Reflex Sight vs Red Dot Sight – Key Differences between the Sights

Over many years, people have been debating which one is the better choice: reflex sight or red dot. Now, that’s a fair question to ask, but it may be a little misleading. You see, red dot sights aren’t a specific type of sight in particular, but rather a category on its own.

In this category, among other sights, we can find the reflex sights too.

Sounds confusing? We can’t blame you.

We’ll expand this information as we move forward in this article. So, are you ready to finally settle the reflex sight vs red dot debate? Then let’s start!

Reflex Sight vs Red Dot Sight – Key Differences

The following are the main differences between the types of red dot vs reflex sight.

  • Design

Unlike traditional rifle scopes, which are often bulky and long, reflex sights are more convenient due to their small size. Not only that, but they’re lightweight too. Because of that, you can use reflex sights on many weapons, whether they’re tactical rifles or handguns.

Red dots, on the other hand, are a bit bigger. That particular design has some advantages, but the smaller size is what makes the reflex sight slightly better.

  • Price

One of the reasons why reflex sights are far more popular than the rest is because they’re more affordable. If you compare the price to other types of sight such as a prism or holographic sights, you’ll notice that the latter two are available at higher prices, which could be a deal breaker for many people.

When you compare the reflex sights to the other type, you quickly notice that the red dot sights are a bit more expensive.

  • Magnification

Undoubtedly, the lack of magnification is among the biggest disadvantages of reflex sights. When it comes to this matter, people have different opinions; while some may recommend using a magnifier, others may argue that it won’t be convenient.

Fortunately, some reflex sights may come with an extra scope, which allows magnification. You’ll have to keep an eye to confirm if your desired reflex sight includes this feature.

Red dots are a bit different since most of them do offer magnification. You won’t have to struggle to get that particular benefit of capturing your target from far away.

Kinds of Red Dot Sight

The sights or optics those use a red dot as aiming point are of this kind. These are also called electronic sights. Some electronic sights do not have optical magnification. They are great for fast target acquisition.

typical bushnell red dot sight

Before going into details, it’s important to know that red dot sight isn’t a type of sight specifically. Instead, it’s a broad term that covers any weapon optic that uses a red dot as the aim point. There are other sights with green dots or crosshair, among other variations.

When it comes to red dots specifically, there are three types. Those are the following: prism sights, reflex sights, and holographic sights.

  • Prism Sight

First, we have the prism sight. These sights are small, and they use a prism that focuses on the image through the scope, instead of using the typical lenses. The reason it’s called a type of red dot sight is due to the illuminated reticle included in these sights.

This might be good in the long distance but it has eye relief which is not a good thing to have. Eye relief makes it harder to acquire the target quickly.

  • Holographic Sight

This is the next one. This particular sight looks a lot like the exposed reflex sights. However, there are some differences. For instance, holographic sights use a reticle’s picture between the layers of the glass.

  • Reflex Sight

Finally, there are reflex sights. These are the most common out of the three. The exposed reflex sights work a little different, with the aiming point projecting from the sight’s rear onto the aiming window. Reflex sights are also quite small in comparison.

holosun reflex sight

Lack of eye relief is the game-changer for this one. You can literally shoot the target with both eyes open.

After learning about the three, now you’ll be ready if someone wants to have the reflex vs holographic sights vs prism sight debate.

How Does a Red Dot Sight Work?

Red dots look simple, but there’s a bit of tech involved in them. Most noticeably, the use of glass plates and lights.

reflex red dot sight working

They consists of a spherical mirror, which is responsible for reflecting the light produced by the LED located at the axis focus. Said spherical reflector features a particular coating which reflects red light only, preventing other lights from interfering with the reticle.

To summarize, here’s how it works: the LED emits a light beam on a piece of glass, which has a special coating. The coated, slightly angled glass then reflects the LED light, and thus it creates the reticle.

This particular design is quite efficient, as it allows you to see the reticle and through the optic. However, people on the opposite side of the optic won’t be able to see the reticle.

This eliminates the focal plane cofusion with an iron sight. In addition, this can also be used with iron sights if you are a fan of those iron sights! The aiming point get way more visible with a red dot.

That’s pretty much how the red dot sight works.

Red Dot vs Reflex Sight Detailed Difference

Now, we’ll discuss some of the minor differences between reflex sight and the other types of red dot sights. We’ve done a brief reflex sight review to understand what this device brings to the table.

  • Built Quality or Physical Appearance

You can find either tube or exposed reflex sights. The first one, as the name clearly states, is the traditional tube-shaped sight featuring a couple of lenses, front and back. As for the latter, the exposed reflex sight, that one features a small clear window instead.

Although both are good, people often prefer the exposed reflex sight. These two reflex sight variables are among the very first differences you notice when compared to the other red dot sight types.

  • Magnification Power

The magnification power varies depending on a lot of factors. Nonetheless, if you use a magnifier, the type of red dot sight doesn’t matter, really. That’s why regardless of the differences the reflex sight may have when compared to the others, magnification power isn’t that important.

Even then, it’s worth pointing out that reflex sights are non-magnifying accessories. Luckily, these sights often come with a paired scope to help improve their efficiency.

  • Reticles

Reflex sights feature a lens mirror, which is capable of projecting a red dot. That same dot reflects back to your eyes, thus creating the reticle.

The other sights work differently. For instance, prism sights feature prisms instead of lenses. Holographic sights, on the other hand, use a reticle’s picture in-between the glass layers.

The red dot moa or reflex sight moa is the same. This means 1 moa red dot sight is the same as reflex sight.

  • Field of View

Keeping your eye on the target is essential for your success, but you should also be able to see what’s going in the surrounding area i.e. a better field of view for accurate target acquisition.

That’s one of the reasons why the reflex sight is often the go-to choice for many shooters. Their small design allows you to keep the target locked, while also having enough field of view to quickly react if needed.

As mentioned before, the red dots tend to be a little bigger when compared to reflex sights. You can still have a clear field of view of what’s going on around you, but many people would argue that the reflex sight is the better choice.

This is great because you need to know what’s around your target too.

  • Acquisition

Another reason to appreciate reflex sights is that they lack eye relief. It sounds like a negative thing, but it isn’t really. You get to re-acquire the target easily. Also, you’ll be capable of using the reflex sight with both eyes open if necessary because of no eye relief.

Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to position your head anywhere and still be capable of the target acquisition once again.

  • Co-Witnessing

Fortunately, all red dot sights are compatible with co-witness. Combining them with iron sites helps to improve the efficiency rate for a lot of shooters.


1. What Is Better, Red Dot or Reflex?

Realistically, there’s no way to declare a winner because reflex sights are part of the red dot sight category. At the end of the road, it’s your decision to try the different types and figure out which one is the best pick for you.

Although one may recommend using a reflex sight over the other red dot sight types, you may end up not feeling comfortable with it. That’s why you must choose which one like the most because it gives you better results. Not only catching your targets but also in terms of comfort for you!

Reflex sights are a clear winner but, it lacks in battery life compared to the red dot sights.

Here are some red dot sight suggestions for you.

2. What Is Parallax in a Red Dot Sight?

Parallax refers to the reticle seemingly moving in relation to the target should the shooter’s eye move behind the optic. If for some reason, the shooter’s head changes position, the impact point may change.

The most effective red dot sights feature parallax effect only at close range, where it won’t affect accuracy negatively.

While you’re considering using a red dot, reduced parallax is something you should definitely consider. Otherwise, the accuracy of your performance may be lower than expected.

3. What Distance Is a Red Dot Sight Good for?

Without magnification, you can use the red dot sight to aim targets at a distance of 100 yards away. Naturally, it isn’t always the same distance. It could be even farther beyond if you take into consideration several factors.

What are the factors that influence the red dot sight’s shooting range? The environment, for example, is essential.

If there’s fog, the shooting accuracy wouldn’t be the same. Also, the shooter himself must have a good vision to avoid losing the target. Lastly, if you have a magnifier, you’d be able to increase the range significantly.

Keep in mind that some reflex sights don’t have magnification power. Instead, they use an extra scope to increase the sight range. It’d be better to remember that information to avoid any frustrating moments.

Final words

As you can see, we can’t really compare reflex sight vs red dot because the first one isn’t a type of sight itself. However, red dot sights do count as a category, and we use the other sights under that category to compare them with the reflex sights.

You’ve seen the results after reading this informative piece. Now, the choice is yours to ultimately decide which one to get.

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