For many shooters, both first-timers and experienced, choosing their target equipment is always the age-old question and the one that will ultimately determine how well they take that shot. When it comes to taking precise aim, the toss up is often between riflescopes and red dot sights.
Riflescopes have technically been around since the 17th century, originating in the use of traditional iron sights as reticles; it is their modern-day glass optics incarnation that pits them against red dot and holographic sights, the red dot being invented in 1900. Choosing between the two depends heavily on personal preference and the type of shooting you will do, be it long range or short range, with different factors coming into play for each. While red dots are generally preferred for shooting at shorter distances, a good riflescope can serve the same purpose when you know what features to look for.
In this article, we break down riflescopes and red dots separately in terms of their functionality, and measure their pros and cons so you can decide which option suits your hunting adventure best.
While you can use a riflescope for hunting at shorter distances, their greater magnification ranges are the reason they are preferred for long-range shooting to ensure more pinpoint accuracy; the hallmark feature of the high quality ZeroTech riflescopes range.
Riflescopes come equipped with more complex reticles often with more minute and graded measurements, allowing for elevation and windage adjustment between targets. This makes them the more preferred sight of choice for military and ballistic rifles, for instance. Magnification is always measured relative to what the human eye sees – so a 2x magnified image on a riflescope will be double the size at the same distance. However, this also means that at higher magnification, though your target will be more visible, your field of view will tend to decrease.
Another notable feature of riflescopes is the larger objective lens size, which allows more light through the lens and greater illumination of the target. Choosing a scope size, however, also depends on the type and environment of shooting you prefer. If you are hunting in wide open fields, lighting is less problematic, but a higher range of magnification may be required. In thick woods, rocky or backcountry terrain, however, you will be doing more short-distance shooting with little movement between targets, and you may want to consider a red dot.
- Riflescopes are far more versatile in target acquisition, with more complex and precise reticles that can be adjusted for elevation and windage.
- Riflescopes are more customizable, from different reticles to height rings available to enhance your shooting confidence.
- Riflescopes generally have greater accuracy, allowing for reduced time taken between shots.
- Riflescopes are generally heavier than red dots and less compact to carry.
- With a riflescope, maintaining consistent eye relief is necessary, and this can be problematic when shooting multiple targets at high speeds.
- Riflescopes tend to suffer from parallax errors, especially with increased shooting distances requiring extreme magnification levels.
Red Dot Sights
Unlike the adjustable reticle of a riflescope, a red dot sight has the crosshair (or simply a red dot) superimposed on the lens, which is then used to pinpoint the target. Our previous article covered how in modern shooting tech, red dots are being overtaken in favour of holographic sights, but they still maintain their advantages as precise optic devices at high speeds, such as the Thrive ZeroTech Red Dot Sight.
Generally, red dots come with little to no magnification, but they are optimal for shooting targets at very close ranges while maintaining a constant field of view. They are also lightweight and far smaller than a riflescope, so you can take down multiple targets in quick succession, especially when a high degree of movement is required either from the shooter or the target. In addition, a red dot enables the shooter to keep both eyes open while aiming, thereby increasing their confidence and awareness in the field.
- Red dots allow for faster target acquisition, with light weight, little body adjustment, and both eyes open to take the shot.
- Red dots eliminate the problem of eye relief adjustment and are much simpler in construction.
- Red dots generally have little to no parallax error, since their maximum ranges are on the shorter side.
- Red dots have little to no magnification, so their accuracy is reduced as the distance increases.
- Since the dot or reticle is fixed, it can obscure the target if the target is too far away.
- Red dots are generally harder to use in low light conditions.
Each reticle manufacturer will use their own guides (dots, lines, circles etc) to distinguish each crosshair, and each one represents yardage distances, distance markers, and holdover points. Our ZeroTech reticles are all individually gradated with clear markings in mils for unobtrusive elevation holds. Our specs are always presented to you in clean, precise detail.
Combining a Red Dot and Riflescope
The practice of combining both optical devices first started in military and police operations, and recently it has become popular among hunters for the added advantages it provides. A red dot can be used in conjunction with a riflescope by means of co-mounting; usually involving the red dot being mounted on top or to the side of the primary scope. Co-mounting on top is preferable, as the shooter merely needs to lift their head to view through the red dot without moving the rifle butt from its ideal fixed position. The red dot can be mounted with the scope both using rail mounts and ring mounts. The combined setup is ideal in backcountry hunting, where the terrain may have a combination of dense and sparse vegetation to look through, and where targets can appear at varied distances.
When it comes to taking the perfect shot, both riflescopes and red dots serve their purpose in different ways, and making your choice depends on the kind of hunting adventure you prefer. No matter what your choice of optics, look no further than ZeroTech’s range of riflescopes and red dots for high-quality engineered and tested, all-American unmatched precision.