We’ve all been there. You’ve gotten sucked into the awesome world of shooting and have finally purchased or built your first ar-15. Like most, you grabbed a set of Magpul buis sites to get you by for your first couple range trips. Now that you’ve gotten the feel of your new love you are wanting to dress her up with a few ar-15 accessories. No better start than to go with a red dot.
Red dot sights are one of the quickest ways to improve your quickness and accuracy with any firearm type. I know, I know, you already know this! You just want to find one that doesn’t break the bank.
Cheap red dots are dime-a-dozen. Finding one that fits your budget and is going to hold zero is the true battle. Most of the sights I’m going to list I either currently own or have owned at one point. Lets do this!
What to Look for in Affordable Red Dot Sights
- Durability: Durability is a big deal when it comes to choosing the best red dot sight, or any sight for that matter. A wandering zero, flickering or DOA reticle is just a waste of your time and resources.
- Versatility: Not every sight is going to be optimal for each setup, but many are versatile so that you have options on what the sight can be mounted on. This is a big factor to consider when it comes to choosing which sight to go with.
- Ease of Use: Using the sight should not be rocket science. You should be able to mount it up, adjust brightness and match up your zero without loosing any hair.
- Weight: This is pretty much a non issue for this class of optics but its worth mentioning. For ar-15 or shotgun use weight probably isn’t going to be a consideration. If you’re looking for a red dot for your pistol be aware that the weight of the dot can have an affect on functionality.
Red Dot Sights Less Than $50
GERO Tactical Green and Red Dot Sight
Enjoy the versatility and durability of the GERO Tactical Green and Red Dot Sight that is also affordable to any budget. This is the cheapest sight I can recommend in good conscience.
Of the cheaper sights I doubt you will do better than this one. Its about as reliable as you can ask for as long as it’s not put into extreme situations. I’d say 223 is probably the largest round I’d trust this sight with. Shotgun, 308’s etc will most likely lead to a letdown.
Due to the switching reticles, a shooter can test using different reticles before committing big bucks to an Eotech or similar reticle based red dot.
Battery life is decent, reticles are easy to switch on the fly along with a massive brightness knob on the top. All these features along with a solid 5 star 70+ reviews on amazon at the time of this posting, hard to beat this red dot if on an extreme budget.
- Adjustable brightness works great
- 4 different reticle patterns is a nice feature
- Shockproof and water resistant nice to have at this price
- Solid build quality
Chinoook Tactical Holographic Reflex
While looking for something that is straight forward and not going to strain your eyes during extended use, then check out the Chinoook Tactical Holographic Reflex Sight that provides you with the red dot that you need.
The main difference with this sight is addition of the mounted pressure activated laser pointer.
Being shock proof, waterproof, fog proof and durable; you can use this mount on just about any type of terrain and in any type of weather. It is also versatile, so you can mount it on almost any gun that you own that you want to have a clear shot with.
The windage and elevation adjustments are lockable which can be a huge benefit at this price point.
- Seems very durable
- Best value for your money
- Very easy to operate
- High quality materials
Ledsniper 1x35mmred/green Dot Sight Scope Tactical Reflex Stinger 4 MOA Red & Green Dot Sight Scope
For a more professional appeal, the Ledsniper 1x35mmred/green Dot Sight Scope Tactical Reflex Stinger 4 MOA Red & Green Dot Sight Scope gives a more traditional red dot look (i.e Aimpoint Pro).
The unit is made durable in steel and carbon outer-layers. The flap goes over the scope so that you’re able to keep it closed when not in use.
The mount is easily able to be detached when you want to take the scope off, and then reattached. Easily use it on any guns that you might want to have a scope with a dot on and provide yourself with an easy way to reach your targets.
Control the brightness on the dot as well, using the adjustable knobs on the side that also provides decent windage and elevation adjustment to get that dead on zero.
- Excellent value at this price
- Excellent red dot sight
- Solid mounting platform
- Can’t beat the price
- Different colors for reticle
- Multiple brightness levels
- Included lens covers
Red Dot Sights Less Than $100
When making the jump past the $50 mark you’ll notice the sights start…loosing features? Pretty much everything decent in the $50-$100 category is going to be much more traditional and closer to their high end counterparts. This means you will loose reticle switching, laser pointers etc. What you gain is far better durability and more refined lighting technology. This means these sights will be more visible in bright sunlight and flare less in low light conditions.
Bushnell Optics TRS-25 HiRise Red Dot
This is an easy one. The Bushnell TRS-25 has been a staple in my collection for years. It has been my go-to recommendation to friends, family, co-workers, random dudes at the gym…pretty much anyone who has had a passing interest thats asked me.
This sight went with me on my first javelina hunt. Survived a decent fall early on in the day but still held true for a 76 yard shot later in the day.
It’s a very traditional sight with a dial off to the side for on/off and brightness. Windage and elevation are easily adjusted for a solid zero. Reticle is daylight bright and doesn’t bloom too bad when in dim light.
The above unit comes with a riser to achieve a co-witness setup. If you do not need a riser and want to save a couple bucks you can go ahead and find the Bushnell TRS-25 without riser here.
- Very nice for the price
- Great red dot
- Solid mount option
- Very solid for the price
Red Dot Sights Less Than $200
This is one of my favorite categories. There is so much value in the sights that hover just below the $200 mark. You will notice the main difference in these sights as more durable mounts, clearer glass, less flare in low light and more durability out in the field. Most of the sights worth looking at in this category are fully waterproof and also have lifetime warranties!
Vortex SPARC AR Red Dot Rifle Scope
Lets just get this out of the way. If looking for a red dot specific for the ar15 platform this is the sight to beat for sub $200. The Vortex SPARC AR is an evolution from the popular SPARC 2 sight that came out years ago. With the mount the sight comes in under 8oz and has a very premium feeling rubber finish to the outside of the sight. Oh, and its covered under Vortex’s VIP Lifetime Warranty! This warranty is no BS with no runaround.
The coatings on the glass seem like a step up from the lower price ranges because it noticeably more clear. Very little fisheye effect at the outer edges. Also expect between 2000 and 3000 hours of battery life assuming you have the brightness set roughly in the middle.
I haven’t really touched on red dot size for the less expensive optics but its worth noting that the Vortex SPARC AR has a relatively small and precise 2 MOA dot. Depending on your intended use you may or may not need a red dot that small. For instance, if you want the ability to shoot groups at 100 yards a 2 MOA dot will cover roughly 2″ of the target. Anything bigger than this will make it much harder to shoot for accuracy at 100 yards. The downside is 2 MOA can be a bit more difficult to see and some say target acquisition is slower with closer targets compared to larger dots.
If $200 is the upper end of your budget I do not think you will be disappointed going with this optic.
- Great value
- Best red dot sight for the money
- Unbeatable optic at this price
- High value sight
- Included mount is very easy to mount
Vortex Optics StrikeFire 2 Red/Green Dot Sight
Here’s an oldie but a goodie. This optic was one of the first red dots I’ve picked up and still resides on a 22lr ar15 build I did a while back. Back when I originally purchased mine I did a quick zero and went on a coyote hunt with my brother-in-law in northern Utah. Temperatures were around 5 degrees in the morning occasionally snowing on us. The optic held up great. Mount was solid, zero never moved once.
This optic takes design cues from the much more expensive Aimpoint Pro and hovers around 7.2oz. If it were my money, I’d probably go with the SPARC AR unless I wanted a 4 MOA reticle which this has. Keep in mind that will cover up 4″ approximately at 100 yards.
Just like its newer sibling, the StrikeFire 2 is backed by Vortex’s VIP Lifetime Warranty.
- Very good optic
- Don’t wait, you can’t beat it
- Worked well on my Ruger-14
- Outstanding value
Red Dot Sight Less Than $200 For A Pistol
Burris FastFire Red-Dot Reflex Sight
First off, the Burris FastFire will work perfectly fine on a other firearms besides a pistol. With the included mount you can mount it on an ar15, shotgun or spotting scope depending on what kind you have. The FastFire is a fine optic on its own but it mainly made its way onto this list because of it ability to go on a pistol. One of the biggest reasons this can be mounted on a pistol and not effect its reliability is that it’s 1.5oz. Yes you read that correctly, this optic is only 1.5oz.
The FastFire is and will continue to be a go-to optic for pistol shooters or ar-15 builders looking to keep things as light as possible.
- Great value and very light
- Mount is easy to use and remove
- Much cheaper than other options but just as good
- Very rugged mount
- Optics are very clear and daylight bright