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How to Use a Red Dot Sight: Complete Beginners Guide

How to Use a Red Dot Sight

If you’re a beginner and practicing your short-range shooting, look no further than a red dot as your companion.

I learned how to shoot with a red dot when I was first starting, and everything I learned back then is still applied now.

Gone are the days where you have to rely on outdated iron sights!

You might struggle using a red dot sight at first. But, you’ll see the benefits of using it for improving speed and target acquisition over time.

Here are the steps in using red dot sights for accurate shooting.

A Shooter’s Guide on How to Use a Red Dot Sight

1. Choosing the Best Red Dot Sights

Man examining scope

Before anything else, you should choose the PERFECT SIGHT for your gun. Among several types of sight available, there must be one that suits your needs and style.

In choosing the right sight for your firearms, here are some things you need to consider as a shooter.

I will delve much deeper into this topic, but some things to consider are the following:

  • Type of firearm
  • Power source
  • Reticle sizes
  • Co-witnesses
  • Accessories
  • Pricing
  • Type of red dot

2. Using Your Red Dot Sight for the First Time

Woman shooting rifle

After you’ve found your red dot of choice, you might want to test your red dots. Turn on your unit and check if it’s working well.

I always start off by adjusting the brightness setting using the knobs or adjustments according to the light condition.

You can configure it upon arrival, but make sure to get the ideal red dot sights for your needs.

When shooting under low-light conditions, you’ll notice a fuzzy or halo effect on your red dot reticle if it’s TOO BRIGHT.

Otherwise, the reticle disappears when your brightness settings are too low under bright light conditions.

3. Mounting Your Red Dot Sights at the Right Place

Scope rings

It took me a bit of trial and error to nail this step, but I got some tips to get your optics on point.

My guiding principle is to place the red dot sights in a spot that reduces the most line of sight.

For me personally and most shooters, the most comfortable spot for the optic is over the ejection port.

Yet, the ideal place for the optic varies among gun types. In rifles, the BEST SPOT is on top of the receiver for stability and balance.

For handgun shooters, you NEED an appropriate mounting plate to replace the iron sights.

Whether you’re using shotguns, pistols, or rifles, you need to tighten your unit with some attachments.

You might also want to consider other things when mounting, such as space and weight issues.

Also, keep in mind that a closer dot will give you a wider field of view.

Most red dots come with a rail attachment already and other necessary tools.

If not, you can use common tools like Allan wrenches and hex keys to mount your red dot in place.

4. Zeroing In Your Red Dot Sight

Target practice

Zeroing a red dot is the same as you do with a rifle scope!

If you have iron sights as a co-witness, you’ll need to do extra steps to enjoy its advantages.

To zero in your dot with accuracy, you need to set your target at a close target range.

When you line up both your iron sights and red dot, ensure that the dot is ALIGNED with both the rear sight post and front sight post.

Once the dot is on point, you can take test shots until the dot reaches the impact zone.

To check this, see if the recoil is zero when aiming to avoid accuracy problems.

Take MORE SHOTS to see where your bullet lands relative to your target at a given target distance.

Once the bullet hits the point where the dot is located, you can tell you have already zeroed in your scope.

What Happens When You Zero in Your Scope?

You can now shoot ACCURATELY within close target ranges.

If you want to use a red dot scope for long-range hunting, you must buy attachments to magnify your sight picture.

A red dot scope with a target range NOT HIGHER than 100 to 200 yards provides TOP-TIER red dot sight accuracy!

For convenience, you can get a hybrid scope that lets you switch from close-range to long-range shooting.

5. Shooting with Red Dot Sights

Armed soldier shooting

Now, you’re ready to shoot with your red dot pistol or any other gun! Establish the shooting position that gives you a great field of view for target acquisition.

With both eyes open, look at your target from a line distance. See if the red dot reticle is moving as it aims for your target.

Once the reticle meets your target point, you can now fire without question of accuracy.

As you get used to your scope, you’ll notice that engaging your target is QUICK and EASY.

As a bonus, here’s a quick video to show you how to do it:

How to Choose the Right Red Dot

To expand on the first step, the first step using red dot sights is to find the RIGHT one that will suit your needs best!

Here are some criteria to consider as you search for red dots.

Type of Firearm

Type of Firearm Icon

One thing’s for sure about the red dot sights; they work best with the IDEAL firearm in use.

So, be careful when choosing the sight for your rifle or pistols. I made the dumb mistake of thinking that red dot sights are suitable for long ranges.

Remember that red dot sights work well at a certain target distance only!

You’ll see that a red dot scope is suitable for close-range hunting as they are NOT MAGNIFIED.

If your target is BEYOND 100 yards, you’re falling behind precision shooting.

If you have an AR15, you’ll want the best red dot sights for AR 15 rifles. Likewise, if you use a shotgun, you’ll want the best optics for that.

Power Source

Power Source Icon

Without power, your targets are invisible in a red dot sight.

Most red dot sights are battery-powered. So, your only problem is replacing the batteries after some time.

In general, red dot sights have long battery life that could last for years.

However, you better come prepared, ESPECIALLY when hunting in the field. 

After my red dot died on me in the middle of a hunt, I make sure to keep an extra pack or two in my bag just in case!

Cold weather conditions could drain your battery power, so it’s best to have backup batteries in hand.

Reticle Sizes

Reticle Sizes Icon

Size MATTERS when it comes to the reticle of your red dot sight. It can affect the performance of a shooter at ANY range.

At first, I found it a bit challenging to work with my reticle.

Now, I can have the PERFECT BALANCE between rapid target acquisition and point of aim with the right reticle shapes and sizes.

You’re better off with a 2-MOA dot for precise aiming.

You’ll find it harder to use larger dots with accuracy. So, it’s up to your preference for reticle size.

As always, you can adjust your reticles to shoot your target at any distance for a proper sight picture.

Additionally, the reticle and target are usually on the same focal plane, so you don’t have to worry about parallax.


Co-Witnesses Icon

Sometimes, a red dot sight needs a helping hand to get its job done. That’s when your iron sights enter the scene!

When placed at the appropriate height, iron sights could work WONDERS with your red dot.

Think of iron sights as secondary sighting systems when there’s an optic failure.

There’s a lower 1/3 co-witness whose front sight is found at the lower part of the optic window.

Accessories and Other Features

Accessories and Other Features Icon

Still, there are other things you can look for in a red dot sight. You’ll find most red dot scopes on the market are built for durability.

They are made to be resistant to fog, shock, water, and even electromagnetic pulses (EMP).

Yet, manufacturers keep them user-friendly with quick installation procedures.

The best thing is that you can CUSTOMIZE your red dot scope to meet your demands.

You can have night vision with compatible red dot scopes. When set on this mode, the dot is TOO FAINT to be seen with a naked eye.

So, all you need to do is to put a night vision monocular behind it.

When looking through the monocular, you’ll never worry about the intense light striking your eyes.

Another product you can add is a magnifier to your red dot sight. I find them perfect when shooting small targets over large target distances.

A magnifier works well with a reticle that comes with various holds for a drop. 

Make sure to choose one with a flip-to-side mount so you can turn it on or off with ease.


Price Icon

Worried about the price of red dot sights?

Don’t worry; they are much CHEAPER than other gun accessories. In fact, I have a list of the top red dots under $100 if you’re interested.

High-quality red dot optics can go a long way as rifle scopes can. That’s why they’re suitable for beginners or shooters with multiple firearms.

MORE EXPENSIVE red dots come with BETTER glass quality and recoil handling, among other features.

Expect additional attachments or mounts to add to the cost as they offer benefits you can’t get with the red dot alone.

Types of Red Dot Sight

Red Dot

One more thing to consider in choosing the right sight for your gun is the type of red dot sight.

The most common red dot optics are:

  • Tube/Reflex sight
  • Holographic sight
  • Prismatic
Tube and Reflex Sight

Let’s start with tube and reflex sights.

In general, tube and reflex sights use reflective glass and LED to work with each other.

With these two items, a reflex sight uses a light projected into the mirrored lens. It then reflects the point of aim over the target image.

Eye relief IS NOT a significant factor in a reflex sight. You can shoot with both eyes open, so you have environmental awareness.

While not magnified, you can improve the visibility of your sight picture with a lighted reticle. Once zeroed in, your eyes WON’T deal with sight alignment anymore.

With this setup, reflex sights are easy to use as 1-2-3. Just put the dot on your target and shoot.

Holographic Sights

Holographic sights come with an electronic reticle image sitting between the lens layers. A battery-powered laser diode illuminates this image.

They can also offer unlimited eye relief, so you don’t need to close an eye while shooting. Yet, they tend to be more expensive and have shorter battery lives.

Prismatic Sights

Instead of a lens, this type uses a prism to focus the image. With that, they offer a small magnification range.

They have their reticles etched, so you can still focus on crosshairs once you run out of power.

Yet, they have an eye relief factor, so you NEED an eye to focus on your targets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Red Dot Sights Work at Night?


Red dot sights are great for nighttime hunting thanks to their illuminated reticle and various illumination settings.

Seeing and acquiring targets in the dark is made a lot easier with these on hand.

Some red dots are also compatible with night-vision devices that make the shooting experience easier.

How Far Should You Sight With Reflex Sights?

Reflex sights are built to accurately hit targets at 100 yards way, which is the standard distance to sight with red dots.

This distance can vary depending on a lot of factors, but this is a good enough starting point to practice sighting at.

Are Reflex Sights Good for Beginners?


Any beginner can pick up a red dot sight as a their first optic!

Red dots are super easy and simple that there isn’t much of a learning curve compared to scopes.

If you are a beginner, you don’t have to worry about nailing a perfect shot at a far distance because red dots aren’t ideal for long distances anyway.

You can practice short-range hunting as it is made easier with these sights over iron sights.

Plus, it’s easy to spot your target as the red dot immediately directs your eye towards it.

Conclusion: Clearing Up Loose Ends

If you want to aim and shoot with great speed and precision, a red dot sight is your ever-reliable buddy. It comes with great benefits at a low cost.

Indeed, hitting your targets becomes a piece of cake in a matter of time!

You’ll go a long way when using red dot (or green dot) sights, whether you’re on a hunt or competition.

Check out this handy guide to see how red dots compare to scopes!

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