Best Red Dots for Hunting

by Braxton Taylor

Red dot optics weren’t always the province of special operators and tacticool range bros. In fact, modern electronic red dots were popularized as hunting optics by Europeans in the 1970s. The parallax-free, non-magnified dot is ideal for quick shots on running wild boar (at short ranges), and the devices have always been easy to install and maintain.

Magnified scopes are still preferred by most American hunters, but red dot optics are used to harvest thousands, if not millions, of game animals every year. Whether you’re in the market for a new red dot for turkey hunting, wing shooting, handgun hunting, or big game hunting, these products are a great place to start.

Jump to: Our Recommended Red Dots

What We Look for in a Good Red Dot Optic

The great thing about red dots is that it’s kind of hard to go wrong. As with any type of product, some units are more durable than others. But even cheap-o red dots can get the job done in a pinch, and there are no shortage of options at every price point. That caveat out of the way, here are some criteria to consider:

  1. Features
  2. Battery Life
  3. Dot Size
  4. Price

Red dots are simple devices, but you should still make sure an optic’s feature set aligns with your intended application. Two of the most important features are battery life and dot size. There’s nothing worse than taking a gun out of the case to find a non-functioning red dot, and even if it’s working, the dot can’t be too large to cover up the target. Finally, as I just mentioned, red dots come at many different price points. If you’d rather not spend $600 on a non-magnified optic, there are tons of less expensive options on the market.

Jump to: What Makes a Good Red Dot

Red Dot Optics We Recommend

With so many choices out there, picking a red dot optic for hunting can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve winnowed down this list to the best of the best. There are other great products on the market, but we know these won’t let you down.

What Makes a Good Red Dot

1. Features

This category is a bit of a catch-all, but the idea is to make sure you’re familiar with the way your chosen optic mounts and operates. For example…

  • Micro red dots have unique dimensions or “footprints” that allow them to be mounted using attachment systems designed for that footprint (for more on red dot footprints and cross-compatibility, check out this article). Others come with an attachment system that can be installed directly onto a picatinny rail.
  • Some red dots have tiny solar panels that are used to power the light emitter while others run exclusively on the battery.
  • Fully enclosed red dots have a metal housing that protects all the important internal bits (that’s the technical term) whereas open sight optics use a metal shield above the glass but leave the emitter exposed.
  • Red dots also come in a variety of reticle designs–from simple red or green dots to more complex circle or crosshair patterns.

The features you choose should be dictated by how you intend to use your optic. If you plan to take a red dot into the duck blind, a fast-shooting open sight is probably the way to go. Turkey hunting requires more precision, and many turkey guns come with a picatinny rail already installed, so a larger, enclosed optic would make a great choice.

2. Battery Life

The battery life arms race has been in full swing for years as optics companies try to one-up each other to offer the red dot with the longest-lasting battery. Vortex’s Sparc Solar has one of the longest at 150,000 hours, but most modern dots advertise 25,000-50,000 hours of battery life. Keep in mind that these estimates are often based on the lowest brightness setting, so real-world performance might differ.

I would argue that an even more important feature related to battery life is a motion-activated on/off function. This ensures that if you forget to turn the dot off before you put it back in the safe, the optic will automatically power down and save you from a frantic search for batteries the next time you visit the range. Even with that feature, it’s a good idea to swap out all your batteries every year or two, depending on use.

3. Dot Size

Most red dots are available in a few different dot sizes. Larger dots are better for quick, short-range work while smaller dots are better for long-range shots. Large dots are easier to pick up quickly but will cover your target at long range; small dots are capable of more precise aiming.

Most red dot sizes range between 2 “minutes of angle” (MOA) and 6 MOA. A minute of angle is equal to about an inch every 100 yards. So, a 2 MOA dot will cover two inches at 100 yards, four inches at 200 yards, etc. A 6 MOA dot will cover six inches at 100 yards and a full foot at 200 yards. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how a 6 MOA dot wouldn’t be great for chasing feral hogs but it might be ideal for big Canada geese at 40 yards.

My advice? Test out a few different sizes before settling on one. Everyone is different, and you might find that your opinion differs from your buddy’s (or those pesky gun writers on the Internet).

4. Price

Red dots can be found from $20 for an Amazon special to $700 for a Trijicon MRO used by special operators. Most of the options on our list fall between those two extremes, and you can find lots of high-quality optics for less than $300. And here’s the thing about red dots: shelling out more money gets you a more rugged product, but it doesn’t necessarily improve your experience. “Glass quality” doesn’t matter as much in a red dot as it does a magnified scope. So, if you’re not planning to abuse your red dot in a Humvee in the backwaters of Iraq, you don’t need a top-tier red dot. That turkey will be just as dead with a less expensive unit.

Our Recommendations

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