How the Military Uses Red Dot Sights

Chris G.

It’s not just civilians and law enforcers who use red dots. The military heavily uses red dot sights in their operations and duties. These small yet powerful optics are instrumental in the effectiveness of armed forces as they participate in warfare, providing quick target identification and enhanced precision even in the most adverse environments.

In the military, red dot sights are more than just accessories. They’re crucial components of contemporary military operations, trusted by soldiers for their survival and victory in the battleground.

A Brief Insight Into Red Dots

Next to traditional iron sights, red dot sights are among the most popular firearms optics. First patented by Irish telescope builder Howard Grubb in 1900, red dots were initially used as aim points in World War 2 aircraft. After World War 2, inventors began to miniaturize them so they could fit in small arms. 

A modern reflex red dot sight is a simple optic. An energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) emits a beam of light—usually red—through an aperture and projects it on a spherical mirror in front of the sight. The mirror has a special coating that reflects only the red wavelength but allowing all other lightwaves pass through. Thus, the projected red beam, often in the form of a dot, can be seen against the sight picture. 

This dot, called a reticule, is the point of aim. The shooter simply superimposes the dot on the target; with the right conditions, the bullet should hit that target. The reticle only appears on one plane so there is no sight alignment required. A red dot sight also offers unlimited sight relief, allowing the user to shoot with both eyes open

All other functions and features of a red dot sight revolve around this concept.

The reliability, ease of use, and durability of red dot sights make these a favored optic in the military.

Benefits of Red Dot Sights for the Military

Red dot sights offer several benefits for military soldiers. These optics enhance their accuracy, speed, and overall effectiveness in various operational scenarios. 

  1. Rapid Target Acquisition: Red dot sights provide an illuminated aiming point that soldiers can use to acquire targets quickly. Red dot sights allow for both eyes to remain open while aiming and shooting, improving their situational awareness and reaction time.
  2. Versatility Across Firearms: Red dot sights can be mounted on a variety of firearms including rifles, carbines, shotguns, and handguns with universal mounts such as Weaver or Picatinny rails.
  3. Enhanced Accuracy: The aiming point of a red dot sight allows precise aiming, especially in dynamic and fast-paced situations. Soldiers can quickly align the reticle with the target.
  4. Adaptability to Different Lighting Conditions: Red dot sights are designed to perform well in various lighting conditions, from bright daylight to low-light or nighttime operations. Soldiers can maintain accuracy regardless of the ambient light levels.
  5. Reduced Parallax: Many red dot optics are parallax-free, meaning the reticle remains on target regardless of the shooter’s eye position, ensuring consistent accuracy when soldiers focus on the target.
  6. Quick Transition Between Targets: The non-magnifying nature of red dot sights allows for rapid target engagements and transitions. Soldiers can quickly shift their aim from one target to another without the narrow sight pictures of magnified optics.
  7. Simplified Zeroing Process: Red dot sights often have a simplified zeroing process, allowing soldiers to quickly and easily adjust the point of impact. This helps maintain accuracy when switching between different distances or ammunition types.
  8. Durability and Ruggedness: Military-grade red dot sights are built to withstand harsh environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures, moisture, and shock. Their robust construction ensures reliability in demanding operational environments.
  9. Night Vision Compatibility: Some red dot sights are compatible with night vision devices, allowing soldiers to see the reticle even when using night vision gear. 
  10. Improved Training and Familiarity: Standardizing red dot sights across military units can simplify training and increase familiarity among soldiers. This consistency contributes to efficient and effective use in the field.

Usage of Red Dot Sights in Different Military Scenarios

a person holding a gun with a red dot sight

The adaptability, quick target acquisition, and durability of red dot sights make them a valuable asset in an array of military scenarios, contributing to the overall effectiveness and lethality of military forces.

  1. Close-Quarters Battle (CQB) and Urban Operations: Red dot sights excel in CQB and urban environments where engagements occur at close ranges. Their quick target acquisition and both-eyes-open shooting provide a significant advantage in confined spaces.
  2. Assault and Offensive Operations: Red dot sights are commonly used in offensive operations where speed and accuracy are crucial. The rapid target acquisition capability allows soldiers to engage threats swiftly while advancing.
  3. Defensive Operations: In defensive scenarios, red dot sights enhance soldiers’ ability to respond rapidly to incoming threats. Both-eyes-open shooting and quick target transitions contribute to maintaining a strong defensive posture.
  4. Patrols and Reconnaissance: Red dot sights are valuable for military patrols and reconnaissance missions. Their lightweight design and ability to function in various lighting conditions make them suitable for extended periods of use.
  5. Nighttime Operations: Red dot sights with night vision compatibility are employed in nighttime operations. The illuminated reticle ensures accurate aiming without compromising soldiers’ night vision capabilities.
  6. Marksmanship Training: Red dot sights are utilized in marksmanship training programs to enhance soldiers’ accuracy and proficiency. The clear and visible aiming point aids in honing marksmanship skills.
  7. Mounted on Crew-Served Weapons: Red dot sights are mounted on crew-served weapons, such as machine guns, to improve accuracy and target acquisition. This is particularly valuable in providing suppressive fire.
  8. Training Exercises and Simulations: Red dot sights are used in training exercises and simulations to simulate real-world scenarios. Their consistent performance and ease of use contribute to effective training for military personnel.
  9. Secondary or Primary Sights: Soldiers often use multiple sights to fit different shooting scenarios. The compact size and weight of red dots make it possible for soldiers to use them in conjunction with magnifier scopes, infrared scopes, night vision gear, and other combat optics.

Common Red Dot Sights Used by the Military

When it comes to military use, several brands stand out such as EOTech, Trijicon, Leupold, and Aimpoint. 

For example, EOTech’s EXPS3-0 holographic optic is a particular favorite among elite units such as the Navy SEALs and Green Berets. Its compact structure and ability to co-witness with iron sights make it a reliable choice.

For the Special Operations Command, Trijicon RMR Type 2 optics are the go-to for their sidearms. Commanders favor these mini red dot sights for their precision, speed, and compact design.

Leupold’s DeltaPoint Pro is also noteworthy. This professional-grade sight is suitable for duty use and was famously used by General Austin Miller in Afghanistan.

Aimpoint’s Comp M4 is another popular sight used by the United States military. Its appeal lies in its simplicity, durability, and its remarkable 8-year battery life.

The L3 MRDS Docter is an excellent close combat optic sight. The Elcan Specter DR SU-230, another quality red dot, boasts a versatile 1-4x magnification and quick switching capability.


Red dot sights have become fundamental tools in the realm of modern military activities. They offer swift target recognition and improved precision, making them invaluable on the battlefield. Notable manufacturers like Aimpoint, EOTech, and Trijicon have played a significant part in molding both the military and civilian sectors with these essential devices.

Their application across diverse military situations proves their versatility and efficiency. 

The utilization of these red dot sights in the military is a testament to their pivotal role in present-day combat situations.

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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