How Does A Red Dot Sight Work?

Intrigued by a red dot sight? Want to know how does a red dot sight works? Well, this is the right place to know all about the sight!

We are pretty sure that you already know that the stock sights are not that reliable. They might do the trick for close-range targets, but for the medium and long-range, you are going to struggle a lot.

That is where the aftermarket sights step in. And among all of them, the red dot sight is the go-to option for many.

Like you, when we first got to know about the sight and read about the wonders it can offer, we were pretty much amazed.

We wanted to know how does a red dot sight work. And that is where we decided to visit one of the leading manufacturers of sights, Vortex, and learn how they work.

From that visit, we have gained a plethora of knowledge regarding these. And we are pretty sure you are waiting to receive that information as well. So, without wasting any more of your precious time, let us get right into the topic we have in hand.

What Exactly Is a Red Dot Optic?

Before we get further into the topic we have in hand, let us first ensure that you know what a red dot optic is.

This aftermarket sight is the one that most of the shooters get to track and neutralize close and medium-range targets properly. And it works better than the iron sights.

As the name suggests, you will find a red dot in the middle of the sight. It is the reticle, and it will be the thing with which you will aim.

Well, that might not be the case for each of the models you will stumble on. There are red dot sights that have green dots in the middle.

Nevertheless, the overall concept is pretty simple. Aim through the dot and pull the trigger. Because of its simple concept, this one is chosen by most newbies and shooters planning on training.

On that note, these sights do not have any built-in magnification. As the optics are 1x, these are generally not called scope. Instead, these are always referred to as sights.Well, some might call them red dot optic, but that is not the point here.

Origin of Red Dot Sight

Believe us or not, these have been around for a long amount of time. In fact, they have been around for more than 40 years.

The first red dot sight surfaced in the middle of the 70s. Back then, the size of the sight was huge. And these were not that reliable because the cells back then did not have that much capacity.

But thanks to the advancement of technology, they are not in a state where shooters can rely on them entirely. The optical clarity of the sight has increased substantially.

Also, as the batteries have a larger capacity than before, these can last for a long amount of time without showing any drop in brightness.

In addition to that, the size of the parts has shrunk substantially. It is now possible to attach a red dot sight on basically every firearm.

How Do Red Dot Sights Work?

Now that you know a bit about the sight, let us focus on the elephant in the room. And that would be how do these sights work.

From our visit, we have learned a lot about the technologies that go behind sight. And even though most of the information was pretty intricate, we will try our best to simplify things for you.

Even though we stated that the sight is pretty simple, it does not work that simply. There are a more significant number of technological magic behind it. Before we say what the magic is, we would like you to remember Pepper’s Ghost magic trick if you can.

In that trick, the magician would simply utilize a few plates made of glasses and light. Well, the idea is the same here.

This sight has a spherical mirror that will reflect the light. And the light would be emitted from an LED, which will have the same axis of focus as the mirror.

The spherical mirror will usually have a special coating on the surface. For this coating, it will only reflect the red light or green light for some cases.

It will let all of the other spectra of lights pass through. Also, it will ensure that the other lights are not disrupting the reticle.

Thanks to the reflection, the red light stays in place and creates a reticle. Also, the persons on the other side will not be able to see the light due to the reflection.

What Controls the Size of a Red Dot Sight?

As you know by now, the red dot sight will depend on the coated glass and an LED. Now, the sight is also available for most firearms. Starting from the rifle to the pistols, it is available for all of them. But would the same size of dot be applicable for all of these? Not really!

That is where the measuring system comes into play. Like other sights or scopes, these will rely on MOA measurements. And this MOA size will rely on the aperture hole. But where exactly is the aperture hole? It is on the very front of the LED.

Usually, the bigger the dot, the easier it will be to get it on the target. However, bigger dots will make it hard for you to track the targets that are reasonably far.

For those scenarios, a smaller dot is necessary. But, smaller dots in close to medium-range targets will make tracking and acquiring targets harder.

Considering that, like Vortex, most of the manufacturers are going to utilize a variable size mechanism. That will let the user play with the size and figure out what goes best for the shooting or rifle style.

Types of Red Dots

Yes, there are a couple of different types of red dot sights. And even though they might be different in terms of design and size, the core mechanism is the same. They would have a glass with a special coating, which will reflect the light strobe. That being said, these are the different types of red dots sights:

  • Standard Sized Red Dot Sights

The standard-sized sights are the ones that are going to go on rifles. These are standard in size and have a tube-based design.

Also, the size of the dot is going to be from two to three MOA. The size of the objective lens is going to be 25 mm or sometimes more. And these are generally ideal for medium-range targets.

On that note, some of the shooters are going to combine one of these with a magnifier. It will increase the range of the sight and offer the rifle a higher level of versatility.

The sight will then become great at close to medium range and good at long range.

  • Mini Red Dot Sight

Unlike the standard-sized red dot sight, this one is pretty small. And they are constructed to be small for a reason. They would go on top of pistols.

However, these are also ideal for a backup sight. Most of the modified sniper rifles will have these on the side to offer good overall performance in close quarters.

On that note, it would not be possible to use a magnifier with this one. The size of the lens is too small for something to magnify it.

Also, the size of the dot is going to be a bit large too. The large size of the dot will basically make the reticle easy to spot in close-range scenarios.

  • Holographic Sight

One of the types of red dot sights that is available in the market is the holo sight. This one is kind of a distant cousin to the red dot sight. The inner working of this one is pretty complicated. In the red dot sight, the reticle will directly reflect on the lens. But here, the laser will bounce through a series of glasses.

And different layers of bounce will all be on the same focus point. This process will lower the parallax distortion. Also, it will make the sight highly compatible with magnifiers. The performance it offers with a magnifier is also stellar.

  • Reflex Sight

We have introduced you to the distant cousin of the red dot sight. Now, let us make you familiar with the cousin of the sight, the reflex sight. These will utilize a highly efficient LED light. And the LED will project the strobe onto a concave lens.

Due to the LED being energy-efficient, it should be capable of offering a stellar overall run time. Also, the concave glass features a better coating on the surface. The coating makes the dot look like it is floating in the middle instead of giving the sense that it is reflected.

The Features of Red Dot Sight

We have got plenty of experience with these sights. In fact, we have used almost all types of red dot sights.

And that level of experience is enough to let us state the features these sights can offer. So, without further ado, these are the things that you can expect to get from a red dot sight:

  • Compact Size

Even the standard-sized red dot sight is exceptionally compact. The compact nature of the sight makes it light in weight as well.

So it will not be adding that much weight on the top of your gun. And this ability of not making the top of the barrel heavy is something that most of the sights cannot offer.

  • Highly Compatible

As you already know by now, these sights are basically compatible with most firearms.

In fact, it will be pretty hard for you to find a firearm with which this sight is not compatible. Even the small version, which is specifically designed for handguns, can work as a secondary sight for rifles.

  • Illuminated Reticle

One of the things that most of the red dot sight will excel at is offering a highly illuminated reticle.

The light is going to be exceptionally bright, which will make the task of acquiring targets under the sun an easy task. Also, they will make it easier to track moving targets in bright environments.

  • Battery Life

As we have mentioned above, the red dot sight technology has seen many improvements throughout the years.

And now, most of the brands are going to utilize a highly efficient LED light. This efficient LED will reduce the stress from the battery and make the device gain higher overall battery life.

In fact, some of the sights will be so efficient that you will not even need to replace the battery for an extended amount of time. One cell should last you ages on those.

  • Adjustability

One thing that the shooters do not expect to get from this sight is the higher level of adjustability. Well, let us put an end to that misconception.

Due to the size of the sight, this one can offer considerably higher control over most of the factors. Starting from the size of the dot to windage and elevation, you can adjust all.

Also, with proper skill, it will be pretty easy to zero the sight. And once you master the zeroing technique, landing shots on relatively distant targets will become an effortless task.

Should You Purchase a Red Dot Sight?

Now, after knowing all about the sight, you might still be wondering if you should purchase one or not. Well, allow us to make things a bit easier for you. These are the reasons why you should consider purchasing one of these sights:

  • Simple to Operate

The first and the most significant selling point of these sights is that they have a simple operational process. Everything about these sights is simple. And for how simple these are to use, these are a go-to option for most newbies. Also, thanks to the simplicity, these are ideal for the trainees as well.

Even the adjustability options are pretty easy to get used to. From personal experience, it does not take that long to get used to the zeroing mechanism.

Also, once the sight is zeroed in properly, you can just hand the gun over to anybody, and they would be able to land at least 8/10 bullets on target.

  • Speed

It is well-known that acquiring a target through the red dot sight is faster than acquiring a target with the iron sight. Even though the difference might not be easy to measure, speaking from experience, the difference is quite significant. And this reason alone is enough to make shooters purchase this sight.

  • Easy to Track

The nature of the sight enables the user to look through the optic in less than perfect angles. For that reason, tracking moving targets becomes an effortless task with these. Also, by tuning the size of the dot, it would be possible to track moving targets in both close and medium ranges.

  • Accuracy

Another selling point of the sight is accuracy. Thanks to the simple yet reliable operational process, it achieves a higher level of accuracy. And if the tuning is perfect and your aim is up to mark, missing targets will be a thing that will not happen to you in close to medium ranges.

  • Easy to Set up

Thanks to the compact and lightweight nature, the setup process of the sight is pretty simple and straightforward. There will be no need to go through any intricate procedure, nor will there be any need to invest a significant amount of time setting these up.

In fact, the setup process is so easy that you will be capable of transferring the sight from one firearm to another within a couple of minutes. This easy setup process is another reason why people opt for red dot sights.

How to Zero a Red Dot Sight?

Getting a red dot sight will not be enough. To get all of the advantages it has to offer, you need to learn how to zero the sight properly. And the steps to do that are as follows:

Step 1: Select a Starting Range

The first step would be to determine the starting position. Here, you need to keep one thing in mind, which is the zeroing will highly depend on the firearm.

And different firearms are ideal for different ranges. So, you would need to choose a suitable starting range by keeping the power and range of the gun.

Here, for the pistols, the ideal distance would be 10 to 15 yards. On the other hand, for rifles, the perfect range would be from 50 to 100 yards. Do note that we have provided this estimation of range by considering different rifles and pistols.

Step 2:Boresight the Weapon

After selecting the correct range, you might want to boresight the weapon. It will increase the accuracy level of the gun with the sight on. And a higher level of accuracy in the initial shots will make the process of zeroing the sight an effortless task. So, we would recommend zeroing the sight.

Step 3: Check How off the Sight Is

Now that you have bore-sighted the weapon, you need to fire a couple of shots. Here, you would be shooting at a target. Getting the target boards would be ideal, but you can build yourself your own target board if you want. Aim at the very center and take e couple of shots.

Check how far the bullets are landing from the center. If the shots land right in the center, then it is your lucky day. You can call the whole process off and skip to the next steps. However, if the shots are not landing in the middle, follow the following steps properly.

If you think that the shots are not landing on target because of you having a lack of stability, get a shooting bench. That will increase the stability and eliminate most of the factors that might cause errors in this test.

Step 4: Adjust the Sight

Once you have checked how far off the bullets are landing, get yourself the tool required to adjust the windage and elevation of the sight.

Make sure that you do not move your firearm while getting these two. Look through the sight and try to position the reticle right on the spot where the bullet landed.

After adjusting the position of the sight, lock it in. And move to the next step. Again, ensure that you did not move the gun while adjusting the reticle.

If you move your gun here, the adjustments are going to be off. And if the adjustments are off, you will be back to the same point where you started.

Step 5: Check the Accuracy Again

Now that you have adjusted the sight, you need to take a couple more shots on the targeting board.

Here, if the adjustment was proper and the sight was zeroed correctly in, it should land right in the center. However, if the adjustment is not correctly done, the bullets will be a bit off.

And if the bullets are not still landing where you are aiming your gun, adjust the sight again. After adjusting, shoot a couple of more shots and check the overall accuracy.

If you are pleased with the accuracy, end the process here. But you need to repeat step number 4 when the accuracy is still a lot off.

Repeat until the dot lines exactly on the place where you are shooting the gun at. If you can not seem to make it line up, go to a professional.

Final Words

Hopefully, we were successful in letting you know how does a red dot sight work. And as you can see, it does not rely on any magic. Instead, it utilizes a pretty simple operational procedure.

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