Red Dots vs. Laser Sights: Which Is Better?

Photo Credit: Optics Mag

In this post, I’ll be explaining some of the pros and cons between red dot and laser sights (they’re not the same) from the perspective of someone that works in the firearms industry along with having a background in self-defense and security contracting.

First, I’ll cover red dot sights. The videos below provides a better and simpler explanation on the use of red dot sights in my opinion. Personally, I’m not a fan of having a red dot sight on my handguns as I prefer iron sights. For rifles and shotguns, though, I will add a red dot to assist me with quick target acquisition along with the use of iron sights in case the battery dies or the red dot gets damaged. A couple important tips to keep in mind are 1) when looking for a red dot sight, you don’t want to spend less than $150 – $200 because the lower you go then the more likely that it can break very easily and 2) if your handgun isn’t cut so that you can attach a red dot (ex: MOS for Glock), you’ll end up spending more money than necessary to get the slide designed for the accessory if you eventually decide to attach a red dot sight that it makes more sense to simply buy a new gun. It’s ultimately less expensive in the long run to buy a handgun that’s optic ready from the start! Depending how the red dot sits on your firearm, it’s possible to have the red dot co-witness with your iron sights so that, if the battery were to die in your red dot, you’re still utilizing your iron sights.

Next, I’ll be covering laser sights. Crimson Trace and Viridian are the two most well-known brands for laser sights. According to page 231 of Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals (2nd Ed.) by Michael Martin “Green is going to be more visible than red because the color green is closer to the central spectrum of color visible to the human eye; the green laser can also appear fifty times brighter than red during daylight conditions. Laser sights allows shooters to focus on the target much more rapidly and with a smaller margin of error.”

While laser sights look cool in the movies and TV shows, as well as assist with quick target acquisition particularly during point shooting, they have some major drawbacks. 1) As someone that has worked in security contracting and works alongside with military veterans (some of which served in the special forces), unlike red dot sights, laser sights give away your position. If I’m going to rely on something that takes a battery, it’d be a red dot sight and/or a mounted flashlight. 2) As a firearms instructor, I have seen laser sights become a “crutch” to shooters to the point where, if and when the battery dies during a defensive encounter, the likelihood of them knowing what to do by going back to the fundamentals of utilizing iron sights is slim to none due to their dependency.

I hope that this post helps you if you’re trying to decide which option to go with between red dot and laser sights. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

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