A few short decades ago, the red dot and laser sight technology were still in their infancy. However, since the early 70s, innovation has made its mark, with manufacturers building better and more accurate systems.

Red Dot Sights

Red Dot is a simple optic using a red dot as the reticle; these are simple technologies for close to moderate ranges. Red Dot sights are 1x optics without magnification, which is why they are not called scopes. 

Significant advancements have come in just the last ten years, such as extended battery life, clarity, and reticle design.

Red Dots have shrunk in size, like all firearm technologies. Red Dots can now be used on rifles and shotguns and are small enough for use on a handgun. Red Dot technology is simple, although each component is highly specialized. 

The Red Dot device has a spherical mirror reflecting light from an LED. The mirror reflects only red light due to specialized coatings. Another simple way to explain the inner workings; is that an LED shines a light through an angled piece of glass coated to only let in red light. The reticle is created from the glass reflection from the LED.

  • Sig Sauer Electro Optic Romeo5. This premium Red Dot is built for shotgun and handgun applications. The 1X aiming solution is for civilians and armed professionals, with its unlimited eye-relief. MOTAC technology powers up the Red Dot when it senses motion and powers down when it does not. Integrated Picatinny rail provides industry-standard mounting solutions. 
  • Burris FastFire Universal. The Burris is perfect for most any firearm with Weaver/Picatinny rails. A 2 MOA Red Dot reticle with windage and elevation adjustments. The Fast Fire is one of the most versatile sights on the market; its lightweight will not throw off balance.

Pros and Cons of Red Dot Sights

Pros:

  • Red Dot Sights are more intuitive when engaging the target. You tend to focus on the rear sight; Red Dots automatically place the reticle on the target. 
  • Red Dots are easier to use, especially for the aging shooter. 
  • Visibility in low-light situations is improved. Adjust Dot’s brightness by adjusting the reticle to match the shooting environment. Red Dots stand out when night sights are invisible.
  • Red Dots are focused on the target. Optics and reticles of a Red Dot Sight make target acquisition more manageable, and following a moving target is effortless.

Cons:

  • Red Dot Sights are battery-powered, and anything with a battery will die. Find another optic if you are not maintenance prone and cannot replace a battery.
  • Red Dots can lose zero under rugged hunting conditions.
  • Red Dot Sights are no good close-in. Most defensive situations happen under 15 feet; while Red Dots are better than iron sights, they are not as helpful at close-up defensive applications.
  • Red Dots Sights require training to reacquire your aiming eye. If you have used iron sights as your primary targeting method, the use of Red Dots is entirely different.

Laser Sights

Law enforcement, military, and security personnel use laser sights to their potential, with more advancements to come. Laser sights are attached to the firearm aiding in precise target acquisition. Unlike a scope or iron sights, the shooter does not look through the device to find their target. 

A beam is projected onto the target, providing a visual reference point. 

Among other features, laser sights have become excellent training tools. The beam highlights pistol shake and how that flaw affects target acquisition. The laser also points out how far off target a shooter drifts once they pull the trigger.

In daylight shooting applications, laser sights are as effective as iron sights. However, laser sighting is more effective than traditional iron sights in low-light scenarios. 

  • LaserMax LMSG519 Guide Rod Laser. The LaserMax is explicitly designed for the Glock 19, Glock 19 MOS, and the Glock 45. Traditional laser sights are mounted on top of the handgun, making them bulky and in the way. Guide Rod Lasers are mounted directly into the gun, giving them precise targeting acquisition. Activation and deactivation are simple; all that is needed is pushing the takedown lever. The most significant advantage to a Guide Rod Laser is holstering the handgun. Power is 5mW, with a wavelength of 635nM.

Pros:

  • Laser sight’s most significant advantage is precise aiming. It is easy to focus on the threat rather than the front sight in self or home-defense situations. Shooters have a much clearer picture of their target with a laser sight, and they are an effective means of judging distance or bullet drop.
  • Laser sights allow the shooter to acquire the target quicker than iron sights in any defensive scenario. In-home defense, shooters may not have the time to get themselves in a proper position; laser sights compensate by finding the target quickly. 
  • Laser sights are helpful indoors and outdoors because of their ability to make optical adjustments. Precise accuracy is dramatically improved over what the normal eye can achieve. 
  • Reaction time to acquire the target is limited only by the shooter.

Cons:

  • Both laser sight and red dot technology are more expensive than iron sights. However, the effectiveness and accuracy of iron sights are limited to the eye-sight of the shooter.
  • Laser sights are battery hogs and should be a feature to pay close attention to when shopping. If most of the use is indoor or low-light applications, laser sights can wear out quickly. 
  • Laser sights are more practical at short distances, with most manufacturers describing optimal distance at 50 feet. The farther out a target, the less effective the laser sight. The primary reason, a bullet is not a laser. The shot will experience a drop from the muzzle depending on bullet weight. Lasers are straight beams of light, regardless of the target. 

Final Word

Red Dot and Laser sights are excellent aiming systems, and each has its up and down side. Both technologies continue to improve, as do handguns, long guns, and ammunition. Do not expect to purchase a red dot or laser sight for every target and firearm you shoot

Do your research and set up your shooting system to match the target.

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Tactical Gun Review, along with Texas Outdoors Network, is published by Michael Coker and Charles Coker.

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