21 Best Red Dot Sights for the Money 2023 (AR-15s, Pistols & Rifles)

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In the world of optics, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the term red dot sight.

Just know, a “red dot sight” is NOT a specific type of optic. It is a general term that includes several types of optics.

Red Dot Sight Reviews and Buying Guide

When someone says they’re looking for a red dot sight, it’s important to dig a little deeper to find out what they actually want.

They’re usually looking for a reflex sight, but in some cases, they may be looking for a holographic sight, prism sight, or even an ACOG.

On this page, I hope to clear up a lot of confusion, explain the different technologies, and help you find the best red dot sight within your budget.

Quick Summary: Our Top Picks for Red Dot Sights for the Money in 2022 (AR-15s, Pistols & Rifles)
EOTech 512 Holographic Sight
  • Universal Mount
  • Windage Adjustment
  • Elevation Adjustment
Sig Sauer Romeo 5
  • Advanced optical systems
  • Precision molded aspheric lens technology
  • Electronically illuminated reticle system
Aimpoint QRP2 CompM4
  • Compatible with every generation of Night Vision
  • Super ACET technology
  • 500,000 hours of use on NVD setting
Meprolight Self-powered Bullseye
  • Designed for CQC
  • Rapid target acquisition
  • Protected fiber optic light collection for daytime
Vortex Optics Venom
  • Fully Multi-Coated
  • Parallax Free
  • Single-Piece Chassis
AT3 Tactical Reflex Red Dot
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Crisp 2 MOA red dot allows for accurate
  • Rubber gaskets on the turrets and battery cover

Want to Learn More Before You Decide? Keep reading.

Introduction: In the Marine Corps Rifleman Creed it says, “Without me, my rifle is useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…”

Marine Using a Red Dot Sight
Marine Scanning for Targets in Fallujah Iraq

When it comes to optics for shooting enemies before they shoot you at close to mid-ranges, nothing beats a red dot sight.

So, whether you’re looking for an optic for home defense or just something to take out those evil paper targets at the range, a red dot is a great choice.

Optics are one of those accessories you really don’t want to cheap out on. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see a nice rifle with a cheap scope. I wish they would pass a law making it illegal.

On the flip side, if you have a low-end AR-15, it would be stupid to drop $1000 dollars on an optic. The bottom line is you should buy an optic that matches the quality of your rifle.

Types of Red Dot Sights

Reflex Sights: Are the most common type of red dot sight and is what most people are thinking of when they think of a red dot.

These sights operate using a series of mirrors where the dot or reticle is projected forward onto a lens and is reflected back by a mirror, making the dot visible.

Reflex sights come in two distinct flavors and sometimes you may even find a 2-in-1 package where a small exposed reflex is mounted on top or at a 45-degree angle to a magnified tubed reflex. This offers the shooter multiple magnification options.

Exposed Reflex Sights

This type of optic has one mirror that projects the sight dot back at the user. They have no tube and only consist of a small clear window.

Glock Pistol with Red Dot Exposed Reflex Sight
Glock with Exposed Reflex Sight

These offer the highest eye relief and fastest target acquisition of any type of sight. These are almost never found with any magnification and are highly sought-after for close-quarter or close-range shooting where fast target acquisition is essential.

Tubed Reflex Sights

These sights have two different lenses where the reticle or dot is projected from the rear lens to the front lens. These sights usually are found with no magnification, however, many of them can be found with small amounts of magnification. Tubed reflex sights typically have the most variable functions and can be found in many different shapes and sizes.

Sig MPX with Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Sight
Sig MPX with Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Sight
This design is significantly more precise and accurate than the other two optics we are discussing today. EOTech has the sole patent on this technology so they are the only producer of a holographic sight. There are some other optic manufacturers claiming to sell holographic sights, but these are usually just reflex sights dressed to appear as holographic sights.

Holographic Red Dot Sights

Holographic sights allow the shooter to acquire targets with both eyes open easily by sporting a clear view of the target through a window.

EOtech Holographic Sight Close Up

EOTech sights are very similar to reflex sights but offer higher precision and are usually better known for competitive shooting. The floating reticle allows for angle adjustments automatically, making this sight perfect for shooting on the move or moving from target to target quickly. With that said and considering their market dominance via patent, EOTech sights cost significantly more than exposed reflex sights but offer only a little higher quality and functionality.

Prism Sights

Prism sights are typically shaped like a traditional scope but are significantly more compact and not as long. Prism sights do sometimes come with small amounts of magnification and allow for either an etched or illuminated reticle.

These optics utilize a prism to focus the light and create the sight picture as opposed to mirrors and lenses like traditional scopes do. That’s how they manage to still offer magnification with a smaller and shorter configuration.

They do have some drawbacks, they typically have the shortest amount of eye relief, which means your eye must be closer to the sight to view the picture. This makes target acquisition not as fast as a reflex or holographic, which is the trade-off you are accepting for magnification.

Another drawback is that they only offer small amounts of magnification and will not come close to a full-blown scope. You’ll typically find these in 1x, 3x, 4x, 5x or 6x. Sometimes prism sights are paired with a reflex sight to offer both small amounts of magnification and a quick non-magnified option for target acquisition.

Why Invest in an Optic?

I’m actually a big fan of iron sights, they’re tried and true, but let’s be honest, it’s 2019 and the days of lining up targets with the front and rear sight are over. I mean, even the Marine Corps has moved on from iron sights… that says a lot.

Attaching a red dot optic to your rifle or pistol is the quickest way to increase target acquisition speed, makes shooting more comfortable, and simplifies the shooting process.

For less experienced shooters, red dot sights are more user-friendly than any other type of sight. With a red dot equipped rifle or pistol, you can pass your firearm to say your wife or range buddy who is new to shooting and they will be able to use it very effectively with little training.

My Mission With This Article: In this article, I will explain the differences between reflex, holographic, and prism sights (see above). There are some common misconceptions when it comes to these groups of optics and I want to share some tips to help you find the perfect optic.

I decided to break this review down by price range, so you can quickly find the best red dot sight for the money within your budget. I also share some good retailers, so you know where to get the optic if you decide to pull the trigger.

Before I get into the type of red dot optics, I’d like to clarify what 1x magnification means. Most red dot scopes come standard as 1x, meaning they don’t offer magnification. This can be changed or augmented however with a second piece called a magnifier.

A magnifier is a separate piece of equipment that sits in front of the optic or directly behind the optic and offers magnification for your 1x optics. Usually, these are easily detachable, or they move on a hinge and can be flipped to the side, giving the shooter the ability to use their optic for short-range target acquisition and then switch to magnification quickly for long-range engagement. Most magnifiers come around the 3x range, but you can find some that offer up to 6x magnification.

Aimpoint Comp M4 and EOtech G33 Magnifier Setup
Aimpoint Comp M4 and EOtech G33 Magnifier Setup

Like I said above most are non-magnified (1x magnification) and are best suited for close and mid-range shooting. If you’re looking an optic to increase the range of your rifle, you might want to look for one on this list that offers magnification or check out my ACOGs and Scopes page here.

When is it OK to Buy a Cheap Optic?

If you’re looking to buy a red dot sight for a .22 caliber rifle or a sight that will simply get the job done you don’t need to spend a lot of money. There are some really great budget options on the market right now, like the Romeo 5.

Most people really don’t need to step out of the under $100 or under $200 category. That said, if you’re looking for a high-end red dot sight for AR-15s, pistols, or other high caliber rifles and are looking for optimal performance, spend some extra cash and buy the best red dot sight you can afford. You’ll thank me later.

You Shouldn’t Put a Cheap Red Dot Sight on an AR-15 or other High Power Firearm.

Buying an extremely cheap optic might seem quite appealing, especially if you’re on a tight budget. If your main focus is to simply have something sitting on top of the gun to look tacticool and maybe use once or twice a year, a cheap optic may actually do the trick for you. Unfortunately, if you are going to be putting several hundred rounds down range a cheap optic just simply won’t do.

Some of these cheap optic advertisements will claim they have all the same functions and features as high-end optics and while it may seem like this is true, there will be something lacking.

In the world of optics, you generally do get what you pay for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need the latest and greatest optic. There are plenty of great optics in the mid-price range, but don’t plan on getting a quality one for under $50.

Here Are 5 Reasons Why.

1. Cheap optics usually have a wide minute of angle (MOA). MOA is a unit of measure for the accuracy of what a shooter may expect the size of groupings to be. You can read more on MOA here. A large MOA means a low amount of accuracy. A large MOA might not be too noticeable when you’re shooting a .22 at close ranges, but when you’re trying to reach out and hit targets at 500 Meters with an AR-15 MOA matters.

2. Another reason to stray far from low budget optics is the crispness of the reticle.

3. Most of the time, cheap optics will have unusually bright or dim dots that are hard to focus on and use in either high or low light situations. Sometimes they even create their own glare and reflections. High-end optics also typically have night vision compatible lighting. This means the lighting is low enough for night vision accessories and goggles to pick up on without damaging them by being too bright.

4. Many cheap optics are also very difficult to get zeroed in and sometimes lose their zeroing with time and/or recoil from the firearm they’re mounted on. Speaking of recoil, some optics simply cannot handle the recoil from high caliber weapons and thus result in catastrophic failure for your optics. There are even some cool YouTube videos where cheap low-quality optics shatter and explode.

5. A big difference between high-end optics and low-end optics are their power sources and battery life. Some high-end sights like the ACOGs that are Issued to Marines utilize a tritium/fiber optic illuminated reticle that essentially eliminates the need for batteries altogether. Your cheap optics will burn through batteries and lack functions such as auto shut off and power-saving modes. Some high-end optics even have etched sights along with powered reticles to ensure that if you ever run out of energy, you can still use them.

What Features Should You Look for in a Red Dot?

First and foremost, you must consider the firearm the optics are going to be placed on. Many popular reflex and holographic sights rely on mounting to a Picatinny or weaver rail. If your firearm doesn’t have one, you are going to have a lot of trouble mounting many of the optics on this list.

Secondly, if you’re shooting a very large caliber weapon, you must make sure the optic is durable enough to withstand the shock. Every firearm has recoil but not all recoil is the same and as stated before, optics not designed for shock absorption can easily become damaged. Some major optic manufactures even have different variations of their products that are specially optimized for specific calibers and platforms. Make sure you are choosing the correct model for the firearm you have!

Range is obviously a huge factor when selecting an optic. If you’re using a large caliber rifle to shoot extremely long distances, a reflex or holographic sight probably won’t do you much good. These sights are for close to medium ranges and will not help you land mile-long shots. Some sights may be adjustable for both close range and medium ranges, making them the ideal multi-tool for most small caliber weapons such as the AR 15 platform.

Light levels are important to consider. If you’re shooting in a well light enclosed firing range, you probably won’t need to worry much about brightness adjustments or quality of brightness, but if you’re planning to operate your firearms during the night or in extreme lighting conditions, you must find optics that will allow you to adjust the brightness for these conditions.

Lastly, there is an old saying that goes kind of like this: “The optics on your firearm should cost the same as the firearm they are mounted on”. This means two things. 1. If you have a high-end firearm, you need a high-end optic to match or both will suffer in performance. 2. If your firearm costs a lot of money, chances are you’re operating a firearm that requires special characteristics like the ones mentioned above, which typically result in more expensive optics being required.

As a bonus piece of advice for those of you with less than desirable eyesight, you must beware of a few impending complications when using optics. No matter which optic you are using at any price range, there may be a star bursting effect seen if you have astigmatisms. Many comments online will claim that scopes are awful because they had this terrible sight picture, or the dot was all contorted. What they don’t realize is that the sight is likely functioning correctly but their eyes are having trouble focusing on such a small pinpointed piece of light.

For those who have these issues, etched reticles seem to be easier to use and would be my recommendation overpowered reticles. Many reflex sights have etched reticles alongside the lighted reticle, so purchasing one may give you the option to turn off the dot if your eyes have trouble adjusting.

Here Are the Best Red Dot Sights

1. Sig Sauer Romeo 5 (Best Value)

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 Red Dot Sight Close Up View

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Optical Specs: 1x20mm multi-coated with Spectracoat and anti-reflection
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: This is hands down one of the best red dot sights on the market today and in my opinion, is probably the best value of any sight you can buy. The Romeo 5 is a fantastic little budget red dot sight, and you don’t always get things from Sig Sauer that are affordable!

Along with offering a very clear sight picture, this beauty has some standout features for a sight in this price range. It has motion-activated illumination, which means any movement or vibration will cause the sight to “wake up” and automatically turn on. This functionality is nice because that means if you accidentally forget to shut the sight off, it will automatically turn off after 15 minutes. That means you won’t have a dead battery when you need the sight most because you forgot to shut it off.

Sig MPX with Sig Sauer Romeo 5 Top View

The Romeo 5 is meant to be used in co-witness with other Sig optics and even comes with the mounting hardware to achieve this. All in all, Sig always delivers a great product for an arguably high price tag. With this price tag, however, comes the Sig Sauer Guarantee warranty and of course, the bragging rights of using a Sig product!

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Note: There is also a more expensive Romeo 5 XDR compact version available. It has more reticle options, uses an AAA battery opposed to the saucer CR battery, and has some slightly different features. Overall, the standard Romeo 5 is a better value, but if the price isn’t a factor for you, check out the Romeo5 XDR here on Amazon.

This is also one of the most durable red dot sights out there! Check out the video below where they actually test and torture the Romeo 5.


2. EOTech 512 Holographic Sight (Editor’s Choice)

EOTECH 512 Holographic Weapon Sight

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Optical Specs: 1x20mm with anti-glare coating
Optic Type: Patented Holographic
Reticle: Holographic 1 MOA dot with 68 MOA ring

My Review: EOTech is a legendary brand in the firearms accessory industry, and as stated above EOTech has a patent on holographic sight technology, which is hands down the best.

If you buy an EOTech sight most likely you’re going to love it, but I want to let you know a couple of things before you purchase one of their optics. After doing a bit of research, I have found that many of their customers, including the US government, have had some misfortune in dealing with them. Of course, technical difficulties in new technology are bound to happen and mistakes can be forgiven, but I wanted to give you the facts and let you decide what to do what you want with them. You can read the lawsuit news here.

Related Article: 23 Best AR-15 Scopes and Optics (Ranked by a Marine)

So long as you are shipped a brand new fully functioning optic, you will be satisfied. There is no other brand out there that offers this technology. Eye relief is unmatched by its competitors and the free-floating reticle is perfect for acquiring targets no matter the angle you are using to peer through the window. My personal usage of EOTech sights have always been positive. I love that this sight runs on two AA batteries that are very easy to replace.

EOtechHolo graphic Red Dot Battery Compartment

EOtech sights are commonly used by law enforcement, SWAT teams, and military personnel. I choose this model because I feel it is the best value of all their sights and seems to have the highest overall reviews. For those of you who want to spend even more on an even higher-end optic, EOTech has much more expensive versions of this sight that include a plethora of added features.


3. Aimpoint PRO Patrol Rifle Optic

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841

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Optical Specs: 1x20mm fully multi-coated
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: The Aimpoint Pro Patrol Optic was designed specifically for law enforcement and police use. It’s doesn’t have quite as many features and settings as the CompM4 used by the US Army, but it still features a very crisp 2 MOA red dot and an insanely clear field of view.

The Aimpoint Pro is about half the price of the CompM4 and is overall a better value. That said, CompM4 does have more features, including 3 more night vision settings and 3 more day time settings. If you think you might be interested in the CompM4 you can read more about it in the under $1000 section of this review.

The Aimpoint Pro’s always on function is especially handy for those of you who may need to deploy your firearm at a moment’s notice. This scope was made for Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and military personnel in mind.

Popular Article: 17 Best Long Range Rifle Calibers (Ranked by a Marine Sniper)

If you’re looking for the best red dot sight for the money to attach to an AR-15 or other similar rifles I would say it’s a toss-up between the Aimpoint Pro and the EOTech red dot optic listed above. The Aimpoint Pro is one of the highest-rated optics out there. I have used this optic and the EOTech listed above and you’re going to be happy either way. They both have slightly different features and you need to decide which ones you want.

I always like to talk about the downside of an optic because if you go to Amazon and read reviews it’s almost all praise and people saying how their rifle is shooting like a dream. Just beware that some customers who purchased this optic from certain sellers on amazon received a defective unit or returned unit that was once and may still be defective. So, if you do decide to buy an AimPoint, just be sure that it’s actually the AimPoint company you’re buying it from. So long as you get one that lives up to its name, you are guaranteed to love it.

Downsides aside, this is one of the best all-around tubed reflex sights with innovative battery saving technology, capable of remaining active for three years continuously with only a single battery! Three years is a long time and you can be sure these optics will last as long as their battery life due to an extremely durable and well built anodized aluminum shell and waterproofing capable of withstanding 150ft of submersion.

The package here includes everything you need to get shooting out of the box such as the Aimpoint Modular QRP2 mounting hardware, spacers, flip covers, and is compatible with night vision.

Here is a video review of the optic. I recommend skipping to 0:45 in the video.


4. Vortex Optics Venom

Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight - 3 MOA Dot

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Optical Specs: 1×26.5mm
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Reticle: 3 MOA or 6 MOA standard red dot options

My Review: This is my personal favorite reflex sight for shotguns and handguns under $300. It’s made out of aircraft-grade machined aluminum and specifically engineered to withstand the recoil from larger caliber handguns and shotguns.

It’s incredibly cheap while still offering auto-brightness adjustments and extremely high quality. This has to be one of the best all-around reflex sights and you can use it on basically any firearm that has a mounting system. It looks good, it feels good, and it really does help you shoot good.

Related Article: 10 Best Red Dot Magnifiers (Ranked by a Marine)

Here is a video that compares the Venom to the FastFire 3 listed below.


5. AT3 Tactical Reflex Red Dot (Best Under $100)

AT3 Tactical RD-50 Micro Reflex Red Dot Sight - 2 MOA Compact Red Dot Scope

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm fully multi-coated
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: $75? What? Is this thing a toy? Surprisingly, no, it’s not a toy. It’s actually one hell of a little red dot reflex and it certainly does its job well. Water and shock proofing is something I wouldn’t expect to find on bottom dollar optics but here we are. A beautiful metal housing with amber lenses and all the “proofing” you need. This thing feels like a $200-$400 optic!

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Of course, to offer an optic this cheap there were corners that had to be cut and you won’t get the optical clarity or performance of higher-end optics.

Note: You can also get this sight on Amazon here with a riser for co-witness with iron sights.


6. Holosun HS510C Red Dot Optic

HOLOSUN - HS510C Reflex Red Dot Sight for Longer Barrels (2 MOA Dot, 65 MOA Circle)

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Optical Specs: 1x
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex in a holographic designed shell
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot with 65 MOA Ring

My Review: This thing really gives EOTech holographic sights a run for their money and is a great value for those of us who don’t have EOTech level budgets. It has the ability to toggle the dot and ring which is a huge advantage over the early EOTech models but at a much cheaper price.

With 50,000 hours of battery life and a beautiful titanium alloy shell, this sight is a serious contender, especially if you’re not looking to spend a lot.

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Here’s a nice video explaining this optic in greater detail:


7. Sig Sauer Romeo 1

Sig Sauer Romeo 1 Mini Reflex 1x30mm 3 MOA Red Dot 1.0 MOA Handgun

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Optical Specs: 1x with multi-band high light transmission lens
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Reticle: 1 MOA standard red dot

My Review: You know I’m a huge fan of Sig Sauer already and for good reason as they always deliver incredibly high-quality products that seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered if you were to get a prescription for shooting things accurately that is.

The Romeo 1 Mini Reflex embodies everything Sig Sauer stands for. They have a super tactical appearance while still maintaining a level of elegance and style that matches with pretty much anything, the sight itself is nearly indestructible as Sig knows well by now that their products are being bought to be abused, and as always, you get crystal clear Sig Sauer glass with all the goodies we love from Sig Sauer.

Related Article: 15 Best Range Bags (Ranked by a Marine)

The Romeo 1 comes with the MOTAC technology, which essentially just means it gets turned on when you move it around, meaning you’ll save tons of battery since the illumination automatically turns off when it detects no movement at all.

The window is an orange frosted 30mm lens with the Sig Sauer proprietary Spectracoat and since this is an open based red dot, it has unlimited eye relief and contains no magnification. The dot you get is a 3 MOA red dot with configurable illumination levels and is all powered by an easy to remove top-loading CR1632 battery.

The particular package I’ll send you to is both ready to be mounted on rifles and pistols, with the included pistol adapter kit that basically just gives you dovetails and mounting plates.

There is an older version of this red dot sight that comes with a green lens instead. Most of the specs are the same but I believe the newer version has better battery life and in my opinion, it looks a bit sharper and I just personally prefer the newer version. The new version is under model code SOR11005 and the older version is under model code SOR11001.


8. Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight

Sightmark M-Spec Reflex Sight

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex Holographic Look-alike
Reticle: 2 MOA red dot with 65 MOA circle dot crosshair

My Review: Sightmark was attempting to make something close to an EOTech at a much lower price point. I think they hit the mark well with this sight (pun intended of course). It’s not a true holographic optic and doesn’t give the same crispness as one, but it also is 1/5 the price and looks just as good.

As far as the actual sight goes, it’s easy to see in all light situations and is even night vision compatible. The quick detach function is very helpful, much easier than most other sights. 1 hour shut off is nice as we have all probably left sights on by accident and ran down the batteries, however, you just have to be wary that it’s possible it’ll shut off while using it.

The M-Spec is constructed of 6061 T6 aluminum and high-quality magnesium alloy, creating an extremely well polished and super lightweight addition to any firearm while still maintaining some pretty incredible durability and IP68 waterproofing, enabling it to survive in up to 40ft of water. In terms of optics, the clarity here actually surprised me and was much better than their previous holographic look-alike models.

The video below provides a good overview of the optic. Keep in mind in the video they are reviewing the carbon fiber model, which is lighter but also more expensive. Other than weight, there are no major differences.


9. EOTech EXPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight

EOTECH EXPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm
Optic Type: Patented EOTech Holographic
Reticle: 1 MOA standard red dot with 65 MOA Circle

My Review: First and foremost, I would like to inform you about buying on Amazon or any other third-party market for EOTech. EOTech is one of the most popular branded optics with that comes many knock-off products being flooded into these third-party marketplaces. Please, ensure you are buying the real thing by doing your research and choosing trusted sellers. EOTech products are manufactured in the US, so if the seller is shipping from outside of the US, chances are very high that the product you receive will not be a real EOTech.

EOTech sights are by far among the most durable and precise sights you can purchase. Their free-floating reticle design allows for true unlimited eye relief. No matter what angle you are looking through the window with, the reticle will be on target. These sights come in a plethora of different categories that are tailored towards specific calibers. Make sure you choose the right one! If you wish to have magnification, you can always purchase an EOTech magnifier to use with your EOTech optics.

The EXPS3 is widely regarded as one of the fastest and most reliable target acquisition weapon sights ever made and it achieves this reputation by utilizing proprietary holographic technology with incredibly clear optics and the coveted 1 MOA/65MOA dot and circle reticle. I reviewed another EOTech on this list that wasn’t night vision compatible, however, the EXPS3 is certainly compatible with night vision. There are 30 total brightness settings with 10 of them being purpose-built for usage with night vision.


10. EOtech HHS 1 G33 3x Magnifier Package

EOTECH HHS I Holographic Hybrid Sight

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Optical Specs: 1x and 3x magnifier combo
Optic Type: Holographic and magnifier combo
Reticle: EOTech 1 MOA (4) compensation dot with 68 MOA circle crosshair specific to .223 calibers

My Review: I’ve spoken a lot about red dot sights that do not have magnification but may be used in tandem with a magnifier attachment. These attachments allow you to use your red dot sight with high levels of magnification and usually consist of a flip-out design. These designs allow you to harness the quickness of 1x magnification and also higher levels of magnification with the ease of flipping the attachment into place. Here are a few examples of these. You may find package deals like what EOTech has to offer in their HHS 1 package or you may find standalone options that can be used with many different types of optics.

My Review: This is the same setup used by the special forces. This setup is incredibly small and lightweight for what it offers. Utilizing only 1 battery for both pieces is truly genius and allows for a much smaller and compact design. Being able to flip the magnifier easily allows for extremely fast magnification transitioning. This truly is one of the best close quarter combat optical systems you can use. Period.

The reticle here is specifically designed to be used on a rifle shooting a .223 caliber round, like our beloved AR-15s. These are compatible with night vision systems and surprisingly only require 2.75” of rail space, being one of the most feature-rich but compact optical systems on the market.


11. Meprolight Self-powered Bullseye

Meprolight Self-Powered Day/Night Reflex Sight with Dust Cover Bullseye Reticle, Black

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Optical Specs: 1x30mm
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Reticle: 4.3 MOA, 5.5 MOA, Bullseye, or Triangle reticle options available

My Review: This optic is built like a tank but lacks the weight of one, while still providing a nice seamless design. It requires no batteries and no on/off buttons, so it’s always on and always ready to rock and roll. It’s no wonder the Israeli Special Forces love to use this reflex sight, it is by far one of the most dependable sights I have ever reviewed.

Ultra-bright environments or utter darkness isn’t going to halter this sight as the brightness of the display and the intensity of the dot will automatically adjust according to the light situation.

These were designed to be as tough as possible, facing imminent combat situations and to be used in tandem with magnifiers like the MEPRO MX3. The self-illuminating reticles are using fiber optic technology when ambient light is available and tritium during low light situations to ensure your reticle is bright and crisp no matter where you are.

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If you have the extra money, throw it at this thing and go to bed at night calmly knowing that this sight will probably outlive you and will still be shining like the day it was new.


12. Aimpoint QRP2 CompM4

Aimpoint CompM4 Red Dot Reflex Sight – NO Mount - 2 MOA - 12309

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm with Aimpoint Proprietary protective and anti-glare lens coatings
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: The Aimpoint CompM4 is one of the top reflex sights out there so long as you’re willing to pay top dollar for it. At $850, it’s not the most expensive option you’ll find but it’s certainly not cheap. What you get, though, is a buy once cry once experience leaving you with optics that will shine bright longer than you’ll likely live!

These sights come with incredible battery life and are actually optimized for night vision with special NV settings. The mounts that are included allow this sight to be functional atop almost any weapons system and mounting this optic is incredibly easy. If you’re looking for optics to shoot at 300m or less, this is probably your best option. AimPoint also gives incredible warranties with each of its products in the off chance something does go wrong, so there really isn’t much to worry about investing in this optic!

Included in the package is the KillFlash anti-reflection device with Milspec lens covers.


13. Trijicon MRO-C Patrol

Trijicon MRO-C-2200017 1x25mm Patrol Riflescope with Miniature Rifle Optic (Mro), 2.0 MOA Adjustable Red Dot Reticle (Without Mount), Black

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm with Trijicon proprietary lens coatings
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA multi-axis adjustable red dot

My Review: Trijicon makes good stuff, period, so I don’t think I really need to say anything more regarding the quality you’ll get. They’re the best, simply put, and they will not disappoint no matter the model you choose, so long as you get the right one for your set up.

Now, Trijicon is usually synonymous with their ACOG line up and it’s not often people give them credit for their other optics. The MRO-C is a hefty looking red dot but it doesn’t just look hefty, this is by far one of the most durable and battle-ready red dots you could ever spend your hard-earned money on. If you’re the type of person to save up and only buy the best of the best, the Trijicon MRO-C should be on your shopping list.

The MRO-C utilizes a 25mm lens to project a none magnified 2 MOA red dot with infinite eye relief. The dot is powered by a lithium CR2032 that is included in the box and being used at illumination setting day 3, you should get roughly 5 years of battery life, so perhaps hold off on stocking up on batteries for this crazy thing!

Furthermore, this red dot is built to give you options. This isn’t a selfish standalone unit but instead, it’s ready to work together in co-witness and even comes with a few mounting options for use with other magnifiers. Speaking of options, you can easily revert to iron sights or whip out a larger scope since this comes with a quick detach mount that literally takes just a couple of seconds to remove completely.

The Patrol package grants you a fancy Tenebreax KillFlash anti-reflection hood that ensures no one can pick you out of the brush during the day from a little glare. The MRO-C Patrol is rated for just about everything, including shotguns and like I said before, it’s one of the toughest made red dots on the market today and since it’s military-grade waterproof, it’s capable of surviving submersion all the way down to 100ft.


14. Trijicon RMR LED Type 2 Sight

Trijicon RMR Type 2 6.5 MOA LED Red Dot Sight with No Mount

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Optical Specs: 1x22mm multi-colored wide-band light transmission lenses
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Reticle: LED 3.25 MOA in the RM01 or 6.5 MOA found on the RM02

My Review: This is the industry leader in exposed reflex sights. No other reflex is as small, light, durable, and has an automatic light-adjusting lens. This almost fits in the under $450 category but unfortunately, the prices you’ll find it at do not include mounts. Mounts for this sight can be very expensive depending on whether or not you are mounting this to a pistol or rifle.

Battery life is pretty good at roughly two years, as expected from Trijicon and the housing shape is very unique, offering a fantastic looking optic in an incredibly small form factor. The RMR is constructed from forged aluminum alloy with the intent of being resistant to impacts but surprisingly still only weighs a minuscule 1.2 ounces.

Anything from Trijicon is going to be rather expensive, but if you can afford it, Trijicon has been long known to be one of the top military-grade optical manufacturers and continues to provide above and beyond functionality and durability. I’d go as far as to say Trijicon offers the absolute toughest and most rugged optical solutions you can get your hands on.

Just like many of the other major brands, Trijicon is suffering from the market being flooded with knock offs and shady resellers. Please ensure you are purchasing a real Trijicon reflex sight, their packaging has identifiers on it to prove authenticity.


15. Burris 300234 FastFire III

Burris 300234 Fastfire III with Picatinny Mount 3 MOA Sight (Black)

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Optical Specs: 1x20mm
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Reticle: 3 MOA or 8 MOA standard red dot

My Review: This sight is one of the cheaper high-end exposed reflex sights that are mountable on just about any firearm. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced exposed red dot sight for pistols, this and the Vortex sight listed below are awesome. Run a few mags through with your AR and then pop it off, sliding it onto your Glock and finishing off the day with the same sight. It’s fast, easy, and extremely reliable. Also check out our review of the best night sights for Glock.

The auto-brightness feature really ruins the terribleness of having to adjust the brightness manually almost to the point it will make you lazy with other sights that don’t have auto-brightness features. The low-profile design will add great elegance and tactical factor to any gun it’s mounted on. This red dot and Venom sight lied below are both great choices in this price range. I attached a video comparing the two optics below.

Check out the video below to see the FastFire II in action!


16. Vortex Optics Sparc 2

Vortex Optics Sparc II Red Dot Sight - 2 MOA Dot

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Optical Specs: 1x22mm fully multi-coated
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: This optic is basically a high grade “wannabe” with mid-grade technology. It is definitely usable and isn’t a terrible option for budget seekers, however, don’t expect mil-spec grade quality.

With that said, Vortex rarely disappoints and for the price you pay here, you are getting some pretty excellent value. The site is constructed of machined aircraft-grade aluminum allowing it a lightweight feel but heavy-duty performance and it’s waterproof, so it checks the boxes for mid-range durability.

I found this optic to be extremely easy to adjust and the rear-facing controls are both intuitive and easy to use quickly. Cycling through the 10 brightness settings is a breeze, but I will comment on the brightness settings, as I thought the highest setting was so high that is was unusable. The rest of the settings are fine and some of them are night-vision compatible. The reticle is very crisp with optics of higher quality than I would expect at this price point.

The included adjustable mounting system is extremely easy to use and I really liked how the sight and mounting hardware still allow for the use of iron sights.


17. Primary Arms MD-ADS Red Dot

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA Microdot

My Review: Primary Arms is one of the best mid-range priced optics manufacturers and they really hit this one home. At this price, you can’t possibly expect AimPoint quality and surely you won’t find it on the MD-ADS.

Upon first getting this sight, you’ll notice an overall cheap feel of the components but don’t let that discourage you, that’s how Primary Arms managed to deliver such a crisp dot and high-quality glass at such a bargain of a price. They put the money where it matters most. If you can’t afford a top-notch brand, this sight will bring you just as much functionality and nearly as much durability for a fraction of the cost.

This thing has an insane battery life, rated at 50,000 hours with a single saucer battery and also an insane built quality, consisting of hard-coated anodized aircraft aluminum that is both IP57 water and shock-resistant.

18. Sightmark Shot Plus

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex Holographic look-alike
Reticle: Four integrated options: 3 MOA dot with 50 MOA circle, 5 MOA standard dot, 3 MOA  with 50 MOA crosshair, 3 MOA with 30MOA circle/crosshair

My review: For all of you who want a fancy little holographic look-alike for an affordable price, the Sightmark SM26008 is the answer. No, it’s not even close to mil-spec and no, it’s not actually a holographic sight, however, it is cheap and it does work, all while adding a bit of tacticoolness to your rifle.

Personally, I do like it. I am fairly against spending over a thousand dollars to get a 1x optic and I think many people share that sentiment. Sightmark capitalized on the market and gave us a super cheap but usable option. All around, it isn’t great, but it’s suitable for the price and will likely work well for most people. Just don’t get it too cold, as it will fog up and you’ll be worse off than you would with no sights at all!

This sight actually comes with a lot of features that I was surprised to see in a budget option, including the choice between red and green reticle colors, tactful digital controls, a quick detach weaver mount, 5 brightness settings, a 1000 hour battery life rating, and IPX4 water resistance. The housing is a cast-aluminum that, although not being as good as EOTech, is fairly sturdy and protects the optics from slight bumps and falls.


19. Primary Arms SLxZ Advanced Red Dot

Primary Arms SLX Advanced 30mm Red Dot Sight

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Optical Specs: 1x30mm
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: This optic, like most from Primary Arms, has a great reputation and is offered at a great price. The battery life is nearly unbeatable when it comes to budget optics and the flip caps are of high quality, something many manufacturers cheap out on!

The design is very lightweight but still very durable, consisting of 6061 aluminum with a hard-anodized finish. These have a rather impressive 14,000-hour battery life operating on a 1/3N button battery.

It won’t come out of the box with a mount, so you’ll need to purchase one if you don’t already have one. Luckily, this scope is under 150 dollars so purchasing a mount should keep you under $200 still.


20. Bushnell Trophy TRS-25

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm tilted ultra LED lenses
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 3 MOA standard red dot

My Review: You’ve likely seen this optic reviewed on Marine Approved before, but since it’s one of my top choices for economical high performers, here it is again!

First and foremost, if you research this optic outside of this guide, you’ll find a lot of complaints. Since this red dot is a great choice for first-timers, it’s no wonder some people report problems with it due to ignorance.

It’s common to incur reviews from people who rip this thing right out of the box and crank the brightness setting to the max, then they hop on the web and complain about the sight picture appearing fairly awful. The proper way to use this optic and many other optics is to match the illumination setting to the available light in your environment. If you experiment and find out which settings work in what types of lighting, you’ll find that the TRS-25 hosts a beautiful sight picture, almost unmatched by other red dots around $50. It’s insanely cheap but the build quality, as always by Bushnell, is top-notch.

I do like the amber lenses from Bushnell and the red dot is very crisp, despite many online reviews stating otherwise. The only issue you might have with the TRS-25 is the dot illuminator hardware. They’ve placed the illuminator inside the tube at the top to maintain a slim design which is fine but it is viewable in the sight picture. This slightly obstructs view by design and it seems a little odd, but after a while you barely notice it. The scope is able to maintain unlimited eye relief and is usable with both eyes open. Perfect for quickly acquiring furry critters!

For under $100, this is by far one of the best red dot optics on the market if used properly

The Bushnell lenses are clear as always and provide a great sight picture while also maintaining a very slim and lightweight design.


21. Aimpoint Micro T-2 Sight

Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Reflex Sight - No Mount - 2 MOA -200180

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Optical Specs: 1x25mm with Aimpoint Proprietary protective and anti-glare lens coatings
Optic Type: Tube Reflex
Reticle: 2 MOA standard red dot

My Review: So long as you don’t find yourself with a knock off, you are guaranteed to be satisfied. Your bank account won’t be so thrilled at first, but it’s a buy once cry once kind of deal.

No need to worry about eye relief, optic washing, starbursting, optical rings, etc. This sight is optimized to be used on any of its several brightness settings and is compatible with all night vision gear. These are sights that are trusted by our men and women on the front lines.

Of course, as with most Aimpoint products, you’ll be getting that 50,000 battery life rating we know and love and no, water won’t be impeding that as this unit is capable of surviving submersion all the way down to 80’. These are night-vision friendly and include the Aimpoint advanced optical clarity lenses.

Overall, these are some of the best reflex red dots on the market. They’re so good that many other manufacturers use them as a sort of benchmark, judging and reviewing their own products off of this particular model.


You may have noticed that I have mentioned some of the major brands in optics have stark rivals with counterfeiting and resellers. You absolutely must take caution when purchasing optics online. On Amazon, you will almost always have a choice to purchase optics from multiple sellers. Please ensure the seller is trusted and is shipping the optics from somewhere that makes sense. For many optics on this list, they are manufactured in the US. If optics are being shipped from another country, you should be extremely wary of its legitimacy. Further, many of the name brand optic manufacturers like Aimpoint, Trijicon, Vortex, and EOTech have extensive instructions and product databases located on their websites. They are aware of counterfeits in their midst and offer you tools to identify these counterfeiters.

Here are some of the pages you can resort to:

An Article by EOTech explaining authenticity:

How to Spot a Fake EOTech Holographic Sight

Frequently Asked Questions

Are red dot sights accurate?

As compared to a magnetic sight or an iron sight, Red Dot Sights are very accurate and they are quick to acquire targets as well.

Is a red dot sight worth it?

Red Dot Sights are absolutely worth it if you’re looking for speed of target acquisition and accuracy. They help a good shooter shoot up to 10 to 20% faster. They do have a learning curve though, so novice shooters will need to get used to them.

What distance is a red dot sight good for?

Red Dot Sights are typically great for close-range targets. They work the best for a target that is within a distance of 100 yards or less.

This list is not conclusive of all red dot sights available but is more so a great place to get a feel for what this market has to offer. There are so many different firearms and situations that it would be impossible to review each and every optic for each and every situation. As always, research the optic completely to ensure you are capable of using it on the firearms you own and that there won’t be an issue with eyesight blurring the reticle.

If I’ve missed something you like or you’ve bought yourself some awesome new optics, don’t be afraid to share your experiences and opinions with us in the comments!

6 thoughts on “21 Best Red Dot Sights for the Money 2023 (AR-15s, Pistols & Rifles)”

  1. Good info Marine! As a old school GySgt that never used anything but Iron Sights and trying to wade through the confusion on buying my first Red Dot for my AR this was great information Semper Fi Brother!

  2. Outstanding Marine!

    Clear, concise and no BS. I have decided to enter this realm of optics, to replace iron sights on my tactical shotgun, and what a journey/adventure it has been. Wish I had discovered this page two ago. 3 different optics I am currently researching were reviewed here, making my decision at ‘little’ easier. I have decided I now “need” 2 and… How much overtime must I work to be to afford an EOtec wwith magnifier for my AR. For my shotgun, I’m looking at Vortex and Holosun.

    Appreciate the words of caution. Thanks Again.

  3. What do you think about DI Optical’s EG1 red dot sight? I think it’s the most durable red dot sight now.

  4. I am like GySgt Simpson in that I only used iron sights in the Corps, and your explanations are terrific. Keep up the good work, Marine!

  5. Thanks Cpl Wabo, I understand these things much better now. Old iron sights user also.
    I see a Sig Romeo in my near future.

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