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10 Best AR-15 Red Dots, Holographic Sights, and Prism Scopes in 2024 preview image
Jan 19 2024
19 min read

10 Best AR-15 Red Dots, Holographic Sights, and Prism Scopes in 2024

Whether you just purchased your first AR-15 or your 100th, selecting the right red dot, holographic sight, or prism scope can seem like a daunting task. But don’t let it be.

It should be fun! Yes, there are likely thousands of optics out there to choose from, but certain ones stand out from the rest. Our goal is to help you narrow down the seemingly never-ending list and provide you with options at all price points and with every type of feature available.

Many rifles these days don’t even come with backup iron sights, so an optic is often the first purchase you’ll need to make.

By the end of this ultimate AR-15 optics guide, you should be able to know exactly what type of optic you want and, hopefully, which exact one.

If you’re impatient and just want the quick list…

List of the Best AR-15 Red Dots

ImageProductPrice
EOTECH EXPS3 Holographic Weapon SightBest Holographic Sight – EOTECH EXPS3
Primary Arms SLx 1X MicroPrism Scope Gen IIBest Prism Scope – Primary Arms SLx 1x
Holosun SCRSBest Solar Red Dot: Holosun SCRS
Aimpoint PRO Rifle Red Dot SightBest Red Dot – Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic)
Trijicon MRORunner Up Red Dot – Trijicon MRO
Sig Sauer Romeo5 Red Dot SightBest Value Red Dot – SIG Sauer Romeo5
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25Best Budget Option – Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight
Holosun HS510CBest Compact Red Dot – Holosun HS510C
Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Gen IIRunner Up Holographic Sight: Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Gen II
swampfox liberator iiHonorable Mention Red Dot: Swampfox Liberator II (Multi-Reticle)

From budget options to premium choices, we’ll talk about their features, what makes them special, where they excel, and where they flop. If you enjoy the finer details of products, we’ll even provide you with some specs and minor details that only handling them in person would reveal.

We’ve also put together a helpful mini buyer’s guide that will show you exactly what to look for in your next optic.

Best Red Dots, Holographic Sights, and Prism Scopes For AR-15s

While a majority of the focus will be centered around true red dots, we didn’t feel the list would be complete without our favorite holographic sights and prism scopes.

Let’s dive into the list, starting with our favorite Holographic sight, the EOTECH EXPS3.

Best Holographic Sight – EOTECH EXPS3

Pros
  • Extremely durable and reliable
  • Easy to manipulate controls
  • Night-vision compatible
  • True two-eye open shooting
  • Range estimation and aiming points
  • Quick-detach lever
  • Don’t have to remove the optic to change the battery
Cons
  • Expensive – but you get what you pay for
  • No motion-activated power
  • Short battery life

EOTECH EXPS3 Specifications

Reticle68 MOA Ring with 1 MOA Dot
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings20 Daylight and 10 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR123
Battery Life1,000 Hours
Weight 11.2 Ounces

One of the most recognizable and popular optics on the market is the EOTECH EXPS3. EOTECH’s Holographic Weapon Sights (HWS) are considered the industry’s gold standard by many.

After thousands of rounds downrange, the EXPS3 has never skipped a beat.

We’ve used the EXPS3 on several test rifles and some of our own, and it has helped successfully send several thousand rounds down range. It’s always stayed zeroed, and the multitude of brightness settings has allowed us to shoot it in every lighting condition.

The brightness controls are recessed to avoid accidental manipulation.

The combination reticle includes a 1 MOA dot and a 68 MOA ring that makes target acquisition quick and easy. A combination reticle like this is my favorite type, and thankfully EOTECH isn’t the only one offering reticles like this.

I love that the windage and elevation controls are situated directly next to each other and are recessed, just like the brightness controls. With each adjustment of either, you get a nice positive “click” letting you know you’ve successfully made a change.

Windage and elevation adjustments are conveniently located directly next to each other.

The side-loading battery means you don’t have to remove the optic to change it, and the single CR123 battery provides up to 1,000 hours of battery life. That’s one of the downfalls of the EXPS3, so make sure to have an extra battery or two on hand.

There is a reason that so many people trust EOTECH and choose the EXPS3. It’s one of the most reliable and durable optics on the market. If you want a holographic site that you can take with you on any mission, in any conditions, the EXPS3 is it.

exps3_rro

Best Prism Scope – Primary Arms SLx 1x

Pros
  • Night vision compatible
  • Illuminated and etched reticle
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to adjust
  • Several mounting options
Cons
  • Uneven reticle brightness on occasion (not to the point of causing issues)

Primary Arms Slx 1x Specifications

ReticleACSS Cyclops Gen II
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings13 Settings Including 3 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life29,000 Hours at Medium Setting
Weight7.6 Ounces (w/ riser) / 5.5 Ounces (w/out riser)

Having astigmatism myself, I’ve found prism scopes to be extremely beneficial. The typical red dot often looks like a starburst to me; the etched reticle looks clearer and more defined than any standard red dot ever has. The Primary Arms SLx 1x has become one of my most used optics for testing rifles because of how quick and easy it is to zero.

No plain cardboard box here.

The Primary Arms SLx 1x Microprism Gen 2 fits many of the criteria that I typically look for from a quick glance. It’s compact, has that nice etched reticle, and plenty of brightness settings that include night vision compatible ones. In addition, it isn’t glaringly overpriced like some others on the market.

In case you’re shooting in low-light conditions, you can illuminate the reticle to aid in target acquisition.

Surprisingly, it offers eight different mounting height options thanks to the included spacers. Once mounted, it’s easy to adjust and zero. I’ve had no issues with it holding zero, either.

You can adjust it with any flat and narrow item. I’ve found the base of a shell casing works well.

Lastly, to conserve battery, it features an auto on/off feature. The second you pick up the optic and move it, it’s already on.

This is one of those optics that I take almost every time I hit the range, so I’ve even thought about purchasing another. If you want an affordable, etched reticle optic with plenty of mounting options, take a look at the SLx 1x.

Source: Amazon

Best Solar Red Dot: Holosun SCRS

Pros
  • Solar charging
  • Dual reticles
  • Unlimited battery life
  • Durable housing
  • Compact and lightweight
Cons
  • No quick-detach mount
  • Small buttons

Holosun SCRS Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot, 65 MOA Circle or combination
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings12 (four of which are night vision compatible)
Battery TypeInternal Rechargeable Battery
Battery LifeUnlimited!
Weight2.45 Ounces

When it comes to the most advanced technology and innovative features, Holosun is often leading the charge. The Holosun SCRS (Solar Charging Rifle Sight) hasn’t been around as long as some of the others on the list, but it has made quite a splash in the industry and amongst our team.

Adding a magnifier is never a bad idea.

The Holosun SCRS stands out as one of the best red dot sights for rifles, thanks to its innovative solar charging technology. The solar charging gives the SCRS essentially unlimited battery life – a major advantage over most other red dots that require periodic battery changes.

In our experience testing the SCRS, we never had to worry about the battery running low, even after extensive range sessions.

The SCRS catching some sun.

Another big selling point of the SCRS is the multi-reticle system, which allows you to switch between a 2 MOA dot, a 65 MOA circle reticle, or a combination. Having both options in one optic is extremely versatile. The circle reticle helped acquire targets quickly at close range, while the dot remained precise for longer shots.

Holosun SCRS Hands-On Review green dot
The dot and circle combination is our favorite.

Finally, the rugged aluminum housing and IP67 rating make the SCRS durable and reliable. Though compact in size, the SCRS proved just as shock, water, and dust resistant as much larger rifle optics. After running through rain, drops, and bumps during testing, it never lost zero or had any issues.

Holosun SCRS Hands-On Review and range test
The SCRS may look tiny on a full-size AR-15, but it keeps up!

In summary, with game-changing solar power, dual reticle options, and durable construction, the Holosun SCRS stands near the top of the rifle red dot sights market. Our hands-on testing confirms its place on any list of the best optics for ARs.

Holosun SCRS

Best Red Dot – Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic)

Pros
  • Duty-proven and durable
  • Long battery life
  • Night vision compatible
  • Threaded front lens opening for attachment of anti-reflective device
Cons
  • Rather bulky
  • Not exactly cheap

Aimpoint PRO Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings6 Daylight and 4 Night Vision
Battery TypeDL1/3N
Battery Life30,000 Hours
Weight7.8 Ounces (sight only)

We chose the Aimpoint PRO because it has all the features one might need, and though it might be a premium option for some, it offers unmatched target acquisition, convenience, and ease of use. It simply gives your AR-15 profound accuracy and precision.

The durability of the Aimpoint PRO is trusted by military and police alike. Source: Aimpoint

The Aimpoint PRO boasts many durable characteristics. It can withstand harsh temperatures from -50°F up to 160°F, it’s waterproof below 150 feet, and although it’s bulky, the hard-anodized aluminum alloy makes it very resilient.

It’s also suitable for night encounters because of the night vision and superb low-light condition brightness.

In case you wind up having a mission run into the night, you’ll be covered. Source: Aimpoint.

The lenses are multi-coated, the red dot reticle is 2 MOA, and it has unlimited eye relief, giving it superior optical quality.

High-quality glass is one of the factors that sets premium optics apart from average ones.

It takes one DL1/3N battery that can go up to 30k hours, which clearly indicates that it’s designed for extended use. I can safely say that the Aimpoint PRO has everything you need for short to mid-range AR-15 shooting.

You can also check out the Aimpoint Micro H-2 Red Dot Reflex Sight if you want something more lightweight. The Aimpoint Micro is more expensive, but it might be better suited for you.

Aimpoint PRO
Source: Amazon

Runner Up Red Dot – Trijicon MRO

Pros
  • 5-year battery life
  • Superior glass quality
  • Lightweight but durable
  • Rigorous testing procedures
Cons
  • Quite pricey

Trijicon MRO Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings8 Settings, including 2 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life5 Years (Setting 5 of 8)
Weight4.1 Ounces

Trijicon is known for its optics, and the MRO is an excellent option for enhancing target acquisition. The various mounting options, wide field of view, and 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum construction explain the high price.

The MRO is a great addition to all types of rifles, SMGs, and other types of firearms. Source: American Defense MFG

The lens is fully multi-coated, waterproof, and durable, and the unit has eight brightness settings with two night vision modes. On brightness level 3, you can expect five years of battery life from a single CR2032 battery.

The MRO is waterproof, and the forged aluminum offers great durability. You can adjust the brightness with both hands as the control is located on the top of the optic.

Notice the brightness knob is located up top for easy adjustments from either side. Source: American Defense MFG

I personally like how wide the field of view is. Most AR-15 owners are looking for this trait, and the MRO delivers excellent target acquisition and visibility. Flipping the caps for the lens system and quickly changing targets around the 50 to 100-yard mark is a breeze with this sight.

For a premium option, it’s a great investment, and the value is pretty balanced.

Trijicon MRO

Best Value Red Dot – SIG Sauer Romeo5

Pros
  • Motion-activated illumination (MOTAC)
  • Night vision compatible
  • IPX-7 rated
  • Long battery life
  • Included mount
  • Affordable 
Cons
  • The mount is very basic – but it’s free, so hard to complain

Sig Sauer Romeo5 Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings8 Daylight and 2 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life40,000 Hours
Weight5.1 Ounces

If you’re looking for something cheaper than the Aimpoint sight but that’s still reliable, here’s Sig Sauer with the Romeo5.

Whether you’re using a magnifier or not, the Romeo5 is an extremely capable red dot.

The 2 MOA red dot reticle has ten brightness settings, two of which are night vision compatible, and it offers unlimited eye relief for solid target acquisition.

The top-mounted buttons make it easy to adjust from either side.

The solid aluminum construction provides an IPX-7 waterproof rating, which will cover you in any of your rainy day range activities. It also features motion-activated illumination (MOTAC), which detects motion once you pick up the AR-15 and it turns itself on; if you leave it motionless for a few minutes, it turns off.

However, it can be a hassle if you keep your rifle in your trunk because of how the vibrations from the road will keep it “awake” and drain the battery faster.

We had to make sure it could withstand being submerged – it could!

The elevation and windage turrets are easy to use and adjust, and zeroing the red dot scope doesn’t take much time. The Romeo5 comes with an M1913 Picatinny low mount rise and a co-witness riser mount.

The amount may feel a bit cheap, but it’s included, so that makes it hard to complain. Additionally, it comes with a CR2032 battery, a lens cloth for cleaning, a lens cover, and a Sig Sauer limited warranty!

The Juliet 3 magnifier pairs perfectly with the Romeo5.

You should know that there’s the Romeo 5 XDR Compact version available if you’re going for something with more reticle options and AAA batteries. The caveat is that it’s slightly more expensive.

sig sauer romeo5
Pros
  • Extremely affordable
  • 11 brightness settings
  • Good glass quality for the price
  • Waterproof, shockproof, and fog-proof construction
Cons
  • Poor battery life
  • Not night vision compatible

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Specifications

Reticle3 MOA Dot
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings11 Daylight
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life5,000 Hours
Weight4 Ounces

If you’re truly on a tight budget, this is your optic! The Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 features a 3 MOA reticle, waterproof construction, and 11 brightness settings. And guess what? It retails for under $100.

The reason why it’s so inexpensive is that there are not many advanced features, and it has a relatively small battery life. However, the glass is clear, the dot is crisp, and it handles recoil well, so it’s suited for everything from rifles to shotguns.

You still get quality features despite the low price point. Source: Bushnell

I would also recommend getting the 1-inch UTG Compact Riser for your Picatinny rail if you’re having trouble with the mount and elevation adjustment.

Overall, for an under $100 option, it’s a no-brainer.

Check out our recommended budget red dots for ARs if you want to be a little more conscious of how much you spend.

Bushnell Trophy TRS-25

Best Compact Red Dot – Holosun HS510C

Pros
  • Multiple reticles (dot and circle)
  • Shake awake functionality
  • Solar Failsafe technology
  • Long battery life
  • Included QD absolute co-witness mount
Cons
  • Heavy for its size

Holosun HS510C Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot and 65 MOA Circle
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings10 Daylight and 2 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life50,000 Hours
Weight4.94 Ounces

The Holosun HS510C takes our spot for the best compact red dot. Don’t let the small size fool you, though; it is packed with advanced features.

Thanks to its Solar Failsafe technology and CR2032 battery backup, it can last up to 50,000 hours when on medium settings.

As for target acquisition, Holosun decided to go with the 2 MOA red dot with a 65 MOA ring. The multiple-reticle system provides superior target acquisition and can help estimate distances.

The HS510C still looks like it belongs on a full-size build. Source: Primary Arms

The Shake Awake onboard motion sensor is also a nice touch. If it senses motion, it turns on, and if you leave it still, it turns off. Pretty standard stuff for a battery-focused red dot sight, but still nice to have.

It even comes with an absolute co-witness QD mount and a CR2032 battery, so you’re ready to go out of the box.

Holosun HS510C

Runner Up Holographic Sight: Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Gen II

Pros
  • Dot and circle reticle is great for close-quarters engagements
  • Night vision compatible
  • Auto shutoff 
  • Integrated quick-release mount
Cons
  • Short battery life
  • Bulky and heavy

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Gen II Specifications

Reticle1 MOA Dot and 65 MOA Circle
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings15 Settings, including 4 Night Vision Compatible
Battery TypeCR123A
Battery Life1,500 Hours (estimated)
Weight11.6 Ounces

The Vortex AMG UH-1 Gen II is undoubtedly a high-quality and durable holographic sight that will not disappoint.

The AMG UH-1 GEN II is ready for anything. Source: Botach.com

It’s built like a tank and looks like one too. It has a nice large window that frames the versatile EBR-CQB reticle perfectly. The 15 brightness settings include four that are night vision compatible. However, the one main drawback winds up being battery life. At only an estimated 1,500 hours and likely less with frequent use, it leaves a bit to be desired.

All of the controls are very easy to manipulate, especially the brightness settings, which are conveniently located on the back of the unit. The QD mount allows you to quickly switch the optic between rifles, and the side-mounting battery means you never have to take it off if you don’t want to.

If it’s half as durable as it looks, I think we’re covered. Source: Weaponholder.com

If you’re looking for a battle-ready workhorse of an optic, the AMG UH-1 Gen II is a solid option.

Source: Amazon

Honorable Mention Red Dot: Swampfox Liberator II (Multi-Reticle)

Pros
  • Multiple reticles
  • Very affordable
  • Low profile and absolute co-witness mounts included
  • Night vision compatible
  • Shake N’ Wake technology
Cons
  • No quick-detach mount
  • Multiple reticle option only comes in red

Swampfox Liberator II Specifications

Reticle2 MOA Dot, 26 MOA Circle, 42 MOA Crosshairs, or combination
Magnification 1x
Brightness Settings8 Daylight and 2 Night Vision
Battery TypeCR2032
Battery Life10,000 Hours
Weight 3.49 Ounces

Don’t let the small size and low price fool you; the Swampfox Liberator II can handle some serious use.

From shotguns to rifles to pistol-caliber carbines, the Liberator II is up for the task. Source: Swampfox

It’s constructed from 6061 aluminum and features anti-fog, anti-scratch, and hydrophobic lenses. Eight daylight and two night vision brightness settings are also available. So, whether you’re shooting in inclement weather or low light, you’ll be covered.

The multiple reticle model gives you the ability to toggle between your desired reticle or run a combination of them.

We’ll go with the combo, please! Source: Swampfox

It comes with a low-profile and absolute co-witness mount, allowing you to mount it to almost any rifle, shotgun, or PCC. Best of all, the MSRP is only $149!

Buyer’s Guide for AR-15 Red Dots

There are lots of great optics on the market today, and most of them are of great quality and do their job just fine. But there are tiny details and features that can either make or break your target acquisition.

Reticle

Easily one of the most important aspects of any optic is the reticle. From a basic dot to a dot and circle combination to a unique ACSS Cyclops reticle, they each have their pros and cons. You’ll have to determine if you want to lean more on the precision side, where a simple small dot would suffice, or if you need more from your reticle in the case of shooting moving targets at varying distances.

Reticles also can come in a variety of colors. The most common are red and green. I’m a huge fan of green, personally, as I find it easier to pick up in a hurry.

Magnification

Given that red dots, holographic sights, and prism scopes are typically used for close-to-medium encounters, they are usually found in a 1x configuration. Prism scopes are somewhat of the exception, though, as you’ll find them available in 3x and 5x magnifications sometimes.

If you feel that you need more magnification, you can always look into purchasing a magnifier. A magnifier mounts directly behind your red dot (closer to your face) and can be deployed with a flip of the mount to extend your range. A few popular magnifiers are the EOTECH G45, the Holosun HM3XT, and the Sig Sauer Juliet 3.

Weather Resistance

At a minimum, look for optics that offer some sort of water resistance, fog resistance, and shock resistance. Even if you’re not “running and gunning” all the time, the last thing you want is to be in a situation where you’re depending on your optic and have it fail.

FAQs

Is a scope or red dot better for an AR-15?

A red dot sight is typically a better choice for an AR-15 if you’re going to be shooting at close-to-medium distances. A scope is typically a better choice for your AR-15 if you plan to regularly shoot at longer distances or need a higher level of precision.

What red dot does the military use?

There is no one particular red dot that the military uses. However, Aimpoint and EOTECH are popular options within the military due to their durability and reliability.

What is the best optic brand?

Choosing an optic brand can be very subjective, but the most commonly recommended ones are EOTECH, Trijicon, and Aimpoint.

Final Thoughts

Picking a new optic should be a fun experience, so we hope that our guide helps take some of the stress out of the entire process.

We made sure to offer optics with industry-leading features, best-in-class reliability, and at all price levels. The Aimpoint PRO took our top Red Dot spot thanks to its proven track record and durability. If you want a red dot to head into the zombie apocalypse with, this is it.

If you’re looking for an affordable optic for your weekend range rifle, consider the Sig Sauer Romeo5. Its weatherproof features and simple dot reticle make it a durable and simple option at a great price. Or, if you have astigmatism, consider the Primary Arms SLx 1x for its defined etched reticle.

While we can’t say you’ll definitely find the right optic for you on this list, we’d be surprised if there wasn’t one on here that would suit your needs. We considered others, such as the STNGR Axiom II and Sig Sauer Romeo MSR, but ultimately decided there were others that delivered more bang for the buck.

If you have other optics that you feel should have made this list, drop them in the comments. If you have any questions on any of these, feel free to drop them in the comments or post them to our Reddit page, and we’ll try to answer you as quickly as possible!

As always, stay safe, train hard, and have fun.

Written by Ryan Domke
Ryan Domke photo Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer, and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. Ryan has contributed his writing expertise to numerous reputable publications, including Guns.com, Cheaper Than Dirt, Springfield Armory's 'The Armory Life,' Smith & Wesson's 'The S&W Bench', and The Mag Shack. When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project.

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Brian Zerbian Sun, 28 Jan 2024 10:23:55

Great right up brother!

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