Are you trying to decide what type of optic to put on your AR 15?
Well, today I’m going to help you make that decision by giving you an in-depth comparison between red dots (or reflex sights) and magnified scopes.
I’ll do this by organizing the comparison into what I think are the 4 most important categories to consider…
So, get ready because Scope Vs Red Dot is our current match up! And I’m going to tell you which optic you should mount on your rifle…
Red Dot Vs Scope: Who has the edge in quickness…
Well, let’s assume that if you’re looking for maximum speed, you’ll be shooting at a relatively close range of 50 yards and in…
Without a doubt, the faster optic is the reflex sight!
They’re simply built for speed because of all of the following features…
- They have no eye relief and most are parallax free– So you can look through the optic quickly from almost any position and make your shot.
- Most have a simple reticle– Many just have a small dot that you place over your target to aim. Others have reticles designed to attract your eye for fast shooting.
- They often have a large field of view– By seeing your target and what’s around it easily, you can transition between multiple targets fast.
- They have no magnification– So, with just a little bit of practice, you can start to fire with both eyes open, and this enhances your ability to see and transition even quicker!
Even if you extend your target to one hundred yards, a reflex sight can be extremely fast into action by a skilled shooter.
On the other hand, magnified scopes tend to be slower…
To begin, they do have eye relief which can cause problems when you’re trying to shoot fast.
For example, if you bring up your rifle quickly and your head is slightly in the wrong position, you might not even be able to see through your optic.
Now, mounting your scope to fit your body properly can be a big help…
…but you’ll still be a little bit slow, especially when shooting from awkward positions.
And we haven’t even considered the magnification level and range of the scope yet…
So, if you have a variable optic and the low end of the magnification is at 6 power, forget it…
…you’re going to be really slow when shooting at close up targets. You’ll probably even struggle to find them because your field of view will be too narrow.
Moving down a little, if you have a variable optic and the low end of your magnification is at 3 power, you’re going to be a little bit better off…
…but even then, you’ll still have to slow down at those really close 25 yards and in targets.
At the bottom end, if you have a variable scope that starts at 1 power and goes up to 4, 6, or 8 power, then you’re finally starting to get close to the speed of a reflex sight.
This is because at 1 power you’ll probably have more generous eye relief and a bigger field of view than at the higher power levels.
This can translate to faster shooting, but you’ll still be shooting just a little bit slower than you would with a reflex sight.
So in conclusion, the speed winner is a red dot even though you start to come close to it with a 1 power scope.
Red Dot Vs Scope: Which Will Help You Shoot More Accurately?
There are some really gifted shooters out there that can make accurate hits with either of these two sighting systems.
But one of the keys to having pinpoint accuracy (aside from focusing on trigger control) is how well you see the target.
For this reason, the scope has to take the advantage in the accuracy category.
Imagine that your target is a 6-inch steel plate at 200 hundred yards…
Assuming that you have stability and proper trigger control…which optic is going to give you the advantage when you try to hit that target?
Obviously, it’s the optic that has magnification!
You see, even though it is possible to make that shot with a reflex sight, the better you can see your target, the easier it’ll be to hit.
Now, it is possible to extend the range of your reflex sight by mounting a magnifier behind it.
But even then, you might only get to 3 power when you could have much more magnification by using an actual scope.
So in the end, a scope will help you shoot for accuracy better than a reflex sight.
Red Dot Vs Scope: Which Optic Is Chunkier?
You need to be careful when adding accessories to your gun.
The weight can start to add up quickly, and there is no reason you should be running around with a 10-pound rifle. Luckily, we’re living in a good time…
Right now technology is improving at an exciting rate, and companies that manufacture optics are making their products lighter and lighter.
This is true for both reflex sights and magnified scopes. But even though both are coming down in weight…
reflex sights are much lighter than scopes.
Let’s Compare The Numbers…
If you go with a micro optic (I recommend some here), your sight is going to weigh between 3.5 and 4.5 ounces.
It’s pretty incredible just how little weight you’re actually adding to your firearm with a reflex sight.
On the other hand, a good magnified scope is going to weigh much more.
Of course, it will depend on the manufacturer and the particular features offered by that scope (like illumination), but…
…the weight range could be around 15 ounces on the low end going up to 25 ounces at the high end. And honestly, it could end up being much higher than that…
So there really is no comparison here because, in terms of weight, the reflex sight is a much lighter option.
Red Dot Vs. Scope: Which Will Be Ready When You Need It?
This is an interesting question because reflex sights and scopes are both built to be tough optics today.
But I’m gonna give the slight edge in reliability to the scope. Let me explain why…
A red dot is an electronic device that relies on battery power, and everybody knows that batteries will eventually run out.
Now, even though some reflex sights have amazing battery life that can last for years, their reticles will disappear if the batteries run out.
A scope has a reticle that is etched into the glass. So it needs no batteries to allow you to aim, and I think that makes it just a touch more reliable.
However! You can easily make this a non-issue…
All you have to do is add back up iron sights (BUIS) to your rifle!
If you run BUIS along with your reflex sight, you’ll still have a way to aim your firearm even if your battery dies.
Additionally, there are many people that run back up iron sights with their magnified scopes too.
And I certainly understand that desire for a little bit of extra security as well.
So, while I do think a scope is a little bit more reliable because it doesn’t require battery power…
…any reliability concerns virtually disappear when you put back up iron sights on your rifle in support of your optic.
In The End, Here’s A Summary Of What We’ve Learned…
- Red dots are faster than scopes. But a variable scope at 1 power can start to approach the speed of a reflex sight.
- Scopes allow you to see your target better. This can be a great help when trying to shoot accurately at distance.
- Reflex sights are much lighter than scopes, and it’s important to consider weight when outfitting your rifle.
- Scopes are a little bit more reliable than reflex sights. But if you add back up iron sights to either set up, your overall system will be ready to go when you need it.
So, Which Is The Better Option?
Well, that depends on how you’re going to use your rifle!
- If you’re looking for a lightweight package that shoots quickly up close, go with a red dot.
- If you intend on making precise shots at targets in the distance, put a scope on your rifle.
- If you want a combination of both, use a 1 powered variable scope or get TWO rifles!
Now, if you are looking for that fast and lightweight set up, but don’t know which red dot to go with…
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!