If you’ve just bought your first AR 15, you may be asking yourself:
Do I need to have a red dot sight or…are iron sights good enough for my rifle?
Well, today I’m going to give you a comparison of the two sighting systems.
I’ve broken the information down into 4 easy to understand categories for you…
So follow along, and I’ll tell you if you should be using a red dot (reflex sight) or iron sights on your rifle…
Red Dot Vs Iron Sights: Which Is Faster?
To begin, iron sights have been around a long time, and there are many people who have become extremely skilled at using them.
They’ve practiced so much that every time they present their rifle, their sights are automatically lined up and they’re ready to shoot.
These individuals are incredibly talented and quick shooters. However…they would probably be even quicker with an optic.
In terms of speed, the comparison between reflex sights and iron sights isn’t even close.
Optics are much, much faster!
This has been proven in both the military and especially, by civilian competition shooters.
In shooting competitions where speed is critically important…
…the fastest times are being recorded by rifles (and in fact pistols) that use reflex sights.
Now, of course, a professional shooter using iron sights would probably be faster than the average joe using an optic…
But with a little bit of practice, that average joe can shoot much quicker with their reflex sight than with irons.
Red Dot Vs Iron Sights: Which Is More Accurate…
In my humble opinion, the accuracy is on the shooter. However, let me explain why reflex sights can be much more precise than iron sights.
First, when you’re using iron sights, a portion of your target is going to be blocked by the front sight post.
With that said, you do have the option of installing a thinner front sight post on your gun, and this will help you aim more precisely…
…but even then some of your target, especially the bottom half, will still be covered up by the sight post.
On the other hand, when you’re shooting with a reflex sight, there is obviously no post to obstruct your vision.
You’re able to see much more of your target and really dial in your aim.
Now, this advantage could be minimized if you have an optic with a really large sized dot on it.
So, I recommend sights with 1 MOA (Minute Of Angle), 2 MOA, or 3 MOA sized dots.
To me, anything larger than 3 MOA unnecessarily covers up too much of your target, and your aiming precision suffers.
Additionally, with iron sights, you need to really focus on the alignment between your front and rear sight.
If you’re not consistently lining them up with a perfect sight picture, your accuracy will tend to be poor.
However, with reflex sights, there is no alignment. You just look through the lens and place the dot over your target.
It simplifies the whole aiming process and makes shooting with accuracy a little bit easier.
Red Dot Vs Iron Sights: Who Has The Weight Advantage?
Shaving off ounces from a rifle can be advantageous for a number of reasons, and it’s a commonly known fact that iron sights are much lighter than optics…Or is it?
Let’s get a little bit nerdy and crunch the numbers…
Good Ol’ Iron Sights
There are many variations of iron sights for AR 15s, and your rifle could come in any of the following conditions:
- With a fixed front sight and detachable carry handle which includes the rear sight
- With a fixed front sight and a flip up rear sight
- With no sights but picatinny rail for the front and rear sight
- With a flip-up front sight and a flip up rear sight
In addition, your iron sights may be made of different materials such as:
Now, a carry handle will add about 9 ounces to your gun, but if you decide to run flip up sights, they should be weighing in at around 2-3 ounces.
Red Dot Sights
Just as will iron sights, there are many variations and manufacturers of reflex sights…
…and this makes it a little difficult to pin down the numbers.
If you go with a bigger sized optic, expect it to weigh about 9 ounces or more…
What Conclusions Can We Draw About The Weights?
Well, irons sights are lighter than red dots…but not by much!
First, I think you should avoid a carry handle because in this day and age it just adds unnecessary weight. And the same can be said for some older styles of large reflex sights.
However, if you go with a micro red dot, it will only weigh an ounce or two heavier than iron sights. And that’s pretty remarkable!
Red Dot Vs Iron Sights: Which Is More Reliable?
Ok, the edge here has to go to iron sights, but let me explain further…
Iron sights don’t:
- Run On Batteries
- Have A Lens
- Break When They Get Knocked Or Dropped (Usually)
That said, these days there are some incredibly reliable and durable reflex sights available…
The sights I recommend are all tough, waterproof (to varying degrees), and extremely reliable. And they also have extra long battery life that can actually last for years!
But with that said, they do still run on batteries, and that is a valid concern when you’re looking for ULTRA reliability.
So Which Sighting System Should You Go With?
EASY! You should run flip up iron sights (only your rear sight if you have a fixed front sight) along with your optic!
These are called Back Up Iron Sights or BUIS.
Using Back Up Iron Sights can give you all the benefits of a reflex sight (your primary sight)…
…but at the same time the increased security of knowing that if your battery were to die or your electronic sight failed, your rifle would still be ready to go.
And even though you do take on a few extra ounces of weight, the added reliability makes it worth it!
So In The End, Here’s How The Comparison Breaks Down…
- Which system is faster? RED DOT
- Which is more precise? RED DOT
- Which is lighter weight? IRON SIGHTS (only slightly compared to micro optics)
- Which is more reliable? IRON SIGHTS
And as I said, I recommend you put both on your gun so that you get the speed and precision of red dot but also the extra reliability of iron sights.
Now, if you’re looking for a good red dot to mount on your rifle…
I think it’s by far the best red dot sight for the money, and…
…if you’re interested, you should check out my full review by clicking the link below:
Farewell, and have fun at the range!