About 100 years ago, optical engineers discovered that by using the reflection of an aiming point rather than the point itself, an airplane gunner could move his eye position in relation to his sight without changing the bullet’s point-of-impact. In other words, this reflective, or “reflex” sight eliminated the need for a rear sight. In the 1970s, red dot sights incorporated battery-powered aiming points so they could be used in any or no ambient light. Today there are four basic types of red dot sights, including contained reflex sights, mini reflex sights, prismatic and holographic red dot sights. Here are five—at least one of each style—that make precise aiming of your rifle, shotgun or handgun faster, easier and more accurate in most lighting conditions.
Aimpoint CompM5 This contained—also called protected or tubular—reflex sight is probably the world’s best in reliability and battery life. In essence, it’s a fully enclosed, waterproof red dot optic that weighs just 8.4 ounces, features a 10-level, simple (and large), dial-style rheostat. Perhaps most notable, its “ACET” electronic system draws so little power that one AAA battery lasts for five years with its brightness set on low power and one year on high. It also features superior sun flare mitigation thanks to its anti-reflective lens coatings, something that cripples mini-reflex sights. For negatives? Its adjustment turrets are difficult to dial with the provided-but-easily-lost scope cap tool; and it’s expensive.
Leupold Freedom RDS This contained reflex sight features a 1 MOA dot and push-button on/off switch (rheostat) with eight brightness settings. I love the Leupold’s big, finger-adjustable dials that are just like dials on a regular riflescope. Optically, it’s probably the best red dot out there in terms of clarity and sun-flare mitigation. It's waterproof and comes with a robust mount for a Picatinny rail. As for negatives, with its 34mm maintube and 12-ounce weight with mount, it’s a little bulkier than some, and its battery life at a touted 1,000 hours is questionable.
Holosun HS507C X2At a mere 1.5 ounces, this mini reflex sight is small enough to fit on a handgun, yet it’ll also do just fine on a turkey-hunting shotgun or deep-woods deer or dangerous-game rifle. Its battery life is stellar at 50,000 hours, but perhaps the X2's best feature is its Solar Failsafe solar panel and an auto mode that provides power even if the battery craps out—something that seems to happen with battery-powered optics when you need them most.
Its smaller buttons mitigate the chance of inadvertent presses, and to ensure this it features a lockout setting that requires a long press to unlock. The unit can be purchased with a green or red reticle, but unfortunately both come in only a 2 MOA circle/dot reticle that may be too big for some shooters’ liking, especially at distance.
The Wolfhound’s prismatic lens system features a prism (like a binocular) that flips and clarifies the image so it appears normal. Its advantage is that this red dot sight features magnification of 3x—perfect for mid-range shots with a crossbow, handgun, rifle or turkey gun. Its other advantage is that complex reticles—in this case a ballistic reticle set up for a .300 Blackout—can be etched into its prism. Choose between .223, .300 BLK or .308 Win. I like that its machined aluminum housing is rubber-armored and waterproof to 10 feet. For a magnified red dot optic, it’s a great value. Concerning negatives, the HS 300 is heavy for a red dot sight at 17 ounces, and it has little eye relief at 2.83 inches.
EoTech HHS II For many hunters and home defenders alike, an EoTech holographic-style red dot sight combined with an EoTech pivoting magnifier—in this case a EXPS2 and a G33 Magnifier—is the ultimate setup for a shotgun or rifle for hunting and/or home defense. With the magnifier pushed aside via its pivoting STS (switch-to-side) mount, the shooter is allowed a huge field of view for fast shooting of close or running targets; yet in a split second the 3x magnifier can be used for shooting at longer distances or where more precision is required. As such, this holographic optic—wherein a detailed reticle image is projected on a large pane—combined with its magnifier provides the best of both worlds. For negatives, battery life isn’t great at 1,000 hours or less; its large sighting pane is vulnerable to dirt and sun flare; and its control buttons can be difficult to operate in gloves or cold weather.