A red dot sight is a red dot sight is a red dot sight. Wrong.
"Red dot" is a catch-all term used to describe any sighting device that utilizes a -surprise! - Red Dot. How the optic displays that red dot to the user is what creates the specificity of different types of red dot sights.
The two main types are reflex and holographic. Reflex sights use an LED and coated glass to bounce the image of the red dot back to the user. A holographic sight, on the other hand, uses a laser and mirrors to project a red dot that appears to be in front of the optic back to the user.
While both kinds of technology produce essentially the same result, there are benefits and drawbacks to both. Generally speaking, holographic sights will be larger and more expensive than their reflex counterparts because of the advanced technology that goes into them versus a reflex optic. If you want to use a magnifier in front of a reflex sight, your dot will get proportionally larger, too. However, this is not the case with a holographic sight. Science!
Regardless of which way you choose to go, here are five solid options consisting of two holographic and three reflex sights.
As the pioneer in holographic sight technology, it only makes sense that EOTech makes this list. The 512 has 20 different brightness settings from which to choose, meaning you're sure to find the right one for your shooting environment and situation.
The dot is a minuscule 1 MOA - the smallest available - and the battery provides a power indicator upon startup and has an auto-off function that you can set for either four or eight hours if you forget to turn it off manually.
The glass has an anti-reflective coating and is sealed to provide internal fog resistance.
Weighing in at 11.5 ounces, the 512 is water resistant up to 10 feet and has a limited ten-year warranty.
The only other company making true holographic sights other than EOTech is Vortex.
The AMG UH-1 has 15 different brightness levels for the 1 MOA dot and multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. Speaking of air-to-glass, the optic's interior is purged with argon gas to ensure the highest levels of water and fog resistance.
Weighing in at 11.8 ounces, it has a micro USB port to incorporate the use of a rechargeable battery (you can use regular or rechargeable batteries - your choice) and is backed by the Vortex VIP lifetime warranty.
By far, the coolest feature of the HS510C is its power sources. The 2 MOA dot will run for up to 50,000 hours on one battery. If you're incredibly forgetful and leave it on for a staggering 5.7 years and the battery dies at the most inopportune moment, do not despair! This optic has solar power backup capabilities, making sure you're never out of the fight.
There are ten brightness settings, and two of them are night vision compatible, which is a nice option to have.
Weighing in at 8.3 ounces, the Holosun optic is water resistant up to one meter.
Available with two different dot sizes - 3 or 8 MOA - the FastFire 3 is perfect for short or long range. Handguns and shotguns are ideal platforms for the 8 MOA dot and rifles or situations where precision is required best suited by the 3 MOA dot. As a bonus, the FastFire three is compatible with the Glock MOS system.
The dot uses an automatic brightness sensor to adjust the brightness to match the environmental conditions, but it also has three brightness settings that users can manually adjust. The auto-off feature, which will shut the optic down after eight hours of run time, enables battery life to stretch out to five years.
Available with or without a Picatinny mount, the optic is incredibly light: 1.5 ounces with the mount and 0.9 ounces without it.
As with all Burris products, the FastFire 3 is covered by their no questions asked forever warranty.
Night vision shooters rejoice: the SM26005 has six-night vision brightness settings in addition to its six daytime settings for the 2 MOA dot.
Using low settings, battery life is good for 1,000 hours. Use on the highest setting provides 90 hours of continuous run time, which is sure to be more than most people will need.
This optic can take a beating, too. It is shock rated to withstand the recoil from arms up to .50 caliber.
Weighing in at eight ounces, the SM26005 is submersible up to 40 feet. Unfortunately, it is not fog proof, so submerge it at your own risk. You can, however, remove it with ease via the quick-detach lever if you find yourself in a situation where you know your gun is going to get wet and you can keep the optic dry. Once you're clear of the water, putting it back on your gun is just as easy.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of red dot optic options on the market today. Remember, if you're looking for one that is truly holographic, your choices are limited to EOTECH or Vortex. Even so, they still have a variety of models from which to choose. If a reflex optic best suits your needs, then the market is wide open. The three listed above are solid choices, but there are plenty of others out there that will fit your specific application and price point.
Prices accurate at time of writing