon MRO Green Dot Color Demonstration
Trijicon MRO Red and Green Dot Color Demonstration

Why red and green? It all comes down to biology and batteries.

Biology

When it comes to the animal kingdom, humans reign supreme. Thanks to natural selection, we get to enjoy good vision and really good color vision.

Eyeball
Humans rely on sight above all other senses, and our eyeballs have evolved accordingly. Sadly, natural selection says it’s time to say goodbye to our pinky toes.   

Dogs, mice, horses, and other mammals tend to rely on scent for survival, so their vision is comparatively okay, at best.

Here’s the tl;dr version of how vision works: You have rods and cones in your peepers. They take in light, filter the wavelengths, and tell your brain what you’re seeing.

crazy eyes
Most of us have good vision…though, not all of us.

While most mammals are dichromatic (they have two types of cones), humans are trichromatic, and our three types of cones react to different wavelengths of light: short (blue), medium (green), and long (red).

Kind of. I mean, it doesn’t follow the RBG model quite like that, but it’s close enough for this article.

it's about the cones

But humans are a little odd, even among other animals with trichromatic vision.

Most trichromatic animals have cones that are evenly spaced out across the visible light spectrum. Humans don’t. Ours are clustered toward red and green, with the blues being much weaker.

Why, you might ask, do we see red and green better? Why did we evolve in that direction instead of something else?

As far as I can Google, we don’t know. There are a couple of good guesses involving things like social cues or the ripening of fruit, but these are just theories.

And that concludes our extremely abridged breakdown of why humans have color vision and how it works!

Batteries

Okay, so this science is really, really complex. If you want a more general overview, but at a 5th-grade level, Bill Nye Season 1 Episode 16 “Light and Color” is your friend.

The ultra-short analysis is that different colors are produced based on the energy in the photons.

In the visible light spectrum, shades of red take the least amount of energy while violet shades take the most.

If you don’t remember your rainbow colors it’s (from most to least energy): violet > purple > indigo > blue > green > yellow > red.

visible light spectrum

Most red dots are around the 650nm wavelength, math math math that’s 184 kJ/mol of energy.

Most green dots are around the 540nm wavelength, math math math that’s 221 kJ/mol of energy.

To summarize: Red dots are red because the batteries last longer. And we can see a whole bunch of shades of red, so it works out really well.

So, Why Green?

Remember that our cones are clustered toward red and green? Ya, it’s also lopsided – sort of.

This is easier to explain using numbers instead of colors because of…well, science.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson "Science" gif

Light is wavelengths, the distance between the peaks are in nanometers, those distances give a number, and every color has a number.

Red is 625nm-740nm.

Green is 520nm-565nm.

For humans, long and medium cones peak at 560nm and 530nm, respectively. As you can see, both of those peaks are in the green zone.  

Human vision cone spectrum
Human vision spectrum, S=Small Cones, M=Medium, L=Long

So, even though our long cones see red and our medium cones see a tiny bit of red, both of them see a lot more green—more shades, more depth, more vibrance—than any other color.

How much more? About 30x as much green.

Green is our color. Our brains pick it up faster, we process more of it, and it just works best for an optic.

If We See Green Better, Why Aren’t All Sights Green?!

Batteries.

It takes a lot more juice to power a green dot than it does a red dot. And since most people can see red well enough, the optics companies defaulted to that option. 

However, in recent years, the technology behind optics and batteries has improved by a LOT, so many of these companies are starting to dabble in green colors. 

Night Vision Cat
Night Vision Cat though Gen 3 NVG

Green is actually fairly common, just not in illuminated optics. Until recently, anyway. 

Have a night sight? What about night vision goggles? Probably green.

Decades of trial and error experimentation has proven that green delivers the best depth perception. Our eyes are basically designed to see more shades of this color, making it ideal for stealthy nighttime optics.

Does Green Actually Make A Difference?

It depends.

This is where we make a detour from clean-cut science and delve into the nitty-gritty truth that color perception is not a universal experience.

When it comes down to comparing your vision vs. my vision, you might be better off with green (which, by the by, might not even be my green), or you might be better off with red.

I’ll detail some cases for each, but first, let’s just look at if green can help.

Pandemic AR-9 with EndoMags and Holosun HE510c GR Elite (1)
My Holosun HE510C-GR Elite

I tried out my first green dot simply because I wanted to. Why not, right? I won’t pretend that I had any real reasons behind the decision. If anything, it was just a simple “eh, may as well” experiment.

Jokes on me, because I became a quick convert. After the first range trip, I went home and ordered three more green dots—two for rifles and one for my Glock.

Yup. I am totally sold on them.

A Simple Experiment

Shot timers don’t lie. If you want to see if something actually makes a difference in your shooting, test it on the clock.

My test was super simple, just me and a 9mm PCC shooting steel at 7-yards and 12-yards. For a red dot, I used a Bushnell TRS-26, and the green dot was my Holosun HE510C-GR Elite.

The drill I completed is very straightforward and easy to replicate: Start from low-ready, safety off. At the beep, fire two shots at the first steel plate, then transition to the second steel plate and fire one more shot.

2+1 with a transition between.

For the record, the targets are a Caldwell 10” Coffin and a 4” round gong.

46
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This drill requires speedy target acquisition, transitions between multiple plates, and headshot-sized accuracy on the smaller gong.

It’s a great general cross-section of close quarter shooting, the likes of which might be found in a local match or a home defense scenario.

I ran the drill 10 times for each optic — so 20 times total.

Here are the final times:

Red DotGreen Dot
1.951.67
1.971.70
1.971.73
1.981.73
1.981.89
2.101.93
2.121.97
2.161.89
2.181.87
2.191.77

For this drill, I recorded a 2.06-second average with the red dot and a 1.82-second average with the green dot.

That doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it is measurable and not insignificant. Shaving a quarter of a second off of your average time for a fast drill just by changing the dot color is a big deal.

My slowest time with the green dot was faster than my fastest time with the red dot (with the exception of 1 rep).

gotta go fast

Now there are a few caveats I could make with this information, such as this was a very simple drill, these were low round counts, and 10 reps of each optic isn’t a huge data set.

But the shot timer doesn’t lie. Green was faster. And in my personal training, I can feel the difference even when not on camera.

5 Best Green Dot Optics

The sad truth is that there aren’t many green options on the market yet.

Sure, you can take your pick of some really low-quality versions, but finding a first-rate optic made by a respectable manufacturer can be a difficult endeavor.

Luckily, there are a few quality options available — and we’ve tested most of them hands-on!

1. Holosun HE510C-GR Elite

The Holosun HE510C-GR Elite has quickly become my favorite optic in recent months. This is The One that instantly converted me to green dots after a single range trip.

Now I have two. See what happened there?

Holosun HE510C GR Elite (2)
Holosun HE510C GR Elite

Holosun hasn’t done me wrong so far. All in all, it’s an incredible, feature-rich optic that won’t break the bank.

It comes with three reticle settings (dot, dot and circle, or circle), a Titanium-alloy protective hood, solar battery assist, Shake Awake, an internal battery tray so you can replace batteries without having to rezero, and a 50,000-hour (over 5 years) max battery life.

That’s an extremely impressive battery life for a green reticle.

And make no mistake, this isn’t your standard red dot design. The HE510C-GR Elite comes with a 32mmx24mm lens, giving you plenty of room to see your target and anything near it.

Holosun HE510C GR Elite (1)

I’ve been beating mine around for close to 6 months now, and both optics are in perfect shape…minus some cosmetic scratches. But that’s just the price of playing hard and having fun.

Overall, I have no complaints and highly recommend the Holosun HE510C-GR Elite.

340
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The only downside to this design is that the emitter is exposed and could theoretically get blocked with mud, debris, and other stuff.

This hasn’t happened to either of my Holosuns so far, but I can certainly see the potential. 

Whenever this happens, I just wipe away the dirt and everything is good to go again. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it doesn’t distract or detract from my shooting in any way.

But if you aren’t too keen on that exposed emitter, you may want to try the HE512T. It has a closed design, so you don’t have to worry about debris getting trapped. The only hitch is that it’s significantly more expensive.

634
at Holosun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

2. Trijicon MRO

We have a whole video review on the Trijicon MRO. It’s one of the best on the market — both in red and green dot flavors.

If you’re looking for a bomb-proof optic, then you can’t go wrong with an MRO. While the features aren’t popping, this is a true duty or SHTF-quality dot.

It’s hard not to be a fan of the green model: the battery life can last up to a year, the lens is 25mm, the glass quality is amazing, and the brightness adjustment knob (6 levels!) is user-friendly.

The MRO also rocks 2 night vision settings, if that’s your thing.

Just be prepared to drop some cash on this one.

445
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on the MRO?

Readers' Ratings

5.00/5 (25)

Your Rating?

3. Holosun HS407C-GR

The Holosun HS407C-GR is the dot I run on my Glock 19 CCW. After putting in a few thousand rounds, I can honestly say that I would trust my life to it. 

While I use the 407C model, there are several other flavors to consider. The 507C is basically the same optic, but it comes with multiple reticle settings, much like the 510C (dot, circle, or dot and circle).

If you want to go big, check out the HE508T. It’s the overbuilt, titanium housing, “cool guy” model.

But I picked the 407C because I wanted a simple dot that was in stock…and comparatively cheaper.

All three models feature solar battery assist, Shake Awake, and 50,000-hour battery life.

They also come with a Picatinny mount for your rifle or PCC, but you can always remove it and equip the dots on any RMR footprint mount.

And to complicate your decision, all of these options share the same Version 2 design.

Kudos where it’s deserved, though; V2 gives you a battery tray that can be accessed without having to remove the optic. It’s a great perk when you need to change out the battery.

340
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. Sig Sauer MSR Green Dot

Not sure if green is right for you? In that case, the Sig Sauer MSR is my top recommendation due to the low cost of entry.

Wink
It’s a Sig Sauer dot. How can you expect anything but excellence?

The Sig Sauer Romeo5 has long been one of the best sub-$200 optics on the market, but the much newer MSR is an outstanding offering for even less money. This green dot version is solid too!

With a 20,000-hour battery life, 2 night vision modes, a top-mounted battery compartment, and lens covers, you really can’t go wrong with this budget option.

It even comes with a mount, so you’re ready to go right out of the box.

The only problem is finding one in stock. It seems like Sig doesn’t make a whole lot of the green MSRs, so if you see one, grab it!

180
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. EOTech XPS2-0GRN

Need a holographic sight? EOTech has you covered with their XPS2-0GRN (why do dots have such complex names?!).

This model is everything you would expect from an XPS2 EOTech dot: it’s bomb-proof, it can run with the front glass shattered, and the dot is super fine even under magnification.

Trijicon MRO Green Dot Color Demonstration Versus EOTech

Honestly, I can’t imagine how much engineering went into perfecting the XPS2-0GRN.

Holographic sights and green dots require serious battery power individually, yet somehow this combo model still has a 600-hour battery life.

That may not sound like much when compared to Holosun’s 50k, but it’s pretty amazing in the world of holographic sights.

650
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Is A Green Dot Right For You?

Maybe.

The answer to this question depends on a lot of personal factors, including not-so-simple biology.

If you’re older, have poor sight, or astigmatism — you should look into a green dot, even if you’ve passed on red dots before. There is a good chance that a green option will work much better for you.

Another consideration is where and how you plan on using the dot.

squad car lights
Is there a problem, officer? Yes, it’s called a red dot. 

The first person in my circle to make the switch to a green dot is a big city LEO.

He has a dangerous job and didn’t like that it was so easy for a red dot to get lost among all the other red lights – taillights, squad car lights, etc. – in his environment.

It’s a problem that he’ll never have to worry about with a green dot.

My reasons for going green are less critical but still life-changing. Green dots are cleaner, sharper, and help me be faster on target.

Conclusion

For many, green dots are a huge improvement over red dots because of eye physiology. Faster target acquisition, better contrast, sharper reticle…the list goes on. The only downside? Battery life and cost. But hey, the shot timer doesn’t lie when it comes to results!

Ready to try out your first green dot?

Again, whether you love it or meh it will come down to your eyesight and personal preferences. I won’t pretend that it’s the greatest thing since the moon landing, but I’m definitely a convert.

Give it a shot! You might just join the green cult too.

One of Us

From now on, all of my sights will be green dots…if the option is available. Do me a solid, optic companies. Please?

Trijicon MRO Size Comparison with Other Optics
Still torn between green dots and red dots?

What are your thoughts on green? Have you tried one of those amber ones yet? Let us know in the comments! For some more badass optics, take a look at the Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics.

Not sure if red/green dots or holographic is for you? We can help with that too!

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30 Leave a Reply

  • Avam Livingston

    David, Can't seem to find the HE510C-GR anywhere! Any ideas??

    5 days ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Set up in-stock emails and hope :( I had to wait a few weeks when I ordered mine, they come in waves and sell out fairly quickly.

      5 days ago
  • clean harry

    my 3 yr old, cheap sightmark has a choice of red or green, dot or circle, and as I recall, cost around $160. havent killed it yet. it sits a 45 degree angle on my forward grip so i can transition to it off my scope, all this on an a.r. it does munch batteries, however.

    1 week ago
  • Marcus Aurelius Tarkus

    Love the OEM three-point green (Tritium) sights on my EDC SIG P365. 'Nuff said.

    1 week ago
  • Tom N.

    Writer writes "bad eyes etc."....I have the worst eyes at 57 yrs. I always hated red dots. When I bought my Ruger PC9 and added a Holosun HE510C GR, I was in love. I shot a USPSA PCC match and couldn't miss, especially various steel. Now I'm looking for a Holosun for my M&P 40L to replace the famed Delta Point that came with it. I love green. Thanks for the article with times. Tom

    1 week ago
  • beaky

    would a dab of green paint on my front iron improve my shots? I didn't realize when I bought my AR that the gun was the least expensive part of the equation.

    1 week ago
    • Greg Miller

      use photoluminescent paint, big improvement for a few bucks.

      6 days ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Some finger nail polish on front irons is an old school way of getting some more contrast on ccw guns. Not sure it would help much on an AR since the front sight is further out. Can't hurt to try though.

      1 week ago
  • Paul H Bergh

    David is an EXCELLENT writer, in my humble opinion. This is a very well written article that goes a LONG way to explain an interesting and timely subject for shooters. Thanks, David!

    1 week ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Glad to help!

      1 week ago
      • Avam Livingston

        David, Can't seem to find the HE510C-GR anywhere! Any ideas??

        5 days ago
      • Shepherd of Fire

        Yeah! Great article! Thanks, David! I am an Eotech fan myself, but the others here are great alternatives, especially at those price points.

        1 week ago
  • Noneya

    What holster you use with that Glock 19 with an optic ?

    1 week ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      I've been using an OWB Dara Holster. Great retention, smooth draw, I like it. Almost all of their holsters come standard with an optic cut.

      1 week ago
  • RAA

    Great article, I'm in the market and will consider a green dot now.

    1 week ago
  • WCW

    I recently put an Eotech XPS3 on a M4. It’s a great optic, the sight picture is phenomenal. I really debated on green or red, If my primary use was in daylight, I really think I would prefer green. However I decided on red for low light conditions.

    1 week ago
  • CW

    Super pleased with my Swampfox optics Blade, green reticle. With coupons it was little over $200

    1 week ago
  • d

    okay, first of all, i appreciate all the effort you put into your content. that said, i purchased a holosun and was disappointed... the product arrived with one lens ajar... it appears it was just not seated properly when manufactured... though a possible small chip on one edge could indicate damage in shipping... but, my box was not damaged at all, also it’s made in china... i am putting effort into not purchasing anything made in china... for one, it is a communist nation... i’ll leave the rest for other discussions... please stop using and promoting products produced by communists and start informing us where a product is manufactured if you’re featuring it on your site... 82nd Airborne, gulf war vet

    1 week ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      There really aren't many optics, especially red dots, that aren't made in China right now. Leupold has some options but I've heard very disappointing things about them, Aimpoint and EOTech are options but are very steep increases in price.

      1 week ago
      • CarbonKnight

        No excuses please ... stop supporting communist China!

        1 week ago
        • travisac

          +1000

          6 days ago
  • Bob Fleming

    Question- would a green dot be harder to pick up in foliage?

    1 week ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      I haven't found that to be the case, but most of my shooting is in the desert. Thinking back to spending the summers in GA, I could see that type of green as possibly being an issue.

      1 week ago
    • Truth

      Because foliage is often green too.

      1 week ago
    • Fred Lead

      Yes, which is partly why I exchanged a Holosun 515GR for the red version. I also found I had an easier time associating red with "go" on targets, but I'm sure that could be trained away if I wanted.

      1 week ago
  • Armstrong

    I just purchased the HE515CM-GR Elite for use on a CZ Scorpion Evo. It is circle dot and dot only. What are your thoughts on this one?

    1 week ago
    • Fred Lead

      I bought one for my Scorpion and exchanged it for a red one. The optic is pretty solid, passing some pretty rough tests. The color is up to personal preference. If you are on the fence I suggest getting a cheap red and green optic with multiple reticles to test color preference. That also helped me learn circle dot reticles look cleaner to my eyes than single dots.

      1 week ago
  • LCpl Mike

    Why so stinkin' expensive?

    1 week ago
  • Don

    what about the Vortex Razor?

    1 week ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      The Razor as a whole isn't an optic I would put on a gun unless it was a pure plinker. Durability is a bit lacking on it.

      1 week ago
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