Scopes vs. Red Dot Sights: A Comparative Primer

There’s only so much rail space on your rifle, and most setups make it hard to pair more than one optic with a single platform.

Yet, that being the case, it’s still also true that the right sights and optics can drastically improve your confidence while helping you shrink your groups and extend your effective range.

But, since you will often need to choose (unless you get a combination red dot/scope combo) here are some quick takeaways to help you decide.

Get a Scope If…
You’re consistently competing in long-range shooting events. Red dot sights may have many virtues, but they generally can’t compete with scoped rifles at extended ranges. Anywhere beyond 300 yards is the exclusive territory of optics with magnification.

You hunt game that rarely presents shots within 100 yards and doesn’t give you any opportunities for follow-up. Again, scopes are superior here for this long-distance application.

You need some sort of light-gathering capabilities for making difficult shots at dawn or dusk. Some scopes are better in low-light conditions than other optics. Some optics even offer night vision capabilities, making them better in the dark.

Chiefly, the benefits of scopes involve the ability to connect with targets at extended ranges. Target acquisition is harder and the presence of a reticle effectively eliminates reflexive shooting – but scopes enable overall more accurate shot placement, regardless of that.

Especially if you expect to be making long-distance shots over varying distances, get a scope that offers variable magnification for additional versatility.

Get a Red Dot Sight If…
The many advantages of magnified optics (scopes) do not suggest that there are no comparative advantages of red dot sights.

Red dot sights enable rapid target acquisition, especially at close ranges, and keep the sight picture clear. Being freed from the need to line up the reticle makes intuitive, reflexive shot placement possible, as well as rapid follow-up shots.

The nature in which red dot sights are calibrated and used also means that you can keep the sight picture clear while shooting. Keeping a clear sight picture enables the rapid target acquisition mentioned as well as quick follow-up shots.

It’s also worth mentioning that red dot sights are free from parallax distortion that plagues scopes, and do not require a specific amount of eye relief. You just switch on the red dot sight, point and shoot.

This means that reflex sights like red dot sights offer suitability for high volume shooting up close, where multiple follow-up shots may be required within close distances.

Red dot sights are superior for CQB encounters, and generally, for home defense. They are practical for three-gun and other close-range, high-volume shooting sports.

Some hunters even prefer red dot sights for pursuing wary, wily game-like hogs and javelina that often present shots at close ranges with little warning and which may require more than one shot to dispatch.

A Note on Iron Sights
One thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of whether you pair your rifle with a scope or a red dot sight, you should never lose the ability to use your iron sights.

Even if the optic mounts at the top of your rail and eclipses your iron sights, install some flip-up offsets.

You need a failsafe backup, and backup iron sights do not require batteries or particular conditions to operate. They are waterproof, fog proof, dustproof, resistant to shock and force, and can be used in literally any conditions – including in the dark.

A Wealth of Optics and Red Dot Sights
Looking for a new scope or red dot sight for your rifle, but not sure which model you want yet?

Hopefully, you found this overview useful, and whichever you ultimately decide to go with, you’ll find plenty of options at They carry scopes, sights, and mounts from the best names in the industry, including but not limited to Trijicon, Leupold, Traditions, Warne, Burris, and countless others.

Take a look through their collection online at the link above and get in touch with them at 406-206-0001 if you have any questions.

For more information about Turkey Call and Apex Bow Sight Please visit: Live Outdoor Sports.

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