What Is A Red Dot Sight And How Does It Work?

Red dot sights or red dot optics are typically mounted to the top of your pistol or rifle. They use a series of mirrors and a red diode to allow the user to see a red dot on the target when they look through the sights.

When you think of adding accessories to your everyday carry gun (EDC) or just one you enjoy taking to the range you might not think of red dot sights. You probably automatically think of lights and lasers as the standard accessories.

If you are thinking about adding lights or lasers to your everyday carry check out our blog “Do I Need A Light Or Laser For Concealed Carry?”

Back on topic, there are a few misconceptions about red dot sights so let’s clear those up before we get into the fun stuff. You may hear some people call them an RMR. An RMR is actually a model of red dot optic produced by Trijicon. It stands for their Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sight, and depending on who you ask is the gold standard in red dot sights which is why “RMR” is used so frequently.

You may think a red dot sight is a laser, it is not. It’s more of a red light that is reflected by mirrors inside the sight and reflected off of the glass to appear as a red dot on your target when you look through the sight window.

So, let’s dive into more on red dot sights.

When are red dot optics beneficial?

Imagine you are at the range practicing your shooting skills with a few friends. You all shot a few rounds and bring your targets in to see how you did. One of your friends is a competition shooter so he had good groupings, your other friend has been shooting about as long as you and his groupings are better than yours.

You all talk about your shooting and what you can do to improve when your friend says he is using a red dot sight and it has helped his accuracy. He offers to let you try a few rounds with it so you do. You notice that your accuracy is significantly better than before.

Research has shown that more inexperienced shooters had improved accuracy when using red dot optics. If you are struggling to improve your accuracy as a beginner you might want to check out a red dot sight.

But beyond helping improve accuracy, red dot optics can be beneficial for those with deteriorating eyesight too. Rather than looking through iron sights, it’s easier to place the red dot on your target and shoot.

There may be other benefits of red dot optics but these are a few we felt were significant. Overall the simplicity of red dot sights makes them beneficial for multiple reasons.

Which red dot sights are compatible with my gun?

There are a few ways to utilize a red dot sight. Some gun models come from the factory with them pre-installed or are compatible with them, where it is as simple as removing a cover plate and screwing it on. Another common option is to have your slide milled to fit the optic. If you plan to have your slide milled or do not already have them installed from the factory, it might be a good idea to look into getting suppressor height sights. It allows you to use your iron sights in case of a technology failure with your red dot optics. This is referred to as “co-witness”, or co-witnessing your iron sights.

Different optics have different footprints so it is important to make sure your gun and optics are compatible. If your gun has a pre-milled slide which is often referred to as optics ready you will want to check with your manufacturer for compatible red dot optics. If you are planning to send your gun out to be milled make sure to select what optic you are going to purchase beforehand so the footprint is correct.

Keep in mind that red dot optics are an investment and can be a bit pricey, especially if your gun isn’t optics ready.

Some optics have the same footprint. For example, if you have a slide that is cut for the Trijicon RMR the Holosun optics will also fit your slide.

One last tip for this section would be to get what is referred to as a “cover plate” if you plan on removing your optic. Not only does this protect the threads on your slide used for installing the optic but it will prevent the elements from reaching the inside of your slide. It also looks much better than having a weird cut out on your slide when the optic is not installed.


Practice is a topic that comes up in our blogs and other firearm discussions quite frequently. Most likely, you aren’t going to start using something or performing a task and immediately be great at it.

When you are first learning how to read most people aren’t automatically able to breeze through all of the Harry Potter books without first learning the basics. Although, some people may learn quicker than others, everyone needs that initial practice to get good at something.

If you decide to get a red dot sight it is a good idea to practice with it before trusting your abilities 100%. Training is very important with any light, laser, or optic.

Good consistent practice with a red dot sight can help increase your muscle memory which will decrease the time it takes you to draw, aim, and fire while using the optic. So, if you decide to use a red dot optic make sure to dedicate time to practice with it too.

What MOA should I get for my red dot sight?

If you decide to purchase a red dot sight you might be wondering what the different MOAs mean and which one you should get. The various levels of MOA indicate the area your dot covers on a target. For example, a 1 MOA means that if your target is 100 yards away the dot in your sight will cover 1” on your target. That’s a pretty small dot.

Our findings show that a mid-range, around a 3 MOA, will give you a balance between long-range accuracy and easy sight acquisition. Overall if you are looking for long-range accuracy go for a smaller MOA and if you want fast shooting in close combat go for a higher MOA.

Alright, let’s review. Red dot optics are a great tool for shooters of all skill levels. When you are choosing an optic make sure it is compatible with your slide or plan to have your slide milled to fit your optic of choice, but make sure they are right for you before you make the investment.

It’s important that you practice with your optic because it isn’t going to magically make you better without first getting familiar with it. Amazon has many options for red dot optics, check out some of them here if you think red dot optics are just the thing for you.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you prefer and what meets your needs. We recommend visiting our Holsters by Gun Model page if you are looking for holsters that are custom made for your weapon of choice. For all of our belt and holster options and for more information to help you choose the carry system that works best for you, visit our Vedder Holsters website.

Looking for items beyond holsters and belts, check out our Resources Page for popular product links like lights, laser, first aid, maintenance, and more. 

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