I don’t know about you, but when most people hear the words red dot sights, their mind goes straight to EOTech or Trijicon. While these are excellent optics not all of us can afford the price tag associated with the level of quality expected from the military. Honestly very few of us really need it either.
Thankfully there are many options on the market now at reasonable prices that can fill the needs of the shooting community. Our goal here is to provide you with reviews and information on some of the best budget red dot sights currently available.
The two main types are open lens sight and the more traditional looking tubular style. While the open lens will save some weight and usually takes up less space on the rail it wont provide nearly the protection of a tube type sight. Another benefit of the full tube is not having to deal as much with the sun or bright lights reflecting off the lens.
Budget Red Dot Reviews
Here are a few of our top picks for affordable non magnified sights. We are keeping our reviews to models that we own ourselves or that we can get a hold of for some range time.
This may be a generic model but it has a decent list of features including four reticles to choose from as well as variable brightness in both red and green. All the settings and adjustments are analog being a dial for choosing red or green as well as how bright you want the reticle, and a switch to select the reticle image you like.
While this is an open style optic the shroud around the lens does a good job of blocking the extra light without limiting your field of view. This was the first red dot I bought and while I have added to my collection this one has earned an almost permanent spot on my sks.
The battery life was much better than I expected at this price point. I didn’t think to time its use for the first one but will try to get an time on the next new battery. Once you dial in the sight it holds zero very well. After 300 rounds of 762X39 it was still at the same point of aim as when we started. This is a huge plus because adjusting the point of aim is by far the worst feature of this item. The included allen wrench is used to adjust the reticle. Given the smaller size it’s understandable but it can be a real pain.
The utg ita or instant target aiming sight. Is a solid addition to the budget optics list. This tube style sight is 4″ long and comes with a 10 mm riser incase the included mount sits too low for your platform.
Zeroing this sight was pretty simple compared to some others. This model alsolet’s you lock in the zero. So you won’t have to worry about where the aim is when you go to the range. It gives a nice clean dot in either red or green with a listed reticle size of 4.0 moa. I never had to turn the brightness more than halfway up. Even in the desert sun.
The quick detach mount is a great feature and has almost become a must have when looking at new optics. It’s so nice to be able to swap optics quickly and without any tools.
The batteries can be tough to find locally. So it wouldn’t be a bad Idea to buy a few extra to keep around as the battery life on this sight is not great. Unless you leave it on when done shooting it shouldn’t be an issue but it’s worth noting.
This is my personal favorite of the tube type sights. Simply because it is a nice compact size yet it holds up well against larger and more expensive options. Plus Bushnell has been around and known for making quality products.
This sight sits very low on the rail. So I would recommend picking up a small riser to go with it. I was able to get the trs-25 and a riser under the $100 mark shipped. The model I have has the emitter on the bottom of the tube. Older models had it positioned slightly to the side that I have read could be more distracting or interfere with the field of view.
With a 3 moa size dot it gives you an advantage over other inexpensive red dots. Which are normally in the 4-5 moa range. You won’t have any choice of reticle color. That’s not really a bad thing I just prefer a green dot. However with 11 settings for brightness the red works well indoors and out in the sun. The lenses also provide a very nice crisp picture.
The included lens covers are nice for storage but I would prefer a flip up cover to the bikini type. With an advertised 3000 hours I’m happy to say I’m still on my original battery. I have 200 rounds of 7.62X39 and a 300 rounds of 556 and only required a small adjustment between the rifles. Overall I’m impressed with this little optic and would pick up another without hesitation should I need a new sight.
This open lens red dot might look like a lot of the 20 dollar sights but this one is built to last. It had no problems holding zero through box after box of .556 and later a few boxes of 12 gauge just to test the manufacturers claims. I didn’t expect much from this little red dot as I’ve not had much luck with the exposed lenses like this.
The four reticle options were very crisp and made quick target acquisition very simple. With no shroud around the lens it feels very natural you to see downrange and shoot with both eyes open. However when out in the desert sun you will have to use the brightest setting so the dot doesn’t get washed out.
One really interesting feature is the two small sensors that can pickup on the light around you and adjust the reticle brightness automatically. While this is can be nice if moving from one area to another. You still have the option to manually adjust the settings. A word of caution, Be careful when mounting the sight to your firearm. Specifically when tightening the the bolts down as they can strip out easily.