How To Shoot With Red Dot Sight – Ultimate Pro Shooter Guide

You just purchased an expensive carbine rifle and an optic, and you need to learn to use it like a pro!

Whether you have an AR, AK, Benelli M4, MP5 or a Classic M1 Garand, you can benefit a lot with a red dot sight.

I started out as a rookie nine years ago, knowing nothing about optics or even how to zero my rifle, now can confidently share some of those learning curves with you in this article. By the end of the article, you will learn how to choose a sight and how to use it practically.

Instead of talking nonsense shooting philosophy. I will share with you some of the most trusted optic brands in this industry and break down how to use it in this post.

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Perfect For Close And Medium Range Engagement

A pistol or a rifle caliber carbine with a red dot sight perfect for 0 to 200 yards.

Trijicon RMR, Eotech, Aimpoint and many more are perfect for guns such as MP5, P90, KRISS Vector, AR15, Tavor X95.


Bigger caliber battle rifles with high power long range magnified optics or low variable power optics are used to engage targets out to 300-600 yards using 0.30 caliber bullet.

Those scopes include Leupold Mark 5, NightForce ATACR 1-8X, Trijicon ACOG, Vortex Razor and many more.


In this article, we will only focus on the fighting rifle category such as AR15, SCAR16, Tavor X95, and many more.

For normal citizens, the likely chance for you to get into a gunfight is very small, if it does happen it usually happens within 50 yards or closer.

A fighting rifle is configured to be light and tactically efficient for you to operate and maneuver, having a great sighting system helps you aim better and shoot better.

What Is 1X Fixed Power Red Dot Sight?

Combat optics are an integral part of the weapon system.

Fixed combat sight optics have no zoom. They’re 1X power, and they are 1000 times better than using iron sights for picking up targets fast.

Iron sights have been around since the dawn of shoulder-fired rifles, it had its time and place, and yes some people shoot very well with it. However, not using a combat optics puts you behind the power curve.

Why Use 1X Power Combat Red Dot Sight

  1. Faster target acquisition because most self-defense or CQB situations happen in bad breathe distance
  2. Wide field of view for better situational awareness
  3. Combine your 1X fixed power optic with all the lights and laser accessories; you have everything you need to be ready for home defense

What Are Types Of Combat Optics?

  • Red Dot Sight
  • Reflex
  • Holographic

Find out more by visiting our optics guide here.


Let’s clear the confusion here!

Red dot sight, reflex and holographic all look about the same when the reticle appears while aiming down the sight. But fundamentally they function similarly but different. They all project a reticle inside the scope, and the shooter can see.

The reticle you see is not a laser beam shooting over the distance!

Holographic Sight vs Reflex Sight

Holographic sight does not reflect the reticle back and forth to the objective lens. The reticle is superimposed on your view of the target by laser transmission hologram. The laser is spread out by a lens and shone backward, toward the shooter, it appears as a virtual 50 yards away.

This is the same for a reflex sight. If you have bad eye sights, you might have trouble seeing the reticle clearly, therefore having 20/20 vision really helps.

How holographic sight works

3 easy tips to remember the difference

  • Reflex sight and red dot sights are the SAME.
  • Neither of them is a laser sight.
  • The reticle is projected and reflects inside the optic back to the shooter’s eye.

Fundamentals

Holographic sight does not reflect the reticle back and forth to the objective lens. The reticle is superimposed on your view of the target by laser transmission hologram. The laser is spread out by a lens and shone backward, toward the shooter, it appears as a virtual 50 yards away. This is the same for a reflex sight. If you have bad eye sights, you might have trouble seeing the reticle clearly, therefore having 20/20 vision really helps.

Eye Relief and FOV(Field Of View)

A Red dot sight with 1X power has an infinite amount of eye relief since it’s not a magnified optic. The field of view gives the shooter situational awareness, where some optic has a very slim profile, and some are bulky. Yeah, it’s just that simple.

MOA ( Minute Of Angle)

Minute of angle

All optics are zeroed with the same method. They have windage and elevation adjustments calibrated in minutes of angle (MOA). If this is the first time, you see this or still don’t understand MOA. Here is the simplest explanation I have.

  • A Minute of Angle is an angular measurement. It’s the language you need to understand when you talk about shooting guns.
  • 1 MOA is 1/60th of a degree. 1 MOA spreads about 1 inch per 100 yards, 1.047 inches exactly.
  1. 25 yds = 0.25”
  2. 50 yds = 0.5”
  3. 100 yds = 1”
  4. 200 yds = 2”
  5. 300 yds = 3”
  6. 400 yds = 4”

4 tips to make you MOA literate

Always think MOA in increments at whatever distance you’re shooting

You understand that 1 MOA = 1” per 100 yards, so 1 MOA at 200 yards is 2”.  If you’re having trouble doing this in your head and rather have a formula, simply take the distance you’re shooting divide by 100.

For example: 280 yrds/100 = 2.8 MOA  176 yrds/100 = 1.76 MOA   341 yrds/100 = 3.41 MOA


Determine how many 1 MOA increments will fit into the adjustment you want to make

This is where you need to apply your MOA knowledge to zero your rifle. You do it right; you save ammo, if not you waste bullets and time.

Example: You missed 4 inches at 50 yards. 50 yds = 0.5 MOA

How many 0.5 MOA can fit into the 4 inches you have missed? 4 / 0.5 MOA = 8 MOA adjustment

Example 2: You missed 2.5” at 137 yds. 137 yds = 1.37 MOA

How many 1.37 MOA can fit into the 2.5 inches you have missed? 2.5/ 1.37 MOA = 1.82 MOA adjustment

Think MOA, NOT Number of Clicks 

Now you have learned how to figure out adjustment increments in MOA, now let’s convert them into some clicks you can do on your optic. Just follow the formula below:

Example 1: Imagine you missed 4 inches at 350 yards. 350 yds = 3.5 MOA   3.5 MOA.

How many 3.5 MOA can fit into the 4 inches you have missed? 4 inches / 3.5 MOA = 1.14 MOA adjustment

Example 2: You missed 2” at 400 yards. 400 yds = 4 MOA 

How many 4 MOA can fit into the 2 inches you have missed? 2 inches / 4 MOA = 0.5 MOA adjustment. Your optic is 0.5 MOA/click, so 0.5 MOA required adjustment / 0.5 MOA / click = 1 Click

Example 3: You missed 7” at 200 yds. 200 yds = 2 MOA

How many 2 MOA can fit into the 7 inches you have missed? 7 inches / 2 MOA = 3.5 MOA adjustment. Your optic is 0.5 MOA/click, so 2 MOA required adjustment / 0.5 MOA / click = 4 clicks

Go to the range and just practice this type of calculation, and it will make zeroing your gun so much better. Note, the more precision the scope is, the smaller the MOA adjustment is. Typically 0.25 MOA/click, which also drives up the cost for the scope.

When you understand this, then you can make better decisions when buying an optic sight, and you will no longer be clueless when the spec of the product say something like  0.5 MOA/click or 1 MOA/ click.

Reticle Size

Red Dot Reticle options

This is the most ignored spec when people buy a combat optic sight. Earlier we discuss zeroing and combat effective zone, now think about the dot size that is big enough to cover the effective combat zone at long distance.

Most red dot sights have 4 MOA, which means the dot covers 4 inches at 100 yards, 2 inches at 50 yard. Aka, you can get a 4-inch group at 100 yards, and 2-inch group at 50 yards if you just point and shoot.

This is extremely useful for a fighting rifle at a various distance, which means you can point and shoot fast and accurate without consciously thinking about where you’re aiming exactly. When you understand your specific zero and your combat effective zone; picking the correct reticle size will help you shoot better.

Range & Zeroing

The bullet flies out of the barrel at high velocity, and eventually, it’s going to fall, so zeroing means where you aim is where you hit.

Here is the only thing you need to remember: Combat effective zone and hold over.

Here is how it works, let me show you some shot groups. If you’re new, this is the only thing you need to understand.

Holdover

How you aim with your current zero to compensate bullet drop at longer distances and close range height over bore distance.

Where you zero your sight is where your bullet hit, and that’s very important. If you zero at 25yard, you can’t expect to place the same dot on a 100yard target and expect to hit where you’re aiming, but your shot will be close enough to be in the combat effective zone.

Zeroing Ar15

This all depends on the ballistics of the round you’re shooting. In this example, we can break down the shot group for a 5.56mm round at 25 yards, 50 yards, and 100 yards. Check out this video by Travis Harley explaining zeroing at a distance.

Whether you choose holographic sight, red dot sights or reflex sights. They’re all 1X fixed power. The fundamental zeroing is the same.

Typically the zeroing distance is 25 yards up to 200 yards. There are so many ways to zero your rifle depending on what range you’re shooting.

I like the 100 yard zero because I get a 9” combat effective zone with 55 grain bullet between 25-200 yards, and as long as I’m aware of the caliber I’m using and how big the target is, I can easily hit target with confidence out at long distance, simply just put the dot at the same spot without even thinking.

For the 300 and longer range I would just do a holdover to hit the target.

Faster target acquisition

The red dot sight is on the same focal plane as the target. When you look at the target or the dot, you don’t need to shift your focus as with iron sights.

That’s what makes target acquisition fast, and having near zero parallax is the magic, I will talk about parallax later on this article.

The firearm world changed when red dot sight optics were introduced. It’s a world of difference. Sight alignment and sight picture was very easy. The shooter places the dot on the target and squeezes the trigger, wherever the dot is, is where the bullet is going. It was a hell of a lot faster acquiring targets at close and medium ranges.

This is why it’s popular for law enforcement, military, sports shooting, and home defense. EOTech, Aimpoint is constantly evolving to be better. You can learn more about those optics here.

Co-Witness Height

Cowitness

Earlier in the article, I briefly talked about why you need to use sight optics instead of iron sight, but Iron sights are outstanding tools for learning the fundamentals of marksmanship.

The disadvantages are slow target acquisition compared to any optic because the shooter has to align three objects ( target, front sight, and rear sight) at different focal lengths.

During low light situations, where iron sights are hard to see even for night sights.

Iron sight does provide you the backup you need if your optic fails. Also, iron sights also allow the shooter to co-witness the optic if done correctly. Some people like it because they can also swap optics quickly and re-zero based on where the iron sight is zeroed.

Parallax

Red dot sight gives the shooter the ability to aim fast and shoot accurately. Wherever you put, the dot is where the bullet is going after zeroing. Parallax is the tendency for a reticle to appear to move in relative to a target when the eye is moved behind the optic.

In other words, you don’t need to completely line up the gun like how you would go with iron sights to be accurate.

Battery Life

Most holographic and red dot sights are battery-powered, and they have naturally long battery life, and many shooters leave their sights on without turning it off.

When picking an optic sight, you must pick the ones that have an extremely long battery, so you can just pick it up and shoot in stressful situations without fumbling with the on/off switch.

I personally use the Aimpoint T-1 on my Daniel Defense M18. It has about 50000 hours battery from a single CR2032 battery. I had it for about six years now, and the battery has never died, and the dot is always there when I pick it up.

Mount Quality

MRO riser mount LaRue Tactical

The high-quality scope mount is extremely important for all scope optics. It ensures secure attachment between the optic to the mount and secure installation to the rail system.

A good mount combined with a tough combat optic can absorb recoil impulse without losing zero. You can check out this post here about how recoil force could affect scope accuracy.

I’m not saying to intentionally beat up your rifle or drop it off the 7th floor, but things happen in the field, where your rifle will bump into things, or get dropped. A good mount can ensure it will stay on the rifle and maintain accuracy.

Mount Riser

Mount riser is used for an individual shooter’s preference. This relates to red dot sight co-witness. Some people like their backup iron sight completely align with the red dot sight called absolute co-witness, and some people like their red dot sight sit a bit taller also known as ⅓ co-witness.

I prefer my sight sits over my iron sight, so I have more room for my cheek to rest on my rifle.

If you have bulky ear pro, you probably want a ⅓ co-witness so you can look through the sight better for an AR-15. So only get a riser mount if you can’t see the sight comfortably.

For significant optic height over bore guns such as the IWI X95, KRISS VECTOR, P90, and others, It’s not necessary to use a mount riser if you can pick up the sight perfectly.

Because too much scope height over bore can increase the distance between the point of impact and the point of aim.

Usually, you need to know specific holdover points for those firearms to be comfortable in various target distances.

Durability

Aimpoint After House Fire

The strength of the optic sight is everything. All the things we have mentioned in this article is nothing if the quality of the optic is not up to the standard. Majority of the red dot sights are decent for range use; they range from $220 – $800.

But if you want a fighting rifle where you have to defend your life on it, then you need the best optic with a top-notch mount. Aimpoint is what I picked.

You want to pick an optic sight made with high-quality aerospace-grade T6061 aluminum, and ability to accept high-quality base mount. This will ensure the gun maintain zero and handle the recoil and other rough physical handling without any problems.

Red Dot Sight Magnification

You might be asking:

“I love my fighting rifle with the 1X fixed power sight, but I would also like to engage targets beyond 200 yards, what can I do without constantly swapping optics?”

Well, this is very simple… Use a magnifier or a dual optic setup.

Magnifier optic

EoTech G33

If you want to shoot long distance and still want the 1X fixed power red dot sight as your daily rifle setup, you can do it simply mount a quick detach magnifier optic behind the red dot sight.

There are products out there with 3X 4X and 6X. When you’re done, you can take it off, or you can flip it to the side. It’s the best way to make your rifle to shoot close range and long-range.

Offset Optics

ELCAN with offset Trijicon RMR

In recent years in the competition, tactical training, or battlefields, offset red dot sights paired with a magnified optic is quite popular that make a rifle close-quarter and long-range ready.

I have seen people mounting miniature red dot sights on top of their long-range scope, or off to the side at a 45-degree angle. You simply engage long-distance with your main scope and turn your rifle 45 degrees using the red dot sight for close-range targets.