A Review of the Top Five Budget Red Dot Sights

With modern sporting rifles, one of the key considerations is one of optics. While learning how to shoot well with iron sights is a key skill that most good shooters will master, red dot sights are an excellent option for a few reasons. First and foremost, they’re awesome for target acquisition: put the dot on the target and press the trigger. They’re also good for repeatable shots considering how simple the sight picture is. Also, though they’re considered the best up close, a little consultation with a ballistic chart and you can stretch your dot out to several hundred meters with ease. Additionally, since many advocate for shooting with both eyes open with a red dot, these sights have an amazing field of view compared to other optics types. Speed is also a factor: the simplicity of the dot makes it a fast optic as well. Here are five red dots that we think will give you the performance you want at reasonable prices.

Top Picks


1. S.P.O.T. Scope CPR – Compact Pro Red Dot Sight

Product

S.P.O.T. Scope CPR - Compact Pro Red Dot Sight

Top Overall Pick

  • Always ready - always on. Turn it on for up to 10,000 hours (1...
  • Ultra Sharp 2 minute of angle red dot for accurate target...
  • 11 Brightness Settings
  • 30mm Co-Witness Mount Included
  • Compact 3.74" Length - Weight is only 5.6oz (with out mount)

Our rating

Details

  • Always ready - always on. Turn it on for up to 10,000 hours (1...
  • Ultra Sharp 2 minute of angle red dot for accurate target...
  • 11 Brightness Settings
  • 30mm Co-Witness Mount Included
  • Compact 3.74" Length - Weight is only 5.6oz (with out mount)

First on this list is the SPOT scope CPR, which stands for Compact Pro Red-dot.  In this case, the compact really means compact, the sight comes in at just over five and a half ounces, and just under four inches long. That lightweight will be noticeable every time you go to shoulder the rifle with the sight mounted.

The compact red dot sight has a red dot that is 2MOA across, which is basically the industry standard for this style of sight and is good for engaging at close to medium distances. This red dot sight has eleven brightness settings, so you can set it for the light conditions that you expect. The manufacturer reports a 10,000 hour, always on, rating on each battery charge. Typically this measurement is on a medium setting and will be more or less depending on use and brightness. The sight comes with a standard Picatinny rail mount that will co-witness with iron sights. The sight uses a standard CR2032 battery. Additionally, the flip-up cover is a nice touch to protect the glass of the optic.  There are windage and elevation adjustments, to get this optic dialed it with your preferred zero.

Overall, the SPOT CPR represents a reasonable, solid, and well priced option to get an AR on your rifle, and perhaps save some money for other extras such as a magnifier, light, or just some ammo for range time.

2. Sightmark SM26008

Product

Sightmark SM26008 Ultra Shot Plus Red Dot Sights

Top Pick

  • Red and green reticle illumination
  • Digital switch controls. Field of view :35 meter @100 meter,...
  • Multiple reticles. Item has a one hour shut off to help maximize...
  • Adjustable quick detach weaver mount
  • Parallax corrected
  • Note: Please refer the user manual below for better use.

Our rating

Details

  • Red and green reticle illumination
  • Digital switch controls. Field of view :35 meter @100 meter,...
  • Multiple reticles. Item has a one hour shut off to help maximize...
  • Adjustable quick detach weaver mount
  • Parallax corrected
  • Note: Please refer the user manual below for better use.

Next on the list we come to the Sightmark SM26008. Departing from the tubular design of the rest of the list, this red dot sight has a form factor more like those usually found on holographic sights. In this case, you’ll be presented with plenty of options. First, you can pick between green and red reticles: this is handy for varying lighting condition and people with astigmatism. From there, you can pick between several reticles and brightness settings with the controls that are mounted facing the user.

This sight mounts directly to a Picatinny rail without the need for extra brackets and attaches via a quick-detachment lever. This kind of system can be handy if, for some reason, you need to get the optic off in a hurry. It’s unlikely that you would have to do so since Sightmark claims that the optic is highly water and shock resistant. This optic is also parallax free, which means that the angle of your eye to the sight does not matter: the bullets go where the dot is placed.

The overall form factor is an attractive one, made out lightweight and durable aluminum, and comes with a neoprene cover to keep things clean. A standard CR123 battery will give you 1000 hours at the lowest brightness setting, which will drop off a bit with higher settings. At 9.2 oz, this is a heftier sight, but some folks like that heft, especially if it is rear of the center of gravity of the firearm when shouldered. This is a solid choice for someone looking for the holo sight look, without the holo sight price.

3. Vortex Crossfire

Product

Vortex Optics Crossfire Red Dot Sight - 2 MOA Dot

Top Pick

  • The super-light, ultracompact, insanely-fast-on-target Crossfire...
  • The daylight-bright, 2-MOA dot, is easy to acquire and promotes...
  • Skeletonized mount offers two height options (Low and Lower 1/3...
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission during low...
  • A shockproof aluminum body displays extreme durability. Nitrogen...

Our rating

Details

  • The super-light, ultracompact, insanely-fast-on-target Crossfire...
  • The daylight-bright, 2-MOA dot, is easy to acquire and promotes...
  • Skeletonized mount offers two height options (Low and Lower 1/3...
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission during low...
  • A shockproof aluminum body displays extreme durability. Nitrogen...

Next on our list is the Vortex Crossfire. This is one of the optics that helped put Vortex on the map. There are newer ones, ones with more features, but this original optic is made to be both tough and budget-friendly, and this optic does that well.

The standard 2 MOA dot is present here in a small but attractive package. The nitrogen filled and sealed aluminum tube comes in at only a hair over five ounces, and is under three inches long, making it the smallest and lightest optic on this list. With that said, it does not lack for features if basic is your game. The red dot sight has eleven brightness settings and can be adjusted for both windage and elevation. Additionally, the optic is set up, out of the box, to co-witness with standard AR iron sights. A CR2032 battery keeps this small sight going for thousands of hours on the lowest brightness setting.   

The Crossfire comes with a mount set up for standard Picatinny rail, in the same lightweight spirit as the optic itself. If your rifle build (or shotgun, for that matter) focuses on being light and fast, this option is a wonderful one, while keeping budget in mind.

4. Holosun HS503GU

Product

HOLOSUN HS503GU Circle Micro Red Dot Sight, 2 MOA Dot, 65...

Top Overall Pick

  • Automatic on and off based on motion, 2 moa dot & 65 moa circle
  • Reduced training time and ammunition
  • Durable and reliable construction
  • Low mount and 1/3 co-witness mount included

Our rating

Details

  • Automatic on and off based on motion, 2 moa dot & 65 moa circle
  • Reduced training time and ammunition
  • Durable and reliable construction
  • Low mount and 1/3 co-witness mount included

Another smaller option on this list is the Holosun HS503GU red dot sight. Touted as a micro-sized sight, this option comes in at six ounces with the mount and is under four inches in length. Inside of that small aluminum package is a reticle that can be switched from a 2 MOA dot to that same dot with a ring around it. This gives you, the shooter options: some people prefer the circle and dot setup for repeatability on targets, where others like the simplicity of the dot alone.

The Picatinny mount included with this optic sets the red dot up to co-witness with iron sights. A CR 2032 battery promises thousands of hours of performance at a low brightness setting, and this optic has a shake awake feature to try to keep the battery working for as long as possible. There are windage and elevation knobs on the sight and digital controls for the reticle located on the top of the tube.

This is an option for those prioritizing value and lightness and should perform well under most normal conditions of use for civilian rifles.

5. Primary Arms Silver Series

Product

Primary Arms Silver Series Advanced Rotary Knob Microdot Red...

Top Overall Pick

  • Red dot sight features an angled front lens designed to reflect...
  • Operates to an estimated 50,000 hours of battery life at a medium...
  • Illumination powered by the included CR2032 battery has 11...
  • Objective glass features optical coating that improves clarity,...
  • Covered by a lifetime manufacturer warranty for defects due to...

Our rating

Details

  • Red dot sight features an angled front lens designed to reflect...
  • Operates to an estimated 50,000 hours of battery life at a medium...
  • Illumination powered by the included CR2032 battery has 11...
  • Objective glass features optical coating that improves clarity,...
  • Covered by a lifetime manufacturer warranty for defects due to...

Last on our list, we have the Primary Arms Silver Series red dot sight. This sight, with a standard 2 MOA dot, comes with all of the usual features. There are windage and elevation knobs, as well as a brightness adjustment. The optic itself is light, coming in a black aluminum that will match nicely with most upper receivers.

This optic has two notable features. First and foremost, at the lowest setting, it boasts a 50,000-hour battery life. This is outstanding and makes it a good option for an always-on optic meant for use on a home defense rifle. Second, we get a major sleek factor by the lack of an included mount. If you do not plan to run irons, but instead want to run slim on a flat-topped rifle, this would be a fantastic option.

Finally, Primary Arms include a lifetime warranty on their products, and thus this optic comes with the peace of mind of knowing that if you break it, it will get replaced. If you’re looking for a long lasting optic on a light build, this is a smart way to go.

Parting Shots

Having looked at this list, it’s good to keep a few things in mind when choosing an optic for your rifle. First is the kind of shooting that you’ll be doing. For a range plinker or a hunting rifle, any of these optics would be a good call. That said, if you’re expecting inclement conditions, something with pop up covers might be a really handy feature in the field to keep the glass clean. If your rifle is going to need to have the optic always on, something with a longer battery life might be what you need.

Another thing to keep in mind is weight. An ounce here or there might not seem like a big deal now, but when that rifle is in your hands, those ounces feel like pounds. Any gain in weight should be justified in a gain in usability. Adding an ounce or so for a co-witness mount and allowing you keep irons on your rifle might well be worth any extra fatigue.  Similarly, given that all of these optics take batteries, it is not a bad idea to keep a few extras on the rifle: stocks and pistol grips often have compartments for just this.

A final note is aesthetics. While most of these are some variation of a black tube and a matching mount, the particulars of a particular brand may or may not meet your idea of what you’re looking for. So, with this list in mind, take the time to shop around for an optic that will fit your rifle and your needs: today you can get a quality red dot without ruining your credit score. 

By

Chris Frenchak has over 20 years of firearms experience between sporting and responsible concealed carry applications. Chris is a member of multiple pro-second amendment organizations including USCCA, NRA, and just as importantly, his local range. Chris is continuing a legacy of support for our rights by working with his family to increase firearms education and awareness as the lead editor of GunBacker.

The Daily Ammo

The latest firearms reviews, gear reviews and safe shooting tips for responsible gun owners.

    See Also


    Related Content

    Recent Posts

    back-to-top