Red Dot Sight VS Holographic Sight [In Depth Comparison]

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In this article, we will show you the difference side by side between a red dot sight and a holographic sight.

We have EOTECH, Aimpoint, Holosun & Vortex products to compare.

We want to demonstrate this as much as possible beyond the obvious. Enjoy!

Core Differences 

Reticle Projection

Red dot sight's LED emitter projects the dot reticle to the front lens and mirror the reflection back to the user's eye. The dot reticle appears ~20 ft in front of the user, giving that parallax free experience shooters talk about.

holosun 510c reticle emitter
iwi x95 with aimpoint pro

Pros

  • Simple reticle projection method
  • Parallax free
  • Long battery life using LED emitter

Cons

  • Much more visible emitter glare on the front lens

Holographic sight uses a laser to project the reticle to the collimating reflector, then to a holographic grating, then mirror the reticle to the shooter's eye. Holographic reticle also appears about ~20 ft in front of the user like a red dot, and in many ways it works the same way 

vortex amg uh 1 gen 2 on AR15

Pros

  • Less reticle glare reflection
  • Parallax free
  • HUD (Head Up Display) aiming experience

Cons

  • Short battery life using a laser to project the reticle
  • Collimator reflector needs rock solid hood protection

Durability

High end mil spec grade red dot sights and holographic sights are all durable to handle field stress, recoil, bump, submersion, drops and rough handling.

Lower grade products work for entry level shooters at a good price, but they are not made to endure physical stress beyond normal use.

Things like stripped threads, out of tolerance spec, lose zero, poor lens coating...etc are typically found in lower grade products.

Be sure to check out our mil spec grade red dot sights the professionals pick

Target Acquisition & Field Of View

Red dot sights and holographic sights are both very fast for acquiring targets. The user can keep both eyes open and maximizes situational awareness. 

Optics with larger field of view are even better.

Before Image After Image

Aimpoint Micro VS EOTech EXPS3

The largest FOV red dot sights currently on the market are:

  • Trijicon MRO
  • Trijicon SRO (Micro red dot)
  • Steiner R1X
  • Steiner DRS 1X
  • DI Optical DCL110AD
  • Holosun 510C

The largest FOV holosights currently on the market are:

  • EOTECH EXPS3
  • Vortex UH 1 Gen 2 (Bigger window than Gen 1)

Parallax

Most holographic sights and red dot sights are parallax free, but not 100% especially at CQB distance. Parallax free allows the shooter to place the dot on a target and shoot accurately without having to align the sight picture or center the eye behind the optic.

This gives the shooter tremendous performance capability to operate in CQB environments such as shooting behind cover

Reticle Size

Play with the slider below to see the difference

Before Image After Image

Red dot sights typically features a simple dot ranging from 1 MOA to as big as 12 MOA. The most common on the market are:

  • 1 MOA - The smallest dot available for precise aiming
  • 2 MOA - The most common on the market
  • 3 MOA - Great sweet spot between a big dot and a small dot
  • 5 - 6 MOA - Highly recommend for shotguns, pistols and shooters with astigmatism

Popular holographic sights like the EOTECH EXPS3 and Vortex UH 1 feature rapid target acquisition CQB reticles with ranging capability:

eotech 68 MOA ring reticle range estimation human size target
  • 68 MOA (65 & 68 MOA are the same, learn more here)
  • AMG CQB EBR (Similar to EOTECH with open section design for reduced target obstruction & a deliberate bottom triangle holdover reference point)
3 moa vs 6 moa dot sizes comparison

Important things to point out:

  • 6 MOA is much bigger & rounder to see even if the brightness is cranked up
  • Bigger dot has less reticle smear
  • Bigger dot has less emitter glare 
eotech 90 degree leaning left

A dimmed 1 MOA dot is much better to get a better zero

Reticle Clarity

Reticle clarity is subjective to different users. Both red dot sight and holographic sight can look blurry to users with bad eye sight.

Please check out this guide to improve reticle clarity with 5 tips

Battery Life

eotech exps 3 battery access open

The LED technology inside an red dot sight lasts average 30K - 50K hours battery life. LED has much more efficient battery usage than a holographic sight.

A holographic sight lasts about 1400 hrs on average. A laser is used instead of LED, and it drains the battery pretty fast.

Auto turn off feature on a holographic sight is a nice to have to save battery if the user forgets after a range trip. EOTECH & Vortex UH 1 both feature it.

Mounts

sig romeo 5 footprint

Red dot sights have tons of aftermarket mount options than Holographic sights. Different designs and heights to optimize eye to optic distance on long guns.

fn scar 17 with aimpoint micro

Aimpoint Micro footprint mounts are very popular, check them out here.

eotech exps 3 bottom

Most holographic sights come with integrated mounts and there isn't much optic height adjustment unless using a mount riser.

Ranging Capability

Holographic sights like the EOTECH and Vortex UH 1 have better ranging capability than a red dot sight. Red dot sight users can also range target with a simple center dot with enough practice, but Holographic sight is much easier.

vortex uh 1 gen 2 pov

The ring reticle such as the 68 MOA and AMG CQB EBR provides visible reticle reference features to aid range estimation for a known target size.

However, shooters with poor eye sight may not see all the reticle details to make it useful. Any sort of astigmatism or nearsightedness without correction will make the reticle appear blurry.

aimpoint micro with 3x magnifier scope

A magnifier scope can help a lot with sight picture clarity for distanced targets. We have a complete guide on the best red dot magnifiers for you to check out on our site.

Target Coverage

eotech exps3 pov 1

The bigger the dot means larger target coverage, which can obscure the target. A smaller dot (1 MOA) is recommended for precision long range shots.

Reticle brightness can obscure the target, and be sure to dial them down when it's appropriate.

For long range precision shots, a 1 MOA center dot is the best for getting a fine zero and fine aiming (even better with a magnifier scope). EOTECH and Vortex UH1 both feature a center 1 MOA dot 

Night Time User Experience

Both red dot sight and holographic sight work at night as long as the user can positively identify targets with some type of light source (Weapon light is highly recommended).

eotech 68 moa ring reticle bright with cloud defensive rein

Red dot sights with a smaller center dot (1 or 2 MOA) are recommended for night time use because they are small and they don't obscure the target (Make sure the red dot brightness is dialed down to a sweet spot to prevent emitter glare reflection on the glass)

Holographic sight is also great for night time use, but some users find the the ring reticle cluttering up the sight picture undesirable in low light environment.

To learn more about red dot sights, please read here