Do Red Dot Sights Work At Night? [Subtle Things To Notice]

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Do red dot sight work at night?

Of course it does. Red dot sight of all models and sizes work at night regardless of lighting conditions.

The main discussion is how well can the shooter aim with a red dot at night.

Here are a couple of factors to take into account:

  • Reticle acquisition
  • Manage brightness settings
  • Target illumination & identification

Pick up the red dot is the same during the day and at night. 

Rifle is the easiest and pistol requires more practice.

Red Dot Brightness Settings Matter In Low Light

Red dot brightness settings matter because the dot may appear too bright or too dim under different lighting conditions. 

Check out these field examples below:

Dusk

red dot brightness too high

77 yards

The reticle brightness is dialed up too high, and it obscures the steel target. It will be even harder to see if further away.

red dot reticle brightness dusk

The reticle brightness is dialed down, and the shooter can ID the steel target much better.

sig romeo 5 with juliet 4 red dot magnifier side view

A magnifier scope is your friend! Try it to aim better at night if the shooter has to zero the optic or for positive target ID down range.

Check out this quick 12 sec video demo: 

Difference between a bright & dim 1 MOA reticle in low light

Under Low Light (Indoor)

If there is enough to see what the shooter needs to see, just dial the brightness slightly down to a happy medium.

holosun 510c pov reticle

Positive Target Identification

Long Distance (Using a weapon light)

Always identify the target and what's behind before sending rounds down range.

  • Reticle may obscure the target if it's too bright (Relative to how far away)
  • Even worse experience for shooters with poor eye sight 

Highly recommend using a high candela weapon light to ID targets far away, but AVOID dialing up the the brightness setting too high at night, because this will happen:

eotech 68 moa ring reticle bright with cloud defensive rein

Dial down the brightness on the 68 MOA ring reticle, and now the shooter ID what's down range better.

eotech 68 moa ring reticle dimmed with cloud defensive rein

Editor's Recommendation:

In the popular "Aimpoint Micro VS EOTech" or "Ring reticle VS single dot" debates, a small 1 or 2 MOA dot works better for the following reasons:

  • Precise aiming point
  • Doesn't cover up targets much (depend on target sizes & distance)
  • Uncluttered sight picture
  • Less information for the eye to process

Common FAQ

Dealing With Emitter Starburst & Blurry Reticle

red dot brightness dialed up too high

Emitter starburst and emitter diode reflection can covers up the entire field of view.

The simple fix is to dial down the brightness.

For shooters with astigmatism, please click here to read about how to fix a blurry reticle.

shooters with astigmatism see this
astigmatism eyes looking at night

Reality: Most people have varying levels of astigmatism, and not everyone's eye balls are perfectly spherical, so light entering the cornea will refract. 

Fun fact - A bigger dot size tends to have less starburst effect, less dot smear, and appears to be much rounder for shooters with astigmatism.

So a 6 MOA dot will appear much bigger and rounder than a 3 MOA dot without having to dial up the brightness too much.

Tips - Transitioning Between Daylight & Low Light

  • Always readjust the reticle brightness 
  • Try red dots with automatic brightness sensors
  • Use a red dot with neutral glass tint to appear brighter
  • Dial reticle brightness when ready to transition from highly lit area into a low light area
  • Dial down reticle brightness to eliminate emitter starburst effect under low light
  • Dial the reticle brightness to the sweet spot when using a weapon light

Wrap Up

  • Night time reticle acquisition is the same way as under daylight
  • Where the shooter aims is where the bullet is going
  • Use a weapon light to identify targets at night
  • Avoid emitter glare reflection on the glass
  • Shooters with astigmatism will still see a blurry reticle
  • Close up weapon light use may wash out the reticle if its set too dim