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How to Sight in a Red Dot on a Shotgun: The Complete Guide

How to Sight in a Red Dot on a Shotgun

Red dot sights usually don’t come as a default option on a shotgun.

However, they’ve been gaining popularity recently, and you may want to consider using one on your shotgun.

I’ve tried them myself, and I can see the appeal, especially if you know how to zero them properly.

So how do you sight in a red dot on a shotgun?

I’ve made a complete guide on how to sight in a red dot on a shotgun, how to zero it, and more.

How to Zero a Red Dot Sight on Shotgun: 5 Easy Steps

After you’ve attached a red dot to your shotgun, let’s zero the sight, so it has good accuracy.

You can use two types of shells/loads on a shotgun. These are buckshot and slugs. The zeroing method for both is different.

Let’s start with buckshot.

Zeroing Using Buckshot

Buckshot pellets

Buckshot is an ammunition type that involves multiple smaller pellets hitting a target. This makes zeroing easier.

1. Set Up Your Target at the Preferred Range

The DISTANCE between you and your target is essential for zeroing. Place yourself at a distance where you’ll be commonly using the shotgun.

Preferably you should use a paper target or one where you can easily see where all the pellets went through.

2. Fire Multiple Shots at the Target

When your setup is ready, fire at least three shots at the target. Ideally, you should shoot at the SAME SPOT each time.

Remember that the spread (variation of pellets hitting the paper target) depends on the choke tube, range, barrel length, and loads.

3. Adjust the Reflex Sight to the Center of the Spread

After firing, keep your shotgun aimed at the target and fix your red dot sight based on the center of where the pellets hit.

You can make these adjustments via the adjustment mechanisms on the scope mount or the red dot itself. 

I also make different adjustments based on each pattern I see based on the individual choke tube I have.

Shoot multiple times per choke pattern for better results.

TAKE NOTE: On the Trijicon RMR red dot sight, the adjustments need to be done using a screwdriver, coin, or the extractor rim of a 5.56mm cartridge.

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for Your Discretion

If you’re unsatisfied with the zero, rinse and repeat steps two and three.

However, as most shooters use shotguns at close range, you won’t need to change things too much.

5. Take Breaks Regularly

Like with any exercise, taking a break is crucial for improvement. You also want to rest your weapon after a long shooting session. 

You don’t want to damage the cover, trigger, or choke just because you’re using them without breaks.

Zeroing Using Slugs

Shotgun slugs

Slugs hit targets differently than buckshot.

Instead of pellets, slugs are one large bullet, similar to how a rifle or pistol operates. However, the range still isn’t as good.

Adjusting the zero for it has a different procedure.

1. Choose the Best Choke Tube

Shooting slugs has a lot of benefits when it comes to accuracy at range versus pellets with a spread or shot pattern.

A proper choke tube can keep a slug in the right direction longer.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Check the width of the choke before firing with it. Some guns don’t have the same width as the choke you might be using.

2. Set Up at the Right Distance

Generally, slugs are meant to be shot at LONGER distances than pellets.

The distance that I usually go for is 50-100 meters, which is an excellent range to zero the red dot on the gun.

3. Shoot Three Shots on Target

Similar to pellet adjustments, shoot the paper target three times.

However, correct for bullet drop instead of correcting to the middle of the shot groups.

You can use the same adjustments you made on the buckshot, but targeting should be a few inches when shooting at 50-100 yards.

4. Change Settings Based on Results

Like with buckshot, you can make more adjustments based on how precise you want the gun to be. 

Don’t expect it to be as accurate as a rifle at farther distances, though.

How to Sight a Red Dot Scope WITHOUT Shooting


Let’s get into how to sight in red dots without shooting. Practicing this is crucial, especially for fast target acquisition in home defense.

1. Read the Manual

Before doing anything with your gun and red dot, read the manual.

I know it’s a hassle, but it’s better to know HOW to do things and not need them than to need them and not know.

It will speed up the process of learning about your red dot sight.

2. Check the Shooting Ranges

Like zeroing your gun, you must always check the shooting ranges.

The point of aim won’t matter if your bullet over or undershoots the ideal point of impact.

When I was a new shooter, I would keep it at 20-25 yards before moving my way up to 100-250.

3. Prepare All Tools You Need

Before aiming in, you’ll need to prepare all the tools necessary for installing the sight.

A prepared shooter is an effective shooter!

You’ll need the mounting plate, red dot, your gun, and other accessories mentioned in the sight’s manual.

If you install a shotgun red dot sight, you might want to bring your full choke tube, alternate barrel options, or even different scopes.

If you haven’t assembled your weapon yet, don’t forget parts like the receiver, cover, trigger, or break.

When preparing, remember to follow the standard weapon safety protocols.

Ensure the weapon is pointed downrange at all times, and unload the gun when setting it up.

4. Mount Your Red Dot Scope

The manual should have a straightforward explanation and step-by-step tutorial on mounting the optic onto your weapon.

Most guns have a Picatinny rail on the receiver, the position usually on the weapon’s upper part.

5. Have an Unobstructed Aim

Regardless of distance, you should have a view that isn’t bothered by distractions. This includes anything you might be wearing. Focus is crucial to consistent shot groups.

Red dots are night vision compatible and can be used in complete darkness because of the bright aiming point/reticle.

The point of aim of your paper or target should also be seen through the red dot sight.

Why Use Red Dot Sights on Shotguns?

Man carrying shotgun on shoulder

Red dots were popularized on the handgun, submachine gun, and even the short-distance rifle.

However, a shotgun benefits from using these optics because it doesn’t block the lower half of your point of impact.

Meanwhile, most iron sights block the lower half of where you’re sighting. 

Red dots allow you to see where your shot pattern hits. You can change accordingly and target acquisition will improve.

Night vision equipment can also be used better with a red dot since the light from the reticle can illuminate targets better.

An excellent example of this is when turkey hunting!

Even when it’s dark out, turkey hunting can still be viable since the turkey you’re trying to shoot is illuminated by the reticle.

I’ve paired my optics with a decent pair of night vision goggles! It was a good turkey-hunting experience.

Why Shotgun Pellet Pattern Matters

Shotgun pellets

The pellet pattern on a shotgun DOES matter because the tighter the shot variation, the MORE pellets will hit where you aimed.

Many factors determine the shot pattern.

1. Barrel Length

The first factor is the length of the barrel. A short barrel will have a wider spread, while a longer one will have a tighter one.

2. Choke Type and Length

Another factor is the choke used.

The shortest and least restrictive choke tube can slightly righten the shot pattern, while the longer full choke tubes can make the spread close to a slug.

How to Test And Record Your Shotgun DOPE

Two men with shotguns

I use DOPE for long-distance shooting. However, let’s check how you can do it on your shotgun.

What Is DOPE?

DOPE stands for Data On Previous Engagement.

This is a small booklet or index card of data you carry with your weapon to increase consistency.

This data includes gathering information from previous shooting sessions. It contains information such as:

  • Bullet drop adjustment
  • Wind adjustment
  • Adjustment for moving targets
  • Performance of various ammo types

Sometimes, this can be stored directly on a scope through scope caps. Learn how to dope a scope here!

Testing and Recording on a Shotgun

DOPE may seem complicated to do, but on a shotgun, it’s simple!

You won’t be using this at a longer distance, so wind and moving target adjustments aren’t needed.

All that’s left is bullet drop and ammo-type data.

This mainly applies to shooting with slugs, as they’re more affected by bullet drops at the distances they’re used in.

You’ll be aiming higher than the reticle as you shoot at a target at a specific distance.

Record this change on your DOPE. That way, you can use this info next time to be on target immediately.

For ammo type, there’s buckshot and slug. The performance of these two ammo types will vary. 

I record this difference on your DOPE if I have a massive shot pattern variety at the point of impact using buckshot when a slug is still on target.

Frequently Asked Questions

Shotgun and shotgun shells

After reading our guide about red dots on shotguns, you may still have a few questions. I’ve answered the commonly asked questions about them.

How Many Yards Should I Sight My Red Dot Scope?

On a shotgun, the ranges you’ll use it at are limited. Therefore, the best distances to sight your red dot scope are 20-100 yards, depending on the ammo type.

Buckshot should be used at closer distances, while you should use slugs from a distance.

Can You Laser Bore Sight a Red Dot Scope on a Shotgun?

Yes, you can laser bore sight a red dot on a shotgun!

Hitting targets is simpler when you use a laser or even your eyes to bore sight. Aligning the gun’s barrel position with the sight is ideal.

How Accurate is a Red Dot?

A red dot scope is usually precise at up to 300 or 400 yards. However, you need a weapon to achieve the same precise shots from farther away. 

What Guns Can You Mount a Red Dot Sight?

The red dot scope is one of the most versatile sights.

Mounting it on any weapon is viable, from the smallest pistol to the longest rifle works.

I’ve mounted mine on pistols, AR-15s, and shotguns!

Are Iron Sights Better than Red Dot Sights?

Usually, red dot sights are better than irons.

This is because of the better visibility, light in the reticle, less shaking when you fire, and fast target acquisition.

Irons do have an advantage – longevity.

Red dots have a battery that can run out after a few years. You don’t have to worry about battery life with irons.

However, the advantages of red dot scopes still outweigh the iron sight benefits.

Can I Use a Shotgun for Home Defense?


Weapons like these are optimized to shoot in close quarters.

Many shooters use a full choke to reduce the size of the shot pattern or shot groups and make each load count.

What MOA Is Best For Shotguns?

In my experience, 3-5 MOA is an ideal size to use for hunting.

I think it’s the perfect sweet spot for accurate shooting and hunting bigger game with slugs.

However, if you are not hunting and are trying out for competitive shooting or home defense, 4-6 MOA is ideal.


Man loading weapon

I hope that this complete guide will help you sight in a red dot on your shotgun and answer any questions you might have about hitting targets.

An important lesson from this guide is that you will constantly improve as long as you keep hitting their shots and getting practice in. 

Zeroing in your gun and doing things like DOPE on paper is good.

However, nothing beats consistent practice and hard work to improve your shot!

FINAL TIP: Check out this guide on the best shotgun optics! You are GUARANTEED to find one the suits your needs!

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