Red Dot vs Holographic – Which Is Better

If you’re a firearm owner who frequently goes hunting or enjoys visiting the firing range, you know how important proper aim is, especially from long distances. And while you might have 20/20 vision, hitting a target from 100 yards out (or more), doesn’t always come easy. That’s why many gun owners like yourself rely on the help of a firearm sight. There is, however, an ongoing debate regarding red dot vs holographic sights, and which is more suitable for gun owners.

A firearm sight helps the shooter hit their target more accurately by lining up the muzzle of the firearm with the shooter’s line of vision. They are more commonly found on firearms that shoot single shots, such as rifles and handguns, and not usually found on pattern firearms such as shotguns. In this article, we will look at the specific types of sights, and determine how they are different, and the pros and cons of each.

What Are Red Dot Sights?

Red dot sights cover any kind of optic that zeroes in on a target using a red dot, or other reticles of the same variety. The three most common red dot sights are reflex sights, prism sights, and holographic sights. While all three variations are popular choices among firearms owners, reflex and prism sights are more similar in nature and differ substantially from the latter.

Convenience and Versatility of Reflex and Prism Sights

Reflex and prism sights are popular choices for firearm owners due to the fact that they are small and lightweight. This allows for some models to even fit on handguns. Reflex and prism sights are also convenient as they are quite inexpensive when compared to holographic sites. In fact, even the cheapest holographic sight still costs considerably more than a high-end reflex or prism sight.

Battery Life

Another major appeal that red dot sights have is their durable battery lives. Depending on the model you choose, you could have up to 50,000 usable hours on a single battery alone. This gives firearm owners the security of knowing they can leave their sight on and ready most times without having to worry about it failing when needed.

The Downsides of Red Dot Sights

Unfortunately, red dot sights, excluding holographic sights, have what is called a two-MOA (minutes of angle) reticle. This means red dot sights with this measurement would cover two inches on a target 100 yards out. Holographic sights on the other hand have a one-MOA reticle. Adding external magnification, which some firearms users like to do, will only increase your MOA. For example, magnifying a two-MOA reticle by three times converts it to a six-MOA.

Red dot sights also depend on the front lens to reflect the dot back to the person shooting. If the lens is damaged in any way, the sight loses all usability. While this applies to most sights, the holographic sight is exempt from this flaw. Overall, red dot sights like reflex and prism sights are ideal for firearm users that want something affordable, small, and with a battery that lasts longer.

What Is a Holographic Sight?

While a holographic sight is a part of the red dot sight family, it differs greatly from its counterparts due to the way it operates and the technology it uses. These differences translate into some key advantages. From a technological standpoint, a holographic sight functions with the use of lasers and mirrors, which projects a holographic reticle.

Advantages of Holographic Sights 

One big advantage of holographic sights is their ability to avoid the need to reacquire a target. This is because when using a holographic sight to zero in on a target downfield, the reticle projected from the sight will remain focused at all times. The contrary happens with other red dot sights, as the reticle blurs and loses focus entirely.

Another key advantage of holographic sights over their red dot counterparts is their ability to maintain a one-MOA when magnified. As stated earlier, when applying external magnification to a reflex or prism sight, the minutes of angle increases. However, this does not take place with a holographic sight. Therefore, even when applying a 3x magnification to a one-MOA holographic sight, no change in reticle size occurs. And, unlike reflex or prism sights, if the front lens of a holographic sight is damaged, the shooter can still get full usage from it. Holographic sights on the high-end of the spectrum also provide a range-finding feature, which allows the shooter to get an accurate distance of his or her target.

Disadvantages of Holographic Sights

While holographic sights come with an array of positive features, the fact of the matter remains, firearm owners will have to pay to enjoy them. Holographic sights are considerably more expensive than other sights, and the more features they provide, the more they will cost you. Another drawback of holographic sights, at least for some gun owners, is their size and weight.

While they aren’t exactly heavy to carry around, the extra technology it comes with does need more space than other red dot sights do. This makes them larger, and that may not work for some firearms. Furthermore, unlike prisms and reflex sights, a holographic sight has an average battery life of 500 hours. The difference is staggering and may cause a buyer to think twice if they typically need their weapon ready at all times.

Summing It Up

In reality, there is no right or wrong choice when asking the question of which type of sight is better. Both red dot sights and holographic sights have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, and, depending on what your needs are and the firearm you own, one may suit you better than the other. What can be said about both of these products is that they greatly increase a shooter’s ability to hit their target when used in the appropriate situations. Be sure to take a good look at each sight and see if it’s the ideal piece for your firearm.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.