6 Best Red Dot Sights For Shotguns - Works for Pump & Semi-Auto
12 GA shotguns are the most common home defense weapon for its sheer devastating stopping power.
When it's paired with a red dot sight, you can increase the accuracy of the shotgun platform, and they're lightweight and helps with target acquisitions.
In this article, we are going to recommend 6 best red dot sights for shotgun applications; also, we're going to cover topics about the effective range of pellets and how to zero your red dot sight effectively.
6 Best Red Dot Sights For Shotguns
All the recommended red dot sights will range from $350 to $700. Shotgun recoil is very violent, so a weakly built optic tends to break easily after repeated sharp recoil, therefore buying a durable red dot optic is important to your shotgun setup.
Shotgun Red Dot Practical Applications
The shotgun is very versatile and effective for home defense. People give shotguns less credit for being accurate at long range, and that's a false belief that needs to change.
The practical applications of using a red dot sight on a shotgun are to help the shooter acquire target quicker and shoot more accurately with confidence.
- Home Defense - A home defense shotgun equipped with a tight choke is optimized for reaching more than 25 yards with a tight 4 - 5 inch buckshot spread can be extremely deadly on a human-size target.
- Hunting - Perfect for hunting birds, turkeys, and other animals if you have to do it in improvised positions. Hunt more animals at a close and long-range up to 60 yards accurately than with an over-sized bead sight.
- Competition shooting - Speed and accuracy are everything in a match, so having parallax free and shoot with both eyes open are important in an open division match. (Open division is the only one that allows the use of red dot sights on shotguns)
If you're not sure, please check out rules on 3gunnation.com here.
Top Shotguns With Red Dots
Benelli M2 and M4 are the two most iconic semi-auto shotguns in history. They have been featured in video games and movies for the past 20 years including the John Wick movie, where they really showed off some cool 12 GA moves!
Not only this thing is cool in the media, but it is actually a badass 12GA shotgun adopted by the USMC.
A shotgun is a popular choice for hunting. The same advantages of using a red dot sight for home defense is the same for hunting.
Shooting with both eyes open gives you more situational awareness, which is important in hunting scenarios.
The Molot VEPR 12 is a magazine-fed semi-auto shotgun and it’s super popular right now in the shotgun competition world.
With an effective range up to 100 yards with a slug and 40 yards with bird shots, shooting steels and clay with a fine-tuned red dot equipped VEPR 12 is fast and fun.
Check out other red dot optics here.
It's best to optimize red dot zero based on one type of ammo and barrel length, and this is where you need to do a lot of testing to find out what works the best.
WARNING: Shotgun performance and pellet patterns vary across the board. Please avoid pellet liability by testing for the best and effective shot groups for your shotgun.
Effective Range of Buckshot Pellets
People usually wonder if the buckshot pattern is tight enough to make a red dot sight useful on a shotgun.
Tight pattern buckshot pellets can hit on average up to 50 yards, and some can reach 100 yards with significant penetration power up to 9 to 13" depth, but what about their accuracy in terms of pellet groups.
Using #1 and #00 2.75" buckshots, they can travel at around 1200 fps, they have a lot of mass and power behind it and based on testing:
- 3 to 5 yards - Hitting a human-size target 20 to 27" width with 100% of the pellets landing in one spot is very easy. When using a 3 to 6 MOA size red dot sight, where you aim is where the pellets are going.
- 6 to 10 yards - The pellets spread about 4 - 5 inches apart
- 12 - 15 yards - 7 - 9 inches apart
Note: Zero your home defense up to 15 is more than enough for home defense shooting distances
- 50 yards - Roughly 30% of the pellets will land on the target and the rest will not, in other words, 3 pellets out of 8 hit the target is like three 9mm bullets landing on the target.
- It can be effective, but those missing pellets will cause liability if you're not paying attention to the target's surroundings. For home defense scenario, this is very important to know exactly how wide the pellets patterns behave before unintentionally hitting things you don't want.
Not all pellets will hit the desired location on the target, but enough pellets will land at the spot you're trying to hit. The next question is how many shots you need to send to stop a threat if this is a home defense situation.
Recommended Buckshot Ammo
- Federal Tactical Flitecontrol
- Federal Power Shok
- Winchester Super-X
How Accurate Can A Slug Hit?
A slug round is handy if you want to extend the range of the shotgun or in situations where stopping power and penetration is very important. The effective range of the 2.75" slug at 1400 to 1800 fps can reach 60 - 100+ yards.
Dot Size Selection For A Shotgun
When picking a dot size for shotgun, the best size is between 3 MOA to 12 MOA. Not many optics offer dot sizes past 6 MOA, and the reason why we pick a bigger MOA is that the nature of using shotguns at close range using 12 Gauge shells.
- Recommended for medium-range shooting: 2 MOA
- Recommended for slugs: 1 MOA
- Recommended for competition shooting: 3 - 8 MOA (Electronic red dot sights are not allowed)
Wide Field Of View Peaks Your Situational Awareness
A wide field of view is everything for a close quart weapon system. The wider you view is when using a shotgun makes you more aware of your surroundings, and you want a sight that is low profile so that you can easily scan your environment, which is important for home defense, hunting, and competition.
This is also very helpful for hunters who need to aim down the sight quickly and still be able to hit the moving target up close.
If the optic size is too big and blocks the shooter's ability to see, then please don't use it for a shotgun.
Image Referenced TFB
I like my shotgun sights as small as possible to keep it low profile. The Trijicon SRO and RMR are perfect size micro red dot for a tactical shotgun or a hunting gun.
There is no point in mounting something like an EOTech or Aimpoint PRO on a shotgun because they're too big.
Weight & Construction
The optics recommended above are the same ones recommended to rifles because they're lightweight and durable.
Keeping the optic light is important for a shotgun because it's inherently heavy, so keeping the weight down helps a lot.
The strongest optic is the Aimpoint Micro series red dot sights for being compact, enclosed body design and extremely durable.
The more affordable ones we recommend are the Holosun 403R.
For home defense purposes, the battery is essential for staying on long enough to be ready for anything. 50,000 hrs is the industry standard for a high-quality red dot optic, which we highly recommend only using the Aimpoint Micro.
Putting a low-end optic on a home defense shotgun setup is not recommended. Your life is more important than saving a couple of hundred dollars on a tool that can keep you alive in the fight.
If the dot died when you needed it most, unless you can quickly remove the optic and resume the right, the optic would be merely dead weight and a distraction.
You're not able to aim for having a dead battery, which makes you a liability in your gunfight.
So pick the Aimpoint Micro for the best battery performance.
Many shotgun top receivers can accept either a dedicated optic mount or a weaver style mounting system. Tactical shotguns usually come with a 1913 Picatinny top rail, which accepts almost all QD and other types of optic mount on the market.
Most important things to consider
- Is the site sitting too tall or low?
- Do I have to continually adjust my head position to center my eye to the optic?
- Get the most durable mount, so the optic stays tight on the shotgun
Note: For shotgun with ribs, please check out the Aimpoint Micro S-1 with a dedicated ribs mount.
Use The Best Red Dot For Heavy Recoil Shotguns
Recoil proof is very important for a red dot sight mounted on a shotgun. A 12 gauge buckshot or an FMJ slug produces a lot of recoils that violently shakes the whole gun and also pushes the recoil onto the shooter's shoulder.
It's way more than a 45ACP, and the electronics inside the optic could experience damage if they're not high quality.
The best optic for retaining optic zero on a shotgun is Trijicon RMR or Aimpoint Micro.
On the lower end, the HoloSun 403R is highly recommended for having the same performance and looks as an Aimpoint Micro, and it's much cost-effective.
Not everyone has $700 to spend on an optic for a shotgun that costs probably only $350 besides the Trijicon RMR and Aimpoint Micro-optics for home defense and three gun competition.
The HoloSun 403R is the best for anyone who has just a $300 budget.
The shotgun is a powerful defensive weapon, and it can reach far and hurt someone in a very nasty way. Adding a red dot helps the home defenders, hunters, and competition shooters to acquire the target faster and shoot more accurately.
Parallax free gives the shooter tremendous advantage to take an accurate shot without fully aligning the sight or cheek weld, which is essential when shooting from improvised positions.
Depend on what type of shotgun ammo you use, and a 3 - 8 MOA sizes dot are big enough to cover targets at distances of 15 - 50 yards. They're easy to pick up for any close quarter types of shooting.
Trijicon RMR and Aimpoint Micro are the 2 top optics for home defense, and the Aimpoint Micro S-1 is dedicated to hunting shotgun with ribs.
The Holosun 403R is for someone who wants the same performance by spending less money.
Read More: Best Combat Optics For Benelli M4 & M2