Last Updated on June 3, 2021
Red dots come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and prices. In these reviews, our goal is to simplify the search for the right red dot for you at a price point you can afford. There are plenty of expensive red dots out there, but there are also lots of options for less than $300 that can give you most, if not all, of the benefits of a red dot sight.
Red dots can go on handguns and long guns and come in the open reflex or tube styles. We’ll talk more about the differences between red dots as we go through our reviews and in the buying guide at the bottom. For now, though, let’s jump right into our top picks for the best red dot sight under $300.
|Best Overall||Bushnell Trophy TRS-25||
|Best Value||Pinty Red Green Dot Sight||
|Premium Choice||Holosun HS510C||
|DD DAGGER DEFENSE Red Dot Sight||
|MidTen 2MOA Micro Red Dot Sight||
The Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 does almost everything right. It’s a basic red dot without a lot of bells and whistles, but it stays true to the spirit of what a red dot is supposed to accomplish. It has a 3 MOA dot reticle, which makes it useful out as far as you can shoot without magnification. It’s also a little larger than a 2 MOA dot so it’s easier to see and acquire your target.
It’s waterproof and nitrogen-purged to be fog-proof as well. The parallax is set to 50 yards and has very little parallax throughout its entire effective range. It is designed to mount on Picatinny rails, which makes it almost universally compatible, and because of the unlimited eye relief it can be used on handgun, scout rifles, modern sporting rifles, and even shotguns and muzzleloaders.
The TRS-25 has earned its solid reputation as the go-to budget red dot sight, and while it may be lacking some fancy features, the dot is crisp, clean, long-lasting, and compatible. When in doubt, we recommend the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25.
It’s hard to argue with the Pinty. It gives you a wide field of view and four different reticle styles to toggle through depending on what works best in each situation. It’s light and tough, and has an integrated rail mount to go on either Picatinny or Weaver rails. It’s waterproof, fog-proof, and it’s made out of an aluminum alloy for as much strength as possible.
The four reticle styles are fairly common to budget red dot sights, and you’ll see more on this list that have similar options, but the difference is in the execution, battery life, and performance. There are 5 brightness settings, which is fewer than choices like the TRS-25, but still enough to cover most situations.
You get both red and green reticle options, so you really do have a lot of choice, and the Pinty is tough enough to hold zero no matter what you put it on. It mounts on Picatinny and Weaver rails and includes all the tools you need for mounting and adjustment. If you don’t have much to spend on a red dot but want something quality, then the Pinty is a good route to go.
The Holosun rides the line of that $300 price, but if the price isn’t an issue, then the HS510C is almost a no-brainer. You get some impressive reticle options that are more thoughtful and functional than the styles that come on the Pinty and the DD Dagger Defense, and up to 50,000 hours of battery life on a single battery.
Part of that comes from the integrated solar cells that work in tandem with the battery to power the sight as long as you’re shooting in daylight. The body is aluminum but the hood is a Titanium alloy to make absolute sure that the lens doesn’t take damage from a drop or bump.
The 2 MOA dot is great for high accuracy, especially at long distance, and if you’re shooting up close you can pair it with the 65 MOA ring to get the best of both worlds with fast target acquisition and high accuracy. There are a lot more affordable options on this list, but if you can stomach the price then the HS510C is easily the best red dot on this list.
At the risk of selling the DD short, it’s essentially the Pinty for more than double the price. The reticle options aren’t just similar; they’re identical, and can be either red or green. The real value the DD offers over the Pinty is in the strength of its construction. They both handle recoil just fine, but the DD is much more likely to survive being dropped or bumped thanks to the more protective aluminum hood.
It comes with a battery and the tools you need to adjust it when zeroing. If you’ve been burned by Pinty before or simply don’t trust how low the price is, you can get something that offers almost the exact same thing in a stronger and more functional package.
The Midten is a clone of the Bushnell, but it does a pretty decent job of imitating it. You’ll notice that the appearance and style are very similar, and the Midten takes a lot of cues from the Trophy TRS-25. The dot is only 2 MOA wide, which may be a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for, but most of the time a 2 MOA won’t offer any noticeable advantage over a 3 MOA dot and can be significantly harder to keep track of.
All the basics are here like waterproofing, shock-proofing, etc. and the Midten should be able to handle the recoil of whatever you’re putting it on. It’s designed with rifles in mind, so it won’t work as great with handguns, though it can most likely be Frankenstein’d onto one.
Like the TRS-25, it has 11 brightness settings, but the battery life won’t be as good or as consistent. Parallax isn’t bad at all and will have very little impact on your shots as long as you’re staying within the distance that is generally shoot-able without magnification anyway.
The is a step above the Bushnell, Pinty, DD, and Midten and is closer to the Holosun in terms of both price and performance. The Viper is intended for handguns, but Vortex offers a sister model called the Venom that is designed for rifles with a 3 MOA dot instead of the 6 MOA dot that comes on the Viper. Three MOA and 6 MOA dots are the most common sizes of dot to see on red dots that don’t offer other reticles.
The general rule is that 3 MOA dots increase your maximum accuracy while 6 MOA dots are faster and easier to use. For a handgun, where 25 yards is a pretty long distance to be shooting, a 6 MOA dot is usually a better choice. For a rifle, where 25 yards is on the shorter end of the distances you’ll be shooting, a 3 MOA dot is often a better choice.
As long as you’re good with a 6 MOA dot, the Viper is a fantastic way to go. It is very low-profile, which makes it easier to carry in a holster whether open or concealed, and it is also low enough to co-witness with iron sights. Everything is easy to access, and overall, it’s a great sight, but it does lack some flexibility in reticle choices and is an awfully high price compared to some of the other options on this list.
This Pinty is another Bushnell Trophy clone for almost the same price as the Midten. The main difference between this Pinty and the Midten is the size of the dot. The Pinty dot is 3–4 MOA, the meaning of which is not really clear. There’s no way to adjust the size of the dot on the optic, so it doesn’t mean that it is adjustable from 3 MOA to 4 MOA.
It appears that the dot size is somewhere between 3 and 4 MOA, but the dot isn’t particularly crisp or sharp so the jury’s out on what size the dot actually is. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to see and good for fast-paced, close-range shooting but not as good for accuracy as you would normally expect a 3 MOA dot to be.
If you like the tube style of the Bushnell but want to save a little bit of money, this Pinty is probably the closest clone, but if that doesn’t describe your situation, then it may be best to look elsewhere.
The Crossfire red dot from Vortex is their tube style reflex sight. It’s fairly cheap and has 50,000 hours of battery life at the lowest setting. It also has two brightness settings that are night vision compatible and 11 total. The dot is 2 MOA, which makes this sight a better fit for rifles up to around 100 yards.
The dot is sharp and clean enough that it can still be acquired relatively quickly, but you’ll be cranking the brightness up more than you would have to with a larger dot, which means you’ll be draining the battery faster than you would have to in an ideal situation. The Crossfire is plenty tough and durable, and it has a multi-coating on the lenses that not only help with light transmission but also prevent scratches.
It’s waterproof, but iit doesn’t come with any attachments or anything special but its own solid functionality.
Everything about the is small; it has a 2 MOA dot, the sight itself is barely bigger than the dial that adjusts the brightness settings, and the power draw is small, too. You get 50,000 hours of theoretical battery life, but it will be much lower than that if you aren’t on the lowest setting. There’s nothing that sets the AT3 apart or above any other sight on this list, but it’s also on the more expensive end.
That’s not to say it’s a bad dot; quite the opposite, it’s a good red dot if you want a 2 MOA dot and a tube style reflex sight with a fairly small footprint, but if small is the priority, then tube sights in general aren’t going to be as good as open reflex. The field of view leaves something to be desired and even though all the basics are there it seems like the AT3 lacks a lot of what could make it unique.
The single biggest thing holding the Romeo Zero back on this list is the price tag. If the price were cut in half, this would become a phenomenal sight for the money, but considering the sight is made from plastic (technically it’s polymer), instead of aluminum or even titanium, it simply is not going to hold up to the same level of abuse as any other sight we’ve discussed.
It could be a phenomenal sight for airsoft, but again that price tag is a bit too high to be able to justify putting it on an airsoft gun, and the mount is proprietary to Sig Sauer, so if you want to put it on anything else you’ll need adapters. Adjustments are difficult to make, the sight has to be removed in order to swap out the battery, and overall, the Romeo Zero is confusing as to who it’s made for and for what purposes.
We’ve included it on this list in the interest of providing a good look at all the different options out there, and as far as plastic red dots go, the Romeo Zero is certainly one of the best.
It’s easy to get excited the first time you read the product description on a red dot and it says it’s “parallax-free”, but things like that are both technically not true and also universal among red dots. Here are the main features that just about every red dot has by virtue of how they’re designed.
Technically speaking, red dots are not parallax-free. They have what would be considered a minimal amount of parallax. A red dot could theoretically have adjustable parallax, but it’s wildly impractical to do so because if you fix the parallax to something like 50 yards, then you will have so little parallax between 1 and 100 yards that you may not even notice it.
If you’re able to find out what the parallax is fixed at before you buy the optic that can be really important, because if you find one that happens to have parallax fixed at 100 yards, but you want to use it for 25 yards and under, the parallax will be noticeable and potentially even problematic.
In short, no red dot is truly parallax free, but a well-designed one will have minimal parallax such that it shouldn’t really impact your shot, and certainly not more than the shakiness of your own body will.
Eye relief refers to the distance your eye needs to be from the ocular lens in order to have a full clear view of everything coming through the scope. Red dots have the advantage of unlimited eye relief, which means you can have your eye as close or as far from the sight as you want and as long as you can still see the dot you’re good to go.
This can make it tempting to get a red dot that you can move from a rifle to a handgun anytime you feel like taking the time to re-zero it, but this isn’t usually the best call. Handgun shooting has so many different needs and requirements than rifle shooting that a sight designed for one is not usually well-adapted to the other.
First, your targets are so much closer with handguns and accuracy requirements are not as strict. You are certainly not expected to be MOA accurate with a handgun. This means that a larger dot like 6 or even 8 MOA is better than a 2 or 3 MOA dot for a handgun. This is doubly true because you hold a handgun further out in front of you than you would a rifle sight.
On a rifle, the sight is probably around 4 inches away from your eye, while on a handgun it can be around 15 inches away. A 2 MOA dot from 15 inches away is nearly impossible to see, while a 6 MOA dot obstructs too much of the target when shooting with a rifle.
If you think of reflex sights as the original T-800 from the first Terminator movie, then holographic sights would be the T-1000 from Terminator 2. They are a much more complicated technology and are more expensive as a result, but they do have a few advantages of reflex sights.
First, the reticle on holographic sights does not go out of focus when you look past it at your target, which greatly simplifies the aiming process. Second, the sight continues to work even if the glass is damaged or broken, which makes them better for combat or other dangerous situations, and they also work better with magnifier attachments because the reticle does not magnify along with the rest of the image.
If you’re looking to spend less than $300, you won’t find any holographic sights, but if you’re willing to spend more, they can be a good investment.
You can find good red dots at virtually any price range, if you go for something less than $50, you’ll run into a lot more quality control and longevity issues. At that low of a price point, you aren’t likely to pick up something that will last a long time. If you’re willing to spend between $100 and $300 on your red dot, you’ll be able to get something that is high quality, works well, and will last a long time.
First is all the basics like waterproofing, fog-proofing, and shock-proofing. If it dies in the elements then you just have an expensive paperweight (and red dots are so light that they would make terrible paperweights). Durability is probably the number one thing to consider unless you want to be frequently buying replacement red dots.
Second would be the size and configuration of the reticle. A lot of first-time buyers of red dots opt for fancier reticles that look like what you see in a video game, but a lot of times they are actually harder to aim with than just a simple red dot. If you do want more than just a single red dot, you may want to look at something like what the Holosun HS510C does with a single dot and then a ring around it.
The dot gives you an aiming point for far shots and the ring gives you an easy target area to fill when you’re up close.
If you’re putting a red dot on a handgun, you’ll also want to find something as small and low-profile as possible. This is nice on a rifle, but it’s non-negotiable for a handgun, especially one you want to carry concealed. A lot of sights get in the way of concealed holsters, so you’ll really want to do your homework on which sight is the best for your gun and holster combo.
In our reviews, our choice for best overall red dot under $300 is the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25. It’s well below the $300 mark, offers great durability, battery life, and toughness. It doesn’t have many frills, but it executes the most important functions of a red dot sight very well. The best sight for the money that we found was the Pinty Red/Green Dot Sight Reflex Tactical. The reticle isn’t very sharp, but it gives a wide field of view and solid construction.
Hopefully you were able to find a sight that fits the bill of what you need. There are choices all throughout the price range, and even though the rule that you get what you pay for generally holds true, there are a few options that punch above their weight at different price points.
Featured Image Credit: Ambrosia Studios, Shutterstock
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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