Pistol red dots have exploded, and in a short period of time, they have gone from competition centric concepts to a full-on duty and concealed carry worthy concept. Most major optic’s companies have produced pistol red dots in various configurations and sizes. We’ve gathered the very best from a crowded market to share with you.
On top of that, we’ve also put together a short guide all about pistol red dots. That way, you have a better understanding of what you are getting into.
What Makes a Pistol Red Dot
How does a pistol red dot differ from any other red dot? What makes a pistol red dot a pistol red dot? Early on, mini red dots were adopted into the role, but these days mini red dots are made expressly for the purpose of pistol use. Early mini red dots, like the Trijicon RMR Type 1, were not made for pistols and would eventually die on the slides of pistols.
Pistols put a lot of G forces on an optic due to their reciprocating slides, and that can destroy an optic. Pistol red dots, like the RMR Type 2, are made to deal with that force without shutting off, breaking, or dying a sad death.
Pistol red dots also need to be small enough to squeeze onto a pistol slide. This keeps things tight size-wise. These optics can be too heavy, and they could interrupt the cycling of the slide, and obviously, adding more weight to a handgun is rarely desirable.
A pistol red dot is a purpose-built design that needs to be durable, compact, and lightweight.
Best Pistol Red Dot Optics
Red Dot Sights
|Pistol Red Dot||Details||Check Price||Mobile Bottom Line|
Best for Beginners
#1 Trijicon RMR: Editor’s Choice
The most trusted pistol red dot optics system available today.
Final Grade : A
The Trijicon RMR was one of the first pistol red dots to gain mass appeal and respect. Trijicon’s efforts often result in bombproof optics, and the RMR is no different. The Trijicon RMR is a mini red dot designed for duty sized pistols.
The Trijicon RMR is the most trusted pistol red dot among armed professionals in police and military circles.
The RMR comes in what feels like dozens of different variants with multiple reticle color, size, and shape options. The simplest and most effective for a handgun is the red 6.5 MOA dot.
Trijicon RMR Specs
|Reticle||3.25 or 6.5 MOA Dot|
This big dot makes it easy to get on target and put lead where it needs to be. The RMR’s crisp reticle is hard to beat. It’s a fast and efficient design that’s more than proven itself over a long service life with various police and military units. The RMR is a duty grade optic that’s the gold standard for pistol red dots.
Trijicon RMR Pros and Cons
- Bomb Proof Durability
- Crisp and Clear Dot
- Versatile Reticle Sizes
- Bottom loading battery
#2 Holosun 507k: Best Micro
Good things really can come in small packages.
Final Grade : A
Micro pistol red dots are a new category for pistol red dots and are aimed at subcompact pistols.
This includes guns like the Hellcat, the P365, and the Glock 43/43X/48 series pistols. These ultra-small red dots are a small category so far, but the Holosun 507K has outshined the competition.
I keep the 507K on my SIG P365, and it’s made me a faster, more accurate shooter in a short period of time.
The 507K has proven itself to be very versatile and well built, capable of withstanding the use and abuse a small pistol is put through.
Holosun 507k Specs
|Reticle||2-32 MOA Circle – Dot and Circle|
The 507K is also incredibly small, with CCW in mind. The 507K comes with a 50K hour battery life, a side-loading battery, and 12 total brightness settings. These 12 settings include two-night vision options.
The mini 507K comes packed with three reticle choices, including a small 2 MOA dot, a 32 MOA circle, and a combination of the circle and dot. Versatile options give you an effective red dot for any need. The 507K’s small size and budget-friendly price tag disguise a good degree of performance.
Holosun 507k Pros and Cons
- Versatile reticles
- Sideloading battery
- Super small size
- Small window
#3 Aimpoint Acro: Most Reliable
A crisp reticle and ultra-accuracy make this red dot a real contender.
Final Grade : A
The RMR is an ultra-reliable option for red dots, but the Aimpoint Acro is just a hair more reliable due to its closed emitter design.
Most red dots feature an open emitter that creates the dot you see on the lens. If anything gets between the emitter and dot, the dot disappears. It’s rare something like this happens, but it could happen.
The Aimpoint’s enclosed emitter prevents this from happening and drastically reduces the chances of any failure. Aimpoint originated the modern red dot, and without a doubt, they are the premier red dot company.
Aimpoint Acro Specs
|Reticle||3.5 MOA Dot|
The Acro does nothing less than rule. I’ve been running it on my Glock 17 MOS and love how well done the buttons are, how crisp the dot is, and easy it is to hit targets at 50 yards.
The 3.5 MOA dot is well-sized for use on a handgun. It’s big enough to catch the eye but small enough for precision shots. The Acro packs ten brightness settings with NVD compatibility and a blindingly bright reticle at the higher settings. The Acro is built to last and is strong enough to take some serious abuse.
Aimpoint Acro Pros and Cons
- Highest Reliability
- Ultra-bright reticle
- Ergonomic controls
- Lower than average battery life
#4 Burris Fastfire 3: Best Budget Blaster
Burris Fastfire III
Good quality at an even better price tag.
Final Grade : B
The Fastfire 3 was one of the first pistol red dots I ever purchased, and in my years of ownership, it became my default go-to optic for reviewing guns. If a gun doesn’t have sights, the Fastfire 3 gets tossed on.
It’s outfitted shotguns, rifles, and several optic’s ready pistols.
Needless to say, this budget based optic has always surprised me.
It’s lasted through years of abuse, re-zeroing, and generally being used haphazardly, and it still keeps on ticking.
Burris Fastfire III Specs
|Reticle||3 or 8 MOA Dot|
The Fastfire 3 is a very simple optic with a single button control, three brightness settings, and an automatic mode. Three brightness levels aren’t much, but each setting is appropriate for low light, indoor, and outdoor daylight use. The battery loads through the top, and it comes with a 3 MOA or 8 MOA red dot.
The glass is surprisingly clear with a minimal blue tint. It does provide a very battery life as I’ve used it extensively and never swapped batteries. The Burris Fastfire 3 is far from fancy, but the simplistic design does lend itself to a budget-friendly price tag without sacrifices in the reliability department.
Burris Fastfire III Pros and Cons
- Clear lens
- Single-button Controls
- Only three brightness levels
#5 Leupold Deltapoint Pro: Best Lens
Leupold Deltapoint Pro
The best lens and clarity you’ll find for your pistol red dot.
Final Grade : A
By their very nature, pistol red dots have a very small field of view, at least when compared to long gun optics.
With two eyes opened, it’s rarely a serious issue, but Leupold wanted to give shooters a better option with the Deltapoint Pro.
The Deltapoint Pro features the biggest and clearest lens of any pistol red dot I’ve ever used.
The Deltapoint Pro is also built to last with extensive testing done by Leupold’s punisher machine to ensure proper reliability regardless of recoil.
Leupold Deltapoint Pro Specs
|Reticle||2.5 MOA Dot|
The DPP has a stainless steel shroud and a fog and shockproof design to allow it to stand up to the most demanding of users.
The DPP is not the smallest optic but is surprisingly lightweight. Leipold stepped up their design and ensured the design is as efficient as it is durable. The motion-sensing shake awake technology ensures the optic is off when you don’t need it and fired up when you do. This saves battery and delivers outstanding performance. The Leupold Deltapoint Pro is a duty grade optic designed to last.
Leupold Deltapoint Pro Pros and Cons
- Wide and clear viewing window
- Crisp Dot
- Hardcore durability testing
#6 Holosun 507C: Best for Beginners
A well-rounded red dot sight for new shooters and those starting with red dots.
Final Grade : A
The Holosun 507C is the big brother to the 507K and offers the same three versatile reticle options.
Those three options become much more versatile in this pistol red dot.
If you are unsure about a pistol red dot, the 507C might be your best option.
It’s not only a great pistol red dot, but if you change your mind, you can easily toss the 507C on a rifle or shotgun and have a very capable red dot.
The 507C is also perfect for those with astigmatism.
Holosun 507C Specs
|Reticle||2 MOA Dot – 32 MOA Circle – Circle and Dot|
Astigmatism causes normal red dots to appear washed out and hard to see. But the 507C’s 32 MOA circle appears clear and concise. The 507C offers red or green reticles, as well as a side-loading battery, 12 total settings including 2-night vision settings, and shake awake technology.
Shake awake, combined with a solar panel, gives you battery life that’s near unbeatable. The Holosun 507C uses the Trijicon RMR footprint, which allows the 507C to be used on a wide variety of mounts to accommodate the optic on a wide variety of guns. The low price point and versatile design make the 507C the perfect choice for beginners.
Holosun 507C Pros and Cons
- Versatile reticle design
- Solar panel and shake awake features
- Heavier than most
Why Red Dots on Pistols Rule
If you are still on the fence about a pistol red dot, let’s talk about the benefits they offer. A red dot equipped pistol will be faster, more accurate, and more precise at longer ranges. The same benefits it offers a rifle is offered to a handgun.
There are no sights to align with a red dot. Put the dot on the target and pull the trigger. It’s faster by a long shot. The small red dot also allows you to better see your target at ranges, making it more accurate and precise. Also, a red dot completely eliminates sight radius issues with small guns.
Using a red dot feels more natural than iron sights, believe it or not. With a red dot, you are focused on the target; with iron sights, you focus on the front sight. No other weapon in human history has required you to focus on the sights more than the target. Swords, spears, and even ancient longbows put your focus on the threat. The red dot does the same thing.
This makes it easier to track a target, to react to changing situations, and to effectively engage your threat. Red dots take time to learn and focus on, but they are well worth the training investment.
Pistol red dots come in two sizes, standard and micro. Both are small compared to other red dots. Standard sized red dots are the most common type of pistol red dot. These are made for double stack pistols designed for duty, but subcompact pistols based on duty sized guns like the Glock 26 can accommodate standard-sized red dots. These larger red dots tend to be more versatile off of a handgun and can accommodate more mounting systems.
Micro red dots are made for subcompact single stack pistols like the SIG P365 or Springfield Hellcat. These micro-sized red dots are superbly small and lightweight. There are only a few companies producing them at the moment, and they tend to be optics that only work on handguns.
Reticle size for these optics is measure in MOA and can range anywhere from 2 MOA to 9 MOA on average. With handguns, moderate-sized dots usually work best. You want a dot that is easy to see and find without the presence of a stock. Larger reticles are typically quicker to see and get on target. Smaller dots are better for more precise shots at longer ranges.
Choosing your reticle’s size is important and more of a focus on what you like to use and feel fits your needs. I’m a middle of the road guy. A 3.5 MOA red dot is easy to use and well suited for various ranges on the handguns I carry daily. Subcompact pistols tend to be better served with bigger reticles since long-range use isn’t necessary, and speed is the most critical form factor in their use.
Battery Compartment Location
Pistol red dots are teeny tiny fellas, and therefore they have to be creative with where they place their battery. There are three main options for installing a battery.
Top Loading – Top loading batteries typically fit behind the lens in the body of the optic. Swapping batteries is convenient and quick with little issues. Top loading batteries can be larger and provide a longer battery life.
Bottom Loading – Bottom loading batteries require you to remove the optic to swap batteries. This involves a rezero, potential issues with stripping bolts, and plenty of Loc Tite needs to be applied. Larger batteries can also be used with bottom loading designs.
Side Loading – Sidel loading batteries have a tray that is easy to remove and swap batteries with. You are limited to smaller batteries more often than not.
When choosing an optic, you have to consider the mounting footprint it uses. When attaching an optic to the slide of a handgun, you aren’t using a normal mounting system like Picatinny. You are often screwing the optic directly to the slide.
The slide has to be milled to accommodate the optic, and there are a variety of ‘footprints’ out there to accommodate various optics. I would love the industry to standardize, but alas, here we are. We have three big formats worth mentioning and tying optics to.
The Docter Footprint – This is the most popular footprint out there and will accommodate the widest variety of optics. Optics that fit this footprint include:
- Docter/Noblex Mini Red dots
- Vortex Viper
- Vortex Venom
- Burris Fastfire 2
- Burris Fastfire 3
- Sightmark Mini Shot Pro Spec
- Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec
- Leica Tempus
The second most common is the Trijicon RMR Standard and will work with the following dots.
- Trijicon RMR
- Trijicon SRO
- Holosun HS407C and 507C
- Holosun HS508T
- Riton X3 Tactix PRD
- Swampox Kingslayer
The third is the Shield format, which is popular with micro sights and standard sights to include.
- Shield RMS / RMSc / RMSw
- Shield SMS
- Holosun 507K/407K
The final footprint is the full sized DeltaPoint Pro footprint from Leupold.
- Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
- Sig Sauer Romeo Zero
Optics like the Aimpoint Acro, the Meopta red dots, and a few more utilize various proprietary mounts. Aimpoint, in particular, has been very good at releasing plates for various adapters to fit the Acro on every popular handgun platform.
Dedicated Footprint vs Mount
Pistol red dot sights can either attach directly to your slide via the above footprints of through a variety of mounts. This can be a contentious conversation, but I can break it down quite simply.
If you are going to be using the firearm for defensive purposes then get a milled slide with a dedicated footprint for your optic. A slide with a milled footprint is the best overall option. The optic sits lower, it’s attached directly, and therefore more securely, and it ensures compatibility with suppressor height iron sights.
The second best option is the universal style designs like the Glock MOS Plate system. This plate system has a milled slide with various plates to accommodate various optics. These systems place the optic a little higher and tend to be okayish. You have to ensure your attachment bolts are long enough to securely seat the optic.
Many are too short and can cause the optic to become dismounted. For this reason one needs to be cautious with this style of mounting system. They are far from perfect but do offer an affordable option for mounting optics from a factory ready gun. These are fine for competition and hunting, but when your life’s on the line I’d prefer a dedicated milled footprint.
If you go this route, ensure Loc tite is applied, you have adequate length screws and you shoot a good bit to make sure everything is tight prior to settling the gun and optic into a defensive role.
Lastly there are a variety of mounts that replace your rear sight with a plate or even a picatinny rail. These are not suitable for defensive use. They place the optic way higher than necessary, eliminate your ability to use a rear iron sight, and are generally bulky and thin. They can bend easily and if they are bent your zero is gone. These are okay for fun guns, but have no place on a proper defensive pistol.
Chasing the Dot
Adding a red dot to your pistol isn’t a cheap venture, but it’s well worth the cost of admission. It’s likely the best upgrade you could make to your pistol. With proper training and practice, you’ll be amazed at how much an optic can open up your shooting potential.
I personally adore red dots on pistols; as you can see, I can run my mouth on them for near forever.
Let’s turn it over to your fine folks; what do you think about pistol based red dots?
Any experience? Any favorites?
Let us know below.
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