Hello again, A lot of the reviews we have here on TGR are about some pretty pricey stuff. I have a lot of junk laying around here I paid very good money for too. Leupold scopes, Eotechs, Surefires, Streamlights, precision rifles and handguns I can’t NOT put on lasers and lights, nightsights, trigger jobs, blah blah blah, you get the idea. It’s not a hobby anymore it’s more like an obsession. I did a series on surplus rifles that are good and inexpensive, the Kaspa scope from Weaver and now I’d like to discuss a few kinds of budget red dot sights that I have used considerably and they all cost under $100 delivered to your door. I’ve found some to be really good and some not so much. I am lucky enough to have a pretty good toy budget but in this country today that is increasingly rare. So I want to get some info out there on 6 kinds of budget red dot sights. 3 I like and 3 I don’t.
I want to start with talking a bit about how I treat my gear and what I do with it. Am I purposely rough on stuff?? Yes and no. I have a considerable amount of combat experience in the Middle East and I know what happens too a combat troop’s gear over there, so I don’t baby my stuff. I’m not malicious with it but at the same time it gets banged around a bit. I don’t really care about my finishes and keeping everything pretty, if I did that then I wouldn’t feel like I knew whether it was gonna hold up for the real deal if that day ever comes back for me again. So I’m not out here babysitting safe-queens. I usually try to train on days that suck outside, rain, wind, cold, whatever, any day I’m going to be physically uncomfortable doing it.
So that having been said my favorite budget red dot is the Sig Sauer STS-081. You’ll get this thing home for about 90$ on eBay. It has a kill flash cover, the screen thingy that keeps the other side from catching a glint from sun off your sight. I have a couple of them mounted and used regularly for about a year and a half or so. You get a 4 MOA red dot with a number of settings for brightness. You will have no problem seeing it in any bright sun. The batteries last a long time, 8000 hours on a battery. That’s about 11 months strait. So that excuse I hear often about “the batteries will go dead at the worst time” just isn’t holding water. 11 months strait, even in a hot combat zone that’s at least 500 days worth of work. If you don’t change a battery in 500 days that’s YOUR fault, not some weakness the sight has. This sight has been tough and worked perfectly and held a zero for as long as I’ve had it. I use one as the main sight on my 9mm Uzi and one as a close range site sitting over top my Leupold 3×9 VRX Patrol on a RRA ATH. At 3 ounces and only 2.5 inches long and under $100 it’s tough to beat for a budget piece of gear.
My second favorite is the Bushnell TRS-25, very similar to the Sig. It did not come with the kill-flash which is really the only reason it’s in number 2 spot as durability, ease of use and quality seems on par with the Sig. It runs 3000 hours on a battery which is about 125 strait days,again more than enough time for you to change a battery. It’s waterproof to 10 feet and overall I like it. I do feel like the sig is worth the extra $10 for the kill-flash. The Bushnell can be home for $79.95 from Botactical.com. My advice, spend the $10 and get the Sig though.
My 3rd place sight is a Walther sight. It has a choice of red or green dot. It’s plenty bright enough and I like green. It has plenty of brightness settings and I have been beating a couple of them for about 4 years. One was on my MP5 for quite awhile till I got another EoTech and the other one is still in service on a Keltec sub-2000 9mm carbine which has been a family beater gun. We’ve all tried to break it and no cigar! The amazing thing about this is that on dealextreme.com the thing is $22.40. That’s where we got them. $22! The thing holds a zero no problem, works just fine, if your really tight on the cash this thing actually will work. Go to deal extreme and get one. It takes a few weeks to get it but you WILL get it. They just send it on a slow boat from China.
Now you will see on dealextreme.com’s website quite a few other sights. They have several Aimpoint models they cloned. They look like Aimpoints, both the full size and the mini ones, some even SAY Aimpoint on them. I promise you they are NOT Aimpoints, stay away from those. While the things seem tough enough the mounts tend to strip out or shoot loose and the dots are NOT bright enough for bright daytime use. The mounts can be tinkered with, I had to do it and got them to stay put with regular old hardware store nuts and bolts, it’s just that you can’t see the dot in the bright sun. These sights are a NO GO! Don’t bother trying. They use a 1632 battery which can be a bit hard to come by and they don’t seem to have enough juice to them to really light up. The models to avoid there are the “22mm Lens Red/Green Laser Dot Sight Gun Mount Set” and the “Designer’s T-1 Aluminum Alloy Red/Green Dot Sight with Rail Mount for MP5/SR-16” and the “0.08mW 650nm Tactical Red Dot Sight Rifle Scope Gun Mount”. They are Aimpoint and Trijicon clones that are not worth squat.
So what have we gathered here today?? Well, stay away from the last 3 budget red dots I mentioned. If your really tight on money the Walther will actually work. For the $90 I feel the Sig STS-081 is your best choice. FOR SURE! Super long run time, tough, lightweight and has a kill flash. Sig’s name is on the side (they actually do endorse it) it’s not a “Sig clone”. It’s Sig’s real deal red dot. They ship a lot of 5.56’s with it on them strait out of the factory. Although I’m sure they are made in China just like the rest of them. Most places charge $180-200 for the Sig STS-081. DO NOT pay that!!! $90 on eBay all the time and the thing will probably serve you very well until you put enough pennies in the jar for a real Aimpoint or Trijicon mini red dot.
As always thanks for reading and train often.
By: Cary Kieffer