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Red dots are essential tools for handguns.
It makes sense that close quarter firearms would function well with close quarter gun sights.
Draw your weapon and use the large, illuminated dot to get on target.
It's faster than using iron sights, and the faster you can acquire your target within your sights, the faster you can make that shot - and accurately.
So, are all red dots made equal? Are all red dot sights one-size-fits-all?
Far from it. Not all red dots are miniature, have the same size dot, or can handle the slide recoil of some handguns.
Here's where we come in to offer up some of the best pistol red dot sights that set the standard of quality and others that offer a more cost-conscious approach.
Our 8 Top Red Dot Sights for Pistols
|Trijicon RMR Type 2||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Venom 6 MOA||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris FastFire 3||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold DeltaPoint PRO||CHECK PRICE|
|Sig Sauer Romeo 1||CHECK PRICE|
|TWOD 1X22||CHECK PRICE|
|EZShoot 1X25||CHECK PRICE|
|Ade Advanced Micro Mini||CHECK PRICE|
|Shield RMSc 4 MOA||CHECK PRICE|
Red dot sights vary in size and the same is true of the "dot" that's used to get on target. These days, they can be so small that they can be mounted to a concealed carry pistol or duty weapon and fit comfortably in a holster.
So, why put a red dot sight on a handgun? Why not?
- Easy, simple to use
- Appropriate size; small and compact
- Offers longer shooting range
- 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 the range. You can shoot at various distances without the dot covering up the target.
For home defense and law enforcement use, the best pistol red dot will provide an upper hand in close quarter shooting and life or death situations. The single focal plane provided by a red dot sight 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 many benefits to be gained, a red dot sight not only produces measurable results for competition shooters and LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers), but it can make all the difference when speed and first shot advantage means self-preservation.
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 our lineup!
The Best Pistol Red Dot Sights
1. Trijicon RMR Type 2 6.5 MOA - Best for Duty Pistol
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The RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex) is a long-touted red dot that has been put through its paces with law enforcement departments and its officers. With its proven tactical background, it's good enough for professional use or if you simply want the best of what's available.
- Auto brightness
- LED red dot
- 6.5 MOA dot
- Professional use
Even though the high price is a downside, we're going to defend the price tag. Trijicon optics are expensive and for good reason. These aren't toys for amateurs, they're for professionals. With professional use in mind, you must demand durability, ruggedness, and accuracy out of your red dot, and the RMR is priced just right.
The 6.5 MOA dot is LED powered with a CR2032 battery. To display the best dot brightness and clarity and to conserve battery life, the RMR02 red dot has an automatic brightness setting. The sensor will detect ambient light conditions and provide the most appropriate dot illumination to eliminate washout, halo, and other illuminated reticle issues. Storing the optic in dark conditions can also stretch battery life to last up to 5 years.
Made with forged aluminum with a patented housing shape and upgraded electronics, the RMR Type 2 LED red dot sight is built to take harsh abuse. The unique housing shape has pointed "owl ears" that works to direct shock and vibrations away from the lens when dropped. 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." We couldn't have said it better ourselves!
2. Vortex Venom 6 MOA - Best Under $250
- The Venom Red Dot Sight-6 MOA promotes rapid target acquisition while providing a precise point of aim; getting shots down range and on target fast. The Venom's aluminum...
- High quality, fully multi-coated lens offers a clean, wide field of view. Power and dot intensity controls are conveniently located on the left side of the sight to...
The Venom has a wide field of view 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 just some red dots that seem to have issues when it comes to battery compartment design. There are some Venom models that come with battery contact or battery fit problems that are completely covered under Vortex's unparalleled VIP warranty, but that's only if your Venom gives you grief in this department.
The 6 MOA dot is popular for short-range applications - ideal for handgun use for target shooting, competition, duty/patrol, and home defense.
As is expected from an authoritative brand, an automatic brightness setting will adjust the dot to the appropriate illumination for the light conditions. If you'd prefer to adjust this yourself, you have 10 brightness settings to take advantage of. Keep it on low settings, and you could have up to 30,000 hours of use from the single CR1632 battery.
To keep things convenient, it has a top-loading battery compartment, so you don't have to unmount the Venom when you need to change out the battery.
Vortex does it that much better than others in its price range. How? It's about that clear view, high quality build, and bright, crisp dot.
3. Burris FastFire 3 8 MOA - Best for the Money
- PINPOINT ACCURACY – The FastFire III puts an unmistakable red dot at the point of impact within your field of view, giving you an immediate advantage in speed and...
- LIGHTWEIGHT OPTICS – With lightweight construction and durable design, the FastFire III can be used as a primary sight or paired on top of an existing sight.
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.
- Auto brightness
- Top-loading battery
- Short range
- Battery contact/compartment issues
Unfortunately, there's been some complaint about battery cap cover fitting issues and dots flickering on and off perhaps due to this problem. Some users 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. How else would it be such a high-ranking and popular red dot?
With a top-loading battery compartment for the CR 1632, it's super convenient to switch the battery when that time comes without having to unmount the red dot. The FastFire couldn't get any smaller than it already is 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. Not your fancy? It also has 3 manual push brightness settings if that's more your thing.
The 8 MOA dot is more appropriate for short-range shooting when getting on target is of absolute import. Made to be waterproof and shockproof, the Burris red dot will be with you wherever you dare brave. It has all the hallmarks of a good buy: build quality, auto features, compact size, and low price.
4. Leupold DeltaPoint Pro - Best for Glock
The DeltaPoint Pro has been put through its paces 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.
- 7.5 MOA triangle dot
- Motion Sensor Tech (MST)
- Button control location
Bad news or good news first? Bad. There are counterfeit Leupold red dot sights. Make sure you're buying from a reputable vendor, that your optic is not being shipped from China, and that you confirm the individual serial number with Leupold.
The only downside to the actual DeltaPoint Pro is probably the location of the buttons used to change dot brightness intensity. They're located right in front of the display blocking the view of the dot while you're adjusting the brightness. They could be placed on the side and out of the way - just pointing it out.
The Leupold red dot is on the pricier end of things, 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. 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.
5. Sig Sauer Romeo1 - Best Under $300
- Included components: 1554 red-dot-sights
- Sport type: Hunting
Got a Sig pistol? Why not mount a Sig red dot to it? The Romeo 1 is made for semi-auto pistols - sounds just like something you may need.
- 3 MOA dot
- IPX7 rated
- Top-loading battery
- Motion Activation
- CNC magnesium housing
- Battery problems/quality control issues
Unfortunately, it seems battery life issues are the main source of complaint. Due to perhaps compartment and fitting issues, you may have problems with it powering down or powering up when you need it. Battery life seems to drain faster than what you would expect. This is a defect that Sig should address with their Infinite Guarantee.
With a 3 MOA dot, you still have the benefit of getting rapidly on target for short-range shooting, but you also have a little more flexibility to shoot a little further with a little more precision. With a top-loading battery compartment, you can easily switch out batteries as you need without unmounting, or to conserve battery life to prevent issues with battery draining between usage, remove it.
The Motion Activated Illumination (MOTAC) feature aims to keep your red dot ready when you need it. It automatically powers down but is up and at the ready when it senses movement. You also have 5 daylight and 2 night vision dot brightness settings to adjust illumination for your conditions and comfort.
It's been recommended as a great target shooting red dot sight for recreational use. It's kind of pricey for this purpose, but to have a rugged, compact, motion activated, and multi-purpose red dot size in one design, it can easily be used for more than that.
6. TWOD 1X22 5 MOA - Best Budget
- Adjustment knobs:Easily switches from a green dot to a red dot.Red or Green Dot Adapts to Any Environmental Background.Finger adjustable rheostat enables user-controlled...
- Unlimited field of view :Great Field of View and Unlimited Eye Relief offer target scanning over the total field of engagement.Clear and Sharp 5.0 MOA Dot...
For a cheap red dot from an off-brand company, the TWOD has made quite the impression on the masses. Mostly mounted on AR pistols, it's been put through the ringer and has been described as the best bang for the buck.
- FMC optics
- 5 MOA dot
- Dual illumination
- 7 brightness settings
- Quality control issues
Customer support has been responsive to various complaints and depends on feedback to improve the design of the TWOD red dot sight. As a mass produced product in its first run, it's been said to have power/battery issues and possibly problems holding zero. Even so, these complaints are very few and rarely about its quality.
With FMC (Fully Multi-Coated) optics, TWOD took care of the basics by making sure it has the necessary coatings to transmit light for clarity and brightness.
It has a 5 MOA dot that's plenty large enough for getting on target and having the first shot advantage in close quarters. With dual illumination, it has 7 brightness settings in green and 7 brightness settings in red.
While on the small and compact side of things, it's certainly a little bigger and heftier than other red dots in this lineup, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces. Though, the weight and size would comfortably suit the bigger build of an AR pistol.
Even though it's a cheap AR red dot from a generic brand, its features and design were executed well. It's why it's one of the best entry-level red dots under $50 you can score.
7. EZShoot 1X25 2 MOA - Best Under $50
- Magnification: 1x; Objective: 25mm. The 1x25 red dot is engineered with Amber-Bright optics to help you quickly distinguish between a brown tree and a brown critter.
- Multi-coated scratch resistant amber lens deliver high image clarity. This micro red dot sight was made of high grade aluminum alloy that make its shockproof performance...
- Multi-Intensity Brightness Level: 11 different levels of red dot brightness provide optimal visibility in any light conditions whenever you are at dawn, dusk, night or...
Building an AR pistol? The EZShoot 2 MOA red dot sight would nicely compliment your build. Besides, it's cheap, versatile, and mass approved.
- 2 MOA dot
- 11 brightness settings
- Aluminum body
- Dot issues
There are a handful of defective red dots that have made it past quality control. Complaints are mostly about the red dot being fuzzy, dot difficult to see at max brightness, and packaging complaints about the riser being damaged upon box opening. For a price less than 50 bucks, it's fair to say you run that risk, but it's proven to be a decent scope addition to AR-style pistols, modern sporting rifle carbines, and rimfire rifles.
With a 2 MOA dot, you could take your AR pistol to the range and test your groupings out to extended distances. With 11 brightness settings, you'll be able to find the right illumination for the conditions, although, it has said to be best in indoor conditions as the dot isn't as bright as you may expect it to be.
Surprisingly, it has a solid build behind it. For the price, you'd expect a fragile, plastic thingee, but instead it has an aluminum body, it's nitrogen-purged, and it's fully waterproof. Make sure it's mounted correctly, and you should have no problems with it holding zero or being durable enough to withstand the rigors of use.
Decent quality is a running theme with this EZShoot red dot. We'd say the entry-level and basic features are covered. Not a bad option if you want to spend as little as possible.
8. Ade Advanced Micro Mini - Best for Rimfire Pistol
- Promotes rapid target acquisition while providing a precise point of aim; getting shots down range and on target fast. Top load System, no need to Remove the sight to...
- The red dot is compatible with Ade handgun mounts for Glock Barreta HK UPS SW MP SIG P226 Springfield Ruger LC9 LC9s LC380 SR9 SR22 SR40 SR45
New to red dots? Looking for a better than average, but still affordable red dot under 100 bucks? The Ade Advanced Micro Mini red dot may be the suitable choice if this sounds like you.
- 6 MOA dot
- Low profile
- Aluminum housing
- Top-loading battery
- Battery confusion
This red dot sight is new to 2019, and we predict it's going to be one of the more popular red dot buys in the near future. It's far from junkie and yet the price is right in line with what most people want to spend when they want something cheap without being "cheap" - ya know what we mean?
Being so new, there's little feedback on the red dot sight, but we can already tell it'll make an excellent red dot for a rimfire pistol. The aluminum housing will stand up to the abuse it will be bound to take with trips to the range, competitions, and from being bumped against corners and doors at home.
Some sources say the Micro Mini takes a single AA battery, but straight off the bat, you can tell it takes a standard CR 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, it's a beginner's value buy for rimfire pistols and handguns.
9. Shield RMSc 4 MOA
Incredibly slim, the Shield RMS (Reflex Mini Sight) is one of the slimmest red dots in the market. What’s the “c” for? Compact! It’s so compact that it’ll fit your single stack slide like your G43. Yep – you heard it here.
- 4 or 8 MOA dots
- Aluminum body
- Polymer lens
- Made for Glocks
- Easy to scratch
The RMSc comes in two models: 4 MOA and 8 MOA. They’re both from the Compact Series and they’re slim enough to fit single stack slides. Is it worth putting a red dot on your Glock? If it fits, why the heck not?
The Shield red dot sight is incredibly strong and shockproof with its aerospace-grade aluminum construction. The glass, however, is another story. There are multiple reports that it scratches easily, and this is likely to happen even when you use correct cleaning methods. Fortunately, we have a fix for that. Buy a screen protector like the thin sheets that go on smartphones or tablets. Trim it to size and apply. Granted, you shouldn’t have to do that in the first place, but for all its other benefits, it’s worth reinforcing it in this way to protect the glass.
You won’t have to mess with buttons either. The mini sight senses current ambient conditions and adjusts the LED to optimum visibility of the dot. It also has an “always on” function, so pick it up and voila, you’re good to go. Long-lasting battery life is owed to the CR2032 battery.
The Shield sight is tough, clear, bright, and automatic. To mount to your single-stack, get the RMSc. If you have a double-stack, get the RMS. Either way, your Glock is covered.
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 you on target. While red dot function may be the same between reflex, prism, and holographic sights, quality, performance, and price points are vastly different.
Here are some considerations to research before you pull the trigger on your red dot buy. Depending on your needs for your 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. Law enforcement, competition shooters, and some home defense civilians will want to spend in this price range of $400 plus.
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 this price range. A popular option is the Holosun HS507C X2 red dot sight which falls into the above price category.
Cheaper red dots will vary in quality between brands. 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.
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. 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.
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 conditions and automatically adjusts dot brightness to the most appropriate setting so it's always easily visible.
Manual brightness, while perhaps considered a basic feature, is oftentimes 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 5 settings with 10-11 on the high end.
Night vision brightness 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 NVD compatible dots.
Red dot sights for handguns should be compact and lightweight and more so if they're going to be mounted to a pistol that will be holstered. In the past, red dot sights inhibited holster use and this actually spurred a movement to make custom and red dot sight holsters just for this purpose. Now, they can be miniature in size without compromising window sight picture and still be effectively holstered.
Many handgun red dot sights are no longer than 1.9" and no heavier than an ounce or two. Larger red dots used on larger AR-style pistols can be around 2" long and around 3-5 ounces.
We're big fans of top-loading battery compartments, and many red dot sight manufacturers are catching on to the convenience of this feature. The good? Easy to replace 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-sight the red dot. Fortunately, some red dots have extremely long battery life that can last years before you need to replace it.
Battery life varies quite significantly from manufacturer to red dots. Most red dots for pistols are so compact in size that they are only big enough to take a CR1632 or CR2032 battery. This also helps to shed down weight as traditional batteries take up more space and weigh more.
Some red dots will offer 600+ hours while others can reach maximum battery life of 30,000-50,000 hours. However, to get extended battery life, it usually means you have to keep the red dot on a minimum brightness setting, take advantage of auto shut-off features, or be diligent about turning it off after use.
The Full Stop on the Red Dot
Red dots are extremely beneficial and efficient tools on a handgun. 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, they're easier and faster to use than traditional iron sights.
The win-win part about it is that you can also use red dot sights to co-witness with your iron sights in case it ever fails on you. As an electronic optic, red dot sights can fail. To put a stop to owning junkie ones, let our advice be the full stop on your red dot buy!