Red Dot Or Scope: Which One is Better?

Last Updated on May 5, 2023.

When you watch television shows and films that feature action scenes involving guns, you probably notice the actors using red dots. These are similar to scopes in that a red dot will let someone zoom in or narrow down on a target. In addition to red dots, there are more traditional scopes that you can use to your advantage.

Unlike some of the comparisons that we did between two manufacturers, red dots and scopes come from a lot of big names like Nightforce, Leupold and Trijion. Many scopes have a magnification feature that you can use you enhance your field of vision and put a specific object in your cross-hairs. With a red dot, you’ll see a small red dot that you can lay over your target.

Choosing the best one really depends on your own needs as well as your preferences. We tracked down the top red dots and the top telescopes to help you learn more about both and to show you some of the top products that you can buy right now.


Our Red Dot Picks

Acog 4 X 32 Dual Illuminated

Though many red dot products have a rounded or circular design, this Acog 4 X 32 Dual Illuminated Triangle .223 Ballistic Reticle from Trijicon has a triangle shape that extends your field of vision and helps you see hundreds of feet in front of you with perfect clarity.

This sight comes with its own mount that attaches to the top of the gun and allows the sight to sit flush with the weapon, which creates a level field that moves as you move your head and eyes. The included lens is a 32mm objective lens that can also magnify objects up to 32 times.

An illuminated reticle is suitable for shooting when it is dark outside because it provides the illumination that you need to see.

It also has a reticle that is more appropriate for daytime shooting because it reduces the amount of available light, though you can adjust the brightness of this piece. Weighing less than 10-ounces, it is both easy to carry and easy to mount.

Leupold DEV-O 6x20mm

Have you ever woken up for target practice or a hunting trip and went right back to bed because it was too humid or cold outside? Gun enthusiasts know that high humidity levels and cold snaps can make the lenses on scopes and sights fog up, but this Leupold DEV-O 6x20mm Dual Use Waterproof Tactical prevents that problem because it is completely waterproof.

That waterproof design protects the lens from fog and also ensures that the sight itself will remain usable in all types of weather conditions. This Leupold sight is made in the United States and combines the features you like about this product with a scope. 

It has a standard magnification setting as well as a 6X magnification setting and places a small target in the center of the eye piece with hash marks around the edges that you can use for measuring distances and lining up shots. You can even use this sight in wetter conditions because it is dive-proof at up to 66 feet.

Bushnell Tactical E3124H

Bushnell, the same company that makes cameras and camera parts, is also the company behind the Bushnell Tactical E3124H Elite Hunter LRHS with G2H FFP Long Range Reticle, which ranks as one of the best products for long range applications.

All the materials used in its construction are of the highest quality, and Bushnell does extensive testing on each scope before sending it to customers. It has a zero stop mechanism for restoring all settings back to zero and a 44mm objective lens.

With a magnification range of 3X up to 12X, this sight has one of the highest magnification settings of all telescopes on the market, but the lens will not become blurry when you turn up that magnification.

Designed for durability in mind, it can handle all your hunting and shooting trips without breaking. It comes with a two-inch sunshade that protects your field of vision from the sun and first focal plane reticle that lets you clearly see the target.

CVLIFE 4x32 Tactical

The CVLIFE 4×32 Tactical Red & Green & Blue Tri-illuminated Rapid Range Reticle with Fiber Optic Sight can also use to magnify your targets and other things that you come across, which can help you weed targets and other obstacles out of your viewing area.

It has a 4X magnification power that will work at a far distance away from an object and a 32mm objective lens that works at a distance of up to 100 yards.

Measuring just 5.5-inches, this sight enhances your vision but still gives you perfect clarity for viewing the area around and above the sight with one or both eyes. 

The lens has several layers of a green coating over the top that creates a sharper level of contrast that will work in both darker and lighter conditions, and you can choose between three brightness settings. It is also shockproof and comes with a fog-resistant lens that works with the watertight seals to reduce bluriness.

Rhino Tactical Sight

You may just feel like a soldier storming the enemy battlefield when you have this Rhino Tactical Sight for Rifles & Shotguns by Ozark Armament on your gun because it is a tactical sight designed to mimic those used in military applications.

This sight has a waterproof case and watertight seals that keep water and moisture from damaging the lens and the sight itself. Ozark Armament offers a one-year warranty on this sight and will give you a full refund with no questions asked.

Whether you need to fire off a shot in the middle of the night, or you go hunting in the early morning hours, the five brightness settings on this scope let you change the amount of light available to better see your target.

This sight also gives you the option of using a red dot or a green dot. It works better in some areas and at certain times, but the green dot can provide a bolder contrast in other situations.

Our Scope Picks

Nightforce The BEAST

This Nightforce The BEAST 5-25x56mm F1 is one of the top sights that money can buy, and after using it just once, you’ll understand why the company named it The BEAST. It has two internal adjustments that will compensate for both the higher or lower elevation of your current location as well as the current speed of the wind.

Its wind setting is particularly important because any gust of wind can keep your shot from hitting the target.

The eye strain that you experience when using other types of telescopes will never occur when using this one because it has a 3.54-inch eye relief that increases the distance between your eyes and the lens to keep you from squinting.

This sight measures 5.92-inches long and weighs 40-ounces. At 2.5-pounds, the BEAST is one of the heaviest models for sale and works best with larger rifles and in long range settings.

Steiner 5X-25X-56mm

The first focal plane construction of this Steiner 5X-25X-56mm MSR Gun Scope gives you a clear view of all the space between you and your target, even if you are a significant distance away.

Its 34mm tube diameter, which is one of the largest on the market, makes this sight work with rifles of different types, including air rifles and center rifles. Suitable for both hunting and tactical applications, it has a lens that won’t fog and a waterproof exterior case.

Depending on when and where you hunt, you might wear bulky gloves that won’t work with the tiny knobs found on other models, but this sight has larger knobs that you can access while wearing even the thickest of gloves.

It features an objective diameter of 56mm and works with the mounting hardware you may already own. It also has an illuminated reticle for shooting in the dark.

Elcan SpecterDR 1.5x/6x

When you spend a lot of time hunting, you might worry about the type of sight or scope that you use because some weigh so much that your arms can grow tired after carrying your gun a short distance.

This Elcan SpecterDR 1.5x/6x Optical Sight weighs less to keep your arms from feeling so tired, but it also has a compact shape that won’t take up the valuable space on top of your rifle or keep you from seeing your target. It has a magnification range of just 1.5X, which is helpful when standing closer to a target, up to 6X, which will enhance targets dozens of yards away.

Elcan SpecterDR on a custom AR-15 | Photo by armament_tech

This is also a great optical scope because it uses cross-hairs on its lens. Those cross-hairs have markings called hashes nearby that help you determine how far away you are from a target and what conditions you need to account for to hit that target.

Trijicon VCOG 1-6x24

Do you like the way red dot products work but aren’t sure if one will really work with the way you hunt? This Trijicon VCOG 1-6×24 combines some features of a red dot product with a traditional scope to change the way you line up and take a shot.

Trijicon VCOG on a Noveske Rifle | Photo by delrayshootingcenter

Its reticle features a small green circle that you can place directly over a target to ensure that your shot lands the first time you fire.

The waterproof case retains its watertight seal at depths of up to 66-feet, and it has a nighttime setting that offers more illumination when hunting at night.

With just a single lithium AA battery, this feature will run for up to 700 hours. It has dials that use the click increments for adjusting the sight based on wind conditions and elevations.

Vortex Optics 4.5-27x56

No matter when or where you hunt, this Vortex Optics 4.5-27×56 Razor HD Gen II has your back because it can account for your elevation, wind conditions and even the sun.

The included sunshade does a good job of blocking the rays and adjusting the brightness available to help you keep an eye on your target without any glares blocking your view. It has a 34mm tube diameter and dials that work with click increments for adjusting the settings.

Suitable for use on long range hunting trips and similar applications, the scope, which features a zero return setting, has a reticle with hash marks on the edges that help you determine where to shoot and where your shot will go.

It also has a maximum zoom range of 6X that enlarges any object or target without making the lens look blurry.

Our Opinion

Red dot products are highly similar to the ones used by military forces, but unless you need to storm an enemy hideout, you may find that these products are overkill.

One of the best things about red dot products is that you can find inexpensive models and products. The red dot in the center of the lens works particularly well in darker conditions.

No matter how much money you have to spend, we recommend choosing a traditional scope over a red dot product. Scopes come with more features and give you more bang for your buck. Most shooters will find that a scope lasts longer than a red dot product does too.