Reflex sights are the most common type of “red dot sights” on the market today.
There are two other types, including holographic sights which utilize a technology that is patented by a company called EOTech and prism sights that use a prism to focus light to a focal point.
If you’re interested, you can hop over to my review on the 23 best red dot sights here where I explain the differences between the three types of red dot optics and the underlying technology of each.
In this article, we’ll be focusing solely on reflex sights.
A good reflex sight will offer nearly unlimited eye relief. That means you don’t need to have your eye inches away from the eyepiece to get a clear sight picture like you would with a telescopic sight.
They also allow you to shoot with both eyes open, which makes them ideal for close quarter shooting where target acquisition speed, the ability to track secondary targets, and situational awareness are of paramount importance.
On top of speed, reflex optics are easier to use than both iron and telescopic sights. You don’t have to worry about lining up the front and rear sights like you do with iron sights. This makes them faster and gives you one less thing to think about when shooting.
With these advantages in mind, you can see why they’re utilized by all branches of the US military, law enforcement officers (LEOs), and competitive shooters.
- Here Are the Best Reflex Sights on the Market in 2019
- 1. Browning Buckmark Reflex Sight
- 2. Sig Sauer Rome5 Standard or XDR
- 3. Burris 300234 FastFire III with Picatinny Mount
- 4. Vortex Venom Red Dot Sight (Best for the Money)
- 5. HOLOSUN 2 MOA Reflex Optic
- 6. EOTech 512.A65 Sight (Reflex Alternative)
- 7. Leupold 119688 Delta Point Pro
- 8. Trijicon RMR Type 2 3.25 MOA Adjustable Sight
- 9. Trijicon Type 2 6.5 MOA RMR LED Sight
- AR-15 with Sightmark Ultra Shot Reflex Sight
8 Important Things to Consider When Hunting for a Reflex Sight
There are well known high-end brands that sell reflex sights like Aimpoint, Vortex, Sig Sauer, and many more.
That’s good news, but keep in mind our friends in China know this all too well and try to trick buyers by offering knock-offs of these tried a true optics. Be wary of where your optics are being manufactured and shipped from.
These optics may even have the correct logos on them but will not offer anywhere near the craftsmanship or durability of the real thing. If the deal is too good to be true or your American made EOTech is being shipped from Malaysia, you may want to stray away from that seller.
Confusing Marketing Techniques
Another thing to consider is that a lot of media companies intentionally use confusing marketing techniques to sell you cheap technology at high prices.
For example, they might lay a prism sight, holographic sight, and reflex side by side and label them all as “red dot sights.” Technically, they aren’t wrong, but I think a lot of people would like to know that there are major technological differences between the types of optics and that there are pros and cons of each. I cover the differences in depth on my red dot sights page if you haven’t already checked that out.
Another major important consideration, don’t skimp on quality and don’t shy away from well-known brands! If you choose a cheap reflex sight that’s not worth its weight in scrap, you’ll find your groupings in a mess. That might be okay with the old family shotgun at a turkey shoot, but when the chips are down and accuracy really matters – walking a beat, running a patrol, or protecting yourself and your loved ones – close enough is never close enough.
You need something you can depend on. Something you know is going to work. Something you can use to quickly lock on to a target no matter what. Durability, eye relief, and battery life are all crucial factors to consider.
Speaking of durability, you must consider how important shock and waterproofing are going to be when using your optics. If you’re only shooting in an enclosed range, you probably won’t have much to worry about, but if these optics are going on a hunting rig or patrol rifle, waterproofing is an absolute must. Fog proofing is also something to look out for as there’s nothing worse than that last breath out fogging up your lenses.
Parallax is ALWAYS something you have to consider when you’re shopping for new optics, reflex sights included. Many manufacturers may claim their sights are 100% parallax free. Although some do come close, the current technology we have available makes eliminating parallax currently impossible.
Some scopes and optics will come with a parallax adjustment turret or knob. These adjustments are typically set to the most optimum settings from the factory, however, if you require a special viewing angle you may want to finagle with these settings. Just be warned, parallax is very difficult to adjust and without having it set properly, the reticle will always be on target but shots will stray away.
Parallax is a term used to describe the error caused when your eye (which is nothing more than a series of lenses and light collectors) is out of alignment with the lenses in your optics, even by just a little bit.
Modern optics have been designed to place the reticle (or crosshairs) directly on top of the target you’re engaging with. When they aren’t perfectly aligned, it’ll look like you have zeroed in on your target, but you’ll find your rounds are just a bit off.
This is a parallax error.
Usually, you’ll see this problem with longer scopes with high levels of magnification. You get your dope, lock in, run through your breathing and start squeezing the trigger back. The post in your scope bounces just a little bit, and then a little less, until you get just to the point of touching that round off – as soon as you’ve exhaled completely.
You see you’ve hit your target, but you didn’t notice that you lost your cheek weld on the recoil. You’ve shifted just a little bit in relation to your optics, but it’s enough to make it look like you are bringing your weapon back on target. You send another round downrange, only to miss wide left – and it’s not because you didn’t account for windage.
It’s because of a parallax error.
The good news is that because they are so short (and usually just feature a single lens), most reflex sights have their parallax setting dialed up to infinity. This makes them close to parallax free (especially at longer ranges), but you’ll still notice a bit of bounce when you’re in really close quarters.
Thankfully, this is when you least need to worry about parallax to begin with.
When you’re up close and things are getting hairy, you usually just need a quality sight that helps you acquire a target and get rounds out quickly – something that reflex sights do better than anything else.
Speaking of close quarters…
When you’re up close and personal with your target – whether that’s as a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO), HRT/SWAT, military, or running a three gun – your optical needs change dramatically from the norm.
You aren’t looking for something to zoom in so you can “reach out and touch someone” from hundreds of yards out.
In CQB (Close Quarters Battle) you need to be able to quickly acquire a target – usually on the move and from anything but a solid shooting platform – with the ability to engage, disengage, and reengage new targets on the fly.
Reflex sights shine brightest here.
First off, reflex sights almost universally have no magnification on them whatsoever.
They are engineered for close quarter shooting and work best when they are deployed as a (hugely) upgraded set of iron sights. The single lens most feature is only there to paint the sight picture being reflected, not to bring your target any closer than they really are.
Secondly, you never have to worry about eye relief with these optics.
Acquiring targets on the move, in low light or bright daylight, is effortless. The sight picture is going to be available no matter where your head is positioned behind the optics, from any angle and from any position.
You can keep both eyes open and still see the aimpoint perfectly, too. And because of the next to no parallax, I touched on above, you don’t have to worry about that aimpoint bouncing all over the place, either.
Shooting on the fly with lightning fast target acquisition is the bread and butter of these optics for sure.
Obviously, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting a reflex sight with a reticle that allows for quick target acquisition without trading off on accuracy. But that’s easy enough to do these days, with everything from old school post and beads to mil-dots and anything in between available.
Battery life is either going to be a huge consideration for your or an almost afterthought when shopping for reflex optics.
On the one hand, if you’re going to be running a lot of brass through your weapon with a reflex attached – or you’re looking at getting a setup for your everyday carry/duty carry – you need a battery that you can count on for hours and hours.
Some of the better reflex sights we breakdown have on/off switches to conserve battery, but there’s not a whole lot worse than getting into a tight spot with your firearm only to discover the lights have gone out in your optics. You become the definition of point and shoot, and that can be real trouble at anything but too close for comfort range.
On the other hand, there are still some reflex sights out there that use ambient light for their optical projection. These sights are a little touch and go compared to battery powered options (and never as bright, even in full daylight), but it’s nice not to have to worry about the lights going out in the middle of a firefight.
Top flight reflex sights with a battery usually promise between 5,000 and 15,000 hours. Your mileage will vary depending on your brightness setting (lower settings will conserve juice, obviously), but that’s the ballpark you want to be shooting for.
There are a few bells and whistles to look out for as well, including optics that utilize solar technology, fiber optics and/or tritium for lighting up those reticles. Some high-end brands even incorporate automatic shutdown features and the really crazy ones offer shake and wake technology. These sights are typically more expensive but typically offer unbeatable dependability and battery life.
Thanks to the widespread adaptation of Weaver and Picatinny rail systems, you’d be hard pressed to find a modern firearm that wouldn’t accept a reflex sight using these industry standard attachment points.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean that a reflex sight with a Weaver rail is going to give you the same results when it’s locked onto the slide of a Western Arms 1911 as it would when locked onto a Benelli or Rock River AR.n your sidearm, shotgun, or rifle.
Some of these sights are too delicate to be subjected to the rock and roll recoil of a big, slow .45 but work wonders when you’re spitting .223 out of your AR. How you plan to use your reflex most is always something you need to consider, and you’ll want to look for sights that won’t come out of alignment the first time you touch off a round from the recoil.
Most of the reflex sights you’d get for a sidearm will work wonders on a shotgun and will be alright running on a rifle, but rifle optics (especially with smaller, faster rounds) might not be able to hang when you go back down to shotguns or pistols.
Anytime you’re talking about the world of firearm optics you need to know that you will ALWAYS get what you pay for (with a few exceptions, maybe I shouldn’t have capitalized the word always, but I want to drive home the point that price matters).
Pay once cry once is a tried and true motto most firearm owners live and die by. Some even opt for optics that live longer than they do, and their sons, and their sons’ son.
Sure, there are plenty of quality reflex sights out there for folks banging out a couple of hours on the range every month – folks looking for something tacticool rather than tactical. These won’t set you back any more than a couple of boxes of ammo (if that) and for the money, they do a pretty standup job, as long as you aren’t putting them through their paces too much.
On the flip side of things, you can easily spend a few hundred bucks on quality reflex optics. You won’t likely spend as much for a reflex sight as you would a holographic sight (or long rifle precision glass/thermal scopes), but as a general rule, you get more when you spend more.
You’ll also find that there is a plethora of off brand optics competing against brand name optics with the same features list. Of course, you will pay a premium for brands like Sig Sauer, Aimpoint, EOTech and Vortex, but this premium ensures you a high-quality optic right out of the box.
You may find a gold mine in an off brand, but is it worth your time to risk having factory defects or low-quality internals that last an hour after the warranty expires?
Speaking of warranties, most high-end brands offer lifetime warranties, which is all part of the buy once cry once motto and most certainly worth a few extra bucks. Buying anything electronic that doesn’t come with a hefty warranty is one hell of a gamble and when dealing with firearms, gambling is the last thing I’d recommend.
If you’ll be depending on these optics for anything more than bragging rights on a poker night at the gun club, it’s a good idea to save some extra pennies up and get a rig that costs a little more. Spending more upfront ensures you won’t need to spend more down the road.
How Reflex Sights Work
They work by projecting an aiming point forward into a reflective piece of glass that bounces the projection back to your eyes almost like a mirror – giving you the accurate sight picture you see when you bring your weapon into play.
Instead of a long light transmission tube, you’ll find that most reflex sights consist of a short tube or a stand-alone viewing window.
They usually come equipped with a universal attachment system that allows you to clip these optics onto most any modern firearm out there. If your reflex sight doesn’t use fiber optics or tritium to utilize ambient light, it will come with a battery compartment. The type of batteries used range widely from standard AA batteries to those tiny saucer watch batteries.
Like I said earlier you’ll able to keep both eyes open when running a weapons platform with reflex sights, but that’s something we’ll dig into together in just a minute, too.
Here Are the Best Reflex Sights on the Market in 2019
Now, let’s dive into the sights themselves to help you find the best reflex sight for the money. Not every optic on this list is perfect for every firearm. Make sure you have read and understood the aforementioned guide and create a plan for the life of your optic.
Reflex Sights Under $100
1. Browning Buckmark Reflex Sight
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $50
You might expect to spend a small fortune on some of the top-notch Browning shotguns, but that’s not the case for their budget reflex sight here.
My Review: Offering four different reticle patterns (circle, dot, cross, and combo) you’ll be able to dial this sight into your specifications right out of the box and start accurately firing on your targets almost right away.
Simplicity is the name of the game here, and you won’t find all kinds of bells and whistles on a sub $50 set of optics. A single lithium ion battery powers this Browning rig with a runtime of well over 1000 hours.
You can mount this rig to any Weaver style rail without any tools, but it’s a good idea to keep this restricted to smaller caliber pistols and rimfire rifles. Serious armaments are going to buck this reflex sight right out of whack. No shotguns or large caliber rifles, unless you want to see how these sights come apart.
- Will not work on larger caliber weapons
- Doesn’t have the bells and whistles of most reflex sights out there
Reflex Sights Under $200
2. Sig Sauer Rome5 Standard or XDR
Optic type: Tubed reflex sight popular for Pistols, Shotguns, and Rifles
Note: You can find the XDR version on Amazon here.
My Review: If you’ve been following my other optics guides then you should be quite familiar with the Romeo5 platform offered by the infamous Sig Sauer. Relatively speaking, they always come with a hefty price tag, but is the extra price worth it? As I always say, BUY ONCE CRY ONCE! So yes, it’s certainly worth it if you’re willing to pony up.
XDR vs Non-XDR:
The XDR comes with a nifty little 65 MOA circle reticle and the option of the standard Romeo5 2 MOA red dot. The XDR also uses a AAA battery as opposed to the Saucer CR battery, which is cheaper and has been advertised as working better with the MOTAC system. The XDR is also slightly more slimline and Sig Sauer claims its a bit more durable. The final difference is that the XDR has more versatility with co-witness applications. It has a lower profile mount and is easily raised
Which one should you choose? I enjoy the 65 MOA circle reticle a lot, especially for CQB situations which is where red dot optics primarily perform the best anyways. Aside from that, the XDR is more expensive by roughly $30. This is offset, though, by the cheaper battery which over time can edge you a bit closer in price. Since I shoot often, I prefer the AAA and so the $30 increase is acceptable to me.
Speaking about the optic itself, Sig Sauer does not disappoint. I’m almost short of smacking it with a baseball bat to see if it’ll withstand it. It’s been dropped on hard surfaces, beaten around, drug through the woods, fully submerged, etc and still operates as it did on the day I unpackaged this bad boy. I would go as far as to say this is the most durable optic I have ever tested!
MOTAC really sets the Romeo5 line of optics apart from other red dots and is a very nice feature to have, especially if you have a tendency to forget your dots are on. MOTAC can sense when the firearm is being used and will automagically turn shut off to save battery life when your rifle isn’t being operated. There are other optics with features similar to this, however, Sig Sauer seems to be the most efficient implementation date.
As far as glass goes, you can expect crystal clear Sig Sauer glass across the entire line of optics and both reticles on the XDR are as crisp as it gets. It’s absolutely no wonder why serviceman across the world choose to utilize Sig Sauer technology and trust the Romeo5 optic line in active service.
You’re paying a premium for the Sig Sauer logo and the XDR is more expensive than its other counterparts
3. Burris 300234 FastFire III with Picatinny Mount
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $200
Note: Popular Pistol Optic
Burris makes dependable optics for serious shooters, and this reflex sight is no exception.
My Review: The FastFire III is another 3 MOA reflex sight, capable of quick target acquisition and dependable accuracy when the chips are down and you need to put rounds on target ASAP.
Made out of high-grade aircraft aluminum and featuring a built-in Picatinny rail adapter system, you can mount this super lightweight sight on everything from a large caliber sidearm to your favorite AR. Super compact (at just 3” long), this set of optics shouldn’t have a tough time finding a home on any of your firearms. And thanks to the fact that it weighs in at just over 2 oz, it’s not going to weigh you down, either – something three gun comp runners will appreciate (LEOs and those in the military will, too).
The battery system has been described as less than intuitive to open and operate, but once you figure out how the pieces to the puzzle work it should become second nature. The battery will last between 5000 and 15,000 hours as well, so you shouldn’t have to be replacing your batteries all that often anyway.
Three brightness settings are a little more obvious compared to the reflex sight I highlighted above. It’s not as flexible as some of the other options with more brightness settings, but most will find a single sweet spot setting and leave it there, so it’s not a deal breaker.
- Replacing batteries is less than intuitive
- Highest brightness not as brilliant as other options
Reflex Sights Under $300
4. Vortex Venom Red Dot Sight (Best for the Money)
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex Type
Price Range: Under $300
Note: Popular Pistol Sight and Good Value
Precision and accuracy is the name of the game with the Venom reflex sight from the folks at Vortex Optics.
My Review: Featuring a 3 MOA (with 1 MOA adjustment gradient capabilities) red dot sight, this battery powered reflex setup will allow you to instantly acquire a sight picture and squeeze off round after round of accurate fire.
Made entirely out of machined aluminum (aircraft grade materials), the Venom has been designed to withstand any shake, rattle, and roll you can throw at it. Engineered to handle the extreme recoil of large caliber handguns as well as shotguns, this reflex sight will feel just as much at home on your AR or other long gun, too.
The optics of this Venom reflex sight are pretty special. We’re talking about a multi-coated lens that has been crafted to not scratch or splinter, even when it’s exposed to decide less than white glove treatment. This is an optics solution that won’t fog, won’t gas up, and won’t blur out on you regardless of the shooting conditions you’re working in.
On top of that, a top mounted battery system provides you with 10 different levels of brightness from a battery capable of between 150 hours (at the brightest setting) and a whopping 30,000 hours (at the lowest setting) of usage. There’s no proprietary battery you have to spend a fortune to replace when it dies, either.
All in all, for the price, this is one slick setup in the reflex sight category.[wpsm_video]https://youtu.be/4JLRvMgTvEQ[/wpsm_video]
Here is a good video that compares this sight to the one made by Burris above.
- A couple of quality control issues with certain batches (though great customer service and replacement policies)
- Can be tough to figure out your brightness level without running through all of them
5. HOLOSUN 2 MOA Reflex Optic
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $300
My Review: Taking advantage of NextGen LED technology (which makes it possible for this sight to run for up to 50,000 hours on a single battery), this HOLOSUN reflex sight is worth every penny.
A trusted name in optics for some time now, HOLOSUN always seems to be looking for ways to push these firearm accessories further and further into the future. One of the first companies to start leveraging LED technology in reflex sights, this is the next evolution of optics most of us are familiar with.
A 2 MOA dot (inside a 65 MOA ring), you’ll have the ability to hot-swap different reticles on the fly with this reflex sight. Not a lot of other options give you this ability, and certainly none at this price point, helping the HOLOSUN to stand apart from the rest of the pack.
Featuring an unlimited field of view and near-zero parallax, as well as a polished titanium alloy frame that is damn near indestructible, this is a top flight and premium reflex setup that won’t blow holes in your bank account.
- Some quality control issues with early batches of this model
- No power outage / low battery warnings or indicators
Reflex Sights Under $400
6. EOTech 512.A65 Sight (Reflex Alternative)
Optic Type: Holographic (Most popular reflex alternative)
Price Range: Under $400
My Review: Technically, this isn’t a reflex sight, it’s a holographic sight, but it’s used for the same type of shooting so I decided to add it to the list. If you’ve got a little bit of extra cash to splash and are serious about investing in top-notch optics, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this setup from EOTech. If your looking for the absolute best reflex sight for AR-15s this one is a great value and a very popular choice.
The folks at EOTech were the ones to really breathe life into red dot optics, to begin with, alongside Aimpoint. These two companies pioneered the tech used today and steal leading the industry as far as releasing state of the art tech.
This EOTech sight is one of their top of the line holographic sights, a perfect balance of price and performance. It’s more a hybrid sight than anything else (with a slightly higher price tag to match), but if you’re looking for deadly accuracy when it matters most you won’t find anything that comes close to this setup.
Speed and accuracy are the names of the game with this reflex sight and thanks to the laser light technology illuminating the holographic red reticle you’ll never have to worry about your sights being misaligned again.
Designed for serious operators and LEOs that need to count on their optics in any condition, this EOTech holo sight works wonders in three gun setups, too. The sight window, combined with the holo reticle, gives you the ability to control shooting conditions and your accuracy in a way not possible otherwise.
This is basically a reflex sight on steroids and light years beyond iron sight capabilities.
The real big benefit here though is the ability to rely on this sight system in ANY lighting condition. Because of the holographic projection of the reticle (battery powered, of course) your ability to acquire a target and accurately fire upon it will never be impaired by low lighting, fog, weather, or wind.
- More expensive than most options
- Too large to fit comfortably on sidearms
7. Leupold 119688 Delta Point Pro
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $400
Another of the titans in the world of optics, Leupold is spoken of in almost complete reverence in terms amongst serious shooters. Sniper teams around the world depend on the quality and consistency of Leupold glass, and for good reason.
Obviously, you won’t be sending rounds a thousand yards (or more) downrange with a reflex sight attached to your firearm, but this Leupold sight is a CQB dream.
My Review: Made of space-age aluminum alloys and built to withstand anything you can throw (or drop) at it, this sight takes advantage of proprietary DiamondCoat materials – not just on the frame, but the lens, too – to protect your optics no matter what.
This approach improves the brightness of your lens and its resolution, resulting in an almost HD display when you’re looking through the sight window. Motion Sensing technology all but eliminates parallax, allowing you to fire your weapon from any position and eye relief accurately.
Waterproof up to 33ft, this is not a weekend warrior’s piece of tech. Serious marksmen and shooters will be able to make the most of these capabilities, and the optics are designed to be fit to ANY firearm – pistol, shotgun, or rifle.
- Initial doping of this sight can take a bit of range time to zero
- It’s a Leupold…with a Leupold price tag
Reflex Sights Under $500
8. Trijicon RMR Type 2 3.25 MOA Adjustable Sight
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $500
Note: This is a great reflex sight for pistols. The reason this product doesn’t have higher ratings on Amazon is because many users are reporting they received knock offs. If you do decide to buy this optic just double check that it is in fact a Trijicon. There are also other listings of this sight on Amazon. I listed this one because it is the cheapest color option.
Since 1981, when the company was founded, Trijicon has served one mission – making the best damn firearm optics money can buy for the folks that depend on them most.
Helping LEOs and military members (including supplying some of the most elite special forces) around the world, Trijicon sights have become synonymous with high quality. You know what you’re getting when you fork over the cash for these bad boys.
This reflex sight from Trijicon is no exception.
My Review: Unique engineering allows this sight to automatically adjust its brightness level to lighting conditions, guaranteeing warfighters (and regular Joe’s, too) always see what they are firing at – no matter what. Push button overrides on the brightness settings let you adjust on the fly as well, giving you the ability to cycle through 8 different levels to dial things in without taking both hands off the weapon.
The housing of this unit is quite a bit different, too. It allows you to mount directly to a firearm (with a several mounting brackets/rails available) or you can attach this reflex sight to more traditional optics. This lets you bounce back and forth from one sight to another in a flash, firing on close-range targets with your reflex sight or engaging long range targets with an ACOG or mid/long range set of glass.
The price tag is a little steeper than most, but with Trijicon, you REALLY get what you pay for. This is a buy it for life kind of setup.
It’s a Trijicon – there really aren’t any cons other than maybe tripping the fraud alarms on your bank account.
9. Trijicon Type 2 6.5 MOA RMR LED Sight
Optic Type: Exposed Reflex
Price Range: Under $500
My Review: Another great option from Trijicon, featuring almost all of the same bells and whistles of the sight above. If you’re going to be running a reflex sight on your pistol, this is a great choice.
At around the same price as the Trijicon sight above, you’re going to notice all of the hallmarks of this optics company here. As always, Trijicon didn’t cut corners to cut costs.
Mounting options from Trijicon exist for most popular pistols, though you’ll have the option to use a “universal adapter” for Weaver and Picatinny rail systems, too. Unique to the RMR Type 2 system is the ability to have this sight milled for your firearm specifically – basically hard mounting it to the slide of your weapon for a semi-permanent fit that all but guarantees improved accuracy and stability.
Again, it’s Trijicon. Enough said. The only con is what your wife or bank account is going to say something about its price tag.
Reflex Sight FAQ
Why would I want a reflex sight in the first place?
As I touched on above, you’d really want to leverage a reflex sight when you’re expecting to fire your weapon at relatively close ranges – and especially when you expect to have to engage multiple targets at once in a hurry.
Think of reflex sights as iron sights on steroids. The work based on the same principle (with little to no magnification) and are all about increasing your accuracy with quick target acquisition.
A dramatic improvement over traditional iron sights, the ability to simply “point and shoot” when you have your reticle on your target – without having to match up the front and rear sight like you do with iron – is a real time saver.
How does a reflex sight stack up against illuminated iron sights?
Illuminated sights (either those you paint yourself or ones you swap out directly) can be a big improvement in low light situations where reflex sights shine, but that’s about it.
The speed benefits of target acquisition with reflex optics cannot be oversold. You don’t have to slowly match up your sight picture, you don’t have to sneak the post into the tooth of your rear sight, and you don’t have to worry about your front post getting kicked out of position (or your rear sights bounced around, either).
With a reflex sight, you get all the benefits of illuminated sights in low light conditions COMBINED with big benefits in full light, too.
Reflex sights are the best of both worlds.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of reflex sights vs rifle scopes and ACOGs?
The advantage of a reflex setup vs traditional scopes or ACOGs is the speed you’ll have bringing your weapon to bear accurately in short range engagements.
Trying to acquire a target with an ACOG – let alone a traditional rifle scope – at ranges less than 100yds sounds almost impossible. Your sight picture will fill with too much background because of the high level of magnification in the ACOG/scope, and you’ll be a lot slower – and a lot less accurate – getting your weapon on target.
You’re also not going to be weighing your weapon down with big, heavy glass when you go the reflex sight direction. ACOGs and scopes are bigger, bulkier, and not as suitable for CQB (though ACOGs get the job done better than a regular rifle scope, for sure).
On the downside, because a reflex sight has little to no extra magnification you’re talking about a limited range of effective engagement with targets. Once you start slipping out to beyond 100 yards or so (for most average shooters) you’ll see a noticeable drop off in accuracy compared to ACOGs and scopes.
ACOGs will have you punching holes in anything at ranges up to (and sometimes beyond) 500 yards without any trouble, and a standard rifle scope can have you drilling melon sized targets beyond 1000 yards or more – if you have a little Carlos Hathcock blood in you, anyway.
Can I use a reflex sight with other optics?
In some cases, you won’t need to worry about the advantages and disadvantages since reflex sights can be used in tandem with other sights. They either attach on the top or the side of longer-range capable optics or they have flip out magnifiers. Flip out magnifiers are the ultimate tool in achieving both close range sight pictures and long-range magnification.
What happens if my battery dies in the middle of an engagement?
Some reflex optics can be used in tandem with iron sights or flip ups, so when relying on electronic sights, I’d recommend you always keep those trusty irons on tap. If you left the irons at home, your only option is to center up your scope and hope for the best. Of course, you won’t need to worry about this if you’ve purchased a high-end optic with fiber optic light illumination or an optic with battery life indicators. Again, spend the extra money, it may save your life.
You’ll also need to remember you have to re-dope and zero your reflex sight whenever you do a battery swap. Some producers promise a “hot swap” memory, but it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry – especially when your optics are all that stands between you and your accuracy.
How long has reflex sight technology been around?
Here is a Brief History
Reflex site technology goes back a lot further than most people think.
A lot of folks are under the impression the tech in reflex optics was inspired by Heads Up Display (HUD) units in modern fighter jets.
Those capabilities allow our best pilots to keep track of critical info utilizing a built-in holographic projection on their windscreen, making it a lot easier for them to take down airborne targets and bogeys without ever taking their eyes off the prize.
And while a lot of the modern reflex sites out there today have borrowed from that tech, reflex sites were actually pioneered back in the year 1900 – 11 years before the old trusty Colt 1911 was created!
In a journal regarding the scientific experiments conducted by the Royal Dublin Society, there’s an entry in late 1900 that talks about a “reflector” being added to a rifle, allowing for improved accuracy in low light situations.
Scientists back then were experimenting with different sources of luminescence including bioluminescent chemicals pulled from deep-sea organisms to improve the OG iron sights of the time period.
It wasn’t until a couple of companies you’re likely familiar with – Aimpoint and EOTech (mentioned earlier) – started fooling around with new microelectronics in the earlier 1970s that the modern reflex site was born.
Small reflectors were used to capture ANY ambient light source (no matter how slight) and project it through red light tubes, painting a target and making low light shots a lot more feasible.
Today, modern reflex sites use power systems or fiber optics to project reticles inside of lightweight and compact sight bodies. Using similar tech I mentioned earlier (from the jet fighter HUD tech), these reflex sites give you the chance to rapidly acquire a target and send lead its way almost instantly – all with incredible precision you’d never get out of the tooth and post iron sights.
Of course, I haven’t gotten to experience every reflex on the market and nifty new ones pop up from time to time. With that said, if I’ve missed one you want to hear more about just let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to get hands on! I hope this guide has offered you some solid advice and steers you in the direction of your next set of perfect optics. Your rifles deserve the best!
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines. As an outdoor enthusiast, he has been testing outdoor and tactical style gear for over 20 years. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. On this website, we only write about things within our range of expertise like tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. Check out the “About Us” tab to meet the team.