The optics industry for AR 15 rifles is massive. Absolutely huge with what seems to be a million options from a thousand companies. Red dots and holographic optics are a big part of that industry and are incredibly popular with civilians, law enforcement, and the military. The US Army issues red dots, USSOCOM chose Holographics, and so on and so forth.
What do these optics have in common? Better yet where do they differ? We’ll answer both today and hopefully leave you a little more informed on red dots, as well as holographic sights.
Red Dots vs Holographic Sights
What They Have in Common
Both optics have a ton in common, so much so that holographic optics are often called red dots and grouped with red dots as a category. Before we dive into what makes these optics different, let’s look at the three biggest similarities.
- The biggest factor they share is their design use case. Both are designed for close to moderate range engagements. They excel is target acquisition and getting rounds on target quickly - especially when compared to traditional iron sights. They can be used for both clearing houses and fighting from street to street.
2. Red dot and holographic sights can be used over the entire spectrum of rifles and AR pistols. They are not specific to calibers, barrels, or designs.
3. Both styles of optics can be used with magnifiers, and many professional-grade models are functional with night vision optics. This allows these optics to be incredibly versatile.
What Separates Them
What makes the optics similar is one thing, but what makes them different is much more important. I won’t dig too deep into how the optics work in terms of electric function, but we are going to look at the most important differences with the end-user in mind.
1. Red dots often have a much longer battery life, with the STNGR Axiom red dot boasting a 50,000 hour battery life on brightness setting 6. Many holographic optics will only last 600 to 1,000 hours. This is due to the fact that red dots are far less complex mechanically making them run more efficiently.
2. Holographics and red dots also react to magnification differently. If you magnify a 2MOA red dot with a 3x magnifier, the dot is now 6MOA. However, magnifying a holographic reticle leaves it unchanged.
3. Size is another large difference. Red dot optics are capable of being much smaller and more compact than holo optics. This design allows for more compact and lightweight red dot options which can even be used on pistols.
For more information, check out this awesome video done by PewPewTactical.
The Great Debate
Credit: Guns News Daily
Like 9mm vs 45 ACP there is certainly some debate over which is better. Often times it’s easy to get caught up in fads, or brand loyalty but the best advice I can offer is to weigh both options versus your needs, budget and use case. The good news is both types of optics are well reputed, easy to use, and optimally suited for the AR 15 rifle.