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Pistol red dots - pricey.
Affordable alternatives - likely to disappoint.
To minimize buyer's remorse, I set a criteria of the best pistol red dot sights to include different footprints, features, and price points.
I've also included our field-tested pistol sights to check out the illumination, ease of mounting, and value.
At the end of the day, you should know exactly what you're getting.
Top Red Dot Sights for Pistols
Trijicon RMR Type 2 (6.5 MOA)
Suitable for professional use
Ultra durable and accurate
Burris FastFire III (8 MOA)
Ideal for close-range use
Waterproof and shockproof
Bushnell RXS-100 (4 MOA)
Why put a red dot on a handgun? Why not?
- Easy, simple to use
- Improves accuracy
- Increases first shot advantage rate
- Rapid target acquisition
Competition pistol shooters have been using red dots for years for the speed and accuracy benefits. For target shooting, a larger red dot with a smaller dot size can offer versatility at range.
For home defense and law enforcement, the best red dots can provide an advantage in CQ engagements.
The superimposed dot of a RDS provides for a single focal plane that eliminates the need to focus the three focal planes of traditional iron sights: the front and rear sights and the physical threat/target. By using a dot that overlays on the threat/target, the shooter can remain target focused.
With measurable results and many benefits to be gained, red dots can make all the difference when speed and first shot advantage means self-preservation and 1st place in a match.
To see which red dots are best for duty use on your pistol or what will be fun to play around with at the range, here's my lineup!
8 Best Pistol Red Dot Sights
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Venom 6 MOA||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris FastFire 3||CHECK PRICE|
|Holosun HS507C X2||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold DeltaPoint PRO||CHECK PRICE|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||CHECK PRICE|
|Ade Advanced Micro Mini||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell RXS-100||CHECK PRICE|
1. Trijicon RMR Type 2 6.5 MOA - Best for Duty Pistol
The RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex) is a famous red dot that has been put through its paces with law enforcement and civilians alike. With its proven tactical background, I recommend it for professional applications or if you simply want the best.
- Auto brightness
- LED red dot
- 6.5 MOA dot
- Professional use
- Bottom-loading battery compartment
Even though the cost is a downside, I'm defending the price tag. Trijicons are expensive and for good reason. With professional use in mind, one must demand durability, ruggedness, and accuracy, and the RMR delivers.
But I will point out a legitimate flaw - a bottom loading battery compartment. Today, that should be considered archaic. Its only grace: battery life can be stretched out to 5 years.
The 6.5 MOA dot is LED powered with a CR2032 battery. I like that the non-dual illuminated RMR is daylight bright, and of course, has auto brightness. But I really like that you can override the auto setting for manual control of the 8 intensities, 2 of which are NV compatible.
Made with forged aluminum with a patented housing shape and upgraded electronics, the RMR Type 2 LED red dot sight is built to take abuse. The unique housing has pointed "owl ears" that works to direct shock and vibrations away from the lens.
It's so tough that a study showed it had no failures after 13,200 rounds with "drop tests" after every 500 rounds on a Glock 17.
To quote a loyal Trijicon buyer, this red dot is "small but mighty." I couldn't have said it better myself!
Available at: Optics Planet
2. Vortex Venom 6 MOA - Best Under $250
The Venom has a wide window that offers a no-obstruction display. What does this mean for you? With nothing in the way, getting on target will be clearer and faster than ever.
- 6 MOA dot
- Auto brightness
- 10 manual brightness
- Top-loading battery
- Battery fit issues
There are some Venom models that come with battery contact or battery fit problems that are completely covered under Vortex's unparalleled VIP warranty - if yours gives you grief.
The 6 MOA dot is popular for short range and fast target acquisition. I think it would be a good size for target shooting, competition, duty/patrol, and home defense.
I appreciate that it has auto brightness but you can also manually control the illumination. There are 10 brightness settings to take advantage of. Keep it low, and you could have up to 3,000 hours of use from the single CR1632 battery.
In my opinion, 3,000 hours of battery runtime is weak for a duty red dot considering the long-lasting alternatives available. But, I will give it to the Venom that it has a top-loading battery compartment.
I really like that a pic rail mount is included in the box. With that, you can mount it to rail-mounted pistol - no dealing with adapter plates or bad slide fits!
Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet
3. Burris FastFire 3 8 MOA - Best for the Money
We've listed the FastFire 3 before in our Best Red Dot Sights lineup, but that was with the 3 MOA dot. Versatile - yes, but this model has the 8 MOA dot to make target acquisition even faster when things get hairy in tight-knit spaces. I also took it to the field for a hands-on critique.
- Auto brightness
- Top-loading battery
- Short range
- Battery contact/compartment issues
There's been complaint about battery connectivity and consequently illumination problems. Some have fixed the issue themselves and others have turned to Burris' Forever Warranty for repair or replacement. Fortunately, it's a covered defect that doesn't seem to be the norm. I, myself, dealt with the cap being difficult to thread in.
I love the top-loading battery compartment for the CR 1632. I was surprised by how much smaller it is than I thought it would be with its 1.9" length and .9 oz weight - talk about miniature.
With auto brightness, it has a sensor that adjusts the illumination of the dot for ambient light conditions. I've always been one to want to control things myself - not a control freak! But, the auto brightness is actually very effective and won me over. Besides, manual illumination is severely limited to 3 intensities anyway.
I found the 8 MOA dot to be so easy (you can't miss it) to make rapid shots. It's big, don't get me wrong, but I'm not shooting at distance as this is a carry firearm for self-defense for close-range.
Made to be waterproof and shockproof, the FastFire 3 has all the hallmarks of a good buy: build quality, top-loading battery, compact and lightweight size, and it's low price.
Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet
4. Holosun HS507C X2 – Best Shake Awake Red Dot for Pistol
Holosun is well known for Shake Awake. Their red dots rank high for the battery conservation and motion sensor feature. With the RMR footprint, it’s an affordable alternative to the Trijicon RMR. Though there are legitimate differences, the HS507C X2 offers more than just a low price point.
- Lock Mode
- Multiple reticles
- Dual power source
- Ultra-long battery life
- Quality control
There is no manufacturer that is immune to having bad optics make it off the conveyor belt. This is the case with the HS507C with various complaints about easy-to-mar finishes to reticle problems. Though the finish isn’t covered under the warranty, defective reticles are.
The X2 red dot saw two upgrades: Lock Mode and lower button placement. Lock Mode is a feature that carries over from their LE models to prevent unintentional setting changes – I really like this! The side buttons have moved lower to get them out of the way.
But what everyone mostly likes, including me, about the Holosun RDS is the Shake Awake and the ultra-long 50,000-hour battery runtime. That’s a heck of a long time to run it and with the Solar Fail Safe feature, you’ll never be without an aiming point.
I think it’s additional features like the two NV-compatible settings, auto and manual brightness, side button control, and side-loading battery compartment adds value and streamlines the user experience.
From my hands-on experience with Holosun red dots, they do a good job of stuffing in practical, high-end features for the money. The multiple reticles are a personal favorite feature. The 2 MOA dot and 32 MOA ring, though small, works well for a pistol red dot.
Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet
5. Leupold DeltaPoint Pro - Best for Glock
The DeltaPoint Pro has been put through its paces in our field test and passed with flying colors. Not only is it an exceptional red dot for pistols, it's one of the top choice red dots for Glocks.
- 2.5 MOA Dot
- Motion Sensor Tech (MST)
- Button control location
Bad news first. There are counterfeit Leupold red dots. Buy from a reputable vendor. Make sure it's not shipped from China. Confirm the individual serial number with Leupold.
The only real downside I found to the DeltaPoint Pro itself is the button location. It's located right in front of the display blocking the view of the dot while I adjusted brightness. I think a better place would be on the side and out of the way.
The Leupold red dot is on the pricier end, but you're paying for quality. It has all the usual fixings such as being fog and waterproof, Punisher tested, aluminum housing, and has military standard scratch-resistant lenses.
It also has MST to help conserve battery life and yet still provide an instantly ready dot for whenever you need it - extremely convenient feature for law enforcement and for me while field-testing it. A top-loading battery compartment is always a nifty feature.
This particular model is super durable, so rugged that according to this study it survived without failure for more than 14,000 rounds on a Glock 17 while being "drop tested" every 500 rounds. That's what you buy when you buy Leupold - grueling toughness without compromise on accuracy.
Available at: Amazon and Optics Planet
6. Sig Sauer Romeo1 - Best Under $300
Everyone has a Sig pistol, and as everyone has figured out, Sig makes things hard to put a non-Sig red dot on there. For the money, the Romeo 1 is cheaper than the newer Romeo 1 Pro, but their footprints are very different. If you have an older Sig slide, the Romeo 1 may just fit.
- 3 MOA dot
- IPX7 rated
- Top-loading battery
- Motion Activation
- CNC magnesium housing
- Battery problems/quality control issues
Due to perhaps compartment and fitting issues, you may have problems with battery life and inadvertent power off. This is a defect that Sig should address with their Infinite Guarantee.
With a 3 MOA dot, you still have the benefit of rapid dot-on-target acquisition for close range work, but I guarantee you also have a little more range with a little more precision.
I am a fan of top-loading battery compartments which the Romeo has. Even though it's not what I call long-lasting, 5,000 hours from the CR1632 battery is still pretty long. It's about standard for what you can expect from a FastFire 3 or the Bushnell RXS-100.
I like the Motion Activated Illumination (MOTAC) feature - who doesn't? It'll help save some of that poor runtime for when you really need it! With 10 illumination intensities, there's plenty of coverage for the conditions and your personal preference.
I recommend the Sig Sauer Romeo 1 for range work, hunting, competition, and on a carry pistol as well. To have a rugged, compact, motion activated, and multi-purpose 3 MOA dot in one package, it has and retains value - especially if it's the only optic you can put on your slide.
But, if you have a newer slide, it's most likely cut for the Romeo 1 Pro, and it costs more. By the way, it has a DPP footprint. You can tell the difference because the Romeo 1 has a straight cut for the dovetail slide-in with a wider width for the 6-48 mounting screws. Whereas the Romeo 1 Pro has a curved top cut with a narrower width for the M4 mounting screws.
Available at: Sig Sauer, Amazon and Optics Planet
7. Ade Advanced Micro Mini RD3-012 - Best for Rimfire Pistol
New to red dots? Looking for a better than average red dot under 100 bucks? Searching for something with a Leupold DPP footprint but that doesn't break the bank? You've found it. The Ade Advanced Micro Mini is the affordable alternative to the DPP.
- 6 MOA dot
- Low profile
- Aluminum housing
- Top-loading battery
- Battery confusion
The ADE RD3-012 is a solid red dot. For the money, the price is somewhat synonymous with crap, but it's exactly what people want to spend when they want affordable without being "cheap" - know what I mean?
Right off the bat, I can already tell it'll make an excellent red dot for a rimfire pistol, but it's also popular for the 9mm. The aluminum housing will stand up to reasonable abuse just like any other red dot is expected to.
Few sources say the RD3-012 takes a AA battery - wrong! I can tell you it takes a CR2032 battery. The top-loading battery compartment features a round cap, and you even get a spare cap and gasket included in the buy.
The 6 MOA dot has an adjustable brightness setting, it's lightweight and compact, and it's simple to use. It's durable for field use with its shock, fog, and waterproof build. All in all, I recommend the ADE Micro Mini as an excellent value buy for rimfire pistols and handguns.
Available at: Amazon
8. Bushnell RXS-100 – Best Budget
Overall, the Bushnell RX-100 is a pistol red dot sight with the same footprint as the Leupoold DeltaPoint Pro. But it’s an affordable alternative to the DPP, Sig Sauer Romeo 1 Pro, and Shield RMS. Though it’s not a high-end RDS, it fulfills must-have requirements of a pistol sight.
- 4 MOA dot
- Side-loading battery
- Dual mount
- No co-witness
The RX-100 is unlikely to co-witness with sights. I think it’s similar to the field-tested DPP in size, and the DPP didn’t co-witness with the VTAC sights I had. Suppressor height sights tall enough cost about as much or more as the sight does itself, so it’s something to consider if you must run with a co-witness.
I like the 4 MOA dot size as it’s basically an all-purpose dot size in my opinion. There are eight brightness settings, buttons on the left side, and everything is intuitive and simple to use. I really like the side buttons versus the DPP’s single button that blocks the view when you use it.
It has an aluminum frame, coatings on the glass, and 1 MOA adjustments – all standard features. Though not fantastic for an RDS these days, the 5,000-hour battery life is still good. With auto-off after 12 hours of the last button press, I’m not going to harp on the runtime. The side-loading battery compartment is a bonus given its low price point. Speaking of cost, it begs the question of where are the shortcomings?
Though it’s compact at 1.9” and lightweight at 1.4 oz, the build quality is one of the most consistent complaints. From the dot not working to the lens falling out – there’s question about its integrity.
For the money, at least the RXS is backed by the Ironclad Warranty for a period of 5 years, so a replacement will be sent out if there are issues.
Available at: Bushnell, Amazon and Optics Planet
What to Look for in a Red Dot Sight for Your Handgun
On the surface, all red dot sights work the same: they use a dot reticle as an aiming point to get on target. Here are some comparisons to understand before you pull the trigger on your pistol red dot. Depending on your needs for the application, some features may be more important than others.
Features to Consider When Choosing a Pistol Red Dot
Red dot sights are generally affordable optics, but you can spend top dollar with brands like Trijicon, Aimpoint, and EOTech. These brands often hold the standard of quality in the industry and they will cost more. This price range of $400+ may be suitable to law enforcement, competitors, and some home defense civilians.
The most recognizable high-end red dot brands include:
Mid-range red dots are often a compromise for most in the market looking for the best price with high-end features. These can range between $200-$400. Everyone from cops to hunters will find a suitable red dot in at this price point. A popular option is the Holosun HS507C X2 red dot sight which falls into the above price category.
Popular mid-range to high-end red dot brands include:
- Crimson Trace
- Sig Sauer
Cheaper red dots from $30-$200 will vary in quality between manufacturers. Some may tout various features but can't deliver on the execution of them. Red dots under $100 are usually only best for plinking, recreational shooting, and target shooting at the range.
Popular entry-level red dot brands include:
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||Under $500|
|Vortex Venom||Under $250|
|Burris FastFire 3||Under $300|
|Holosun HS507C X2||Under $350|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||Under $500|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||Under $300|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||Under $100|
|Bushnell RXS-100||Under $100|
Red dots with 1-2 MOA may be too small and harder to quickly detect in fast-paced situations, however, they are good for precision and accuracy at longer distances.
3-4 MOA dot sizes can be considered mid-size, all-purpose dots. The size provides versatility in various situations, and they make for good short to mid-range distance red dots.
5 MOA and larger dots are designed for speed - instant target acquisition. They should be highly visible, fast to detect, and ready to use as soon as you can get your eyes on it. Those with poorer eyesight may want a larger dot for easier seeing.
Large MOA dots specialize in close-range work as they obscure targets at long distances. However, for close-range work with a pistol, large dots are what's in demand.
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||6.5 MOA|
|Vortex Venom||6 MOA|
|Burris FastFire 3||8 MOA|
|Holosun HS507C X2||2 MOA & 32 MOA circle|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||2.5 MOA|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||3 MOA|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||6 MOA|
|Bushnell RXS-100||4 MOA|
Dot brightness isn't just so you can see it, it also affects how crisp and clear the dot is. Very dim dots can appear soft around the edges making it harder to detect, and dots that are too bright for the conditions can appear distorted.
Apart from reticle quality, you can cater for brightness with automatic or manual settings. Automatic brightness can help to conserve battery life, and it can be convenient for shooters who are using their red dot in changing conditions. A sensor detects ambient light and automatically adjusts dot brightness to the most appropriate setting so it's always visible.
Manual brightness, while perhaps considered a basic feature, it's usually preferred over auto brightness. You can manually set the brightness to suit your preferences for the conditions. Not everyone sees dot color and brightness the same way, so being able to control this feature is a must-have. Standard red dots usually come with at least 5 settings with 10-12 on the high end.
Night vision compatible settings are very dim and sometimes undetectable by the human eye until the red dot is paired with a night vision device. Not all red dots offer NV compatible illumination.
|Product||Daylight Illumination||NV Compatible||Auto or Manual Modes|
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||8 settings||Yes – 2 settings||Auto & Manual|
|Vortex Venom||10 settings||No||Auto & Manual|
|Burris FastFire 3||3 settings||No||Auto & Manual|
|Holosun HS507C X2||10 settings||Yes – 2 settings||Auto & Manual|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||8 settings||No||Manual|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||10 settings||No||Manual|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||6 settings||No||Manual|
|Bushnell RXS-100||8 settings||No||Manual|
Red dot sights for handguns should be compact and lightweight, and most are even though they vary in size.
In the past, red dots inhibited holster use and this actually spurred a movement to make custom holsters. These days, they can be so small that they can be mounted to a concealed carry pistol or large enough for full-size duty weapons all while fitting comfortably in a cut holster like our tried-and-tested holsters from We The People holsters.
Many handgun red dot sights are no longer than 2" and generally no heavier than 1.5 oz. Larger red dots used on larger AR-style pistols are usually 2" long and around 3-5 ounces.
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||1.8 x 1.2 x 1 inches||1.17 oz|
|Vortex Venom||1.9 (L) inches||1.1 oz|
|Burris FastFire 3||1.9 (L) inches||1.5 oz|
|Holosun HS507C X2||1.78 x 1.15 x 1.15 inches||1.5 oz|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||1.8 x 1.3 x 0.5 inches||2.0 oz|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||1.76 x 1.29 x 1.07 inches||0.8 oz|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||1.75 x 1.25 x 1.15 inches||1.6 oz|
|Bushnell RXS-100||1.8 (L) inches||1.3 oz|
I'm a huge fan of top and side-loading battery compartments, and many red dot sight manufacturers are catching on to the convenience of this feature. The good? It's easy to replace the battery and it doesn't affect your zero. The bad? Many battery compartments have issues with the battery fitting correctly and/or battery contact. Springs and caps can come loose during fire, and this can cause the red dot to fail when you need it most.
Battery location on the bottom of sight can be a tedious inconvenience since you'll have to unmount it from the pistol to change out the battery. But, you have the assurance that it's not going to spring out of place during fire. Unmounting the red dot to change the battery also forces you to have to re-zero. Fortunately, some red dots have extremely long battery runtimes that can last years before you need to replace it.
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||Bottom loading|
|Vortex Venom||Top loading|
|Burris FastFire 3||Top loading|
|Holosun HS507C X2||Side loading|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||Top loading|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||Top loading|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||Top loading|
|Bushnell RXS-100||Side loading|
Battery life varies quite significantly. Most red dots for pistols will take a CR1632 or CR2032 battery. The coin-cell battery type helps to shed down weight as traditional batteries take up more space and add weight.
Some red dots will offer 600+ hours while others can reach maximum battery life of 20,000-50,000 hours. However, to get extended battery life, it usually means you have to keep the red dot on a minimum brightness setting, actively use auto shut-off features, or be diligent about turning it off after use.
|Product||Battery Type||Battery Life (Approx.)|
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||CR2032||4+ years|
|Vortex Venom||CR1632||150-3,000 hours|
|Burris FastFire 3||CR1632||5,000 hours|
|Holosun HS507C X2||CR1632||50,000 hours|
|Leupold DeltaPoint Pro||CR2032||300-1,600 hours|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||CR1632||5,000 hours|
|ADE Advanced Micro Mini||CR1632||70-720 hours|
|Bushnell RXS-100||CR2032||5,000 hours|
A Future of Pistol Red Dots
Red dots are extremely efficient tools on a handgun, and they're only beginning to become a recognized optic for the pistol in professional applications.
But, like all optics, it takes some practice and training to become accustomed to using a red dot and even mastering it - including overcoming things like natural movement that can be more of a detriment than having the wrong dot size.
Even so, red dots are easier and faster to use than traditional iron sights, and there will always be a future for red dots.
The win-win part about it is that you can also co-witness with your irons in case it ever fails on you. As an electronic optic, red dot sights can fail, but I'm still a huge fan of them anyway - I'm never going back to being without.