Demystifying Red Dot Sights: Dispel Confusion or Misconceptions

Chris G.

What do you know about red dots? When an experienced shooter first tried a firearm with a red dot sight, they may have initially dismissed it as a novelty. However, this guide aims to correct false beliefs about red dot sights and provide a comprehensive understanding of this innovative optical technology.

Demistify this awesome reflex sight. By peeling away uncertainties, you can understand the real function, usage, and benefits of red dot sights.

What is a Red Dot Sight?

A red dot sight is a type of sight that’s used to aim a firearm or other weapon with precision. It’s a valuable tool for marksmen, sport shooters, game hunters, law enforcers, and military personnel as it improves their speed and precision in shooting.

A red dot sight projects a red illuminated dot called a reticle onto the lens, representing the bullet’s point of impact under the right conditions. This arrangement allows the person to shoot with both his eyes open, improving situational awareness and enabling quick target acquisition. Red dot sights are particularly effective in close to mid-range shooting scenarios. 

Misconceptions About Red Dot Optics

While red dot sights are popular and widely used, there are still some common misconceptions associated with them. 

  1. Red dot sights are only for close-range shooting.
    • One misconception is that red dot optics are only effective at close ranges. In reality, red dot sights can be used effectively for various distances. Many models offer features like variable built-in magnification to accommodate different shooting scenarios.
  2. Red dot sights are complicated to use.
    • Some people believe that red dot sights are complex and difficult to use. In truth, red dot sights are known for their simplicity. They provide an intuitive and straightforward aiming solution, often requiring less training than traditional iron sights or magnified optics.
  3. Red dot sights are only for tactical use.
  4. All red dot sights offer the same performance.
    • Red dot sights come in various types, qualities, and features. Factors such as construction, reticle options, battery life, and durability can vary among different models and brands.
  5. Red dot sights are only for rifles.
    • They are adaptable to a variety of firearms, including shotguns, handguns, and even crossbows. Some models are specifically designed for pistols.
  6. Red dot sights replace the need for traditional iron sights.
    • While red dot sights are excellent for rapid target acquisition and simpler aiming, having backup iron sights is still recommended as a redundancy measure. Iron sights can serve as a backup in case the red dot sight malfunctions or runs out of battery.
  7. Red dot sights are always parallax-free.
    • Most red dot sights are designed to be parallax-free. However, some sights may have minimal parallax shift, especially at extreme angles. Shooters should be aware of their sight’s specific parallax characteristics.
  8. Red dot sights are fragile and prone to breakage.
    • Red dot sights are built with aircraft-grade materials. Their rugged construction can withstand recoil, shocks, and harsh environmental conditions. 
  9. Red dot sights are only for skilled shooters.
    • Red dot optics are user-friendly and can benefit shooters of all skill levels. Beginners often find red dot sights easier to use compared to traditional iron sights.
  10. Red dot sights are expensive and inaccessible.
    • While there are high-end red dot sights with advanced features that come with a higher price tag, there are also affordable options available. The market offers a range of red dot sights catering to different budgets, making them accessible to a broad spectrum of shooters.

Properly Using Red Dot Sights

Using red dot sights properly involves understanding their features, zeroing the sight, adopting the correct shooting technique, and maintaining situational awareness. Here’s a guide on how to use red dots effectively:

  1. Understand the red dot sight:  Familiarize yourself with the technical specifications, features, and controls of your red dot sight. 
  2. Zero the reticle: Zeroing ensures that the point of impact aligns with the red dot’s location on the sight. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for zeroing your sight. Typically, this involves adjusting the windage and elevation controls to match the point of impact with the red dot.
  3. Adjust brightness settings: Set the brightness level of the red dot to match the ambient lighting conditions. In bright daylight, use a higher brightness setting, while in low-light conditions, lower the brightness to avoid washout and maintain a clear reticle.
  4. Practice both eyes open shooting: Red dot sights are designed for “both eyes open” shooting. Keep both eyes open to maintain situational awareness. Focus on the target through the sight while using your non-dominant eye to be aware of your field of view.
  5. Use the correct shooting technique: When using a red dot sight, focus on the target image, not the reticle. Bring the red dot onto the target and engage. Avoid fixating on the sight itself as this can slow down target acquisition.
  6. Practice target transitions: Red dot sights excel at quick target transitions. Practice moving between multiple targets smoothly and efficiently. This skill is particularly important in dynamic shooting scenarios.
  7. Learn the holdover: Understand the holdover or sight picture required for different distances. While red dot sights are typically parallax-free, variations in bullet drop at different distances may require adjustments in your point of aim.
  8. Consider backup iron sights: Knowing how to use iron sights is highly recommended. In case the red dot fails or runs out of battery, you can quickly transition to the iron sights.
  9. Stay aware of environmental conditions: Be mindful of environmental factors such as glare, reflections, and adverse weather conditions. Adjust the brightness of the dot and shooting position accordingly to maintain the visibility of the red dot.
  10. Regularly practice and train: Regular training and practice sessions are essential to become proficient with your red dot sight. This includes practicing different shooting scenarios, distances, and shooting positions. Seeking professional guidance from a shooting instructor is highly recommended.
  11. Clean and maintain your optic: Keep your red dot sight clean and well-maintained. Dust, dirt, or smudges on the lens can affect visibility. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintenance.


Red dot sights aren’t mysterious optical sights; they’re practical optics that enhance accuracy in firearms. While they aren’t perfect and may have misconceptions surrounding them, their advantages shouldn’t be overlooked.

With proper knowledge and use, these devices can significantly improve shooting performance. Therefore, it’s wise for firearm enthusiasts to invest time in understanding and mastering red dot sights for better shooting adventures.

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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