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10 Best Red Dot for AR 15 for the Money: Budget Buying Guide

Best Red Dot for AR 15

Want to level up your shooting ability? Maximize the capabilities of your AR 15 with a red dot sight!

There are so many options in the market. So how will you know which one is the best AR 15 red dot sight for you?

To make things easy for you, we compiled a review of the best red dot sights that stand out in the market.

If you read on further, we included a buyer’s guide as well, so you’ll know what to look out for when choosing an AR 15 red dot.

Best Value
Trijicon MRO Patrol Riflescope
Best Overall
Aimpoint Comp M4 Reflex Sight
Best Budget
Leapers UTG ITA Micro Red Dot Sight

Best Red Dot for AR 15: Top 10 Picks

#1 Aimpoint Comp M4 2 MOA Red Dot Reflex Sight

BEST OVERALL

Aimpoint Comp M4 2 MOA Red Dot Reflex Sight

The Aimpoint Comp M4 2 MOA is the best overall pick for an AR15 red dot sight. This is a piece of military-grade equipment used by the United States Army.

This red dot sight has served in the Global War on Terror extensively.

While it is on the pricier side, it’s definitely worth the investment if you’re going to take enhancing your AR 15 seriously.

Aimpoint invented this red dot scope and has improved it again and again over the years. This red dot sight uses a standard AA battery that can provide you with 80,000 hours of battery life.

Being the best out of all AR 15 red dot sights on this list, the Aimpoint has seven different night-vision options and nine daylight settings.

One of which is an extra bright setting. You can use six different brightness settings for 24-hour performance.

This red dot scope is made out of clear glass with multi-coated lenses, giving you the best light transmission. This red dot sight is durable and usable when submerged 150 feet deep underwater.

Pros

  • High quality and military-grade sight
  • Has the toughest red dot optics
  • Long battery life
  • Magnifier and night vision compatible

Cons

  • High price point

#2 Trijicon MRO Patrol Riflescope

BEST VALUE

Trijicon MRO Patrol Riflescope

Just like the Aimpoint, the Trijicon MRO is a bit pricey, but it’s worth the money! Trijicon is the real deal when it comes to bombproof optics.

This red dot sight is a circular optic built on a compact frame. It’s made to be used with the AR 15, giving you a variety of mount choices. This red dot scope has a 25 mm objective lens with a 2 MOA dot.

It’s made out of 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum making it one of the most durable sights for an AR 15. Its optic glass is fully multi-coated and extremely clear, giving you the crispest red dots you need.

This red dot optic gives you a vast viewing area and easy-to-find light adjusters. This can run on a SINGLE lithium battery.

It’s incredibly bombproof and durable, so you use them in extreme conditions. Whether you beat it up or toss it around, it will keep on working.

You can still use it even if it’s 100 feet deep submerged in water.

This red dot sight offers eight different brightness settings, two of which are night-vision compatible. It has five daylight settings and one ultra-bright setting.

It’s very light and not bulky, measuring 2.6 inches long and weighing 4.1 ounces. It also comes with a 2 MOA dot reticle.

Pros

  • 5-year lithium battery lifespan
  • Gives you a crisp and clear red dot in any light condition
  • Easy to co-witness with iron sights
  • 2 MOA dot reticle

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Red dot has a slight blue around the edges

#3 Leapers UTG ITA Micro Red Dot Sight

BEST BUDGET RED DOT

Leapers UTG ITA Micro Red Dot Sight

If you’re looking for a budget red dot sight, this is the red dot optic pick for you!

This is a versatile model that can be used on different types of firearms. From handguns to rifles to shotguns, it’s the perfect pick! Definitely a great fit for an AR 15.

This micro red dot sight comes with a quick detach mounting deck making it easy to remove.

It has a standard 4 MOA red and green dot and a 65 MOA circle reticle making it usable in bright light and low light conditions.

The brightness levels can be adjustable to five different settings so that you can get that perfect light transmission at any moment. It’s also best used as a co-witness for an iron sight.

It’s affordable and cheaper than most sights but is still made out of high-quality materials. It’s made out of a high-tech emerald coating, making it very durable.

It’s a prevalent choice among amateur and experienced shooters.

You’re also guaranteed a two-year warranty when you purchase this red dot sight. This UTG sight is the best budget option for AR 15s!

Pros

  • Bright reticle that’s able to function in different light conditions.
  • Unlimited eye relief
  • Adjustable 1/2″ click value at 100 yards.
  • Co-witness for iron sights

Cons

  • Has some parallax
  • 4 MOA can be too large depending on your use
  • Manual Power; doesn’t have an auto-shutoff, so you have to manually turn it off if you don’t want to wear the battery out

#4 Sig Sauer ROMEO 5 1x20mm Compact Red Dot Sight

Sig Sauer ROMEO5 1x20mm Compact Red Dot Sight

The Sig Sauer brand is known for its handgun-only accessories. But with the Romeo 5, they’re entering the military and sporting market.

The Sig Sauer Romeo 5 is one of their products that excelled in the red dot sight market. It’s a 2 MOA red dot with a 1 x 220 mm optic. Built with 10 total elimination settings, it’s perfect for beginner shooters.

The main selling point of this sight is that it’s equipped with a MOTA Motion Activated illumination system. This allows the dot sight to automatically power down when not in use. Its battery life can last up to 40,000+ hours.

This red dot offers an industry-standard mounting system with its M1913 Picatinny rail interface. You get low parallax and unlimited eye relief for easy and fast target acquisition.

Its rugged structure and waterproof abilities are more than enough to give the Romeo 5 a spot on the best AR 15 red dot sight list.

The packaging of this dot sight comes with a secondary weaver style full rail and a 1.41 rise mount. It truly is one of the best dot sights for AR 15 shooters.

Pros

  • Durable and waterproof, perfect for any extreme field conditions
  • IPX-7 rated for complete immersion up to 1 meter
  • Low rise with a rise mount included for AR 15
  • Motion-activated illumination
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Prone to lemons

#5 Trijicon RMRcc Sight Adjustable LED Red Dot

Trijicon RMRcc Sight Adjustable LED Red Dot

If you can afford to spend a little more, this Trijicon RMR is a high-quality pick. It’s quite pricier and more high-end than other red dot sights in the market, but the quality does not disappoint!

It’s one of the smaller dot sights for an AR 15. Small enough to be used on a handgun! The Trijicon RMR is the lightest but still durable among the different brands of red dot optics.

Built with aircraft aluminum, it’s waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof.

It comes with a 3.25 MOA red dot that uses an LED dot system. There’s also an adjustable brightness setting with an automatic brightness model that you can modify with just the push of a button.

This red dot sight can be used with two eyes open shooting, giving you a wide field of view with a very crisp red dot. It can be utilized as a main optic or a backup to a gun equipped with a magnified optic.

The brightness settings of the Trijicon RMR include a 2-night vision and one super bright level.

You can adjust it however you want, but consider the weather and background light your target is placed in.

The Trijicon RMR red dot sight has a well-built electrical design that includes and operates on special heavy-duty batteries. This makes it perfect to be used in fields with harsh conditions.

Pros

  • 4-year battery life with top loading battery design
  • Light and compact, weighing 1.17 ounces and measuring only 1.8 inches long.
  • Tons of mounting options
  • Has automatic and manual brightness settings

Cons

  • Expensive for a small and light optic

#6 Vortex Optics Sparc Red Dot Sight Gen II

Vortex Optics Sparc Red Dot Sight Gen II

The Vortex Optics Sparc is made from aircraft aluminum, making it one of the sturdiest red dot sights in the market. Throw it, smash it, it’ll stay intact. Perfect for extreme field conditions!

The sight magnification can only reach 1x, but most red dot sights don’t have magnifying capabilities anyway.

Its capabilities are enhanced when coupled with a two-setting MOA dot sight. The Vortex Optics Sparc is very easy to use with its rotating dial for switching MOA settings.

You can modify the brightness settings of this sight, giving you the ability to adjust to daylight and low-light.

It’s a very versatile sight with multiple height mounts that makes a great fit for any firearm.

Pros

  • Durable and long-lasting body
  • Multiple MOA settings
  • Multi-Height Mounts

Cons

  • No night vision
  • Low light performance is a bit lackluster

#7 Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic Red Dot Riflescope

Aimpoint Pro Patrol Rifle Optic Red Dot Riflescope

This Aimpoint sight can easily be a competitor for the best overall pick. The Aimpoint brand is very well-known for the best red dot scopes in the market.

The PR Optic may seem more expensive than the others in this list, but it offers many high-quality features. It has a 2 MOA dot reticle that’s visible in both high and low light situations.

Its bulky and heavy structure can protect the inner sight parts for up to 150 underwater.

You can use this sight in extreme temperatures because it can work to as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

You won’t have to worry about battery life because the sight is powered by a 3V lithium battery that can last up to 30,000 hours.

Pros

  • Durable (waterproof, shockproof, fog proof), one of the strongest in the market
  • Can be used in extreme weather conditions
  • Has a night vision function

Cons

  • Expensive option; not recommended for hobbyists or beginners

#8 Eotech EXPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight

Eotech EXPS3 Holographic Weapon Sight

The Eotech brand is a great competitor of Aimpoint. The only difference they have with Aimpoint red dot sights is that they have a more versatile design. However, it comes at the cost of battery life.

Shooters in Marine Special Operations Command are known to use Eotech products.

This Eotech EXPS3 holographic sight is compact, with every part reduced in size except for its viewing window. It offers a holographic reticle that can work intuitively with magnifiers.

The EXPS3 sight makes use of the Eotech reticle with its 68 MOA ring and 1 MOA red dot. This gives you fast target acquisition and a wide field of view in short-and mid-range activities.

You can use 20 different daylight settings and 10-night vision settings with these holographic sights.

Pros

  • Multiple daylight and night settings
  • Holographic reticle is compatible with magnifiers
  • Auto shut down with low battery warning
  • Easy magnifier mounting

Cons

  • Low battery capacity

#9 Burris Fastfire III

Burris Fastfire III

The Burris Fastfire III is a great investment if you plan to use it on a range of firearms.

It comes with a 3 MOA reticle that’s built for quick target acquisition. This sight costs slightly higher than the price range of budget red dots.

You can easily remove the mount without a hassle, and its recoil tolerance is pretty impressive. It’s able to withstand a recoil of a semi-automatic 0.45 handgun and even a 460 XVR pistol.

Its elevation is adjustable without any extra tools. It has a magnification level of 1x and a diameter of 0.8×0.6 for its objective lens.

The Burris Fastfire III red dot sight will last you a lifetime with its lithium-ion battery. You can also choose to adjust its brightness settings manually or rely on its auto-brightness feature.

Pros

  • Quick target acquisition
  • Perfect eye balance
  • Durable and sturdy, not affected by recoil
  • No tools required for adjustment
  • Keeps zero consistently well once mounted
  • Parallax free

Cons

  • Adjustment buttons might be too small
  • Not budget-friendly but also not that expensive

#10 Bushnell TRS 25

Bushnell TRS 25

The Bushnell TRS 25 is a good quality pick if affordability is your priority. It comes with rapid fire and greater recoil. Plus, it holds its zero location steadily.

This affordable sight has a 3 MOA giving you the best accuracy. Its body is 100% shockproof and waterproof, helping it last in extreme environmental conditions.

It has multiple brightness settings making it usable both in the day, low light, and night.

It may not be as fancy as the other red dots in this list, but you can get the basic features with their high-quality performance for its price.

Pros

  • Compact and ergonomic size
  • Affordable price point
  • Easy brightness adjustment
  • Superior waterproof and shockproof properties

Cons

  • Limited field of view
  • Only has basic features
  • Needs risers to co-witness iron sights

BONUS Budget Option: Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight

Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec Reflex Sight

The Sightmark Ultra Shot sight has a dual-pane lens system that gives you no parallax and a built-in laser. This model’s main feature that makes it stand out is its four reticle patterns.

It’s an affordable option with all the basics included. These are:

  • Sight adjustment
  • Optional pressure switch
  • Necessary batteries for both sight & laser

The Ultra Shot sight comes with a Scope Coat and Lens Cleaning Cloth.

The red dot is designed with a transparent reticle. To use it with night vision, it needs to be paired with another device with that function.

Pros

  • Water-resistant, shockproof, operating in all weather conditions
  • Wide field of view that provides eye relief
  • 1 click MOA adjustment
  • 5 brightness settings (3 levels for day and 2-night vision modes)
  • Smooth recoil resistance

Cons

  • Laser isn’t automatically shut off
  • Short 20h battery life
  • Doesn’t hold zero accurately 

What Is a Red Dot Sight?

A red dot sight is an optic that you attach to a firearm to achieve a MORE PRECISE shot. It helps you set your target from moderate to long-range shooting.

They are called red dot sights since they have the traditional red reticle. As time passes, some red dot sights have a green reticle.

Red dot sights do not utilize internal magnification because they’re 1x. Sights are designed for target acquisition up to 300 yards away.

They can be mostly used on AR 15, enhancing its performance and ensuring a precise and accurate target acquisition.

Do note that red dot scopes are different from laser sights. Laser sights are the red dots you use for aiming, while red dot sights reference the reticle of the optics.

Basically, red dot sights improve shooting accuracy for both rifles and pistols. They are mostly used in combat-related target shooting, home defense, hunting activities, and military operations.

Benefits of a Red Dot Sight

Getting a red dot sight will enhance your aiming at a lower price compared to other optics. You can use it for either home defense or military combat use.

Compared to optics like laser sights, red dot sights are SAFER to use.

Laser sights, if not used properly, can cause damage when directly exposed to the eye. This can lead to permanent injury.

Red dot sights are also generally lighter than most optical devices. Mostly built with aircraft-grade aluminum, they weigh less but are also very durable.

A red dot sight will give you a natural sighting of your target, giving you a comfortable, safe, and fast target acquisition.

It’s the PERFECT optic sight for an AR 15!

How Do Red Dot Sights Work?

Red dot sights operate on a two-part unit.

The sight is first scoped in the main tube. Just like standard rifle scopes, but much shorter. After that, the tube uses the lighted dot in the center of the reticle.

This dot can come in different MOA sizes from 1 MOA up to 5 MOA. The MOA will depend on the purpose of the dot sight.

For example, most military dot sights use 1 MOA size since the target can be blocked out by having a larger MOA dot over it.

Police entry sights use larger MOA for their reticles as targets can be nearer.

The MOA size depends on coverage, so you should know what you will use your red dot for before choosing one.

A single MOA can cover 1 inch at 100 yards, so if a target is 600 yards away, the MOA on your reticle can cover 6 inches of area.

How to Set Up Your Red Dot Sight

When the dot sight for AR 15 is mounted, it doesn’t mean it’s immediately ready for use. You should first set the zero location to guarantee an accurate lineup to where you’re aiming.

Inaccurate firing can be a waste of a bullet, especially if you’re hunting in the wilderness. Your target can flee once the first gunshot is fired!

You’d want to ensure that the sight is placed properly and the zero location is consistent. You should set it up in a way that you only have one shot to get your target.

To zero your red dot, you should:

  • Set a target 25 meters away.
  • Center the dot on the target while your firearm is in solid rest.
  • Fire one round and take note of where the point of impact is.
  • Adjust the dots accordingly.
  • Fire a second round to see if the lineup is accurate and repeat until the target is consistently hitting the center.

You can also take a look at our Guide on Using a Red Dot Sight for a thorough walkthrough.

Where to Position Your Red Dot Sight

The first thing you should do is find the middle spot on your rail. Positioning your sight at this part will give you maximum efficiency.

Putting it at the rear part of the rifle makes it too close. This will distort your perception of the field and surroundings, diminish peripherals, and can easily distract you.

The red dots will keep you in focus no matter where you put it on the rail, so you don’t need to put it very near your eyes. Avoid rear mounting the sight if you have a non-monolithic upper receiver.

If you want to get that maximum field of vision, put the sight on the forward portion of the upper receiver. This is also the most secure part of the gun.

Placing it here will avoid any accidents and damages from recoil.

Your success in shooting your target will rely on where your red dots are placed. Very important to keep this in mind!

How to Choose Your Red Dot

Now that you have a list of all the best red dot sights, how will you choose among them?

There are many things to look out for, especially when planning on using it in particular situations. You should also know if the price is worth it.

Several red dots have all the necessary features needed. But others might be MORE effective in specific shooting situations.

Likewise, some might have fancier features but MIGHT NOT be effective for your goal.

Most red dot sights might be pricey with all the fancy high-quality features. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need all of those.

If you’re a hobbyist or a beginner, you might want to settle for a cheaper one that has all the basic features in it.

#1 Determine Which Firearm You’re Using

In this case, we’ve been talking about sights for AR 15, so you should look for sights that are specifically designed for AR 15 use.

Sights for AR 15s usually are built with mounts already, so that you won’t need to buy a separate one.

Most of them also come with co-witnessing abilities, allowing you to use another aiming mechanism WITHOUT removing the sight.

#2 Know the Environment and the Purpose of Your Shooting Activity

Will you be using the sight in the daytime? Or will you mostly use it in low-light conditions?

Know if the field you’ll be shooting in will be an open range one or a close range. Choosing a sight will rely on these as some might not have the capabilities required.

#3 The Type of Red Dot Sight

Once you’ve determined the two most important things (firearm to use and shooting environment), the next thing you should think about is what type of sight you will need.

There are TWO different types of red dots, namely:

  • Reflex type
  • Electronic type

Battery-Free or Reflex Sights

Reflex red dot sights don’t rely on a battery, making them LESS PRONE to electrical failures. These types are powered by the tritium radiations that illuminate them.

It’s NOT RECOMMENDED for low light settings because you can’t manually increase the intensity of the scope. Brightness adjustments aren’t available with these.

If you’re opting to use reflex sights, be sure to have your gun compensate for its downsides.

Electronic Sights

Electronic sights are starting to become the more popular type of sight in the market. Most of these are abundant in features and can provide a variety of reticle sizes and styles.

Brightness levels can be ADJUSTABLE, and there are options for night vision settings as well. The batteries in these can last for years.

Some electronic types have an auto-shutoff function that can be useful when you’re saving energy.

Depending on the model, electronic sights can last from 100 to 1000 hours. The power can be sourced from light source power consumption and the capacity of the battery.

#4 Features: What to Look for in a Red Dot

Most sights all have the basic features down, but how do you compare them from one another?

Red Dot Body Size

If you noticed from the product list, all of them would vary in size. Some might be small and compact, while others may seem bulky.

The miniature red dots are usually the go-to choice for smaller-sized firearms. These are not the common optics used for ARs, but they can be lightweight and best for close quarters.

The next size would be the compact red dots. These usually come with objective lenses measuring 20 mm to 25 mm. They’re a good compromise between small size and full power.

Though compact sizes can be handy, most of them have small battery capacities and intensity problems.

The MOST POWERFUL ones are the full-sized red dots that measure around 26 mm and above.

These are designed for duty use and have long battery lives. These optics also have a wide range of mounts and accessories.

While they are fully powered, they can be bulky and heavy. Though with its capabilities, it might be worth it to put up with!

Reticle Size

The reticle is the dot in red dots. These vary in size and are measured in MOAs or minutes of angle.

1 MOA is equal to 1 inch at 100 yards. Reticle sizes usually range from 1 MOA to 9 MOA.

  • The SMALLER the reticle, the easier it is to lock your target in long ranges as you can see more of it with a small dot.
  • A BIGGER reticle size will cover your long-range target and make your shot more accurate in short ranges.

Your MOA size and range should depend on whether you’re going to use your sight in a wide range field.

Reticle Design and Color

Some companies have added ADDITIONAL FEATURES like extra dots, larger rings, crosshairs, and more.

When you’re choosing a red dot, you might want to check the reticle if it’s compatible with you. Some might have too much additional stuff in them that it can be distracting to the user.

They may be called red dots, but the reticles can come in either amber or green. Green light uses less battery power.

You might want to consider these if you’re planning on saving battery power.

Magnifier Compatibility

Most AR 15 sights are compatible with any type of magnifier. They usually run from 3x to 6x power, allowing you to see at a further distance.

Most sights just come in 1x magnifying capabilities, so if you’re shooting in long-range distances, you might want to attach a separate magnifier to it.

Durability

When investing in a sight, you will surely want something that can last song, especially if you’re using it outdoors.

As mentioned earlier, you should familiarize yourself with the environment of your shooting range.

It’s important to know the weather as you might need one that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Will you use it in a relatively dry place? Or will your shooting require you to go underwater?

Take note that there is a MASSIVE difference between waterproof and water-resistant!

Water-resistant sights can endure rain droplets and splashes, but that DOESN’T mean you can fully submerge your sight in the water.

You’d also want your red dot to be able to withstand heavy recoil. And if you’re using it for duty, you might want to make sure that your optic is proofed.

Battery Life

Last but not least, you should check at a red dot’s battery capacity. To determine how much you need, as mentioned earlier, you should know your optic’s PURPOSE.

An optic for self-defense and duty use might need more battery power than hobby use. Duty use might even require the use of more features hence, needing MORE battery power.

On the other hand, competition shooters and hunters might not need night vision features or adjustable brightness settings.

Features that can affect battery power:

  • Night Vision and Brightness Levels
  • Auto Shutoff

Determine what use the optic will be for and what kind of features you will need to know how much battery power you’ll be using.

A Recap of the Best Picks

Best Budget Pick: Leapers UTG ITA Micro Red Dot Sight

Our BEST BUDGET PICK is the Leapers UTG ITA Micro Red Dot Sight!

It’s not as fancy as the Aimpoint and Eotech ones, but its features (bright reticle, abundant eye relief, etc.) are HIGH-END for its price. Good enough to be the best dot sight for AR 15!

It’s affordable and worth it compared to the other AR 15 red dot sights.

The overall quality is good enough to be considered a high-end optic. So if you’re a hunter, hobbyist, or beginner, this is a good sight to start with.

However, if you’re looking for more budget options, you can take a look at our review of the best red dot sights under 100 dollars.

Best Value: Trijicon MRO

The Trijicon MRO is a professional military-grade optic with a mid-tier price point, providing you EXCELLENT value for money.

Adjustable brightness levels and top-tier heavy-duty coating allow you to fully enjoy your shooting experience 24/7.

The chances of breakages are minimal to non-existent.

It’s PERFECT for duty use, hunting, and shooting competitions.

Best Overall: Aimpoint Comp M4

If you can afford to spend a few more bucks, the BEST OVERALL sight is still the Aimpoint Comp M4. Definitely worth the money! It’s a military-grade sight that’s perfect for duty use.

It’s the most VERSATILE one and can be used in any light condition. You can also use it with a multitude of mounting solutions.

This professional-grade AR15 red dot can give you the CLEAREST and MOST VISIBLE red dots.

Now that’s what you call a WINNER!

Conclusion

The best red dot sight will still be the one that will suit your purpose for it. It’s imperative to determine first what the optic is for and what environment you’re going to be using it in.

There are many options for red dot sights, so take your pick and have fun on the field!

We hope this guide provided enough information for you to choose the best red dot sight for your AR 15! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below!

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.