If you’re new to the world of firearms and optics and you’re trying to kit yourself out with your first scope, then it’s likely you’ve asked yourself, “Do I need a rifle scope or red dot scope?”. When it comes to enhancing the precision and effectiveness of your shots, the choice between a rifle scope and a red dot sight is a critical decision for any firearm enthusiast.
Both aiming devices have important roles to play in the world of shooting sports and hunting, with each boasting its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So, before you decide which type of scope is best for you, it’s vital that you have a clear understanding of the key differences between rifle scopes and red dot sights.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at rifle scopes and red dot sights, exploring the individual features, benefits, and limitations of each type of optical gear. We'll help you make an informed choice by examining factors such as accuracy, versatility, and intended use, providing you, the buyer with the knowledge you need to decide which option best aligns with your shooting preferences and requirements.
What is a Rifle Scope?
Essentially, a riflescope is a telescopic sight that is mounted on your firearm enabling you to aim at a target with unparalleled clarity and confidence. A riflescope does this by magnifying the view that you see through it and providing you with an aiming point called a reticle.
Riflescopes are made up of several key components, including the main tube, eyepiece, objective lens, and various adjustment turrets. The main tube serves as the framework that houses the optics, while the eyepiece allows you to look through the optic and view your target comfortably. The objective lens is positioned at the front end of the scope and gathers light to provide a clear image. Most importantly, rifle scopes work as a magnifier of the world around you. By offering magnification, riflescopes allow you to zoom in on distant targets, enabling you to identify small details on your target such as an aiming point on a bullseye target, or the head and chest of a dear. As you’d expect, magnification can significantly improve your accuracy, especially when shooting at longer distances as it makes things appear closer and easier to aim at.
The key features of a magnified scope like a riflescope make it a perfect partner for activities like long-range shooting and hunting, where precision and accuracy is the name of the game. Rifle scopes typically come in a range of magnification options, allowing you to tailor your scope choice to the shooting environment. Additionally, rifle scopes come with various reticle options, such as duplex, mil-dot, or BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator) reticles, each designed to aid in target acquisition and ranging, further enhancing your shooting precision. So if you’re looking for a variable zoom scope then a riflescope is a great option.
When it comes to riflescopes, we've got you covered at ScopeUout. With scopes available in a range of price brackets, we have something for every budget. Here's just a few options that are popular with our customers.
- Vortex Venom 5-25x56 FFP Riflescope (EBR-7C MOA or MRAD Reticle)
- Vixen VI Series 4-16x44 SF Riflescope (BDC Reticle)
- Bushnell Engage 4-16x44 SF Riflescope (Deploy MOA, Exposed)
- Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24x50 Riflescope (ZMOAi-20 #89 Reticle, Exposed Turrets)
- Tasco World Class 3-9x40 Riflescope (Duplex Reticle)
What is a Red Dot Sight?
Red dot sights work a little differently to riflescopes as most of them don’t offer any magnification and simply offer an aiming point in the form of a red dot. Red dot sights consist of an optical window, a red dot reticle, and adjustment controls. Unlike traditional scopes, red dot sights do not magnify the target but instead superimpose a red dot onto the your field of view, making it quicker and more precise to aim and making them great tactical optics. Red dots come in two main configurations: open and closed tube designs. As their name suggests, open red dot sights have no scope tube but a simple, exposed, lens and reticle. This makes them ultra lightweight and compact. Closed tube designs encase the lens and reticle in a protective tube making them look more like riflescopes. This makes them larger than open designs but provides added durability and protection against environmental factors such as dust and moisture. Whether you choose an open or closed red dot design comes down to your needs and preferences. Open sights tend to be more compact and offer a wider field of view, making them great for close-quarters shooting, while closed tube sights are robust and well-suited for more demanding conditions in the great outdoors of New Zealand.
Red dot sights are intuitive and user-friendly, which makes them an excellent choice for both beginners and seasoned shooters. Unlike traditional rifle scopes, the red dot reticle is superimposed onto the target without the need for aligning crosshairs, which significantly reduces the time it takes to acquire and centre the target. Red dot sights provide unlimited eye relief, which means that you can use the scope at whatever distance from your eye is the most comfortable. This means that red dot sights are a great option for hand guns and other scopes that require the firearm to be held at arms length.
Popular Red Dot Sights
We’ve got a heap of red dot options at ScopeUout. Whether you’re a buyer looking for the best budget optic, or the very best quality you can find, here are a few options from our popular brands to consider.
- Bushnell Trophy TRS 1x25 Red Dot Scope
- Vortex Razor 3 MOA Red Dot Sight
- Rudolph Optics Micro 1x20 Red Dot Sight (3 MOA)
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Rifle Scope and a Red Dot
When you’re trying to decide whether to opt for a rifle scope or a red dot sight, its vital to have a clear understanding of your shooting requirements and preferences as it’s not a one-size-fits-all decision. Make sure you have got to grips with the specifics of your shooting activities, such as the intended range, type of targets, and environmental conditions, so you can make a more informed choice. In addition, considering your comfort level with different aiming devices, the need for rapid target acquisition, and the importance of factors like magnification or simplicity, will ultimately lead to a selection that enhances your shooting experience.
Intended Use: Figuring out what you’ll be using your gun for—like hunting, tactical stuff, or joining shooting contests—helps you pick the right optic for better aiming. Deciding between a riflescope or a red dot scope depends on how and where you plan to use it. Red dots are great for quick target acquisition in close-quarters situations like competitive shooting. They offer a simple aiming point, wide field of view, and work well in fast-paced scenarios. However, they might not be the best for long-range precision where you need magnification. Riflescopes, on the flip side, are made for precise aiming at different distances. They're perfect for hunting or precision shooting, offering various magnification levels for clarity and accuracy at extended ranges.
Shooting Distance: Choosing between red dot optics and a riflescope depends on shooting distance. Red dots are great for close-quarters with quick target acquisition up to around 100yds, while riflescopes with magnification are better for precision at longer ranges. The decision boils down to how far you'll be engaging your targets.
Weapon Compatibility: Before deciding on any scope, be it a riflescope or red dot scope, it’s important to ensure you’ll be able to fit it on your firearm. For example, if you have a pistol then a riflescope would be too large to fit on it. In addition, some red dot scopes come with inbuilt picatinny rails that may not be compatible with rifles that have built in dovetail rails.
Personal Vision and Eye Relief: When choosing between a red dot and a riflescope, your own, personal vision is an important factor to consider. If you’ve got astigmatism or presbyopia, red dots with unlimited eye relief and parallax-free design can provide a clear aiming point. On the other hand, a riflescopes suitability can depend on factors like how much eye relief if offers. This is a really important factor to consider if you wear glasses.
Size and Weight Considerations: Depending on your firearm and preferences, you might want to factor in the size and weight of the aiming device, especially if you're looking for a compact and lightweight option. If this is the case then a red dot makes a great option.
Durability and Reliability: Most riflescopes and red dot scopes are designed for use outdoors in harsh weather conditions, however some models are more durable than others. Make sure to purchase a waterproof and shockproof model.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Rifle Scopes
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of riflescopes.
Advantages of Rifle Scopes:
Better Accuracy at Long Distances: Rifle scopes offer a magnified view which allows for precise targeting at extended ranges. This makes them really good optics hunters who need to engage distant targets with accuracy.
Various Reticle Options for Different Applications: Rifle scopes come in a range of different reticle options, such as duplex, mil-dot, and BDC reticles. These are tailored to specific shooting applications so you can choose a reticle that best suits your needs, whether it's for hunting, long-range shooting, or competition. Some models also have an illuminated rifle scope red dot reticle, where they have aiming cross hairs and an illuminated red dot in the middle of the reticle.
Better Target Identification: The magnification and clarity of rifle scopes make it easier to identify small details on the target, helping you make more informed and accurate shots. This advantage in particular is useful in situations where target discrimination is crucial such as when you need to ensure that you’re going to shoot the right age or sex of animal.
Disadvantages of Rifle Scopes:
Heavier and Bulkier Than Red Dot Sights: Rifle scopes tend to be bulkier and heavier, adding weight to your firearm. This can be a drawback if you’re seeking a lightweight and agile setup, such as in tactical or close-quarter competition scenarios.
Longer Learning Curve for Beginners: Rifle scopes can take a bit more time for beginners to learn how to use to their full potential. Learning to properly zero, adjust, and utilise a scope's features can take time and practice, compared to the intuitive point-and-shoot nature of red dot sights.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Red Dot Sights
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of red dot scopes.
Advantages of Red Dot Sights:
Fast Target Acquisition and Ease of Use: Red dot sights are fantastic for rapid target acquisition thanks to the absence of complex reticles and magnification. This means you can quickly align the red dot with your target, making them ideal for fast-paced scenarios and super easy to use.
Great for Close to Mid-Range Shooting: Red dot sights are well-suited for close to mid-range shooting situations as they lack magnification but offer an open sight picture that allows you to maintain situational awareness and track moving targets effectively.
Good Low Light Option: Many red dot sights come with illuminated reticles, making them reliable in low-light or nighttime conditions. This enhances visibility and shot accuracy in situations where traditional scopes might struggle.
Disadvantages of Red Dot Sights:
Lacks Magnification for Long-Range Shooting: Red dot sights lack magnification, which limits their effectiveness in long-range shooting, as they do not assist in target identification or precision at extended distances.
Limited Reticle Options: Compared to rifle scopes, red dot sights typically offer fewer reticle options. While this simplicity is an advantage for some, it might not cater to shooters who require specialised reticles for specific applications.
Possible Issues with Battery Life and Electronics: Like some illuminated red dot rifle scope models, red dot sights rely on electronics and batteries to project the red dot reticle in to the sight picture. With any battery operated device, there’s always a potential for the battery to run out or electronic components to malfunction. Regular battery checks and replacements are necessary to prevent unexpected failures in the field.
Combining Rifle Scopes and Red Dot Sights
In the world of shooting sports, blending rifle scopes and red dot sights has become a game-changer for many shooters. By "co-witnessing" or "dual sighting” and using both a red dot and riflescope, you can get the best of both worlds for various shooting scenarios by having both scopes on hand, atop your rifle at a moments notice. The trick lies in using offset or canted mounts to seamlessly combine these two aiming technologies. These mounts are strategically positioned on your firearm, allowing the red dot sight to sit at a slight angle to the side of the primary scope. This means that when you tilt the firearm slightly, you can transition swiftly between the two optics.
The primary advantage of combining a rifle scope with a red dot sight is the ability to harness the strengths of each optic. Never again will you have to choose between a scope vs a red dot, as both will be on hand and ready to go. The rifle scope excels at providing magnification for accurate long-distance shots, ensuring that targets at extended ranges are well within your reach. Meanwhile, the red dot sight, with its non-magnifying, open sight picture, allows for quick and intuitive target acquisition, ideal for close to mid-range shooting scenarios.
For many shooters, having two optics mounted on a rifle can often be overkill and add to the weight and cost of the set up, however it can be a great option for tactical or competition shooting, where the versatility of switching between optics is highly valued.
Highest Quality Optics From ScopeUout
We hope that this article has given you a good understanding of the differences between riflescopes and red dot scopes and how their key features make each type of gear suited to different styles of shooting. Both types of scope have key pros and cons that mean that they’ll perform better in certain environments. It’s up to you to decide which scope will suit your requirements better and be the most reliable optics for your needs. One thing's for sure, whether you’re hunting or competitive shooting, we have a rifle scope or red dot scope to suit your needs at ScopeUout, and we ship all our gear direct to your door. All of our scopes are sourced from the authorised New Zealand importer and come with a trustworthy manufacturers warranty against defects. Now that you’ve had chance to consider the key differences between riflescopes and red dot scopes it’s time to get your hands on the perfect scope for your needs. Browse our recommended scopes above now, or shop all rifle scopes or all red dot scopes. Got a question regarding red dot vs scope? We’re always here to help. Please get in touch; we’d love to hear from you.