How to Use a Red Dot Sight


Introduction to the Red Dot Sight

Accuracy when shooting is a necessity when you are wanting to hit your mark. Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to aim with the standard iron sights on your firearm, queue the red dot sight. The sight itself is a simple instrument that uses a small LED light to point where you’re aiming, or about to aim. These dots can be either red or green depending on the model you’re using, or if you want a different color from the other model. Don’t worry, they’re all referred to as a ‘red dot’ so you don’t need to worry about calling it wrong!

The red dot is very common on a lot of handguns, as it’s crucial at close-range and is great at a target range, and once you’ve figured out how to use it, it will be your best friend at the range. Things such as the brightness, mounting height, style (tubular or open) can all be configured to your specification to ensure that you are using the right sight for the task at hand. 

Making sure you get the right sight

The red dot is an electronic optic sight that gives you an illuminated dot within the lens. They do not use a laser like the best rifle laser sights but rather, they usually involve light and a reflector. The majority of the red dot sights are battery operated and do last quite some time as they don’t need to use a large amount of power. Red dot sights are usually not magnified, but you can get secondary attachments to sit in front, behind, and on the red dot sight to magnify the target. 

Depending on the red dot you get, the majority of them are waterproof, shockproof, fog proof and in some cases also EMP proof. The red dot sight is extremely easy to use and can be installed very quickly. 

Finding the best red dot sight that is right for you is very dependent on what you want to use the weapon for. Close range fire or target fire from 100 yds are very suitable for the red dot scope, however anything more and it may be pushing the inaccuracy mark. There are several types of red dot that help with the range, versatility and general ability of the sights, however, the main red dot sights are reflex sights where a light that is projected into a mirrored lens, which then further reflects an aiming point for you to use over the target. These sights are usually open, however, they can come tubular so it operates more like a normal scope. They also have the no-battery dot which is called a tritium dot. Reflex red dots are very commonly used as they don’t require you to close one eye to shoot down meaning you can see more clearly and be a little more observant.

If cost is a factor when it comes to buying a certain red dot, they are all relatively inexpensive and all the same job. Some may come with additional attachments or mounts that may be more beneficial, so it’s good to always check the product description to make sure you know what you’re getting out of it. 

Along with this, you may want to alter the brightness and mounting height of your red dot, which most of them can be configured on arrival but some do not so make sure you find one that suits your needs first before. One large benefit of all red dots is that you have unlimited eye relief meaning that the distance between what your eyes see within a field of view and the eyepiece. 

How to mount a Red Dot Sight:

It’s not super easy figuring out where the best position for your scope and it does take a little bit of altering to get it right for you. Some things to take note of when trying to attach the scope to make sure your positioning is okay are;

  • The red dot size will not be affected by moving it forward or backward. 
  • If you do plan on mounting a magnifier, the red dot may need to be moved forward to avoid space issues.
  • When mounting the red dot, mounting it closer will you a wider field of view, but you will be limited when looking around. Vise Versa with the red dot further away from you, it will give you a shorter field of view but a greater view when looking around. Usually, at the longer range, a larger field of view is needed however when close range, you can bring it closer to see more through the scope. 
  • As an attached item onto a weapon, red dots are usually not too heavy but could impact your shot if not balanced correctly. Finding the right balance (usually toward the back of the handgun or rifle) will balance everything out nicely so your shot is not impacted. 

Your red dot should come with overall instructions and overall installation guides with all the above information, however, if not, they are super simple to attach to your firearm.

Most of them that you buy will come with a Picatinny rail attachment and any tools that you may need to mount this, but if not the tools you need are fairly standard and you could probably find one in a drawer somewhere such as an Allan key, hex keys, etc.  As mentioned above, the best place to mount the red dot is usually over the receiver so that the gun is balanced and can be held normally without any impact on your shot.

The rail you receive should have a mounting point that can be tightened down by a Hex or Allan key. Making sure this is properly attached is crucial so that your sight is always accurate and doesn’t move when shot. Most red dot manufactures also recommend buying some kind of reinforcement to these screws, something like some blue Locktite will do the job nicely. 

Note: Blue Locktite will allow the screws to be removed, red is for permanent attachments.

Zeroing in your scope

To zero in your scope to make sure your shots are accurate once mounted to the weapon it’s suggested to set a target up, roughly around 25yds away from your shot point. As this scope is a close-ranged, you shouldn’t need to zero in for too much further away, unless magnified then add as many yards to the target distance as you require.

If you have iron sights on your weapon still, you may be able to use this to help you. Zeroing the red dot in on that will help you improve the accuracy upon the first shot. When lining it up with the iron sights, make sure the dot is vertically and horizontally aligned and resting on the middle post, from this point on you should technically be zeroed in. 

If you don’t have iron sights, you will need to secure the firearm and take test shots until the dot is being used as the impact zone. With that being said, this is the same with any weapon that has a scope attached, the recoil must be zero when aiming otherwise the scope will be inaccurate the more you use the firearm. 

Once you feel it’s in place, take one shot to see where the bullet hits and move the sights accordingly. Once the bullets are going where the dot is positioned, you should be zeroed in.

Aiming is the simple bit now, as the red dot scopes are very much point and shoot at moderately close range. 

Using the Scope at Long Range

Although it’s uncommon, you can still use the scope at a long-range although it probably wouldn’t be the best idea. The standard red dot scope should be adequate to fire and be accurate at 100-200yds, but that’s probably pushing the limits. However, you can buy attachments to sit behind the red dot to magnify the shot. Again, this will need to be zeroed in should you wish to use this. 

Concerning to this, you can also get modular red dot scopes that allow you to switch from long-range and short-range fire, otherwise known as a ‘hybrid’. These have the same concept and set up as a standard red dot, however, the magnifier can be switched over at any time meaning you can quickly go from close range to a more medium range.

The Parallax Problem

A common shooter problem that people have is the parallax. Parallax is the tendency of a vertical to somewhat move when aiming down sight. Fortunately, red dot sights have a reduced parallax sight. This means when you are in view of the target in question, moving your head will move the dot slightly in relativity to your head position, but not as much as it would if you were to do the same looking down a holographic or magnified scope. This also transpires over to the shooter as well with things like keeping your focus on the target zone at all times and keeping both eyes open whilst using the scope. 

Doing this also helps with time to find the target and allows using the scope fast and effective. 

Tips for using the Red Dot Sights

When using a red dot sight, it may seem a little off-putting if you’ve never used one before. Here are some tips to get it working correctly for you.

Aim on the dot not on the rear notch.

 A common mistake that occurs with new users who have just gotten a red dot is that they don’t trust the dot. The red dot on the scope is the dot you need to aim with, not any other site. Along with that, you don’t need to line the dot up with any other attachment such as the iron sights, just as long as it hits it mark you should be good to go.

You can use them for all weapons.

Something that people forget is that you can use it for any gun you like. If you wanted to, you could put the red dot scope on top of a sniper rifle, it just wouldn’t be too good of an idea. However, the red dot scope works perfectly well at moderately close range on pistols, shotguns, and rifles. 

You need to practice your shots

 As with anything, to get better at something you need to practice and it’s no different from the shooting. Practicing at the range or somewhere safe to do so is a great way to improve shooting when using the red-dot scope. In connection with this, you may also want to practice on different size targets to ensure that you’re getting the correct accuracy you want when shooting at both short and long ranges as well as accuracy down to the finest point.

Learn about the features your dot has such as brightness.

Not all but most dots come with a brightness setting on them. This can be crucial in situations that may transpire from light to dark. When shooting, when outside in the dark you may require a brighter dot however going too far may cause the dot to blue or halo which will make your shots questionable. Inside in the light, you may not need a bright dot and it may even appear invisible or hard to see, so changing it down may help you here. 

Mount it comfortably, but not too high.

Mounting the sight as mentioned above is easy and can be altered height-wise, although it’s not a good idea to do so as when you bring the weapon up to shoot, you may not be able to see the target at a quick draw rate, so it’s crucial that you must keep the dot as low as possible until you are used to it, or permanently to increase draw speed accuracy. 


The red dot scope is great for any close – medium-range activities such as target practice or building sweeps. The scope itself is versatile, accurate (close range) and is very easy to look down without needing to shut one eye. Although the scope is primarily for close range, with attachments such as the magnifiers, you can push the range out a little further without compromising on accuracy. The red dot is relatively inexpensive as well-meaning if you don’t like it once you’ve used it, it’s not a huge loss if you can’t return it.