Holographic and other reflex sights are continuing to be used as replacements for the standard iron sights, and if you’re looking to join the party or searching for a replacement, this article will cover four of the best holographic sights available.
These types of sights are designed to give you infinite eye relief, be parallax free, and be able to accurately send rounds downrange without having to focus your line of sight down a single path as you would with iron sights. They are a means to give you much faster target acquisition and close quarters shooting applications and an improved shooting performance compared to traditional iron sights.
Though these sights are becoming more popular, there is a sea of confusion as to the correct terminology of holographic and reflex sights. We will not dive into the nitty gritty of this debate, but there are differences between a true holographic sight and a more general laser reflex sight.
The bottom line is that true holographic sights can get up in the thousands regarding price range, and a lot of us are just not willing to blow that much cash on a gun optics, as much as we would like to. Nevertheless, there are sights that function similarly to holographic sights, and we will be sure to list several of those along with the true holographic sights.
In this article, we will take a look at the common qualities of the best holographic and best reflex sights. We will also examine several of the top holographic sites and the best reflex sights for AR-15 platforms, and other tactical firearms, and give a brief review of what landed them in our article.
Holographic Sight Buyer’s Guide
- Window Aperture: For a red dot, reflex, or holographic sights for AR-15 or other tactical firearms, the aperture allows you to see the field along with the reticle.
This is your window to the field and while these sights are designed to allow to eyes open targeting and shooting you want a window that allows at least 25 to 30 yards field of view at 100 yards. You also want low profile edges around the glass that will not hinder your peripheral vision.
- Construction: These sights are often used on high caliber firearms that are repeatedly shot and most of the time, dozens of rounds at a time. Because of this, these sights must be recoil resistant, not only to hold it’s zero but because there are often a lot of electronics used within the sight.
The housing must be able to keep all of this in place, and the reticle must remain steady and clear when discharging rounds. A compact design with quality material is going to help keep it all in place and functioning at a level needed in combat scenarios.
- Battery Life: The whole point of the red dot sight is to improve the performance over the traditional iron sights. Most holographic and reflex sights use specialized lithium batteries that are not always easy to come by and are usually pretty expensive.
Because of this, it is important that these sights have a generous battery life. Of course, battery life can be impacted dramatically by the user, and careful attention and use of the correct brightness settings will improve the longevity of the batteries. Some AR-15 holographic sights will have programmable automatic shutdown modes which will also help conserve battery life.
- Brightness Settings: We like to see a wide range of brightness settings. Without this, you will eventually find yourself in some light condition where the brightness settings on the sight do not pair well with the environmental lighting, and you will end up with a reticle that is either too dim or too bright. This is often seen when using additional tactical lights. You then run the chance of washing out your target or the reticle being too dim to effectively put on the target. With more settings available you can fine tune the brightness level quickly and gives you a major shooting advantage.
- Reticle: This article is not the place to dive into the science of holographic sights or discuss the physical differences between holo sights and red dot/reflex sights. What’s really important is how clear and crisp is the reticle is and the reticle design.
Holographic sights are going to give you a much cleaner reticle than other types of reflex sights, but you pay the price for that type of clarity. There are quite a few reticle designs, and most holographic sights use a red dot in tandem with a large MOA circle surrounding it. The red dot is better for medium to longer range shots, while the large MOA circle is excellent for picking up fast moving targets at close range.
With laser reflex sights, you often have a series of reticles that you can scroll through several different patterns to suit your needs. We will list four heads up sights that offer clear and functional reticles when the brightness settings are used correctly to match environmental conditions.
The 4 Best Holographic Sights
Following the criteria outlined above, the following section will provide a selection of the best holographic sights that are certainly worth their money.
This reflex sight is highly shockproof and has been rated for .50 caliber recoil, so you don’t have to worry about your sight losing zero or be damaged through normal shooting applications. The housing is also designed to be waterproof and fog proof.
There are four reticle patterns that you can switch between on this reflex site and vary between precision red dot reticles and better close range large MOA circle and crosshairs. There are five brightness settings that are easy to cycle through. While the brightness settings provide a clear reticle when used in correct lighting environments, there are some issues with the reticle blooming on the highest brightness setting which will hurt accuracy and the ability to pick up targets quickly.
The battery life of this reflex sight is decent, and when used properly you can have up to 120 hours of use. Obviously, leaving the sight on at the highest brightness setting is going to reduce this number.
This AR reflex sight, or any other firearm for that matter, features a large window aperture made from glass and a shatterproof laminate. This large aperture with the thin windowpane gives you a large field of view and unobstructed peripheral vision. We like the AR coated glass that dramatically reduces glare when out in the field or on the range.
This scope is extremely compact, it’s lightweight, and it mounts tightly to your railing and leaves plenty of room for other accessories on your rail. For some tactical rifle iron sights, this sight can also co-witness, but it will depend on the firearm and type of iron sights used. One of the biggest concerns doesn’t come from the sight of itself, but it comes with its use with certain accessories such as a magnifier where there is an issue with refraction.
In the end, this reflex sight does not contain all of the high tech features of more expensive models, but for the price and the performance, this is one of the best reflex sights available.
- Highly shockproof
- Compact and lightweight
- Hold zero
- Multiple reticles
- Large window with treated glass to reduce glare
- Clear reticle in most situations
- Not the greatest battery life
- Blooming reticle at high brightness setting
- Some issues with magnifiers
- Only five brightness settings
This holographic sight is designed to take the beating of high recoil firearms and maintain it’s zero. The housing is well constructed and gives you a sight that will continue to function in the field through the rigors tactical weapons go through.
The EXPS2-O is extremely easy to mount onto your rail system and is also extremely compact leaving more than enough room for accessories such as a magnifier. This sight uses an easy to detach lever so you can quickly move the sight to a new position or a new firearm without losing its zero setting. Of course, for a new firearm, you will still need to site in again.
This is a highly accurate sight when sighted in correctly and is one of the best shooting sights at targets less than 100 yards. The reticle tends to wash out targets greater than this distance making it much less accurate.
The battery life on this true holographic sight for AR-15 and other tactical rifles is incredible. You can get up to 600 hours of use from one set of batteries. One of the features that help conserve battery power is a programmable automatic shutdown, so you can be sure that the sight is never left on unintentionally.
This holographic sight uses a 1MOA red dot reticle in tandem with a 65MOA circle giving you a reticle that can pick up on targets quickly at short range as well as the precision needed for longer shots. This sight features easy to adjust brightness settings that covers a range of 20 brightness levels giving you incredible control of reticle image in any lighting environment.
Like any of the best holographic sights this offers infinite eye relief, and when only looking through the window aperture, the field of view is still more than enough to keep track of a wide portion of the field.
- Rugged with excellent resistance to recoil and environmental conditions
- Incredible battery life
- Highly accurate
- Easy to install and zero
- Quick detachment
- Compact and lightweight
- Fantastic reticle
- 20 brightness settings
This AR reflex sight from Burris uses a rugged aluminum housing and design that allows this sight to withstand recoil and shock abuse from high caliber firearms. It comes with a standard weaver mount, but you might have an issue with the mount coming loose after extended use and will need to replace it.
This is one of the most compact scopes on the list, and it takes up very little space on your firearm. It features a wide lens aperture and quality glass that greatly reduces the amount of glare.
The windage and elevation adjustments are easy to use and do not require a tool making this sight all the easier to sight in. Once sighted in, this scope holds that setting extremely well and as we just mentioned is extremely easy to adjust.
The reticle is a simple 3MOA red dot that for the most part remains crisp and centered when firing. Unfortunately, this AR reflex sight only has three brightness settings and doesn’t give you the ability tone up or down the brightness of the reticle in different conditions. What these results in is a reticle that will at some point wash out your target or be too dim to aim efficiently.
- Rugged aluminum housing
- Recoil and environmental resistance
- Very compact and lightweight
- Easy to zero, no tools required
- Holds zero
- Some issues with the mount coming loose
- Only three brightness settings
The 512 holographic sight for AR-15 and other tactical rifles is one of the most popular models in America. This sight will be compatible with any weaver of Picatinny rail systems. This sight takes up a little more room than other holographic and reflex sights on this list.
This sight is designed to handle the recoil of most high caliber rifles and is also constructed to resist physical demands encountered in most shooting situations. It is also highly waterproof and will continue to work like it just came out of the box after being submerged in up to 10’ of water.
A cool feature of this AR-15 holographic sight is the battery situation. While this sight will take two lithium batteries and give you nearly 1,000 hours of battery life at the medium brightness setting, it can also take AA alkaline batteries. The battery life will not be as long as lithium batteries, but it can be a life saver in a bind. The batteries can also be changed easily without having to dismount the sight, saving you time and headaches.
The reticle is a single red dot with a 65MOA circle making it an excellent in CQB conditions. The brightness can be adjusted between 20 different settings giving you a sight that will be able to perform as intended in any light environment. The reticle is clear and crisp and will remain centered through thousands of rounds. You also can’t go wrong with the EOTech glass that is highly shatter resistant and cuts down on glare.
- Strong, clear, and treated glass
- Durable heads up holographic sight
- Affordable in terms of true holo sights
- Can take both lithium or alkaline batteries
- High battery life
- Defective reticle when shipping
- Takes up more room than other sights
Winner and Conclusion
Before you run off, we want to give our title of the best holographic, or reflex sight, to one of the products we have reviewed in this article. After taking everything into account, we have to give the title to the EOTech EXPS2-0 Holographic Sight.
Barring the high price tag, which is pretty affordable compared to other holographic site models, is a fair price. This is a compact and sturdy holographic sight is resistant to most physical stresses that can be put on a scope. It is easy to mount and leaves plenty of room if you feel the need for further accessories such as a magnifier. This sight can be zeroed in with ease, and it will hold for thousands of rounds and even remounting.
The reticle is crisp and is well designed for close quarters to mid-range combat. The EXPS2-0 also gives you incredible control over brightness settings that will allow you to use this sight effectively in any lighting condition. On top of all this, the battery life is incredible with up 600 hours of power available. If you have the means, this sight might be the last you will ever need to mount onto your AR15 or other tactical platform firearms.
If you’re looking for an upgrade from your stock iron sights, a holographic or reflex sight is going to greatly increase your shooting performance. We have provided four excellent choices for holographic and reflex sights that we are confident will serve your tactical purposes and provide you with a tool that will dramatically increase your rifles aiming performance.