Rangerexpert is audience-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that we use for site maintenance. Learn more


Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot Sights: 6 Key Differences!

reflex sight vs red dot
Written by Dan Goldsmith
Last Update: August 11, 2023

Despite what many people believe, red dot and reflex sights aren’t the same. There is a clear difference between a reflex sight and a red dot sight. However, it might get a little technical.

But don’t worry. This guide will provide an in-depth “reflex sight vs red dot” comparison in simple terms so you can pick the one best suited for your needs.

The key difference between a red dot and a reflex sight is how each works. A red dot sight uses an LED (Light Emitting Diode) to project a red light on the glass in front of your eye. On the other hand, reflex sights use a reflective coating to reflect the light from the LED, which you can see through its eyepiece.

Let’s explore six key differences in greater detail in our today’s reflex vs red dot sight comparison guide.

Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot Sights: A Brief Introduction

To minimize the confusion, let’s familiarize ourselves to the concept of reflex sights and red dot sights before we dive deep into the differences. Here goes

Reflex Sights

Reflex sights, also known as open reflect sights, rely on a mirrored surface that reflects the light of an illuminated reticle.

Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot Sights

A reflex sight projects this reticle onto the front lens at all times, giving you the ability to aim with both eyes open. This gives you a wider field of view compared to other optics and improved target acquisition.

Red Dot Sights

Red dot sights use a simple LED (light-emitting diode) that projects a tiny beam of light onto the front lens. This creates an illuminated reticle which you can align with your target.

The red dot is able to adjust to various lighting conditions, making it also a great choice for fast target acquisition.

Red Dot Sights

Now that you have the basic idea, let’s dig deeper into the red dot sight vs reflex sight debate and choose the perfect winner for you.

Red Dot Sight Vs Reflex – What is the Difference?

1. Reticles

Red dot sights usually feature a single, illuminated point or a circle with a crosshair.

On the other hand, reflex sights offer a wide variety of reticles, from simple dots to complex patterns. This gives you more flexibility and accuracy when trying to hit your target.

2. Durability

Reflex sights are typically more durable than red dot sights. They’re built with shockproof, waterproof designs and can withstand the harshest conditions imaginable.

Red dot sights do far better if dropped, but their lenses may not be able to take too much abuse.

3. Power Consumption

Because of their LED technology, red dot sights require batteries to operate, which can accumulate over time.

Although red dots don’t consume power like holographic sights, the amount is still significant compared to reflex sights.

Reflex sights are powered by a tritium gas cell that works without batteries and has an expected lifespan of around 8-10 years.

4. Illumination

Reflex sights have an illuminated reticle that is easier to see in low light conditions than red dot sights.

Red dots can be dimmed to save battery life and improve visibility in low light conditions, but they may not be as effective as reflex sights.

5. Eye Relief

Red dot sights offer unlimited eye relief which means you can see the reticle no matter how far away your eye is from the optic. This helps reduce the possibility of accidents like Retinal Vein Occlusion.

Reflex sights, on the other hand, usually need to be placed close to your eye for the reticle to be visible.

6. Price

Red dot sights are often more affordable than reflex sights.

Generally speaking, you can get a decent red dot sight for under $100 while a good reflex sight can cost up to $500.

However, there are higher-end options for both optics if you want more features out of your device.

And there you have it. Both reflex sights and red dot sights are great optics that offer unique advantages.

When deciding between them, you should consider your budget, the type of reticle you need, battery life, durability, and eye relief, not to mention the type of adventure you’re heading into.

Bonus Info About The Difference Between Red Dot And Reflex

It’s most likely that you’ve come across the phrase “All reflex sights are red dot sight, but not all red dot sights are reflex sights,” at some point, right? Well, what does that even mean? Here’s a simple explanation.

Reflex sights are an evolution of red dot sights and have many of the same features. They both feature illuminated reticles, unlimited eye relief, and parallax-free optics.

However, technically speaking, all the sights that use a red dot pointer or reticle can be listed as a red dot scope.

Red Dot vs Reflex

Reflex sights come with a built-in red dot reticle system, making them a red dot sight from the get go, but not all red dot sights are considered as reflex scopes, as the primary technology is quite different.

To summarize, the reflex sights and the red dot sights both are useful for different conditions and occasions. You can go for any of them as per your shooting requirements and reap the benefits to enhance your experience.

And with this, we’ve reached the end of our today’s discussion. This guide tried to eliminate the general confusion around the reflex sight vs red dot debate and I hope this information proves to be helpful to make an informed decision about finding the perfect sight on the market.


Do Red Dots Turn Off Automatically?

Yes, most red dots will turn off automatically after a moment of inactivity. If you keep the sight untouched after you use your red dot, it’ll turn off the device and the light emission from your sight will stop. This feature is included in almost all modern red dot sights and serves as an important energy-saving measure.

Do Reflex Sights Have Magnification?

No, reflex sights are not designed to provide magnification. Reflex sights work by using a lens and light-emitting diode (LED) to project a reticle onto the glass of the sight. This allows for fast target acquisition without any additional magnification of the view, making them ideal for close-range shooting or quickly acquiring multiple targets.

Are Reflex Sights Good for Hunting?

Yes, reflex sights can be a great option for hunting. Reflex sights offer many benefits over traditional iron sights like quick target acquisition and unlimited eye relief. Additionally, they are small and lightweight enough to mount on most firearms without changing the overall weight balance.

How Far Is Red Dot Sight Effective?

Generally speaking, most red dot sights are effective up to 100-150 yards which is more than enough for most hunting and shooting applications. However, some high-end models may be capable of reaching 200 yards or even more.

About the author

Dan Goldsmith

Hi, this is Dan. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 30+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed.

My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

Whenever I am able to catch a moment of free time, you will find me enjoying my family or heading to the range on my motorcycle. I have enjoyed shooting sports ever since my dad introduced them to me as a child.

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman who lives his life to the fullest. I hope you will benefit from my efforts to create valuable resources on this website. Happy reading!

Leave a Comment