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Struggling to pick the right red dot the first-time round? You're not the only one.
Should you go scope or dot?
Will a gun sight make a difference to your AR-15 setup?
How much will it set you back?
Don't get worked up trying to figure this all out alone.
Let us help narrow down the options with our lineup of the best red dot sight for AR 15 setups that prove their worth in the hunt and in the combat field.
Best Red Dot Sights for AR-15 in 2023 (Comparison)
|Aimpoint Pro Patrol Optic||CHECK PRICE|
|EOTECH 512||CHECK PRICE|
|Holosun HS510C||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Optics SPARC II||CHECK PRICE|
|Sig Sauer Romeo MSR||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Strikefire II||CHECK PRICE|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 5||CHECK PRICE|
|STNGR Axiom II||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon MRO 1X25 2 MOA||CHECK PRICE|
|Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II||CHECK PRICE|
Red dots are available far and wide and the options are practically endless. They're no stranger to handguns or AR-15 (ArmaLite AR-15) and MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) platforms, and most any red dot you choose would likely feel right at home atop your flat top receiver.
But, getting to where you're confident in your choice of red dot is the time-consuming, decision-flipping, and wallet-stretching part that can make the process difficult.
To help you out, we narrowed down our exclusive lineup with only the most popular AR 15 red dot sights still available today. Often, the best red dots show up time and time again, and you can bet we've already taken note. Make sure you check out our Best AR-15 Scopes and Best Red Dot Sights lineups to see what other optics may catch your fancy.
We've tried to avoid the repetition of red dot models featured on our other lineups purely to provide more suitable options here. Variety is the spice of life, right?
With that variety comes several price points and a range of brands. But, what do they all have in common? They're highly ranked red dots and their reputations precede them. Does being popular have its perks? In this lineup, it does - it gets you seen!
10 Best AR-15 Red Dot Sight Reviews
1. Aimpoint PRO - Best for Patrol Rifle
The Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic) deserves to be featured on every red dot lineup - it is one of the best. It's been ranked and rated by real-time shooters including cops. As a patrol-ready optic, it has some serious grit for serious military use out in the field.
- 2 MOA red dot
- Long battery life
- Always on
- Compatible with other gear
- Transparent rear cap
- Quality control issues
As a mass-produced product, there's a slight chance you might get a red dot with a defect. With the few complaints that exist, it's been anything from red dot brightness issues to battery problems. The PRO is covered under warranty and guaranteed to be free of defects and this has proven true for hundreds of buyers.
The 2 MOA dot has 10 brightness levels with the first 4 levels being night vision device (NVD) compatible. Leaving it on setting #7 will ensure the battery lasts for 30,000 hours (approx.) - "always red - always on."
The PRO red dot is rugged and compact, weighs less than 12 oz with caps, mount, and spacer, and is easy to use - everything a law enforcement officer values in an optic. It also has speed on its side with its transparent rear cap design. For instantaneous use, raise your rifle while keeping both eyes open, and you'll have a red dot on your target.
Home defense, SWAT, duty, and patrol use - the Aimpoint PRO has you covered.
2. EOTECH 512 Red Dot Sight - Best Under $500
EOTECH specializes in extremely popular holographic weapon sights that fit the bill for our red dot sight lineup. EOTECH is a major brand in the optics industry among professionals, and they're known to cost a lot more than your average reflex sight. If this is a first-time buy for you, the 512 model is the best place to start as it's their most popular-selling sight.
- 1 MOA
- 20 brightness levels
- Battery life
Holographic sights are battery hogs, and this model is juice hungry. It takes 2 AA batteries, which tacks on a little poundage, and it lasts about 600-1,000 hours depending on your choice of lithium or alkaline batteries.
To save some of that precious battery time, set the 512 to automatically shut down at either 4 or 8 hours.
If you need to pair it with any NVDs, you won't find that capability here with the 512 model, regardless of its 20 brightness settings.
The open 68 MOA circle has a 1 MOA dot at the center and is designed for close-range and rapid-fire situations. It has 3 usable aiming points calibrated for .223 cal 62 gr cartridges - right up an AR-15's alley.
Built to satisfy the needs of tactical professionals, it's rugged (water and fog-resistant), has excellent glass optics and coatings, and is easy to use with its heads-up-display.
3. Holosun HS510C Reflex Sight - Best Under $300
This Holosun reflex sight is highly praised. Buyers and users deem it extremely durable, instantly ready, and the best red dot at its price point. Such high praise for such a little thing.
- Dual powered
- Shake Awake
- Multiple reticles
- Quick Detach mount
- Quality control issues
The HS510C reflex sight has a couple of interesting features that might sell you on it. The first is the Shake Awake feature that allows this sight to be left on and constantly ready. When not in use, the red dot disappears helping to conserve the battery. Move it, and it's "shaken awake" and ready for instant use.
The dual power option on this Holosun is automatic and manual brightness. The automatic mode is actually a solar-powered feature that adjusts the reticle's brightness according to ambient lighting conditions. While it sounds awesome, it might be too dim for your liking. Good thing the single CR2032 battery can deliver approximately 50,000 hours of use.
You also have multiple reticle options available with this reflex sight: 2 MOA dot only, 65 MOA adjustment ring only, or 2 MOA dot and 65 MOA adjustment ring. The reticle is powered by the same LED, so you won't have to re-zero between switching up reticles.
However, being able to use all these awesome features means getting a sight that functions as it should in the first place. Complaints include defective sights that won't power on or feature issues that are defunct. This sight is covered by Holosun's Limited Lifetime Warranty. According to the masses, you won't need it.
By the way, another great red dot sight under $300 is the Burris Fastfire III.
4. Vortex Optics SPARC AR2 - Best for the Money
The SPARC AR has Vortex’s greatest benefits - dependability, accuracy, and clarity. The AR2 model is an upgrade from the popular and highly ranked SPARC AR1. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, it did.
- Multi-height mount
- 1x power 2 MOA
- 10 brightness settings
- Night vision compatible
- Long battery runtime
- No disabling auto shut-off
If you forget to power down your SPARC, it’ll automatically do it for you after 12 hours. Even though this is very helpful for those who don’t use their ARs often, it could be an inconvenience for some. The fact that there is no ability to disable the auto-off is a disadvantage, and with its extended battery life of 50,000 hours as an upgrade from the SPARC AR1, it should be a possibility. Maybe this could be a feature for a future model or upgrade? However, for most people, it’s not going to be a big deal.
The AR red dot is a 1x, parallax free unit with a 2 MOA dot – large enough for close quarter shooting and small enough for long distances. Like its predecessor, it has 10 variable brightness settings. The lowest two settings are night vision compatible.
The Vortex red dot is versatile with its multi-height mounting capabilities. It comes with a built-in mount that is designed to be set for lower 1/3 co-witness. Mount as-is, and you’re set to go. If you prefer an absolute co-witness, remove the 3mm base shim, and voila, you’re done.
Merely saying the SPARC AR2 is waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof would be an understatement. We all know how indestructible Vortex optics are – ‘nuff said.
5. Sig Sauer Romeo MSR – Best Affordable Option
The Romeo MSR is one of the most affordable red dot sights from Sig Sauer so we had to give it a test run! It lacks a couple gadgetry features, but it’s easy to use, is well suited to target shooting and hunting, and it meets the cost-conscious.
- Daylight bright dot
- 10 brightness settings
- NV compatible
- No MOTAC
- Need multi-tool for everything
For $100 (approx.), you won’t get every feature that is available from red dot sight technology. Compromises include the lack of MOTAC (Motion Activation Technology). Also, the included multi-tool is needed for everything from mounting the red dot to making turret adjustments and tightening the battery cap. Considering its price point and features, they are forgivable concessions.
The Sig Romeo MSR has crisp clarity that is a cut above alternatives in the same price range. Its optical quality is made evident in its ability to be easily used with both eyes open and smoothly engaged from close quarters to 100 yards. It’s suited to target shooting, varmint and predator hunting, and can possibly be used for home defense as it will always stay on.
It pairs well with a magnifier on a Picatinny rail and/or used with a night vision device. Two separate dot brightness settings are specifically designed to be used with NV. The 2 MOA dot is daylight bright and settings 1-4 are extremely dim and excellent for lowlight conditions.
Mounting is simple as it comes pre-installed with a 1.41” riser mount for absolute co-witness with sights. The Romeo red dot is completely fog and waterproof as discovered in our Romeo & Juliet field test.
Since it has a high recoil rating, it’s also one of the best budget red dot sights for a shotgun, and yet from our hands-on testing, it also made itself at home as red dot for the M&P 15-22. It really doesn’t matter what you put the Romeo MSR on, its overall performance exceeds that of its low price point.
6. Vortex Optics Strikefire II - Best for Hunting
Out for a little AR-15 coyote hunting this year? Trying to keep your options under $200? When high quality is important and money is tight, your options are limited. But, thanks to Vortex, you don't have to strike out of the nighttime hunt. The Strikefire II is a red dot you must consider.
- 30 mm objective lens
- FMC optics
- Battery life
You could say the battery life of 400-7,000 hours from max. to min. brightness is good, but it's not great when you see red dot battery life in the tens of thousands as an industry standard. But, the auto-off feature after 12 hours of non-use will help to spare some battery juice.
Even though the Strikefire II red dot sight is a compact at 5.6" long and weighs less than half a pound, it's not a microdot with mini performance. It has a large 30 mm objective lens and a 30 mm tube body to allow 100 MOA in adjustment travel and added robustness.
As is usual for a Vortex Optics, it's fully fog, water, and shockproof - completely rugged with its single-piece chassis body. With FMC (fully multi-coated) optics, the 4 MOA daylight bright reticle will be highly visible against a clear, unobstructed wide Field of View. With 10 brightness levels and 2 of those being NVD (night vision device) compatible, you can stay out and hog hunt to your heart's content.
When you buy a Vortex Optics red dot sight, you don't just buy the optic, you also get an unmatched warranty that's said to be the best around - ever. VIP service is more than very important person treatment. It's a Very Important Promise Vortex puts behinds their red dots.
7. Sig Sauer Romeo 5 - Best for Home Defense
In general, everyone wants motion sensor tech to save time and steps in an unexpected engagement like in home defense. The Sig Sauer Romeo 5 has MOTAC that deactivates the illumination after 120 seconds of non-motion and is priced affordably for the cost-conscious buyer.
- Button operation
- 10 illumination settings
- Non-adjustable MOTAC
The thing about MOTAC is that it’s not adjustable, so the timer can’t run longer than two minutes. That’s not a big deal for some who are putting it on the home defense rifle, but for those who want double duty for a hunt, it might matter. Fortunately, the motion sensor is very sensitive, so it activates with very little effort.
Even if the illumination is running while it’s in a vehicle or on your back, the CR2032 battery has a 40,000-hour runtime. I haven’t had to change the battery yet, and it’s seen a lot of use for more than a year.
I have water-tested the Romeo 5, and it’s held up excellently. No signs of internal fogging has done it in, and given that it’s nitrogen-purged, it shouldn’t ever be a problem.
The Sig red dot sight has 10 illumination settings total with eight dedicated to low light and daylight use and two for night vision. I really liked that the 2 MOA dot is highly visible in almost all conditions save reflective surfaces that is something a red dot just can’t compete with.
Overall, the Sig Sauer Romeo 5 is a high-performing red dot sight for the money. It’s one of the best budget red dot sights that's equipped with all the bells and whistles for those who want more for less. That’s the definition of value, ain’t it?
8. STNGR Axiom II – Best Under $150
Overall, the Axiom II is an impressively well-built, high performing red dot sight for the money. Much like alternative red dots in the market, it is without a couple features. However, the drawbacks are quickly forgotten when the quality behind the dot, optics, and build are recognized.
- Crisp 2 MOA dot
- 11 brightness settings
- Capped turrets
- Quick detach mount
- No motion sensor
Though lacking motion sensor tech, the Axiom II has long-lasting 50,000-hour runtime powered by a CR2032 battery. In the red dot market, that’s the kind of life you want if you’re going without the battery conserving feature. The silver lining? If you leave it on, it’ll always be on for when you need it most.
It lacks dual color illumination and multiple reticle options, but it redeems itself with its very crisp, daylight bright 2 MOA dot. The first two settings of the 11 brightness levels are night vision compatible.
One of the best features about its micro design is the illumination knob is positioned on the side versus on top of the body. I found it convenient and easy to use being on the side and not too stiff to adjust. It rotates both forwards and backwards for fast activation into either setting 1 or full brightness 11 from the off position. Though, the right-side position of the knob won’t be as convenient a location for left-handed shooters.
The Axiom II has a T1/T2 footprint and comes installed with a QD mount that’s convenient to use and co-witnesses with iron sights in the lower 1/3 as seen in our hands-on field test. The second is a low-profile mount that is well suited to AKs and shotguns. It also seated well with a magnifier.
Other impressive notes about the Stinger red dot sight is its durability and build quality. The Axiom II holds zero even after being thrashed, smashed, and dropped - believe me, I did it all! The turret caps are made of metal and serve as the tools for 1 MOA click adjustments. It’s fog and waterproof, and it’s backed by the Swarm lifetime, unlimited, unconditional warranty.
9. Trijicon MRO 1X25 2 MOA - Best Mini Red Dot Sight
It's a Miniature Rifle Optic (MRO) red dot. It may be small, but it has sass. Don't underestimate the small stuff.
- 2 MOA
The MRO may be a miniature optic, but its price tag is anything but. Never mind, we all know Trijicons are expensive, but they value something that not all other brands do - quality. Take their extremely popular Trijicon RMR for example.
The MRO is made with forged aluminum, no polymer plastic material here. It's also completely sealed and waterproof. Even with its robust and rugged build, it's still lightweight at 5.1 oz with the battery installed and mount. It's mini-sized at 2.6 x 1.7 x 2.18" with the included low mount.
The 2 MOA dot is crisp and bright, and you can change up the brightness intensity with the ambidextrous control dial on top of the sight. It has 8 total settings with 2 compatible with night vision, 5 for daylight use, and 1 extra bright setting.
Setting the brightness to intensity "5" which is level "3" in the daylight settings will get you 5 years of continuous use out of the single CR2032 battery. We can certainly say the little MRO has a lot of endurance for being on the short side. What did we say again? Oh yeah, it may be small, but it has sass!
10. Primary Arms SLx MD-25 Gen II - Best Red Dot for Long Range
In general, there aren’t many affordable red dot sights with a CQB and long-ranging reticle. Fortunately, Primary Arms remedies this slight to consumers with the ACSS-CQB reticle in the SLx MD-25 Gen II RDS complete with the AutoLive feature.
- ACSS-CQB reticle
- Illumination knob
- Tough mount
- Multi-height mounting system
- Lifetime warranty
- Battery life
I tried and tested the new MD-25 and found that I like many of the features that would deem it out of the ordinary compared to most enclosed micro red dot sights. The one limiting feature I would point out is the 12,000-hour battery runtime. It’s not great, but at least it has AutoLive.
AutoLive is Primary Arm’s motion sensor technology. I timed the sleep timer, and the most consistent time I acquired was 120 seconds. With AutoLive, it’s competitive with some of the most popular red dots from Sig Sauer and Holosun.
I liked the potential precision I could achieve with the center chevron aiming point in the ACSS-CQB reticle. The 65 MOA horseshoe provides rapid reticle acquisition, and the BDC dots are only 1 MOA!
I get really picky about illumination knobs and PA nailed it perfectly. It’s on the left side, so the windage cap and knob have their own space and fat fingers won’t fight for accessibility ease. It’s oversized, and it rotates both forward and backwards past the 0 setting.
The mounts are rugged and solid. I sized the crosshead lugs and I’m positive they’re T15. This mount can handle whatever you want to mount it to. I tested waterproofness, I sighted-in for 100 yards, and I went to 200 on steel. It will pair excellently with a red dot magnifier for longer ranges.
Other than closely watching for when I’ll need to replace the battery, I recommend the SLx MD-25 Gen II as a long-range red dot sight. It will be seeing a lot of use going forward!
What to Look for in a Red Dot Sight for AR-15
Red dot sights are straightforward gun sights - just point and shoot. If you can see the red dot, you can hit the target. But, there are differing factors and features to consider that will guide you in your decision process.
What are you using it for? Do you need a larger dot to improve speed and target acquisition? Are you using the same red dot for everything from close quarter work to long-range shooting? Do you need the ruggedness and ease of use required for patrol and duty use?
Consider these red dot features as you attempt to add to the functionality of your weapons setup.
You'll see a huge range of price points in the red dot market. They're currently one of the most affordable optics you can mount to your AR 15. Many red dots under $100 are suitable for target shooting and plinking for recreational purposes, but they may lack the build quality to last and be used professionally.
The mid-range of red dots are often used for many things like hunting, range work, and even some law enforcement use. Red dots are equipped with precision and high-quality dots, and battery-saving features are also introduced here. This is where most buyers will be happy with their buy.
High-end red dots are often touted for professional use with the bells and whistles the industry has to offer while still being easy to use optics. Everything must meet the standard here from dot accuracy and build quality to being instantly ready and dependable. When buying for professional use, it's best to spend more for the better quality with proven optics that other law enforcement agencies use.
Red Dot VS LPVO
Low power variable optics (LPVO) are another alternative to red dots that are excellent additions to the MSR platform. It not only provides low magnification, but it also allows for higher power to stretch the distance in long-range situations. However, some LPVOs cannot achieve the true 1x power that red dots allow.
Plus, with two eyes open in close quarter work, the red dot reigns as the preferred gun sight. Red dot price points are also significantly cheaper than an LPVO, even for brands such as Aimpoint, EOTECH, Trijicon, and others.
Open VS Closed System
Red dot sights is more of a catch-all term for a range of gun sights such as holographic (eg. EOTECH), reflex, and prism sights. Reflex sights have an open system that allows for a small, often rectangular window to look through, but they also come in the closed, tube-style design also.
Between the two types of reflex sights, they essentially do the same thing - get your dot on the target with 1x magnification. However, size, weight, and battery life will vary between the two styles.
Prism sights look like tube-style optics, and they use a prism to provide an upright and right-way image. They're often best for those after a little magnification and extended shots. You'll also have to be conscious of eye relief/eye box measurements when mounting prism sights.
Is a 2 MOA, 4 MOA, 5 MOA or 12 MOA dot right for you? Your AR-15 is capable of taking shots not just at 100 yards, but out to several hundred yards (cartridge dependent), but what are you using it for? Typically, a smaller dot is desired for precision range work when you don't want to cover up much of your target at a longer distances.
A larger dot size is desired in close quarter applications when you need your dot on your target now. You need your eye drawn straight to the dot and the dot gets on your target fast and accurately around tight corners, in buildings, and within 25-50 yards.
Battery life will vary between red dot scopes and manufacturers. Red dots that draw more power will require larger and heavier batteries, and smaller red dots mightn't require that much. The most common battery used to power red dots today are the small, CR2032 batteries.
You will usually see 30,000-50,000 hours as the advertised battery life when setting dot illumination at the manufacturer specified setting. Some features can draw more battery life like max brightness settings and auto-shut down times and motion activated features can help to conserve it.
Not all red dot sights are compatible with other gear due to their design, size, and limitations. If you're planning on pairing your red dot with a magnifier or NVD (night vision device), be sure your receiver rails have the room for it, and that the illumination settings on the red dot are compatible with the NVD.
Win When You Go Red!
Red dots are here to stay and they're only getting better in design and quality while becoming more affordable. Some will always be better than the rest just like some brands will always rise above others. If you know what you want to get done, you can pick the right budget and the perfect red dot sight for you.
They're in-demand optics because they're fast target acquisition sights that allows you to enhance your shooting and accuracy over iron sights. But, many red dot and mounting systems still allow you the ability to fall back on your iron sights if you ever need to - it's a win-win. When you go red, there's no losing.