4 Best Red Dot Optics For Carbines [AR, SCAR, SIG MCX & More]

Referenced Movie Helios

No matter what types of rifle carbine you have, you need an optic for it. In this buyer’s guide, we focus on bringing you the best red dot optics for a tactical carbine like the AR15, Sig MCX, FN SCAR 16, and others.

The most popular ones are Trijicon MRO & Leupold LCO on the market for its large objective lens and reduced “tube effect” great for CQB types of shooting.

At the end of this article, you will know the top 6 red dot sights dominating the market right now, what to get and what to look for when shopping for one.

So let’s start!

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Best Red Dot Sights for Tactical Carbines [Comparison Chart]

Optic
Our Best Pick
Trijicon MRO
Aimpoint Micro T1
Holosun HS403R
Leupold LCO
Trijicon MRO-C-2200005 1x25mm Miniature Rifle Optic (MRO) Riflescope with 2.0 MOA Adjustable Red Dot Reticle with Full Co-Witness Mount
Aimpoint 200055 Micro, T-1 (2 MOA No Mount-Cardboard Box)
HOLOSUN HS403R Micro Reflex Sight, Black, 2 MOA Red Dot, 10DL & 2NV Brightness Settings, Rotary Switch, Multi-Layer Coating, Waterproof IP67, w/Lower 1/3 Height Mount & Low Base, CR2032, 100,000 hrs
Leupold Carbine Optic (LCO) Red Dot Sight
Construction
7075 T6 AL
7075-T6 AL
6061 T6 AL
6061-T6 AL
Weight
4 - 6 oz
5 oz
3.53 oz
9.5 oz
Objective Lens
1X25mm
1X18mm
1X20mm
1X32mm
Dot Size
2 MOA
2 , 4 MOA
2 MOA
1 MOA
Reticle
Center Dot
Center Dot
Center Dot
Center Dot
MOA adjustment
0.5 MOA / Click
0.5 MOA / Click
0.5 MOA / Click
0.5 MOA / Click
Battery
CR2032 5 years
CR2032 5 years
CR2032 100K hrs
CR123A
Motion Activation
N/A
N/A
Yes
Yes
Mount
Aftermarket
Aftermarket
Aftermarket
Factory
Our Best Pick
Optic
Trijicon MRO
Trijicon MRO-C-2200005 1x25mm Miniature Rifle Optic (MRO) Riflescope with 2.0 MOA Adjustable Red Dot Reticle with Full Co-Witness Mount
Construction
7075 T6 AL
Weight
4 - 6 oz
Objective Lens
1X25mm
Dot Size
2 MOA
Reticle
Center Dot
MOA adjustment
0.5 MOA / Click
Battery
CR2032 5 years
Motion Activation
N/A
Mount
Aftermarket
Optic
Aimpoint Micro T1
Aimpoint 200055 Micro, T-1 (2 MOA No Mount-Cardboard Box)
Construction
7075-T6 AL
Weight
5 oz
Objective Lens
1X18mm
Dot Size
2 , 4 MOA
Reticle
Center Dot
MOA adjustment
0.5 MOA / Click
Battery
CR2032 5 years
Motion Activation
N/A
Mount
Aftermarket
Optic
Holosun HS403R
HOLOSUN HS403R Micro Reflex Sight, Black, 2 MOA Red Dot, 10DL & 2NV Brightness Settings, Rotary Switch, Multi-Layer Coating, Waterproof IP67, w/Lower 1/3 Height Mount & Low Base, CR2032, 100,000 hrs
Construction
6061 T6 AL
Weight
3.53 oz
Objective Lens
1X20mm
Dot Size
2 MOA
Reticle
Center Dot
MOA adjustment
0.5 MOA / Click
Battery
CR2032 100K hrs
Motion Activation
Yes
Mount
Aftermarket
Optic
Leupold LCO
Leupold Carbine Optic (LCO) Red Dot Sight
Construction
6061-T6 AL
Weight
9.5 oz
Objective Lens
1X32mm
Dot Size
1 MOA
Reticle
Center Dot
MOA adjustment
0.5 MOA / Click
Battery
CR123A
Motion Activation
Yes
Mount
Factory

Read More: How to shoot with red dot sight – Ultimate Guide


Top 5.56mm Combat Rifles People Buy Optics For

Top Mil-Spec Rated Optics For MK18 SBR

DD MK18 with EOTECH and PEQ2

MK18 rifles are popular for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) fans for its short barrel configuration. The faster maneuver, Lighter weight & More compact, which gives the shooter an advantage in vehicles and other tight spaces.

It’s basically a short barrel version of M4A1, suited for CQB military operations. Typically associated with special forces, VIP protection details, and other high profile government agencies.

But… it doesn’t mean civilians can’t have it. In fact you can buy one from your local gun shop today, pair it with an optic and go have some fun on the range.

Best PDW Optics For SIG MCX RATTLER

Rattler MCX with Sig ROMEO4S

The 5.5″ barrel Rattler MCX is designed for 300 AAC Blackout, with an effective range up to 100 yards, but definitely not past 150 to 200 even using supersonic 300 BLK ammo un-suppressed.

It’s definitely a CQB gun and you can use any optic, but we recommend is low profile ones that fit the PDW profile.

Something small and compact like a micro red dot used on pistol.


Leupold Carbine Optic (LCO) Red Dot Sight
  • Model #119691 - Carbine Optic (LCO) Red Dot with 1.0 MOA Dot reticle and Matte finish
  • 100% Waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.
  • 16 illumination intensity settings with off positions between each to allow quick return to a preferred brightness setting
  • Ultra-lightweight construction disperses recoil energy for unrivaled durability


Optic Accuracy & Toughness

FN SCAR 16 with Leupold LCO

Image Referenced Leupold

Any red dot optic recommended above will have absolutely no issue with accuracy on any weapon system whatsoever. As long as you mounted the optic on a high quality mount properly with a calibrated torque wrench to the exact torque spec.

This means any physical abuse, extreme temperature or sharp repeated recoil will not affect the optic’s accuracy at all.

For battle ready rifles like the MCX and SCAR, you should run these optics on them with confidence.

Strong Zero Retention

Rifle platforms like the AR15 or even the FN SCAR 16 produce a very small amount of recoil compared to a 7.62 X 51mm round. All the recommended optics above will not only hold zero, but they can hold zero even if you beat the crap out of them.

Some of these optics are rated to withstand recoil impulses way above the 5.56mm caliber cartridge, so if you’re picking a sight to do full-auto fire or hardcore training classes you will have no problem with any of them.

In addition, these recommended optics listed above can tolerate extreme high & low temperatures without any reticle thermal shift, which also means it is still accurate regardless of any weather condition.

NOTE: It’s NOT absolute MUST to have the most expensive red dot sight to retain zero & withstand repeated recoils, most budget sights over $150 can hold zero fairly well when paired with a good mount. Something like the Holosun series red dot sight can definitely do the job.


Minimized Scope Tube Effect

Trijicon mro on ar15 gif

Some old red dot sight designs like the Aimpoint Comp series have scope tube effect when you aim down the sight, which means it makes it the field of view kinda narrows as you’re looking through the optic.

This subtracts situation awareness from the optic if you’re doing the close-quarter type of shooting. Wide field of view optics like the Leupold LCO and Trijicon MRO have embraced the concept of a funnel body design that eliminated the tube effect, so you don’t see the optic view narrowing and you get maximized situational awareness.


Minimal Lens Tint

Red dot sight lens is the first thing you should look at because it can affect clarity. Generally speaking the lens tint isn’t a big deal until you put one next to another optic, then you will see the difference dramatically.

In the best-case scenario, you want a optic with super clear lens so that it doesn’t affect your viewing experience.

MOA & Brightness Adjustment

There are only three things you really need when checking out an optic’s MOA and brightness adjustment features.

  1. Can all the settings accommodate all the lighting conditions?
  2. How tight are each adjustment clicks? usually, that’s the first sign regarding the quality of the optic
  3. Easy to remove the protective cover in the field?

Out of all the optics we picked out above, all of them have a great feel in your hands and they’re easy to adjust in the field without special tools. However, the Aimpoint Micro has me concerned for its proprietary MOA adjuster tool, which also serves as the protector cover.

If you lose it in the field and you can’t find it, then you can’t adjust the MOA clicks at all. You can’t even use a shell casing or a quarter to do the job unless you take off the other one of either the elevation or windage knobs.

Mount Options

SIG MCX elevated optic height

Image Referenced TREX ARMS

Depend on if you’re mounting your optic on the Sig MCX, FN SCAR 16 or the AR15, since short-stroke piston-driven rifles like the Sig MCX & SCAR 16 have higher top rail than a regular AR15, it lift up the optic height too for a good reason.

Depending on your normal cheek height on the MCX or the SCAR. I recommend getting an absolute co-witness height optic mount for the MCX & SCAR  in order to make it feel like a 1/3rd co-witness sight on the rifles. In my opinion, the Sig MCX & the SCAR have way better mount height flexibility than the standard AR15, as you have more wiggle room to account for wearing a facemask.

Trijicon MRO Geissele Optic Mount

Image Referenced Highjak86 (YouTube)

Having a durable optic body and a solid mounting system will ensure the optic stays tight on the rifle. Some optics like the Leupold LCO & Trijicon MRO come with factory default mount, and others require you to buy aftermarket optic mounts.

Aimpoint optics are known to be expensive, and they come without a mount.

Don’t worry! there are many great mounts out there, one brand, in particular, is the Scalarworks mounts.  All made out of 7075-T6 aluminum, super lightweight and affordable

If you’re looking for the best Aimpoint mounts please read the article below:

Read More: Best Aimpoint Red Dot Sight Mounts Under $150


MOA Size Selection – 2 MOA Is The Best

Red Dot Sight MOA Sizes

Red dot sight reticles come in many shapes and sizes, the most common is a circle dot.

Some of the important considerations when buying a red dot sight are the dot size, sharp, color. Then consider the engagement distances and the type of shooting you will be doing.

Dot Sizes

Based on years of experience, a 2 MOA dot size is the standard for most carbine rifles on the market. 2.5 MOA or higher are made for close-range shooting, and 1 MOA is optimal for long-range engagement because it has a finer dot for accuracy.

Make sure the dot sizes are big enough for you to easily see but not too large to obscure targets. Tactical rifles like the SCAR16 or Sig MCX are capable of reaching out to 300 meters or more, so a 1 MOA or 2.5 MOA dot sizes are perfect for them.

Leupold LCO

Reticle

The dot shape (AKA the reticle) is largely a personal preference. In my personal experience shooting the AR15 or the SCAR 16, a simple dot is more than enough.

However, if you want to engage long-distance targets, then I highly recommend getting a reticle pattern that allows you to estimate the target range and bullet drop. In this case, I recommend the HoloSun

Dot Color

Does the color of the dot matter?

Not necessarily!

The green dot is very popular on the market right now, which allows the shooter to pick up the dot faster with more clarity. From our testing experience, red is the best color all-around, but blue can be easier to see in certain bright-light conditions. It’s best to try a couple of different sights and see what you like.


Parallax Free Reticle

DD MK18 with Aimpoint Micro H1

When the optic spec tells you that their red dot sight has zero parallax, it really means it’s good enough but NOT completely. A parallax free reticle eliminates the need for the shooter to keep both eyes open without fully align with the sight.

Anywhere you place the red dot is where the bullet is going, which is a great feature for close quarter combat rifles where some times the shooter need to shoot in improvised shooting positions.

Out of all the recommended red dot optics such as the Aimpoint Micro has the best parallax up to 15 yards. Anything closer for example 2-4 yards, generally speaking, you will notice some vertical parallax shift as you move your head position around.

The Holosun 403R is also a good one for the affordable price you pay for.

Read More: Best Holosun Red Dot Sights For The Money


Long Battery Life Up To 50K Hours

Many shooters leave their red dot sight on for the entirety of the time they have it. So when you buy your first red dot sight for a tactical carbine, remember to get an optic that has as much battery life as possible so when you need it, it’s ready for you.

The absolute toughest red dot sights available are made by Aimpoint. Either the Aimpoint Micro or the Comp series, all have the longest battery life over 4 years. On some Aimpoint models, the battery life is up to 10,000 hours or about 5 years.

Note: Optics like the HoloSun 403R and the Leupold LCO have a motion sensor feature that activates the red dot as soon as you pick it up. When it sits still and quietly in the safe, it turns off for battery saving.

In fact, with a motion-activated red dot sight optic, you save plenty of battery as much as a red dot sight that doesn’t shut off at all.


Battle Proven Construction

7075-T6 forged aluminum is the toughest construction for a red dot sight, and the next down is the 6061-T6 aluminum. Aimpoint series red dot sights and Trijicon MRO are 7075-T6 optics, and they are considered the top of the line battle-proven optics for a very long time.

If having a tough as the Terminator is an important standard for a red dot sight on your home defense gun then we recommend the Aimpoint..

Millions of units are used world wide including law enforcement and elite military forces. For FN SCAR 16 & Daniel Defense MK18, then please go with the Trijicon MRO or the Aimpoint Micro as they’re the most publicized setup in the gun industry, for their lightweight and battle-proven qualities.

you can drop it, kick it, drag it behind a truck or bump into hard surfaces, they will not affect the accuracy of the red dot at all.

I have never seen any complaints about the Trijicon MRO or the Aimpoint quit working due to these physical abuses.


Light Weight Optic Under 6 oz Is Preferred

The weight of the optic is an important aspect of a red dot sight. For an AR15 style rifle whether being a direct impingement system or piston-driven like the Sig MCX & FN SCAR 16, optic weight is one of the things you need to pay attention to.

As you attach other tactical accessories like handheld flashlights or night vision devices on your rifle, the weight quickly adds up.

These optics above that are all low profile optics weighing less than 5 oz, which makes your rifle more maneuverable for better target acquisition speed.

Check Out More: Best Red Dot Optic For MK18


Target Acquisition Speed & Wide Field Of View

Aimpoint on Sig Sauer MCX

Image Referenced TREX ARMS

Using a low profile and minimum view obstruction red dot sight,  the shooter can easily acquire targets faster than with a magnified scope.  When using a short barrel SCAR 16 or MK18 style rifles, you expect to be in close-quarter so the speed is everything.

So for a home defense setup, a sight like the Trijicon MRO or Leupold LCO will give you so much view space, which allows you to keep your peripheral vision wide open and to engage targets faster as they appear.

When comparing a Trijicon MRO to Aimpoint Patrol, you can clearly see why the MRO has way better aim down the sight experience, where as the Aimpoint Patrol blocks much of your surroundings.


Final Thoughts on RDS For Tactical Carbines

These red dot optics are picked for the ultimate battle-proven warfighting rifles like the SCAR 16, Sig MCX type. We have listed why it’s important to have a lightweight, parallax-free and zero proof red dot sight for home defense fighting rifles.

The Trijicon MRO and the Aimpoint are for those that have tons of hobby money to spend, and they’re truly great.

For the Sig MCX and SCAR rifles, please use a co-witness height optic mount as they sit at a perfect height perfectly for your aim. For the AR15, use a 1/3rd co-witness is generally the most popular option.

Battery life on these optics is all great as they stay on ridiculously long to keep you in the fight.

I hope you find this content helpful and please checkout other content on our site.