Rifle Scope Vs. Red Dot Sight

The question about what type of optic to acquire is an age-old debate among shooters, experienced and first-timers alike. The choice between getting a rifle scope or a red dot sight is one of the most common contests.

Although personal preference could influence your choice, getting an optic that would suit your needs depends extensively on some factors, such as the intended purpose; hunting, recreational shooting, personal security, tactical setup, and competition. Will you be shooting from close range or long range? Will your target acquisition be fixed or on the motion? Will you be moving or fixed? You can also factor in time if a night vision rifle scope is one of your considerations. 

Answers to these questions and the detailed breakdown of a rifle scope and red dot optic, as well as their pros and cons that you will find in this article, can help you make an informed decision on what optics best suit your needs. Please give me your attention and come along.

  • Rifle scope

The rifle scope has been around longer than the red dot sight. Think of the 17th century, starting from using iron sights as reticles. The rifle scope is preferred mainly for its remarkable medium to long-range precision and accuracy, and the reason is because of its greater magnification. The magnification power of a rifle scope can range from 1x (as far as the human eyes can see) to 40x or more in extreme circumstances. 

The higher the magnification power, the more magnified the object becomes on your rifle optic. However, the 40x level of magnification is mainly unusable because even though it gives you a close-up view of your mark, it reduces the field of vision on your sight picture, hence making it impossible to find your mark in your crosshair.

The rifle scope is furnished with a more complex reticle, allowing for more minute measurements on the horizontal and vertical between the marks, making them the preferred choice for most military training and operations as primary arms. Its apparent lens size gives more illumination to your objective through the light coming in.

Compared to the red dot sight, there is no doubt that the rifle scope has superior precision and accuracy, especially on long range. Additionally, according to your preferences and needs, the rifle scope can be tailored with various reticle patterns, offering you more versatility and options, thus boosting your shooting confidence.

  • Pros

An excellent rifle scope can significantly boost your chances of accurately hitting your target at a long or close range, also reducing the time taken within your shots, with its impressive magnification power that offers you more versatile options in shooting scenarios than the red dot sight.

Depending on your circumstance, you can dial up or down your magnified optics to get a closer look at your target on the sight picture; an option red dot optic does not offer you. Worthy to note that at the right price, you can customize your rifles to your preferences to offer you different reticle patterns. One of the advantages of a rifle scope is that it requires no battery to operate, unlike the red dot sight.

  • Cons

Although having more operational advantages over a red dot sight, the rifle scope is bulkier and heavier to carry, especially in long-distance hunting. And also likely to take up more space than the red dot portable design.

Consider that most rifle optics require closing one eye for better results, which might be problematic if you are in a situation that needs you to be fully aware of your surroundings. It also makes it harder for you to hit a moving target if you need to move with it.

Eye relief is another concern if you are choosing the rifle scope. Eye relief is the least distance required to see through a rifle scope eyepiece, 2-4 inches being the typical eye relief, which goes without saying that the eye relief requires you to get into position for shooting, which could be time-consuming.

Additionally, the rifle scope has a limited field of view. The field of view is the amount of area you see from your rifle optic from right to left. As your magnification power is increased, the less your field of view, the more it is decreased, and the higher your field of view, which could be a concern if you need to maintain a full view of the surroundings.

So on that note, let’s consider the red dot sight.

  • Red Dot Sight

Due to their compact size and lightweight, red dot sight or reflex sight is excellent at shooting from a close range, notable for its fast target acquisition.

Though not an adjustable magnified optic, the red dot sights are superior to rifle scope in close-range fast target acquisition. The red dot technology, like holographic sight, operates by superimposing the crosshair (red dot) on the plane, allowing for accurate and fast target acquisition.

Another notable feature of the red dot optic is that, unlike the rifle scope that requires eye relief distance, you can operate the red dot sight at close range while maintaining awareness or alertness of your field of view, especially in situations where it might be necessary. Additionally, both eyes’ operational advantage allows for aiming and repeated shots and faster target acquisition, which can build your shooting confidence.

The red dots are mainly built for speed; the lightweight optic means you don’t have to worry about weighing down your rifle and also allows you to move faster after a moving target, a significant advantage in hunting. The red dot scope has less concern for paradox error, unlike the rifle scope.

  • Pros

With no operational need to maintain eye relief distance, the red dot optics does not require you to lean over your device with an eye closed, allowing you to have full awareness of your field of view. And having no magnificent adjustable optic like the rifle scope means you will have less concern of losing your field of view when dialing up or down. Having no magnification means less practice in adapting to it.

The compact size of the reflex optic makes it faster and easier to acquire targets and gives you the freedom to move with the target if necessary. In general, the red dot optic is more efficient than rifle scope shooting from close range. And there are little to no concerns about paradox error in using red dot optics. You can use the reflex optic with various additional accessories for an improved experience.

  • Cons

Chief of the disadvantages of the red dot technology is its limited distance accuracy since it is not equipped with an adjustable magnified optic, making it difficult for you to hit the mark at a hundred yards or more, which could affect your shooting confidence.

There is wide criticism of less expensive red dot optics for possessing faint red dots making the dot blurred in a brighter atmosphere. Furthermore, the dot sight can also blur a target if far away. The dot sight is more difficult to operate in low light or not well-illuminated conditions.

Unlike the scope that does not need batteries, the red dot technology depends on the battery to operate. Although some red dots can last for an extended period, it is useless to you if the battery dies. If you want to read the reviews of red dot sight, I recommend you read the guide from Accurate Ordnance .

Final Thoughts

While it may not end the debate about both optics, deciding on which best serves your needs takes less effort when you have a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. However, whatever the choice, the results depend more on the mastery of the shooter, the environment, and the weather conditions. Finally, research the various devices available to you to know which best suits your needs.