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Best Red Dot Sight for Any Budget (Rifles & Pistols)

If you've found this page, you're probably looking for the best red dot sight. Good News! You've come to the right place.

We've researched, tested, and reviewed many options to help you find what's best for your price range. Not only have we covered our favorite options overall, but also the best budget red dot sights under $300, under $200, and even under $100.

This guide will cover options that can be used for AR-15s, shotguns, pistols or nearly any other gun you could think of.

Best Red Dot Sight for the Money

To start, we'll be going over options that vie for the title of "best red dot sight for the money". These aren't necessarily the most budget friendly options, but the models we feel bring the most value per dollar spent.

Trijicon MRO

The Trijicon MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) is our choice for the best red dot sight for the money. It's not the cheapest option on our list, but it is more affordable than most of its top tier competitors.

Trijicon MRO Sight Picture resized

It's also my favorite red dot sight of any on the market, earning it the spot of being mounted on my primary home defense AR-15.

Trijicon MRO on AR-15 Pistol (BCM Upper MCMR Recce with 11 Inch Barrel. Spike's Tactical Lower with SBA3 Pistol Brace and Geissele Super Dynamic Enhanced Trigger

I'll go over what makes the Trijicon MRO so great in a second, but let's first cover its features and stats.

Trijicon MRO Information:

  • 40,000+ Hours of Battery on Setting 5
  • 2 MOA Dot Size
  • 8 Brightness Settings (4 of Which are Night Vision Compatible)
  • 25mm Objective Lens
  • Waterproof to 100 Feet
  • -60°F to +160°F Operating Temperature
  • 5.8 oz (Including Trijicon Lower 1/3 Mount)
  • 0.5 MOA Windage and Elevation Adjustments
  • 2.6" x 1.7" x 2.73" (L x W x H) w/ Lower 1/3 Mount

Trijicon MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) Red Dot Sight

From $439.99 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

Okay. So why have we chosen the Trijicon MRO as the best red dot sight for the money?

Battery Life

For starters, the MRO should be about as reliable as it gets. It can stay powered on up to 40,000+ hours on one battery at setting 5 (of 8). This setting is bright enough to clearly see the reticle in every indoor environment I can imagine and many outdoor settings.

Its battery life allows you to always keep it on, giving you one less thing to think about if you need to grab your gun for self-defense. Just to be safe, I'd still recommend swapping out your batteries annually if using it for this.

Brief History of Trijicon

All Trijicon optics also bring with them the company's long and impressive history.

Trijicon is the manufacturer of the ACOG, a fixed power magnified scope that's probably the most battle proven optic of all time.

Trijicon ACOG Used by USAF

Personally, I'd also give the company credit for popularizing pistol red dot sights with the success of the Trijicon RMR. Many people even seem to use "RMR" as an eponym for all pistol red dots, like the way "Kleenex" is used to describe all facial tissues.

Though Trijicon has been most well known for their magnified rifle optics, tritium night sights, and pistol red dots, they created and launch the MRO in 2015.

Durability

If Trijicon's reputation alone isn't enough for you to trust that the MRO is made to last, how about the fact that it's one of the few red dot sights with its housing made with 7075-T6 aluminum. This is the same material used for high quality AR-15 receivers, whereas most red dot sights use weaker 6061-T6 aluminum.

The MRO is also made to the same Mil-Spec durability standards as the ACOG (MIL-STD-810G).

Sight Picture

I'd argue everything I've covered up to this point are the most important aspects of the MRO if considering it for serious use, but now for why I really like it.

The sight picture of the MRO is the best of any "rifle red dot sight" I've used. It's large 25mm objective lens allows you to see more of what's in front of you through the sight than its competitors. The fairly sleek design of the MROs controls and adjustments also blocks less of your view than much of the competition.

Trijicon MRO Sight Picture resized

The 2 MOA dot appears larger in the above picture than in reality, but it's REALLY HARD to get a well-focused, high-quality photo of a reflected LED beam!

The picture below, gives a better representation of the dot size on the lowest setting that it's visible indoors, though the photo shows a slight red "streak" that's not visible to my eyes.

Trijicon MRO 2 MOA Dot Reticle

Some people don't like the blueish hue of the glass, though it doesn't bother me personally. Admittedly, it is a more pronounced "tint" than some of the other optics on our list. It's there fore a reason, though. It's cause by a reflective coating that improves battery life.

Controls and Adjusters

Brightness settings are controlled by a dial at the top of the MRO, conveniently located for both right and left handed shooters. The dial is easy enough to adjust, but very unlikely to turn by accident.

Trijicon MRO Controls and Adjustments

The windage and elevation adjusters are recessed in the housing. This removes the need for caps, while still preventing mistaken adjustments.

Trijicon MRO Rating
Trijicon MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) Red Dot Sight

Product Name: Trijicon MRO

Product Description: The Trijicon MRO has 5 years of continuous battery life, rivaling even the most expensive Aimpoint red dot sights. It's battery life, combined with it's incredibly rugged design, mean the MRO will be ready when you need it. When that time comes, you'll befit from its top of the line sight picture and easily used controls.

  • Reliability
  • Durability
  • Sight Picture
  • Function
  • Value
4.9

Summary

The Trijicon MRO is our choice for the best red dot sight for the money. It’s a perfect choice for a home defense rifle or shotgun.

Pros

  • 5 Years of Battery Life (Setting 5 of 8)
  • Huge 25mm Objective Lens Offering Fantastic Sight Picture
  • Very Reliable and Durable

Cons

  • Lenses Have a Bit of a Blue Tint

Trijicon MRO Patrol

The Trijicon MRO Patrol is an even more beefed up version of the MRO.

It adds lens covers for both the ocular and objective lenses (front and rear lenses). The MRO Patrol also offers a killflash device that eliminates glare and protects the MRO from leading to unwanted detection.

For the average citizen looking for the best red dot sight for home defense, these features are probably unnecessary. If, however, you're considering the MRO for duty use, you'll likely appreciate the additional features of the MRO Patrol.

Trijicon MRO Patrol Red Dot Sight

From $589.99 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

Aimpoint PRO

Aimpoint's Patrol Rifle Optic, known as the Aimpoint PRO, is the most direct competitor to the Trijicon MRO and MRO Patrol.

Aimpoint PRO Sight Picture and Tubing

Overall, the Aimpoint PRO is a fantastic optic, narrowly missing being our choice for the best red dot sight for the money. In fact, it was my optic of choice for home defense before I purchased the MRO.

Aimpoint Pro Red Dot Sight

From $441.00 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

Aimpoint PRO Information:

  • 30,000 House of Battery Life at Setting 7
  • 2 MOA Dot Size
  • 10 Brightness Settings (4 of Which are Night Vision Compatible)
  • 23mm Objective Lens
  • Waterproof to 150 Feet
  • -49°F to +160°F Operating Temperature
  • 11.6 oz (Including Aimpoint PRO Lower 1/3 Mount)
  • 0.5 MOA Windage and Elevation Adjustments
  • 5.1" x 2.2" x 2.6" (L x W x H) w/ Lower 1/3 Mount

Brief History of Aimpoint

In 1975, Aimpoint created the first electronic red dot sight. Since this time, they've continue to remain the most well-regarded manufacturer of red dot sights for AR-15s and other long guns. For years, their optics have been trusted by military, law enforcement, and civilians. in 2000, Aimpoint's COMPM2 was chosen as the U.S. Armed Forces Close Combat Optic.

Aimpoint Electronic

The Original Aimpoint red dot sight, the "AimPoint Electronic"

Historically, the only downside of Aimpoint products have been their prices. Though the Aimpoint PRO is not the cheapest optic on the market, it's the most budget-friendly option of all Aimpoint red dot sights. Despite this, it still offers the reliability, durability, and battery life we've come to expect from Aimpoint.

Battery Life

The Aimpoint PRO can operate continuously for 30,000 hours at setting 7 of 10. Though 30,000 hours (3+ years) is less than the Trijicon MRO and some more expensive Aimpoint options, this is still far more than the vast majority of other red dot sights on the market.

Durability

Whereas the Trijicon MRO's housing is made from 7075-T6 aluminum, the Aimpoint PRO is made from the more common and weaker 6061-T6 aluminum. Despite this, the Aimpoint PRO is still built to survive almost anything you'd face in civilian life or even in the line of duty.

It comes standard with both front and rear flip-up lens covers, for added protection. The rear cover is clear, with the thinking being you can still aim reasonably accurately at close distances without actually seeing through your optic. I'm not entirely sure why they didn't make both covers transparent, but you can buy a transparent front lens cover separately.

The PRO can function from -49°F to +160°F and is waterproof up to 150 feet.

Sight Picture

Though the PRO offers the advantages of an Aimpoint branded optic, it does have some downsides.

The lens covers, mount release, and controls obstruct much of your view around the lens. The relatively long length of the PRO makes it particularly susceptible to having a tubing effect, meaning you may be slightly distracted by the inside sides of the housing when looking through the optic.

Trijicon MRO vs Aimpoint PRO Sight Picture

Trijicon MRO (left) and Aimpoint PRO Sight Picture

As a competitor, the Trijicon MRO (shown left) is the clear winner in this category. Most cheaper optics even beat out the Aimpoint PRO at sight picture.

Controls and Adjusters

Brightness is controlled by a single knob located at the top right of the optic.

Windage and elevation adjusters are located at the 12 and 3 o'clock positions. They are protected by caps with straps, so you can't lose your caps.

Final Thoughts

The Aimpoint PRO is the most affordable way to get your hands on a red dot sight from the most trusted company in the business. If you opt for the Patrol Rifle Optic, it'll be ready for any task you throw at it.

While we like it's battery life and durability, compared to cheaper optics, we believe the Trijicon MRO outperforms the Aimpoint PRO in most categories.

Aimpoint Pro Red Dot Sight

From $441.00 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

Best Budget Red Dot Sights Under $200

If the optics we've covered so far aren't in your price range, don't worry. We've got you covered with some of our more affordable favorites, starting with the best budget red dots under $200.

Holosun HS403C

Holosun HS403C Sight Picture

The Holosun HS403C is a fantastic, yet relatively cheap red dot sight with some unique features. Despite owning some high-end Aimpoint and Trijicon optics, I frequently use the HS403C when bringing multiple rifles to the range. If I didn't own the Trijicon MRO, I'd have no reservations about using the HS403C on my primary home defense gun.

Holosun HS403C

From $199.99 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

+ Compare Prices From Others

Holosun HS403C Information:

  • Up to 50,000 Hours of Battery Life
  • Dual Powered by Battery and Solar
  • 2 MOA Dot Size
  • 12 Brightness Settings (2 of Which are Night Vision Compatible)
  • 20mm Objective Lens
  • Waterproof to 1 Meter
  • -22°F to +140°F Operating Temperature
  • 4.3 oz
  • 0.5 MOA Windage and Elevation Adjustments
  • 2.44" x 1.18" (L x W)

Holosun History

As you probably expect from a more budget-friendly manufacturer, Holosun does not have a storied reputation to the level Trijicon or Aimpoint does.

The California based company was only established in 2013, though they've quickly built a following.

When a company's products are priced more affordably than others, they almost always have to make sacrifices somewhere. Holosun is no exception to this rule, but I'd argue they've made their sacrifices the right way.

Currently, I think they're the clear dominant red dot sight manufacturer at their products' price range.

Battery Life, Solar Technology, Sensors, and Controls

The most obvious example of Holosun focusing on quality and function is the fact that all of their red dot sights have amazing battery life.

The HS403C is advertised as having up to 50,000 hours of battery life. Admittedly, this could be a bit misleading, as they do not specify on what brightness setting this 50,000 hours is possible. I will say, however, my HS403C has been continuously on for at least a year, primarily sitting inside by gun safe.

Holosun 403C Solar Panel Array

The HS403C also has a "solar array" on the top of its housing, allowing it to use natural and unnatural light as a power source. When in a sufficiently bright environment, the optic will switch from battery power to solar power.

Technically, the "solar array" is actually a photo-diode array, which doubles as a light sensor. This allows you to use the optional automatic brightness adjustment feature, which adjusts the brightness intensity of the red dot to your environment. Alternatively, you can put the optic into manual mode, allowing you to manually adjust brightness with the two buttons on the right side of its housing.

The windage and elevation adjustments are located on the top and right side of the optic. They're protected by caps that aren't attached to the housing, so be careful not to lose them if you buy the HS403C.

Durability

The Holosun HS403C is certainly durable enough for civilian use, but probably not combat ready. In particular, the mount that comes with it feels like a weak point, though that could be easily upgraded.

As I said above, though, I'd have no concerns using this red dot for home defense.

In the bullet points above, you might have noticed the HS403C has far worse waterproof an operating temperature ratings than the MRO and PRO.

Sight Picture

I have no complaints with the HS403C's sight picture, in fact it's better than most similar micro red dot sights. It has a larger objective lens (20mm) than Aimpoint Micro red dots (18mm). The controls, adjuster caps, and housing of the HS403C also take up a limited amount of your view around the lens.

Holosun HS403C Sight Picture

Though I don't think the mount is the most structurally sound option out there, I appreciate that it's cut out so you can see under the sight. The glass is clear enough and the auto brightness sensor has performed well for me in all environments.

Holosun HS403C

From $199.99 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

+ Compare Prices From Others

Holosun HS403B

The Holosun HS403B is essentially the HS403C without the solar array or auto brightness sensors. In other words, the HS403B is only battery powered. The lack of solar array also allowed them to move the brightness control buttons to the top of the optic, making them more easily accessed with either hand.

The biggest benefit of this is that the HS403B is even more affordable.

Holosun 403B Red Dot Sight

From $149.49 at Optics Planet

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

+ Compare Prices From Others

Holosun HS403B Information:

  • Up to 50,000 Hours of Battery Life
  • Motion Sensing On/Off Activation
  • 2 MOA Dot Size
  • 12 Brightness Settings (2 of Which are Night Vision Compatible)
  • 20mm Objective Lens
  • Waterproof to 1 Meter
  • -22°F to +140°F Operating Temperature
  • 4.3 oz
  • 0.5 MOA Windage and Elevation Adjustments
  • 2.44" x 1.18" (L x W)

The HS403B does have one unique feature called "Shake Awake". The red dot sight will automatically turn off after not being used for a period of time specified by the user (0-12 hours). It will automatically turn back on when it senses motion or vibration. This helps ensure the battery lasts even longer.

Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight (Gen II)

The Vortex Crossfire is another candidate for the best budget red dot sight under $200. While it doesn't offer some of the unique features of Holosun optics, Vortex does offer the best warranty in the business.

Vortex's VIP warranty is an unlimited lifetime warranty that's fully transferable. They don't even require a receipt. It covers everything with the exception of loss, theft, deliberate damage, or purely cosmetic damage.

I own multiple Vortex products and have never had to take advantage of their warranty, but it's nice to know I'm covered should anything happen to them. I'd rather spend a bit more on a Vortex product that can be replaced whenever, than a slightly cheaper red dot sight that will likely only last a few years at most.

Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight

From $149.99 at Brownells

Prices Accurate as of Publishing Date

+ Compare Prices From Others

Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight (Gen II) Information:

  • Battery Life - 50,000 hour at Setting 6 of 11
  • 2 MOA Dot Size
  • 11 Brightness Settings (2 of Which are Night Vision Compatible)
  • 21mm Objective Lens
  • Weight - 5.2 oz
  • Length - 2.5"
  • 0.5 MOA Windage and Elevation Adjustments

Battery Life

The first Vortex Crossfire red dot sights only had up to 7,000 hours of battery life. This limited them to being practical for casual use in our eyes.

The Gen II crossfire, however, seriously beefed up battery life. It can stay powered on for 50,000 hours on its medium setting (6 of 11), rivaling even the most high-end red dot sights.

Durability and Reliability

Like the Holosun options we covered, the Vortex Crossfire (Gen II) should be able to handle home defense and any other civilian shooting needs. However, we don't feel comfortable recommending it for duty use.

The Gen II crossfire is fairly new and Vortex doesn't have the history of a Trijicon or Aimpoint. This is not to say their reputation is bad, as Vortex is a very well regarded budget manufacturer.

Basically, we're just yet to be shown that the Crossfire is "battle ready".

Sight Picture & Controls

Though Vortex lists the Crossfire's objective lens as being 1mm larger than Holosun HS403C and HS403B, it definitely feels like you're looking through a smaller optic. This is the major reason we prefer the Holosun options over the Crossfire.

The adjustment knob of the Crossfire is on the right side of the optic's housing, leaving almost nothing unnecessarily blocking your view if you're a right handed shooter. It is certainly less than ideal for left handed shooters, though.

Buyers Guide - What to Look for in a Red Dot Sight

Not sure what to look for from a red dot sight?

This buyer's guide will fill you on what we evaluate and where we place importance. We'll also cover why you should want a red dot sight in the first place.

Why Buy a Red Dot Sight?

Iron sights are a cheaper alternative that usually even come equipped on your gun from the factory. So why do you need a red dot sight?

The biggest benefit of a red dot sight is the time it takes to get on target. Rather than trying to line up your (sometimes hard to see) front and rear iron sights, you simply have to place the (one) dot on your target. This means being able to aim at and shoot your target faster.

For self-defense and competitive shooting, when every split second counts, this speed advantage can make all the difference. It could even be the difference between life and death.

Unlike other optics, like magnified scopes, red dot sights are parallax free and have essentially unlimited eye relief. Parallax free means that the dot can still be on your target even if your head is off to the side or in anyway imperfectly lined up. Unlimited eye relief means that your eyes can be any distance from the sight with it still being clearly visible.

You'll also benefit from the fact it's illuminated. A good red dot sight will be easy to see during the brightest days or in a dim room.

Last to note, is red dot sights can easily be used with both eyes open, giving you the ability to keep track of your surroundings.

Put simply, red dot sights are almost always going to provide benefits over iron sights. They're also better than scopes at close distances for many purposes (up to 30-50 yards), and even a reasonable option out to 100 yards.

What to Look for When Choosing a Red Dot Sight?

Of course, not all red dot sights are equal... Or you wouldn't be reading this guide in the first place. Here are the features we focused on to determine our choices for the best red dot sights.

Battery Life

If you're buying a red dot sight to use on a self-defense gun, battery life and reliability are the most important factors to consider.

If someone breaks into your house or you need to use your concealed carry weapon for self-defense, you want your red dot sight to be on and visible immediately.

The best red dot sights, like the Trijicon MRO and Aimpoint PRO, can last years on the same battery. This allows you to always keep them on at a reasonable setting that will be clearly visible in most environments. When the time comes to use your gun for self-defense, you won't have to worry about remembering to turn your sight on. In a high pressure situation, you want to minimize the steps you need to take, and these optics accomplish that.

To be safe, I'd still recommend swapping out the batteries of even the best red dot sights once a year.

Other red dot sights utilize features like motion sensors and solar energy to increase battery life and be ready when you need them. I prefer these over red dot sights with limited battery life, that you would have to manually turn on in a self-defense situation. Of course, the best option is a top of the line optic that can just always stay on.

Reliability & Durability

Not all red dot sights have the same history of reliability and durability.

For years, Trijicon and Aimpoint optics have been relied on by soldiers, law enforcement, and civilians. They've proven that they'll be ready when you need them and that they are built to last.

You may not need a red dot sight that's completely combat ready, but at minimum I'm sure you'd like to avoid one that's likely to malfunction or be defective. You also want to make sure your sight can hold zero.

In addition to testing red dot sights ourselves, we've also searched through countless product reviews and forum discussions for reports from others. We're confident we've chosen some of the best red sights for every budget.

Sight Picture, Lens Size, Class Clarity, Controls, Weight, and More

Our biggest concern when choosing a red dot sight is that it'll be ready when you need it. Beyond this, we can start nitpicking the remaining options to find what is best to use.

Can you clearly see through the sight? How much of your surroundings can you see through the sight compared to what's seen around the sight? Are the sight's controls obstructing your view? How easy is it to adjust the sight? Is the optic unnecessarily heavy?

When discussing the best red dot sights, we answer these questions so you can understand how they stack up against the competition.

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