If you have an AR-15, we’re pretty sure your familiar with the huge variety of accessories you can buy for it. One of our favorite accessories at Best in Bunch is the reflex or red dot sight. Red dot sights help with faster target acquisition and make target shooting much more fun. Some of us at Best In Bunch enjoy competition shooting and have put mini red dot sights on their race guns like many pro-shooters have done. Red dot sights aren’t just for rifles—they aid in accuracy on handguns and shotguns, too.
Like laser sights, red dots help you focus on the target rather than concentrate on sight alignment, offer a wide field of view and shoot with both eyes open, so you stay situationally aware. Optical aids like these also help those with aging eyes remain proficient, confident, and accurate, as well as safe.
Red dot sights are great for low light situations, self-defense, competition, and close quarters. Available in a range of dot sizes, measured in Minute of Angle (MOA,) the higher the MOA, the bigger the dot. Bigger is better for self-defense because you won’t waste precious time locating the dot. We recommend something bigger than 3.0 MOA for self-defense and close quarters. Red dot sights do not magnify and are parallax-free, which means the reticle or dot won’t move when you move your head around.
We tested five of the most popular mini red dot sights and offer our honest opinion on them. Let us know if we left your favorite out, we’d love to give it a shot… (har, har)
Listed from most expensive to the least expensive.
The Trijicon Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight has CR2032 battery-powered LED illumination, which makes it unique from the other red dots. The other thing that sets it apart is its higher price tag. Let’s get this out of the way from the start—we expected more consistency out of this unit for the price. Some tests have resulted in the RMR not holding well up to recoil. At close to $500, we expect our equipment to work reliably. Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the bits we do like. It has an interesting hood shape, which protects the lens for better shock absorbency. The unit is technically always on, so for your self-defense gun, we consider this a good thing. You don’t have to think about or fumble with buttons to activate it. Just make sure you periodically perform a battery check. It says it has a four-year battery life, but full disclosure—we haven’t come anywhere near able to prove that. We like the limited lifetime warranty and the fact that it is made in the U.S.A.
- 6.5 MOA dot
- Forged aluminum housing
- 4 brightness settings—manual or automatic modes
- 45mm long
- 1.2 ounces
There are quite a few innovative features about the DeltaPoint that we really like. It has motion sensor detection activation. It instantly turns on when movement is detected and will automatically shut off after five minutes of no activity. The Aspheric lens shape gives you a wider field of view than regular red dot sights. The Leupold DeltaPoint has a cool triangle instead of a dot. It is 7.5 MOA. We also like that you don’t need a tool to change the battery like you do on the Vortex. What we don’t like—even on Leupold’s website, people report mounting and fit issues. You do need to replace your iron sights for the DeltaPoint Pro to co-witness (co-witness means you can still use your iron sights.) It is available with a dot, but we wanted to try the Chevron for a change to see if it made any difference. (It didn’t. It did not get us on target any faster or slower than a traditional dot.) The Leupold DeltaPoint does not have automatic brightness adjustment and is actually a somewhat complicated process to adjust it. You have to press and hold the power button down for two seconds and then release it. You have to keep doing this to move through the different brightness levels. This seems super counterintuitive for a self-defense situation. Once you do have the correct brightness set for your situation, when you turn off the unit, it reverts to the last brightness setting. This is the DeltaPoint’s biggest fault.
- 7.5 MOA triangle reticle
- 8 brightness settings
- 1.82” long
- 1.9 ounces
- Low-battery indicator
This one has the smallest dot we reviewed for this list—3 MOA. It does have way more brightness settings than any others—10 brightness settings either adjusted manually or set for automatic. Like the Burris, the Vortex Venom has top-mounted battery access for the CR 1632 battery. In low mode, the batteries will last up to 30,000 hours and it automatically shuts down after 14 hours. What we didn’t like—even though the battery housing location is easily accessible, getting into it is tough. The verdict is still out whether we think 10 brightness settings is overkill or actually useful. We prefer the Vortex for competition over home protection or concealed carry EDC (every day carry). Overall, we think it’s great—easy to operate and holds zero, we just weren’t blown away.
- 3 MOA dot
- 10 brightness settings—manual or auto
- 14-hour automatic shutdown
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- 1.9” long
- 1.1 ounces
The Burris FastFire III model we chose has a large 8 MOA red dot. It is designed for quick target acquisition and coverage at close range. It’s not so great for further distances. It has three brightness settings, in either manual or automatic mode. There is an on/off switch but the FastFire automatically shuts down after nine hours. We like that it holds zero consistently and the top-mount battery housing for quick and easy battery swaps. When your battery runs out, you can change them without losing zero, unlike the more expensive Trijicon. We also like the fact that the Burris FastFire III is ready to mount on the Smith & Wesson M&P C.O.R.E and the Glock MOS. This proves to us that Burris put some thought into the development of this red dot. It comes with a forever warranty. Burris says it will withstand recoil up to .50 BMG, but again, we didn’t test this.
- 8 MOA dot
- CR1632 battery
- 1.9” long
- 1.5 ounces
- Index-matched, Hi-Lume® multicoating
First off—that price! Second—this one is a green dot and not red. You can get it in traditional red, but like the triangle on the DeltaPoint, we wanted to give something different a go and we like it! Things we really like: the 5 MOA dot is the perfect sweet spot between covering too much or too little of your target at various distances giving you both speed and accuracy, it handles recoil on 9mm and .45 ACP pistols well without losing zero, and it includes a riser for co-witnessing your sights, which saves some money having to buy separate mounts and risers. What could be improved—keeping it tight. If you have problems with it intermittently working, make sure the battery housing is tight. Just be aware during long range sessions and competitions. It is heavier than any other red dot on this list, at 4 ounces with the riser mount and protective hood.
- 5 MOA green dot
- 5 brightness settings
- 1.9” long
- CR1632 battery with 10,000-hour life
- Includes riser mount and protective hood
There are advantages and disadvantages to putting a red dot sight on your gun. In our opinion, the biggest disadvantage is you must modify most pistols to mount them. If you are considering one for your EDC, you need to consider holster choice, how easily and comfortably it will be to conceal and wear all day. They do help with quick target acquisition and accuracy. We think red dots are a great addition to your race or competition gun. There is plenty to consider when choosing a pistol red dot sight—size, price, dot size, and additional features. Hopefully, this guide helps you narrow down your choices.