REFLEX OPTIC PISTOL RED DOT SIGHT PURCHASING GUIDE
Even though optics are designed to do the same thing, red dot sights can deliver different performances.
How to determine the best optic for your needs.
Size – If you’re looking for a reflex sight for your handgun, the optic should fit the pistol’s rail, a slight overhang on the sides is acceptable to mount some models. If your new optic does interfere with your holster you can alter your holster to accommodate the optic or you can purchase a new holster. If you need a license for concealed carry; we can help you obtain a CWP in South Carolina. Our website is WWW.SCLegalCarry.com
Weight – Pistol red dot, optics sights should to be lightweight, especially if you plan on using one on your compact handgun, using a lightweight model can actually offer more benefits. If you install a heavy red dot on your pistol, the extra weight might affect your handgun’s balance. So instead of improving your accuracy, you might be surprised to find that your accuracy drops when you mount a heavy sight on your pistol, at least until you get used to the extra weight. My advice stick to the light weight models made for pistols to avoid this issue.
Construction – Red dot sights are sturdy enough to withstand your firearm’s recoil, but they might not be strong enough to withstand frequent drops. However, some models like the Trijicon RMR Type 2 come with rugged cases that can handle more punishment. But you will pay for this added sturdiness. My advice, during normal concealed carry the average person is not in a situation that causes a lot of drops, bangs, and crashes to their pistol. But if you are doing rugged activities you will want to look at more durable models.
Battery Longevity – Most red dot sights need batteries to work. Most models use CR2032 batteries, but not all optics. Optic's don’t offer the same battery longevity. Some features and the brightness setting you choose can help with prolonging the battery’s lifespan. A Holosun optic could come with photo cells. The photo cells use energy from a light source to power the optic and the optic uses battery power when there is no light source. The Hololsun will toggle between the two settings without you knowing it happening or you can turn off this feature.
Automatic Brightness – This feature will turn the sight’s brightness down or up automatically when the ambient light level in the room changes. This feature can prolong your battery’s lifespan by a significant amount. For me this is a great feature, because a very bright red dot setting in a dimly lit room will cause the retinal to spray outward through the optics glass making it difficult to see the red dot properly. Or if the red dot is set at a low setting in bright light you may not be able to see the red dot, the dot washes out. I like automatic setting for concealed carry because lighting conditions are constantly changing. But in competition use, I use the manual setting to control the red dot brightness. Because in competition I can plan my use of the red dot, unlike during concealed carry I cannot plan the use of the red dot. Having a manual and automatic mode on the red dot optic gives me the best of both intended uses.
Automatic Shut-Off Feature– This feature will automatically turn off the red dot sight after a predetermined period. Most optics you can pick the automatic cut off time, averages are 10 min, 30 min, or 60 min. Some optics you can disable this feature so the optic never turns off unless you turn it off. This feature is effective at prolonging the battery’s life. But this feature can be troublesome if you believe the optic is still on.
Shake Awake Option- The shake awake feature on some optics will allow the optic to go to sleep when the optic has been sitting at rest for a period of time. Most optics with this feature allow the user to pick the at rest time period, 10 min, 30 min, or 60 min. Most optics with this feature will allow the optic to awake (turn the red dot back on) as soon as the optic senses movement. Be sure your optic brand will remember the last brightness stetting it was set at when the optic went to sleep. Optics with this feature normally allow the user to disable the sleep mode, so the optic never sleeps if you choose it.
Battery Location – The location of the battery is also important when you decide on a model. If you choose a model that has a top-access battery hatch, you’ll be able to change the battery without taking the sight off your pistol. This can be an advantage because it means your sight will still be zeroed-in after you change the battery. On the other hand, a reflex sight that comes with a bottom-access battery hatch has to be removed from the pistol to change its battery. And once you change the battery you will have to remount the sight, which usually means you’ll also have to re-zero it. Luckily, most handgun red dot sights can run on the same battery for months and some for years, so you won’t have to change it often.
Reticle Color – Even though they’re generally called red dot sights, some optics might actually come with a green colored reticle. Now, most people might say that choosing between the two colors is only a matter of preference, but that might not be so. Some studies show the human eye is more sensitive to the color green than red, so you might be able to spot the green dot faster than the red one. On the other hand, a lot of stuff around us is green, like the foliage of trees and grass, so the red dot might stick out due to the contrast. However, the chances of using a pistol red dot sight somewhere where you’re surrounded by green grass are low, so you might be better off choosing green or red or green. I can't pick.
Reticle Brightness – Finding the right reticle brightness will make the red dot more visible, and it will also make it look clear and crisp. There are two ways to adjust a sight’s reticle brightness
Automatic Brightness Feature – We covered this option above.
Manual Brightness Adjustments – Most reflex sights come with reticles that have to be adjusted manually. Even though this might seem like a disadvantage at first, you should know that most professionals prefer it this way. One of the good things about choosing your own brightness setting is that you will be able to determine how bright the reticle is according to your personal preferences. Good reflex sights come with at least 5 brightness intensities. Some models come with more than 10, which should make it easier to find suitable intensities for all kinds of brightness conditions.
Night Vision & Extreme Brightness – Despite the fact that they’re not extremely common, both the night vision and the extreme brightness modes can be really helpful. The night vision mode will allow you to use the red dot sight accurately in low-light and no-light conditions. This can be really helpful, especially if you plan on mounting the reflex sight on your home-defense pistol. The extreme brightness feature is a special mode that can be very helpful in tactical scenarios. Using this feature will eliminate the chances of using the red dot sight in bright conditions without actually seeing the reticle. Even though this doesn’t happen very often, it can happen at times. Handgun reflex sights come with open displays, so they’re vulnerable to the sun’s light glares. When the sun is right over you, the sight’s reticle can be difficult to spot. The extreme brightness feature maximizes the sight’s brightness, making the reticle clear and crisp even if the ambient light is very powerful.
Reticle Size – If you’ve been looking for a reflex sight, you might have noticed that they come with reticles (the red dot) of different sizes. Even though some models might seem similar, like the Trijicon RMR Type 2 and the Trijicon RMR 6.5 MOA, they might use reticles of different sizes. It’s very important to choose the sight’s reticle depending on how you’re planning to use the firearm. The red dots are measured in MOA, which means minutes of angle. The minutes is equal to 100 feet. And the Angle is equal to size of the circle you can shoot in at 100 feet. For example a 3MOA means you should shoot in a 3 inch group at 100 feet away from your target. And a 6MOA means you should shoot in a 6 inch group at 100 feet away from the target. This translates into a 3MOA at 50 feet will allow you to shoot in a 1.5 inch group and a 6MOA at 50 feet will allow you to shoot in a 3 inch group. Notice how your groupings get smaller as your target gets closer, but the visual circle your see in your optic does not change in visual size to the human eye. That is one reason a red dot can make you a faster more accurate shooter.
Small-Sized Dot – 1 – 2 MOA – Using a small-sized dot will allow you to shoot accurately over long distances. Even though most shooters use this kind of red dot sights for a rifle, there are some models that can fit on a handgun as well. Now, the main advantage of using a small dot is that you’ll be able to make accurate long-distance shots. The downside will be that it will be difficult to spot the dot quickly. This can be a problem when you’re shooting in bright conditions and the dot is more difficult to spot, no matter how large it is.
Medium-Sized Dot – 2 – 3.5 MOA – Using a medium-sized dot can be useful in all shooting applications. The dot is easer to spot in various shooting conditions, and it’s accurate enough to allow you to make good close to medium-range shots. Now, a skilled shooter will be able to make accurate long-distance shots using a medium-sized dot as well, but the shot will be more difficult and it will require a greater amount of skill. Medium-sized dots can also be good for fast target acquisitions.
Large-Sized Dot – Anything over 3.5 MOA, example 6MOA, 8 MOA, 32MOA – Large-sized dots were developed with a single purpose in mind. These dots were designed to facilitate the target-acquisition process for close-range shots. Meaning it is easy and faster to find the dot and place the dot on your target fast. And these units can make an average shooter a good shooter. When you point a pistol at a target that’s close to you, the red dot will line up to your target instantly, making it extremely easy to make accurate shots at close range. But, large dots that take up lots of space in the optics glass are easy to find, but make it difficult to make accurate medium-range shots because the large dot will cover most of your target. It’s nearly impossible to make accurate long-distance shots. The dot is so large, it will most likely cover your target and some of the environment around it. So, mounting sights that come with large red dots on home-defense weapons is always an advantage. This will allow you to acquire your target with ease and to shoot accurately in close-quarter situations.
My opinion, the Holoson 32MOA circle with a 2MOA red dot is the best of both worlds. Your eye can find that big 32MOA circle fast and that allows you to place the 2MOA dot on the target quickly giving you accurate shots at distance, medium, and close range targets. Remember a 32MOA circle allows you to shoot in groups of 32 inches at 100 feet. That translates into you shooting in 4 inch groups at 12.5 feet from your target. And the 32MOA circle in your optics glass does not visually change size to the human eye. That means fast sight accusation and 4 inch grouped shoots. Thats why I run a Holosun HS507C-V2 on my personal Sig P320 X Compact carry pistol.