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Red Dots vs Holographic Sights: Which Is Better For You?

by Richard Douglas

When it comes to accessorizing your weapon, one of the biggest decisions is what optic to use. In this case, the biggest differences between a red dot sight and holographic sights fall into 3 main categories: Technology used, pros and cons, and what you need it for.

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Sight Boyds Gunstocks Blog

Tech Aspects

Internal components don’t matter in the heat of battle, so here are the practical technological differences between the two sights:

  • Red dot sights typically consume less battery power and have smaller batteries, which makes them smaller optics. This is mostly due to the amount of power required to create each sight picture.
  • Red dot sights are cylindrical while holographic sights are squared.
  • A red dot reticle is usually a dot, circle, or triangle, but the holographic sight always has a MOA reticle closer to the traditional optics.
  • Red dot sights are mostly cheaper, with only the top-of-the-line being close to holographic sights.
  • Because of the sight tech, red dots won’t function if the objective lens isn’t clear. Holographic sights will work as long as any part of the lens is intact, even if half of it is shattered or smudged from being left out.
  • Because the sight can be superimposed with a speed ring, holo sights allow for faster target acquisition.

With Every Pro, There’s a Con

No list is complete without pros and cons, but the pros of the holographic sight seem to be better than its cons or the red dots’ pros.

Sight Picture

For accuracy and quick firing, you want to avoid parallax. Red dot sights are stationary, so you have to be at the exact same spot every time or you’ll have to adjust, whereas holographic sights don’t have that problem.

Because of the MOA reticle and the fact that the reticle retains size with magnification, holographic sights allow for better accuracy and precision. Red dots grow with the magnification with only the dot or whatever shape you choose to go off of.

Another big difference is the field of view, because holographic sights give better peripheral vision outside of the optic and a wider picture. The tube of red dots can create tunnel vision and blur out your peripherals, which may not matter to you.

Size and Lasting Power

The biggest advantage that red dot sights have going for them is their sustainability. The battery of a red dot sight can last for thousands of hours without being shut off. It also takes up less space, so the sight is actually smaller on your weapon.

Because of the more-powerful reticle and the amount of working components inside a holographic sight, they drain a lot faster and have to be bigger. You can draw out the power by shutting off the sight when not in use, though.

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Sight Boyds Blog

Pick With a Purpose

While many weapon-related decisions boil down to preference, your choice between red dot and holographic sights may depend on what you plan to use it for.

Red dot sights are smaller and have a smaller reticle that won’t hinder visuals, so they’re usually better on pistols and used for competitions. They’re also good on sub-machine guns, but the lack of precision and range makes them ill-suited for rifles.

The field of view and peripheral freedom given by holographic sights makes them perfect for close-quarters or having to watch for multiple targets. Because of their fast acquisition, they can be very useful in target shooting but the reticle is more extravagant.

However, due to the MOA reticle a holographic sight can be accurate at 2- or 300 yards. The bulky sight isn’t ideal for a handgun, but the range and number of uses makes a holographic sight great for medium-to-long distance shooting with a submachine-gun or a rifle like the AR-15.

There you have it! When you’re considering a holographic or red dot sight, ask yourself what conditions you’ll be shooting under, what sight picture you’ll need, and how long you want the sight to last.

You can use the technological specifications as a sort of checklist if you really need to narrow it down. One important note is that more recent holographic sights combine the best of both worlds with a heftier price, but this way you can get what you set your sights on!

Author Bio:
Richard Douglas writes on firearms, defense and security issues. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, 1945, Daily Caller and other publications.