Red Dot VS Prism Sight [1X Power] – Beyond The Obvious Differences

In this Q/A information guide, we answer one of the most popular questions in the shooting community: 1X power Red dot vs prism sight.

  • How different are they?
  • Does it matter that much to shooters?
  • How to decide which one to get for your specific applications beyond the obvious

Red Dot VS Prism Sight Core Differences

The most obvious difference between a red dot and a prism sight is the method of producing the reticle inside the optic.

A red dot sight projects the reticle from the LED emitter onto the lens of the optic, then reflects back to the shooter's eye for a point of aim.

mk18 with aimpoint micro h1
sig sauer romeo5 pov red dot

A prism sight is similar in size to a red dot optic, but the reticle is etched on the glass instead of reflection. It's very much a 1X fixed magnification hybrid scope between a magnified optic design and a red dot, and also smaller than an LPVO.

Kriss vector with vortex spitfire ar prism sight
Vortex prism sight pov drt reticle

But what else is there beyond their obvious until someone points them out?

Please take a look at the bullet points below and ones highlighted in red.

Red Dot

trijicon sro parallax test

Pros

  • Professional duty use
  • Lower cost option
  • Very simple system
  • True 1X for fast target transition close up
  • Can have different dot sizes and color
  • Flexible mounting positions
  • Compatible with magnifiers
  • Use as offset or backup aiming point
  • Unlimited eye relief & unconstrained eye box for improvised shooting positions
  • Cheek position doesn't matter as long as the shooter can get behind the optic
  • Night vision capability
  • Use various aftermarket mounts

Cons:

  • Parallax increases at certain distances (Often unnoticeable to the naked eye)
  • Red dot reticle clarity varies for shooters with different level of astigmatism
  • Reticle disappear when the battery dies

Prism Sight

windage adjustment vortex spitfire ar 1x prism sight

Pros:

  • Glass etched reticle is always there without battery
  • Diopter adjustment for better reticle clarity for shooters with astigmatism
  • Better first round impact using detailed etched reticle holds (Red dot doesn't have that)
  • Eye box constraint inadvertently forces the shooter's eye to center the optic to reduce parallax for long distance shooting
  • Popular for limited division competition shooting

Cons:

ELCAN dual role weapon sight scope shadow
  • Limited eye relief & eye box for CQB style shooting
  • Can't use as an offset optic easily
  • Can't combine with magnifier due to two independent focal points
  • It's not a true 1X like a red dot
  • Less mounting system or risers available

How To Decide Which One To Use?

Red dot sights are popular and the most common.

They're durable, simple and effective for fast target acquisition for shooting anything within 100 yards.

If you are using a optic for professional duty use, a red dot sight is the way to go.

1X prism sights are generally good for limited competition shooting. Better reticle clarity for shooters with astigmatism and able to reach targets as far as 700 yards on 1X with a much more detailed reticle with holds.


Common FAQ

Why Can't A Magnifier Work With A Prism Scope?

Fact - Prism scope CAN work with a magnifier only if the diopter adjustments on BOTH optics are properly set.

However, the reason why people say they don't work together is because if you remove the magnifier, then the prism scope's diopter is no longer properly set to the naked eye.

Does Red Dot With A Magnifier Reduces Parallax At Longer Ranges?

A magnifier has limited eye box so it forces the shooter's eye to center the optic with a red dot sight mounted in front.

So yes it can reduce parallax at longer ranges.

Ying Xu

US Air Force veteran nuclear weapon officer. Aerospace engineering bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas. Experienced as a certified NRA range safety officer. Working as a search engine expert for BadAssOptic.com