Red dot and holographic sights are two different forms of firearm optics designed to assist in long-distance targeting and firing, amongst other shooting activities.
Red dot sights have existed and have been utilized recreationally for years, having first been designed in 1975; holographic sights, on the other hand, were only invented at the turn of the 21st century.
Red dot sights remain far more ubiquitous amongst recreational shooters. While holographic sights are being used recreationally to some extent, they are more commonly used in the military, having replaced red dot sights therein.
But which is better when affordability and value for money, accuracy, target acquisition, and durability is taken into consideration? Read on to find out which one you should choose!
Red Dot vs Holographic Sight: A Comparison
Affordability and Value for Money
For budding shooters looking for a firearm optic on a budget, red dot sights are the only option. Given how long red dots have existed and how less complex they are to make compared to holographic versions, you can pick up a basic red dot sight for under $50. Some of which, like the Tasco Propoint, perform exceptionally well for their low price and are a perfect option for beginners.
However, if you are looking for more out of your red dot optic – i.e., increased accuracy and durability – you’re looking at prices around the $200 mark. It is worth noting that mid-range, high performing red dots are available for under $100.
When it comes to holographic optics, however, things are slightly more on the pricier side. Given that only two companies – EOTech and Vortex – currently produce holographic sights, it’s impossible to find a cheap equivalent to the military standard.
The most basic holographic sights have a starting price of roughly $400 – which is about the same price as a high-end red dot sight. However, bear in mind that this is only the starting price and that a more advanced holographic sight will take you well into the thousands of dollars range.
So, with that considered, it’s fair to say that red dot sights are the best bang for your buck.
Focus and Accuracy
In lots of ways, similarities can be drawn between both red dot and holographic sights in terms of ensuring target accuracy. For example, both red dot and holographic sights boast brightness settings and feature night vision capabilities.
However, one way in which holographic sights are better than red dot sights is regarding magnification. When magnifying a red dot sight, the red dot will appear bigger without upscaling the target it is aiming for. This is a major disadvantage as it renders the target’s position within the now magnified red dot reticle impossible to determine.
On the other hand, when using magnification on a holographic sight, both the sight and the target maintain their original proportions, which ensures that accuracy is maintained.
Additionally, if the user suffers from short-sightedness or astigmatism, red dot sights will become blurry when focused upon. On the other hand, holographic sights place the reticle upon the target, allowing for the target to remain in focus at all times, which ensures utmost accuracy in shooting for the visually impaired.
When it comes to accuracy, it’s fair to say that holographic sights are by far the better option.
One major difference between holographic and red dot sights is, of course, how the inner technologies of each work. For red dot sight, the distance between lens and focus is the sight itself, as the red dot is focused to your eye.
This renders target acquisition much slower when using red dot sights, as your eye cannot focus on both the target and the red dot simultaneously.
On the other hand, the far more technologically advanced holographic sight uses its complex inner mirror system to superimpose the reticle on your target in front of the sight. This is an advantage for holographic sights, as you, technically, can focus on both the reticle and your target simultaneously.
Target acquisition is, therefore, much cleaner and quicker when using a holographic sight.
For red dot sights, durability is only really determined by how much you’re willing to spend. The cheap, below-$50 red dot sights available will be great for airsoft and other basic shooting activities – which is what they are designed for. However, these low-range models will break under continued recoil and general usage.
The mid-range and more expensive red dot sights, made from aluminum, will hold up for much longer under pressure.
Given the minimum price of a holographic sight, on the other hand, you’d expect a piece of kit with the utmost durability – and they certainly deliver. Designed for combat, holographic sights, at a bare minimum, will weather fire, water, and bombs – with ease!
Holographic sights can even continue to be operational with the front window smashed, damaged, or covered in mud. With that, it’s fair to say that holographic sights are far more practical on the durability front!
It is battery life where the red dots truly excel in terms of durability. The cheapest models promise a battery life of two to three years, which is still exceptionally good. But some of the more expensive red dot sights can function on the same battery for up to 50,000 hours of continuous usage.
Red dot sights excel completely over the battery life of holographic sights, which averages at about 500 hours, with a maximum of 1,000 hours.
With that in mind, as long as they remain undamaged, red dot sights are more durable in terms of battery life.
Overall, both holographic and red dot sights have their pros and cons, rendering it difficult to determine which form of firearm optic truly has the advantage over the other.
In terms of recreational use, the red dot is really all needed, given its affordability, brightness settings, night vision, and extensive battery life. The holograph, too, has its advantages, including its accuracy, durability, and faster target acquisition.