What Is A Red Dot Sight?

Looking to make your aim better instantly? 

There are devices out there that can help, and red dot sights are some of the most popular of these devices.

But what is a red dot sight exactly? And how does it work?

How far can you shoot with it accurately? 

I’ll answer all of these questions and more in this post.

About Red Dot Sights

A red dot sight is classified as a non-magnifying reflector sight (or reflex sight) and is designed for devices that require aiming. 

These are mainly used with firearms and assist the user in aiming by supplying an adjustable aimpoint – which, in the case of red dot sights, is an illuminated red dot. 

Aside from personal protection, police, and military applications, these sights are often attached to cameras to photograph quickly moving objects such as flying birds and aircraft.

Some telescopes also have these sights attached as a finder scope, since the primary lens supplies a very narrow field of view.

History of Red Dot Sights

The first versions of the red dot sight were conceived and realized in 1900. They’re still being perfected now, a little over a century later.

Modern red dot sights are astronomically better than their older counterparts.

There are many different types of red dot sights, some powered by battery, some powered by ambient light, and some using a combination of the two to assist the user.

But the technology’s most significant breakthrough came by in 1975. Aimpoint AB, a Swedish optics company, marketed and sold the first electronic red dot sight.

This sight would mark the beginning of a new era in firearms – it ditched the incandescent bulb that was in use and coupled an LED with a reflecting curved mirror to achieve better illumination of targets.

But the best thing about it was that it could run for up to 3000 hours with a mercury battery – previous iterations of the sight that used incandescent lights only lasted a few hours.

In the early 2000s, the industry saw the rise of the low-power red dot sights that could work for years without ever being turned off, and these remain the norm to this day.

How Does A Red Dot Sight Work?

After LEDs and glass/mirrors were introduced to red dot sights, their functioning changed entirely.

The spherical mirror in the sight reflects the light that’s emitted by the LED in the sight. There’s a coating on the glass that only reflects red light, which ensures that the ambient light does not get in the way of your aim.

The light bounces off the glass and reaches your eyes, forming the reticle that you see.

The peculiarity of the red dot sight’s design makes it so that only you can see what you’re aiming at. Someone standing next to you won’t be able to see the reticle.

Different dot sights come with reticles of various sizes. The size of the reticle is measured in MOA.  

The MOA can sometimes be altered by adjusting the aperture hole in front of the LED.

Reticle sizes range from 2MOA to 8MOA; however, only a few decades ago in the 90s, seeing 15MOA and 20MOA reticles being used was common.

The bigger the reticle, the easier and quicker you can aim. Smaller reticle sizes are best suited for shooting at moderate distances, since the dot covers less of the target, making hitting it a lot easier. 

What Is A Red Dot Sight Good For?

Red dot sights are popular because they’re simple devices. They are easy to get your hands on and even easier to use. 

They work with most firearms and will enable you to stay on target without much trouble.

Target shooting and hunting are two applications they’re commonly used for, aside from police and military applications.

Their speed also contributes a whole lot to their popularity. The fast-acquisition of targets becomes second nature with red dot sights after you practice with them for a little while.

You will be able to aim and shoot at a target in under a second, even with minimal training.

They’re perfect for beginners because they only require correct attachment – you won’t need to align it like you need to with an iron sight.

What Distance Is A Red Dot Sight Good For?

It’s safe to assume that the red dot you pick up will let you aim well at objects at least 100 yards away.

There’s no correct answer to this question, though.

Like any other optic sight, red dot sights can be zeroed at a specific distance – and most red dot sights work best at the 100-yard setting.

However, shooter skill, adjustment of the reticle, weather, and firearm type and quality have a huge say in how far you can hit with a red dot sight equipped. 

Don’t expect to be able to shoot hundreds of yards away. Red dot sights are non-magnifying scopes, and you cannot shoot long-range with them.

For shooting at close-range and at moderate distances, though, there’s nothing better than a red dot sight.

Are Red Dot Sights Accurate?

Yes. They’re accurate even when you’re in a rush.

You can look through the optic at less than perfect angles, and as long as you place the red dot over the target, you will hit your target.

The sights are very versatile – you can use them on shotguns and ARs just the same. 

But with handguns, having one equipped can be a game-changer. They can instantly improve precision and give you the first shot advantage.

The technology has shrunk in size significantly, so you can even use it with your concealed carry handgun.

All you have to do is keep both eyes open, and line the sizeable circular reticle with the target. No precise adjustments are required.

Red dot optics are a must-have for sport shooting and competition use and can be a lifesaver if you own a weapon for home defense.

Now that you know everything about them picking one out at the store will be easier.

This is me, Steve Coffman. I'm the Chief Editor of IGFA. I'm retired military personnel who is now into shooting and hunting. As an outdoor expert, I have experience in dealing with all kinds of guns, from light to heavy firearms. Currently, I'm spending my time hunting, shooting and writing on my blog.