Red Dot Sight vs Reflex Sight – What’s The Difference?

reflex vs red dot

Not many people are aware of the differences between the red dot and reflex sights. In the beginning, we were just as confused. We decided to do some research and testing so we can come up with this informative write-up on reflex vs red dots. Let’s dive right in. 

The key difference between reflex and red dot sights lies in their field of view (FOV), structure form, battery life, zooming powers, magnification, and durability. Before diving into their differences, it is imperative to know that red dot is a general term, whereas reflex sights are more specific. As a matter of fact, a reflex sight is only one of the different types of red dot sight like holographic and prism optics.

Reflex sights also provide a wider field of view than red dots, giving clearer image quality projected in its objective lens. However, red dot sights feature a tubular structure and provide more protection against dust and water.  

Red dot sights also have a longer battery runtime than that can extend up to 50,000 hours than reflex sights that only have at least 30,000 hours of battery life. Therefore, these sights are more suitable for long missions and battles.

What’s A Reflex Sight?

A reflex sight is the most common type of red dot sight. It is one of the three main types of red dot sights, such as prism sights or holographic sights and Full-Tube sights. Reflex sights operate using a series of mirrors where the dot or reticle is projected forward onto a lens, making the dot more visible. 

Reflex sights come in two distinct types: the small exposed reflex sight and magnified tubed reflex sight.  A small, exposed reflex sight features a single lens positioned in front of the scope, while a tube reflex sight features two lenses that resemble a traditional scope.  

Reflex sights are less expensive than the other types of red dot sights, such as the prism or holographic sights. However, they aren’t magnified and have no eye relief, so they’re mostly useful for close-quarter target-shooting and home defense.

reflex sight

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What’s a Red Dot Sight?

A red dot sight projects a scarlet laser onto a tinted glass using a spherical mirror with a special coating. Similar to a prism or EOTech holographic sight, this sight uses the scarlet light emitted from the LED of its axis focus, preventing other light from disrupting the shooter’s green or crimson reticle. Shooters see the scarlet light’s reflection through its reticle controlled by an aperture hole in front of the LED. 

Red dots have different types of sight: Prism sights, Holographic sights, and the reflex: open (HUD) and closed (tube style) sights. The holographic sight is thus far the most famous type like EOTech and Aimpoint PRO. These types of red dot sights may work a little differently from each other, but they essentially provide the same fast target acquisition and illuminated aiming point benefits. 

Almost similar to a prism or holographic sight, a red dot sight type doesn’t only get to use 1 moa dot reticle but green dot reticles, too. However, without the help of batteries or any source of power, nothing will be visible, so you can’t use a red dot optic.

red dot

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Closer Look At The Main Differences

Power 

Magnifying power is how much larger a given lens can make an image appear. This is a direct relationship between the lens’s focal length and the least distance of distinct vision or LDDV. The LDDV is the closest your eyes can comfortably look at an object. [1]

In terms of magnifying power, reflex sights get the upper hand because they have greater zooming power than a red dot sight. It also has a double mirror construction, non-magnifying and more zooming powers suitable for firearms, telescopes, and cameras. However, red dot sights like holographic sights have more peripheral foresight and more battery life. 

Price  

Reflex sights are less expensive because they are not magnified and have less technologically advanced features than red dot sights and holographic sights. They are also more suitable for close quarter shooting, while red dot sights can be used at an extended range target shooting. It also lacks eye relief but can be used while both the shooter’s eyes are open. In other words, because of its more advanced features, red dot sights are more costly.

Durability

In the reflex sight vs red dot sight durability category, red dot sights are more durable because they have enclosed housing protecting the internals, protecting the units from dust and water elements.

And since reflex sights have an exposed light path, shooters quickly lose their reticle once something blocks its path.

durability

Night Vision 

Both optics are night-vision compatible. These optics can work during daytime and nighttime. However, we think the red dot sight has more advantages over the reflex sight because it can co-witness with iron sights. 

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Magnification 

As mentioned earlier in this write-up, the reflex sight is a non-magnifying type of sight that can be easily found on different types of firearms, telescopes, and still cameras. Due to its superior quality of this type of sight, its durability, ease of use, and precision results, many military forces prefer to use this type of sight in attack and tactical operations. 

Field of View 

FOV is one of the most significant differences between the reflex sight vs the red dot sights. Reflex sights feature a heads-up display (HUD) design allowing for a wider FOV. However, in red dot sights, shooters may get a small blind spot that can block both eyes’ view when the sight is too close. Here’s how you can sight in a red dot

Reticles 

Reflex sights use a lens mirror to signify the red dot to reflect the shooter’s eye, so he can only shoot after finding it. On the other hand, the red dot sights’ reticle may not always be a simple dot and isn’t always a red dot. They can target the reticle using electronic sights that have no magnification optical. Their reticles are measured by a minute of angle or MOA.

Red Dot Sights vs Reflex Sights - Our Final Thoughts

After carefully researching about red dot sights vs reflex sights, we can see that red dot sights could be a much better option if you’re hunting because it has more advantages and better features. Both sights have almost the same purpose, but they differ in various ways.

Red dot sights provide more protection against dust. They also have a longer battery run time, so they are best for long missions, battles, and hunting sprees. 

On the other hand, reflex sights are more budget-friendly and can be battery-free. They’re more helpful for home defense and close-quarter target shooting.

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