Red dot vs Holographic sight. While most people think they are the same based on initial impression, but the method of reticle project is a little different.
In this guide, we have EOTECH holographic sight, Aimpoint, Holosun & Vortex red dot sights to compare.
We want to demonstrate this as much as possible beyond the obvious.
Red Dot Sights Vs Holographic Sights - Main Differences
Red Dot Sight Reticle Projection
Most red dot sights ' LED emitter projects the dot reticle to the front lens and mirrors 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.
- Simple reticle projection method
- Parallax free
- Long battery life using LED emitter
- Much more visible emitter glare on the front lens
Holographic Sight Reticle Projection
Holographic sight uses a laser to project a holographic image, 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
- Less reticle glare reflection
- Parallax free
- HUD (Head Up Display) aiming experience
- Short battery life using a laser to project the reticle
- Collimator reflector needs rock solid hood protection
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
Most red dot sights and holographic sights are both very fast for acquiring targets. The user can keep both eyes open and maximizes situational awareness.
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)
Most holographic sights and red dot sights are parallax free, but not 100% especially at CQB distance. Parallax free reticle 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
Play with the slider below to see the difference
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:
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
A dimmed 1 MOA dot is much better to get a better zero
Reticle clarity is subjective to different users. Both red dot sight and holographic sight can look blurry to users with bad eye sight.
The LED technology inside most modern red dot sights last 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.
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.
Aimpoint Micro footprint mounts are very popular, check them out here.
Most holographic sights come with integrated mounts and there isn't much optic height adjustment unless using a mount riser.
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.
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.
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.
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 Vision Compatibility
Both red dot sight and holographic sight work at night both under white light or night vision.
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. For night vision goggle users, some are night vision compatible under IR (Infrared)