Reflex sights are a type of gun sights that can go on a variety of firearms, depending on the mounting system available. Reflex, red dot, and holographic sights are commonly associated with each other because of their similar construction and electronic reticles. They are also common on many of the firing systems on vehicles, aircraft, and ships.
While they may look the similar or the same on the outside, each of these sights uses a different method of optical imagery. The goal of a reflex sight is to provide the user with the best reticle while eliminating or lessening a lot of the optical problems that come with other sights like parallax, zeroing, or MOA.
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How Does it Work?
You’ll see a lot of similarities aesthetically between all three sights. All three commonly use a red dot as a reticle. A reflex sight projects an image (reticle) onto a lens that reflects towards your eye. There are a few different ways a reflex sight can project an image that eventually you see, but in the end, the words “reflex” and “reflection” are the most basic terms.
The most common way reflex sights solve sighting problems is by using collimating lenses and light. Collimating light is light that is parallel to whatever surface it is facing. When light goes through a collimating lens, it straightens and then bounces off another lens into your eye. As a result, the dot or reticle that you see is virtually parallel to the gun barrel. Right off the bat, parallax is eliminated.
Reflex sights offer near unlimited eye relief, so you can mount it on different positions on your firearm and still have excellent target acquisition.
Why Buy A Reflex Sight?
Red dot sights are very popular for their on target pointing with the dot itself. Reflex sights build on top of the illuminating nature of pure red dot sights in order to factor out sighting and zeroing problems. You will have to zero in the reflex sight, this is standard for just about every scope you fit on a firearm.
Reflex sights typically give the user more chance of on target hit at longer range (excluding gun recoil). Whichever way your head moves, the reticle will remain in the center of the panel.
Let’s say for example you’re looking at a target down range. Because the reticle stays in place at the center of the sight, you can acquire targets faster without having to swing the gun about. If you look around or avert your eyes from the center of the sight, it will still point straight ahead. A reflex sight isn’t a massive, groundbreaking upgrade from a normal red dot sight, but it does provide the user with a simpler method of
Best Under $100
The Dagger Defense sight is a fully encased sight with four different types of reticles in red or green fashion. It comes with four different locking screws so you can adjust and zero in the sight. Most users have mounted this sight on a semi-automatic rifle and have been able to zero it in between 100-350 rounds.
It also features a dial on the right-hand side for choosing the reticle and power level.
- Aperture: 33mm
- Length: 82mm
- Weight: 10 oz
- Field of view at 100m: 15.8m
- Rail: Picatinny
Browning, a popular sporting company, has crafted the equally popular Buckmark sight. This sight is designed specifically for Buckmark pistols, which fire .22 ammunition but also works on other rimfire weapons. It comes with four different reticles for your convenience and a dial for brightness.
You should only consider this sight if you are looking into .22 caliber rimfire guns or a Buckmark pistol specifically.
- Length: 3.25in
- Height: 2in
- Width: 1.25in
- Field-of-view at 100m: 15.7m
- Weight: 6.6 oz
- Rail: Weaver base
The Sure Shot sight is a lot like the Buckmark sight in design but isn’t limited to .22 weapons. It comes with a built-in Weaver mount, which saves you the hassle of figuring out what railing its compatible with.
This sight comes in either black or camo pattern, with the latter being a little more expensive than the former.
- Aperature: 33mm
- Field of view at 100m: 35m
- Length: 3.23in
- Width: 2.52in
- Height: 2.20in
- Weight: 4.76oz
The reflex sight by Survival land is the cheapest sight on our list, coming in at just under $15. Normally the first impression would be horrible reviews and overall dissatisfaction, but this sight maintains a small fanbase. It has a similar construction to most wide-angle sights and mounts on a picatinny rail.
It comes with four different reticles and two different colors or said reticles.
Best Under $200
The Ultra Shot M-Spec is a big step up from the Sure Shot. This sight is encased in cast magnesium alloy, a very strong and sturdy metal that is unlikely to suffer any damaging dings or scratches. This casing also better protects the interior panel.
The M-Spec is Sightmark’s most rugged and durable sight, built to handle the elements and water submersion up to 40ft. It’s brightness settings also come with a night vision mode, enabling you to find a comfortable setting without the reticle being overly bright.
- Field of View at 100m: 35m
- Dimensions: 103x58x61 mm
- Window Dimension: 33x24mm
- Weight: 8 oz.
Best Under $300
In a similar fashion to the M-Spec, the Holosun reflex sight sports a titantium casing with an aluminum finish, making it one of the strongest and most durable sights on our list. Those features are always nice, but what’s even better is its wide 32mm×24mm open lens.
Even with a solid casing, a wide lens expands the field of view so you can a clear shot at your target without having to squint through the metal.There is no automatic shutoff on this sight, so you have to make sure you turn it off manually.
Best Under $400
What to Consider When Buying A Reflex Sight
A lot of reflex and red dot sights refer to one another as each other, and it can get sort of confusing. A reflex sight is inherently different from a pure red dot sight, but use many similar housings. Housing refers to the type of construction around the glass panels. Tube, open, or fully encased.
Different sights with different housings will allow for more or less field of view, so choose according to how much you want to see through the sight.
All sights run on either CR2, AA, or AAA batteries. The amount of life you get out of these batteries depends on the illumination setting you have for the sight. Some sights will give you thousands of hours worth of life on the lowest intensity setting.
Some sights have their batteries in the rear or underside of the sight, which could affect the overall housing. Be sure that you are combing the right housing with battery location.
Using different reticles is going to result in a different user experience. Most of these sights come with different selections of reticles that might be better suited for your range and weapon handling.
Just because a reticle looks cool in the sight doesn’t mean it will give you the best target acquisition.
There are certainly some very popular but expensive sights on this list. You shouldn’t feel pressured to purchase the biggest one just because the price indicates quality. Some might come with a couple of small perks.
The higher priced sights are usually more rugged and designed for extreme conditions, so take this into account when considering the higher end sights.
Some of these sights will come with built-in picatinny or weaver mounts. Usually, these sights will say which one they come or what type of railing they are compatible with. Nevertheless, you should double-check your weapon and the mount to see if they are compatible with the sight you are considering.
What are the Real Differences?
Between the big three reticle sights (red dot, reflex, and holographic), reflexes are sort of the midpoint between user experience and accuracy. You’ll see a lot more of red dot sights for close range shooting, but reflexes and holographic sights give you the edge in accuracy and focusing abilities.
That’s not to say that red dot sights are wholly unreliable, but reflexes will be more versatile across different firearms, especially with each of them having near unlimited eye relief.
Click here to see our picks for the top red dot sights of 2018.
Click here to see our picks for the top holographic sights of 2018.