Does everyone need a $500-$750 red dot sight?

Does everyone need a $500-$750 red dot sight?

A question has come to mind lately about the various product offerings out in the firearm world… particularly red dot sights.

We are all on different budgets and have different shooting goals. My goal is to become a good mid range shooter. I purchased an ACOG. Finally.

However this blog’s goal is to discuss the AR15 as a rifleman’s weapon. You don’t need an ACOG to be a rifleman, you need an understanding of your rifle, ammunition, and fundamentals of marksmanship. Tied into all that is your choice of sighting system.

One trend that consumers have readily adopted are the assorted variables and red dot sights. Many companies offer these products in entry-level price points (a step above much of the cheaper chinese optical junk) and as a shooting community we have adopted them en mass. The large amount of competition in this market means there are products with very competitive price points.

These products tend to be at the  $200-300 dollar sweet spot for new AR15 owners looking at their first upgrade.

My First Accessory ®

The low price and value standpoint really grab a new shooter’s attention. Depending on which forum you visit, you will see others encourage the “good enough” low price point stuff where in other forums you will get INTERNET YELLED AT to save your money for optic X, Y, or Z. Yes, ultimately you should buy quality… buy once cry once… but we all know that there are some things that are tough as hell yet don’t cost much to manufacture. Kalashnikov anyone? British Sten? 20 Dollar LED wristwatches that last for decades?! Ultimately there is a point where tech and design reach their peak.

So I got to thinking about those red dots.  We have had LED’s for decades. Electronics in general are smaller and more durable. The generic red dot sight design has been perfected now for *many* years. The question is, have we crossed a technology threshold where the simple red dot can be designed with a minimum standard of quality and not-self destruct on top of our hard use AR15’s?

The AK of Red Dots, Are You Out There?

So for a new shooter, I want to recommend items that will help ease their transition from casual or hobby shooter to a more serious shooter. There are certainly red dots and variables that will carry a new shooter through this phase and still be reliable and durable as they start getting more serious about shooting. The key here is to navigate the crap entry level optics from the durable ones. Where is the AK of red dots?

I am focusing this discussion on red dots because they are simple machines. Two adjustments (elevation, windage) and a mounting screw. Battery. Certainly some of these simple machines are durable enough to hold our confidence even if SHTF without spending $500 smackers on a T1? Maybe?

I am embarking on a review series to test middle of the road red dot sights. I am looking for the “Everyman’s optic” if there ever were such a thing. If we are to be a nation of riflemen, we need to be able to encourage people to get gear that will suit their budget and skill level while having some cash left over for the important things… ammo and practice. That will ultimately make a shooter a rifleman faster than a fancy piece of gear.

You brought your backup iron sights right?

You know… Just in case.  🙂

Look for some reviews soon.

Written by lothaen


  1. Recce Rifleman · October 30, 2013

    I think it is the natural evolution a person goes through as a rifleman and even simply as a gun owner:
    1. The first optic so often is the low-budget $30 – $50 optic.
    2. When that one breaks, the rifleman comes to the conclusion that a more expensive optic is a better choice… but (s)he still wants to spend no more than necessary.
    3. If something ever happens to that mid-priced optic, then the person grows to the top-tier optic.

    Fortunately, there are a number of mid-priced optics (red dots and low-power fixed scopes) that are fairly well made in the $150 – $300 range. I’ve owned optics by Vortex, Primary Arms, and others that were just fine. I’ve shot a friend’s gun which sported a Burris 332.

    Still, once you’ve shot with an ACOG or Aimpoint, it is really hard to go back. There is no comparison when it comes to solidity of build and clarity of glass.

  2. lothaen · November 1, 2013

    Your points carry over to many new shooters. It is a hard sell to get them to buy A) used and B) well known optics. I think that optics, more than any other accessory, can cause sticker shock to shooter just starting out.

    If anyone out there wants to incrementally upgrade I understand. Not everyone wants to shell out 500 smackers or more for what can be had elsewhere for 100 dollars, but people will need to adjust their expectations to suit the lower price tag.

    A budget optic may function fine for years, but just expect that it may have a higher rate of failure than the companies which produce products with a high level of quality control.

    I want people to find value… sure. I don’t want to mislead people though. We might find a tough and budget friendly optic in product x,y,or,z… but some products take away all doubts as to their reliability. See Aimpoint for example. It’s hard for other companies to break through to that precedent.

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