There are pretty much unlimited options when it comes to choosing an optic for your firearm from iron sights, the old school 3×9 scope, LPVOs, etc.
Two of the most common, holographic sights and red dot sights, are sometimes confused despite their differences and unique qualities.
While they may seem similar at first, they are two entirely different types of optics.
Both red dot and holographic sights have benefits that users prefer on an individual basis and strengths that set them apart.
From here, we will explore the key differences between red dot sights and holographic sights as well as provide guidance on who should choose which option.
Red Dot Sights
While both red dot sights and holographic optics are similar, the main difference lies in the technology of how the reticle is created.
Red dot sights are non-magnifying optics that use LED to project a simple red or green dot onto a lens. This LED dot acts as a reticle, guiding the shooter’s aim.
Holographic sights use what is known as laser holography, which we will discuss more in depth in a moment. To give you an example of the red dot LED technology, the Tacticon Predator V2 reflex sight and Predator V4 compact reflex sight offers multiple LED reticle options to select from.
History of Red Dot Sights
Red dot sights date back to the late 1970s when the Swedish company Aimpoint introduced the first electronic red dot sight known as the Aimpoint Electronic.
Since then red dot technology has continued to evolve with various companies producing a range of different models and designs.
Advantages of a Red Dot Sight
There are many benefits intrinsic to red dot sights which is why they are popular with beginners, all the way to advanced and professional shooters.
Red dot sights yield themselves to quicker target acquisition because the user doesn’t have to align iron sights.
If you’re looking for an optic that allows for quick and accurate target acquisition in close quarters red dot sight is a great choice, especially compared to scopes or iron sights. Red dot sights are incredibly versatile and can be mounted on almost any firearm from handguns and shotguns to rifles.
Because of advanced technology red dot sights can now be made in small, light, compact packages. Our Predator V4 is small and vestal enough to be used on a rifle, shotgun, or pistol.
With such a range of sizes available, you can be sure to find the perfect red dot sight for whatever weapon you are shopping for.
Additionally, red dot sights are an ideal choice if you’re looking for a reliable, long lasting sight for your firearm. Not only do they come in a wide range of prices, but many models (including Tacticon Armament’s Predator V4) offer up to 50,000 hours of battery life on a single battery. That’s almost 6 years if left on continuously.
If you’re looking for something that can handle extreme conditions, higher end models like the Aimpoint T2 can be submerged up to 30 meters underwater. So whether you want quality and affordability in your red dot, or something more expensive and higher end that pulls out all the stops, there are many red dot sights out there that will fit your needs and budget.
Holographic sights use laser holography to create a hologram reticle within the sight’s viewing window. The hologram appears at a fixed distance from the shooter’s eye providing a parallax-free view of the target. Holographic sights are known for their advanced reticle options, low-light performance, and durability.
Holographic Sight History
Holographic sights were first introduced in the 1990s by the American company EOTech. The company’s first product, the EOTech 500 series revolutionized the optics market by offering a more advanced and accurate sighting system than traditional red dot sights.
Advantages of a Holographic Sight
Holographic sights excel in low light conditions making them a popular choice for law enforcement and the military. Holographic sights often feature more intricate reticle designs such as EOTech’s circle-dot reticle which lends itself to faster target acquisition and improved accuracy. The 68 MOA circle around the 1 MOA dot lends itself to rapid target acquisition in CQB, and the 1 MOA dot allows for great accuracy at distance.
Some holographic sights even offer night vision compatible modes that can be used with night vision goggles.
Built ruggedly with the military in mind, the holographic sight is designed to withstand harsh environments and heavy use. For example, Holographics utilize a front and rear window, which still operates even if the front window is broken or partially covered.
The sight is parallax-free, meaning its reticle will remain on target regardless of the shooter’s eye position, due to the complex wizardry of laser holography and how the laser is reflected and projected. This is an extremely important concept, I have been at the range with new shooters who are using a red dot sight and don’t realize their head position is moving the location of the dot on target ever so slightly.
However, for these reasons, holographic sights tend to be more expensive. They also take up a larger area on your rifle due to the overall size necessary to accommodate the intricate inner workings. Notability with size comes weight, but generally not that much.
Why Choose Red Dot Sight?
The simplicity of red dot sights makes them an excellent choice for those new to shooting or optics. The affordability of red dot sights is attractive to those looking for a cost-effective sighting solution. Further, the versatility of red dot sights allows them to be easily mounted on a variety of firearms.
Red dots are very popular, advanced shooters and the military still continue to use and love their red dots because they are comfortable and accurate with them.
Why Choose Holographic Sight?
The low light performance and durability of holographic sights make them well suited for professional use in dynamic situations like military and law enforcement environments. This is not at all to say red dots are useless in these situations due to adjustable brightness, but holographic sights really set the bar here.
There are more intricate reticle designs offered by holographic sights that can enhance target acquisition and accuracy in various shooting scenarios. The parallax-free nature of holographic sights can reduce aiming errors, making them a great option for those engaging in long-range shooting even compared to a traditional scope.
Many shooters with astigmatism have difficulty using a red dot, and often report the dot resembles a partial smudge (I just thought most red dot sucked until I found out I have astigmatism, yikes). I have no problem with holographic optics, and many 1 MOA red dots are just fine for me personally, so I wonder how much the size of the LED dot may affect astigmatism.
Optics are measured in terms of MOA corresponding to the size of the reticle display.
A simple illustration, a red dot sight with a one MOA recital will cover one inch of the target at 100 yards, and ½ inch at 50 yards. Red dots come in a variety of different sizes, generally 1-7 MOA options are available depending on the optic and its purpose.
Holographic sights are typically one MOA. This is important when it comes to using a magnifier attachment to enable a shooter to be more accurate at long range. Due to the intricate nature of a holographic sight, the reticle itself will not be magnified.
A red dot, however, will be magnified. This means that a one MOA red dot with a 3x magnifier will effectively become a 3 MOA red dot. At 100 yards this isn’t a very big deal, but at 250-300 yards will be.
MOA is a critical component of choosing an optic, weather for rifle, pistol, or shotgun it is important to understand what MOA means on a red dot.
Red Dot vs Holographic Optic FAQs
What is the difference between a red dot and holographic sight?
The projection method for the reticle display is the largest difference. Red dots work by providing a simple laser projection, whereas holographic sights utilize a complex method of light refraction through an intricate series of mirrors.
Why is my red dot blurry?
Red dots that are blurred, smeared, oblong, etc. general occur for two reasons. The first, it’s not me, it’s you, is that the red dot itself is a defective product. If you are a typical red dot user and don’t find this problem with other red dot sights than this is probably the case. Conversely, if this keeps happening it is likely you have some degree of astigmatism in that eye.
Why are holographic sights so expensive?
The price reflects two factors. The first is the complex nature of design and manufacturing that it takes to produce a reliable, high quality holographic sight. The second is that there are only two companies, EOtech and Vortex that are known for producing high quality, rugged, battle tested optics.
How to zero a red dot?
Zeroing a red dot, or really any optic requires a series of steps to ensure your point of aim matches the bullet’s point of impact. Begin with a properly mounted and secure sight, pick the distance you want the red dot to be zeroed at, and fire from a secure rest where the gun will not move. Fire 3-5 shots and assess where the point of impact is in relation to the point of aim. Make adjustments accordingly until you achieve the desired zero by repeating these steps.
Final Thoughts on Red Dot Sights vs Holographics
When choosing between a red dot and holographic sight it’s important to consider your specific needs, preferences, and budget.
Red dot sights are an excellent option for those who value simplicity, versatility, and affordability. In contrast, holographic sights offer advanced reticle options, better low-light performance, increased durability, and are also more effective under magnification for longer shots.
Do you have a preference? We would love to hear about it in the comments.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.