Reflex Sight vs Red Dot

red dot vs reflex sights

HuntingMark is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More

While not trying to start a war in the rifle sight department, I will try and sort out the differences between standard red dot sights and HUD model reflex sights.

Both types of sight are good, but they do have some differences that the buyer needs to fully understand so he or she does not get a big surprise when going to the range and sighting it in after installing one.

Red Dot Sights

red dot vs reflex sights

Starting with the basic red dot sight, what you're getting for your money is a sight system that is installed in a standard or advanced designed tube housing. While that housing may come in different shapes, the idea behind the sight is the use of a metal tube, lens, and an electronically imposed image seen through the optic.

For complete information on how does the red dot sight work check out our guide.

Examples of this type of sight include the very advanced Trijicon ACOG sight. This red dot sight is military all the way, never needs batteries as it uses self-generated power for natural light and stores the same power for night use.

shoot this sight on a Smith & Wesson M&P-T as a personal weapon and, even though it was issued to me by the company many years ago as a rebuild combat-returned sight, it has never failed me in the field.

The ACOG is so advanced in terms of sub-tensions that some models are used for modified sniper applications, whereas most red dot systems are reserved for much closer range shooting, even when applied to a standard rifle scope.


This manufacturer offers full-sized rifle scopes in various power levels that also use self-generated power and make use of the small sub mil size red dot center point.

I like the Trijicon rifle scope a great deal, and I own one as applied to a Remington Model 700 VS sniper rifle. Like the first system, it has been shooting dead on at full power for more than 18 years.

If you want to learn more about this outstanding sight system, check with, as they carry the sights in the ACOG design and will present a far more detailed overview of the total systems.

Personally, I recommend this sight for any military operator or police officers needing the best possible system in red dot applications to be used in the field.

reflex vs red dot

There is a wide variety of red dot brands and system available to the shooter. Again, Amazon can supply many different models and will illustrate clearly by way of their website all the varied pricing, model types, and the amount of product you're getting in terms of what you're spending in hard-earned cash.

Another element associated with best red dot sights is that they can be built rather inexpensively. This is not all bad. I have used an unbranded dirt-cheap red dot on a crossbow for more than 20 years, and the sight makes use of a simple, cheap 2025 battery.

reflex sights vs red dot

The battery life lasts for several years with almost full-time use, and allows the use of two different colored dots (red and green), then you can change light intensity five times from bright to low light.

The price for this red dot sight at the time of writing was under $30.00. This shows what can be done with the very basic simple system illustrated here in terms of budget systems.

holographic red dot

If you're searching for a good value red dot sight and want to keep within an affordable price, take a look at the models offered by Bushnell. These are designed for hunters and can be applied to rifles, handguns and shotguns.

If there is a down-side to a red dot sight, it is that you're required at all times to look through a basic housing set-up to access your reticle. This means you're losing your extended range of vision, and additional side-to-side viewing when you're down with a cheek welded to the rifle stock and on the sight.

Reflex Sights

reflex vs holographic sight

There is the second option in red dot sights that makes use of the basic HUD system. HUD is the “Heads Up Display” screen design used in the A-10 air-to-ground combat aircraft, and also in the fast-moving jet fighter, as in the F-16.

This reflex sight system has almost replaced the center of a fighter windscreen view, as it carries so much data to the pilot in instant real time. The HUD uses a holographic image, and in rifle or shotgun sights it can be displayed in a rather nicely sized window that leaves all the area around it wide open.

Not that the method can’t be encased in a tube like the conventional red dot sight. But for the most part, HUD systems on reflex sights use the open window display. Like the others, I shoot one of these on a rimfire that is set-up for night-shooting varmints.

I can watch a spotlight being handled by a partner as the beam of light moves through trees, or on a river bank, at the same time I can see my red outer circle and sub MOA red dot at the very same time. Extended vision is a real option when applied to these sights.

holographic reflex sight

The drawback to reflex sights is that the sight windows are very much exposed and are subject to possible damage or being filled with mud, snow, or whatever is the problem of the day in the field. However, there is a HUD system contained in a tube like a conventional red dot sight available.

An example of this is the Twod 1X22 5 MOA red/green reflex “Holographic Tactical” scope sight available from Amazon. This is a budget holographic sight at only $34.99, and it uses a full rounded short-length scope tube-style housing that completely contains the window.

This holographic sight can be used with both eyes open for total field of view area-viewing during target acquisition. Not the same as the HUD-style window, but still very workable and most likely to hang together for longer in rough conditions.

In terms of mounting any or all of these sights the use of rings, built-in bases or whatever are attached to Weaver-style rails in seconds.


In summary, both styles of sighting systems are good, but a bit varied in their applications. Both systems can be budget priced, or they can run out to the high dollar level depending on the requirements of the shooter.

As an example of what these sights can do, the US Army, when turning to red dot sights, greatly upgrade the first round hit capability for the average infantryman.

In most cases, the sights illustrated here are designed for close- to medium-range applications unless otherwise indicated by the manufacture. Again, by simply scanning, you can find just about any of the current sights being produced in both of these styles.

In most cases, the information in the overview of the products will give you a good start toward selecting the type of red dot display sight you're searching for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *