Are Red Dot Sights Really Durable?

Chris G.

According to firearm optic ads, the red dot you just purchased can withstand temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius. According to the manual, it can be submerged in 50 feet of water. Does this mean that your red dot sight is indestructible? How do these sights perform under severe temperatures, dampness, or intense recoil? 

In this article, I’ll discuss the degree of durability of red dots. I’ll also share tips on how to maintain your red dot sights so it will remain durable and effective for years to come.

What Makes Red Dot Sights Durable?

Shooting your firearm is an activity that subjects you, your weapon, and your optics to abuse. That’s why red dot manufacturers make sure that their products can withstand the stress of rigorous shooting. So what makes red dot sights durable and strong?

  1. Solid Construction: High-quality red dot sights are built with durable materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum, titanium, hardened steel, or other robust alloys. These materials allow the optic to withstand recoil, impacts, and environmental conditions.
  2. Shock Resistance: Red dot sights are designed to handle firearm recoil. The internal components are often shock-mounted or enclosed in a rugged housing to prevent damage from recoil forces.
  3. Waterproofing: Many red dot sights are sealed to be waterproof to prevent moisture from entering and damaging the internal components. A good waterproof red dot is important for outdoor and all-weather use.
  4. Fog Resistance: The interior of high-end red dot sights is purged with nitrogen or other inert gases to prevent internal fogging so you’ll still enjoy a clear sight picture even in varying temperatures and extreme humidity.
  5. Lens Coatings: Red dot sights often have scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings on their lenses. These coatings protect against scratches and reduce glare.
  6. Battery Life: Many models are designed to have long battery life, usually in the thousands or tens of thousands of hours. Some even have motion-activated or auto-off features to conserve power when not in use.
  7. Rugged Design: Tactical red dot sights feature a compact and streamlined design with fewer protruding parts. This reduces the likelihood of damage during rough handling or when the firearm is holstered or transported.
  8. Quality Manufacturing: Reputable manufacturers adhere to strict quality control standards while producing red dot sights. Each unit meets the necessary specifications for durability and performance.

Factors That Affect The Durability of a Red Dot Optic

a man tightening the red dot optic screws

Are reflex sights durable? Yes, they are. But you must remember that they are still electronic devices. And like many electronic devices, they can be damaged. Be aware of these factors that can negatively impact your red dot’s durability.

  1. Extreme Temperatures: Exposure to extreme temperatures, whether very hot or very cold, can affect the performance of a red dot sight. Components may expand or contract, leading to issues with alignment, adjustments, or even damage to internal electronics.
  2. High Recoil Firearms: Using a red dot sight on firearms with exceptionally high recoil such as those chambered in powerful calibers can put additional stress on internal components. Without proper design and construction to handle recoil forces, the sight may experience accelerated wear or failure.
  3. Impact and Drops: Accidental drops or impacts can cause physical damage to the red dot sight. Sights that are not designed to withstand rough handling or those that lack sufficient shock-resistant features are particularly vulnerable.
  4. Abrasive Environments: Exposure to abrasive substances like sand, dirt, or dust can cause wear and tear on lens coatings, leading to scratches and reduced optical clarity. Additionally, these particles can find their way into the sight’s internals, potentially causing damage.
  5. Submersion in Water: Many red dot sights are designed to be waterproof. However, prolonged submersion or use underwater can compromise the sight’s integrity and lead to internal damage. Submerging the sight past its waterproof rating will likely cause damage as well.
  6. Improper Mounting: Incorrectly mounting the red dot sight on a firearm or using incompatible mounting hardware can result in misalignment, reducing accuracy and potentially causing damage to the sight’s housing.
  7. Neglect and Lack of Maintenance: Failure to perform regular maintenance can deteriorate a red dot sight over time.
  8. Low-Quality Ammunition: Using low-quality or inconsistent ammunition can stress the sight due to recoil. If the sight is not designed to handle the specific characteristics of certain ammunition, it may be more prone to damage.
  9. Chemical Exposure: Exposure to harsh chemicals or solvents can damage the external coatings and finishes of a red dot sight. 
  10. Rapid Changes in Environmental Conditions: Rapid transitions between extreme environmental conditions, such as moving from a cold to a warm environment, can cause fogging on internal lenses if the sight is not properly purged and sealed against moisture.
  11. Extended Periods of Non-Use: Storing a red dot sight for extended periods without proper protection or in unfavorable conditions can lead to issues such as battery corrosion, degradation of internal lubricants, and decreased overall performance.

Assessing a Red Dot’s Durability When Choosing One

When selecting a red dot sight for your firearm, it’s important to consider characteristics that ensure its robustness. Check out these tips:

  1. Construction Materials: Choose sights made from durable materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum, titanium, or other robust alloys.
  2. Build Quality: Assess the overall build quality including the tightness of tolerances and the attention to detail in construction. A well-built sight is more likely to withstand recoil and environmental stresses.
  3. Shock Resistance: Look for red dot sights explicitly designed to handle the recoil forces of the firearm that it will be mounted on. Look for models with shock-resistant features and secure internal components.
  4. Waterproofing and Fog Resistance: Check if the red dot sight is waterproof and fog-resistant. Seals, gaskets, and features like nitrogen purging contribute to durability.
  5. Lens Coatings: Scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings protect the lens from scratches while maintaining the clarity of the sight picture.
  6. Battery Life and Management: A longer battery life, along with features like auto-off, motion activation, or solar panels, adds to the sight’s durability. You don’t have to frequently open the battery compartment to change batteries.
  7. Rugged Design: Compact, streamlined designs with fewer protruding parts reduce the risk of damage during holstering, rough handling, or transportation.
  8. Quality of Controls and Adjustments: Check the controls and adjustment mechanisms. Top-quality buttons, turrets, and other user interface elements all contribute to the overall robustness of the red dot sight.
  9. Environmental Resistance: Consider models designed to resist dust, humidity, and temperature extremes. Read the manual to determine its extreme temperature limitations. 

How To Maintain Your Red Dot’s Durability

a man cleaning a red dot optic

How long do red dot optics last? Well, it largely depends on how you take care of your optic. In fact, product quality is just half of it. These tips should help you maintain your optic’s durability.

  1. Regular Cleaning: Clean the lenses regularly using a lens brush or a microfiber cloth to remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints. Avoid using abrasive materials and harsh chemicals that may scratch the lens coatings and the anodized housing.
  2. Protective Lens Covers: Use protective lens covers when the red dot sight is not in use. These covers help shield the lenses from potential damage, scratches, and environmental elements. Your red dot may have a protective casing when you bought it. If not, you can purchase an aftermarket product. 
  3. Secure Mounting: Check the mounting screws regularly to prevent any loosening that could affect accuracy or cause damage.
  4. Proper Storage: If you’re not planning to use your red dot for a while, store it in a cool, dry place away from extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, and humidity. Don’t forget to remove the battery.
  5. Battery Maintenance: Replace the battery periodically. This preventive measure helps avoid unexpected battery failure during use. Store the firearm and sight with the battery removed during long periods of inactivity.
  6. Check O-Rings and Seals: Regularly inspect the O-rings and seals for any signs of wear, cracking, or damage. Damaged seals can compromise the sight’s waterproof and fog-resistant capabilities.
  7. Environmental Awareness: Avoid exposing the optic to conditions that could lead to damage such as prolonged submersion in water, exposure to extreme temperatures, or abrasive materials.
  8. Regular Function Checks: Perform regular function checks to ensure that the red dot sight is operating correctly. This includes verifying that the reticle remains crisp and that the adjustments function as intended.
  9. Keep Adjustment Caps On: When not actively adjusting the sight, keep the protective caps on the adjustment turrets. This helps prevent dirt, moisture, or other debris from entering and potentially affecting the sight’s internals.
  10. Keep Limitations in Mind: Do not subject your red dot sight past the limitations set by the manufacturer.

Conclusion

Red dot sights are generally durable and rugged. It can withstand the demands of firearm use. The overall durability of a red dot sight depends on factors such as construction materials, build quality, shock resistance, and effective sealing against environmental elements.

Maintaining a red dot sight’s durability requires regular cleaning, proper storage, secure mounting, and adherence to manufacturer guidelines. By understanding their design, features, and potential vulnerabilities, you can extend the reliability and longevity of your red dot optic.

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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