What are Holographic Sights?
Holographic sights are part of the primary trio of gun sights with red dots and reflexes. They are also the most advanced type of reticle sight, utilizing internal lasers to craft the image of a reticle in the sight’s viewing panel.
They come in a variety of shapes, but the holographic fabrication process is pretty much the same across all holographic sights. These are not to be confused with authentic laser sights, which produce a laser dot on target that almost everyone can see.
- It’s not uncommon to see tube and open circle versions of the holographic sight. A tube version looks sort of like a dedicated scope but provides better sighting at close range.
It’s commonly thought that reflex and holographic sights are constructed differently but solve the same problems. Zeroing and focusing issues are common across all sights, even iron sights. A holographic doesn’t entirely eliminate those problems, but like reflex sights, they eliminate the need for eye relief with a more accurate optic.
Why Were They Developed?
The first holographic sight was developed by EOTech in 1998. These sights are the first to use true lasers in order to craft the reticle you see in the sight. The thought was that these sights would even further increase target acquisition speeds and reduce sighting problems that one may still encounter when using reflex or red dot sights.
EOTech remains the largest manufacturer of holographic sights in the country and due to their price, you’re not likely to see holographic sights as widespread as red dot or reflex sights. Regardless, those that have them are in for an entirely new shooting experience.
Note: You’ll definitely come across some sights that say “holographic” in their name. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see the word “reflex” in their title as well. These are not pure holographic sights, they are reflex. Holographic and reflex sights may look similar but their construction and use is different.
How Do They Work?
Reflex sights and holographic sights work in similar ways. If you move your head left, right, up, or down, the reticle will always remain pointed forward or down the barrel of a gun its mounted on. The concept is different than if you were to move the sight around freehandedly.
It’s astonishing to think that so much goes on inside these little sights in order to correct zeroing and parallax problems. The basic concept of a holographic sight is that a laser bounces light off a collimating reflector.
- A collimating reflector straightens light.
The light then travels to a holographic grating panel which produces the holographic image you see in the sight. Light is technically reflected three times, but no two sights are completely identical to each other.
Best Under $500
The Vortex UH-1 is one of the more unique sights we’ve seen, even if it is holographic. It’s housing definitely makes it stand out compared to tube or open constructions. Despite this construction, the UH-1 is popular for its larger than normal viewing panel and 15 levels of brightness settings.
You also have the option of using a rechargeable battery and using the UH-1’s onboard USB port to charge it. Otherwise, it runs on a standard CR2 battery.
Best Under $600
What to Consider When Buying A Holographic Sight
A holographic sight is pretty neat, but you shouldn’t consider just because it is a holographic sight. It’s designed to give you better target acquisition compared to normal red dot sights. You should be considering a holographic sight if speed of handling and acquisition are integral to your job.
There are few “cheap” holographic sights on the market. As we explained earlier, they are still a relatively new technology and more likely to be seen in the hands of law enforcement and the military than civilians.
Regardless, each of the holographic sights has proved its worth with a happy fanbase. While the EOTech XR308 may be the most expensive and versatile sight on our list, it shouldn’t have to be your first choice. Remember, a high price doesn’t always mean the best sight for your gun.
One of the noticeable drawbacks is battery life. The power used to illuminate the laser diode in a holographic sight is considerably larger than a reflex or red dot sight. As such, the battery life is shorter.
Red dot and reflex sights have noticeably longer lives with their batteries. If you don’t want to pour money into AA and CR2 batteries, consider getting a rechargable battery or USB cable if a sight has the correct port.
Holographic sights are pretty rare and relatively new, the first only being developed by EOTech in 1998. Even now, it’s still pretty hard to find holographic sights because the process of manufacturing them is very particular. Not to mention working with lasers is always expensive.
In the end, a holographic sight is constructed for a better user experience and target acquisition. Target acquisition is defined as how fast the reticle gets on target, and how much space it takes up on the target. Using different reticles will probably change the experience for you.