Selection of red dot sights and 9mm carbine

Best Universal Red Dot Sights [Hands-on Review]

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Red dot sights are a handy piece of firearm tech that greatly decreases the amount of time it takes to get a weapon on target. They have become the go-to for close to midrange shooting and with ever smaller and more efficient LEDs, are a great option for pistols too. I’m going to show you the best universal red dot sights out there.

There are two main types of red dot sights, open and tube style. Tube style red dots are typically used on rifles and shotguns, and have replaced the large open style red dots of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Modern open style red dots are usually miniaturized and designed to fit on pistols.

The best universal red dot sights:

Best Budget Overall
BAIGISH Universal Red Dot Sight Holographic Scope
  • Suitable for any lighting conditions
  • Durable and reliable
  • Fits all 20mm Picatinny And 11mm Weaver Rail
  • Just standard warranty
$49 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Compact
Sig Sauer Romeo5
  • Turns off on its own
  • Incredibly Durable
  • Waterproof
  • Some people are critical of the provided mounts’ durability
  • When it comes to unexpected interactions, the MOTAC can be a disadvantage
$129 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Tube Style
Aimpoint PRO
  • Durable and reliable
  • Super Long Battery Life
  • Huge Viewing Area
  • A bit heavy for red dots
  • Not many additional features
$445 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Budget Open Style
Bestscope Holographic Red Dot Sight
  • Reliable Accuracy
  • Durable
  • Large Field of View
  • Size (More suitable to rifles, needs adapter)
$44 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Open Style Red Dot
Vortex Venom
  • Lightweight and Compact
  • Batteries can be changed without unmounting the sight
  • With Sharp and bright dot
  • Not SHTF rugged
$189 Shop NowClick to read my review

Magnifiers or not?

Magnifiers are a popular addition to red dot setups. They turn a red dot into a fixed magnification scope, but there are some drawbacks. The first concern is the added weight and bulk. The second is the effect magnification has on the dot in the red dot sight. It increases in size by the same amount as the rest of what’s viewed through the scope. Your 2 MOA dot can become a 6 MOA dot, and at the distance a magnifier would be used, it makes an even bigger difference. Those are just some things to keep in mind during your red dot search.

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There are a lot of good red dot sights available right now, but some manage rise above the rest. These red dots were tested and chosen to be the best, by budget and style preference.


Best Budget: BAIGISH Universal Red Dot Sight Holographic Scope Trophy TRS-25

The BAIGISH Universal Red Dot Sight is a sealed holographic scope. It is designed for rapid target acquisition on rifles, carbines, and shotguns. It has ambidextrous brightness controls, sub-flush adjusters and advanced lens coatings. As well as fully sealed and waterproof so this is a plus point. It is also constructed with a hard and durable housing.

The sight picture and clarity are excellent. Baigish makes their sight lenses with multiple coatings. Which not only makes them more durable but also allows you to gather more light. And provide you with good contrast when acquiring a sight picture. The large aperture and tapered light path increase the viewing area. Allowing for better situational awareness and faster target engagement. Its purpose is to keep you safe in close quarters situations.

This universal red dot sight is an impressive sight for all your shooting needs. It is also suitable for any lighting condition.

Pros
  • Suitable for any lighting conditions
  • Durable and reliable
  • Fits all 20mm Picatinny And 11mm Weaver Rail
  • Multi coated optical lens
  • Clear and Sharp 5.0 MOA Dot
  • Parallax free and with eye relief
Cons
  • Just standard warranty

Sig Sauer Romeo5

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 sideview

This red dot is another option that is great for the price and is one step up in quality. The glass is slightly better, and it has a few high-tech features. One that I’m a big fan of is their MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) which is a fancy way of saying it will turn on with movement, and off if it’s left alone for a while. This is how Sig is able to claim a 40,000hr battery life. If the optic is left on, it will shut off the dot but be “awake” enough to detect if it is moved, which turns on the dot.

If the dot were actually left on the whole time, the battery life would be a fair amount lower. Due to that, this is perfect for the typical range shoot, but I probably wouldn’t want to equip it on anything carried every day without keeping the date of the last battery change in mind.

For shooters with astigmatism (like myself), I found the dot from the Romeo 5 to be the least fuzzy of the bunch when not wearing my contacts, so if that’s a concern for you, it’s something to keep in mind. I’m assuming it’s a mix of the small 2 MOA dot and the Romeo 5’s reflector design.

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 mounted on 9mm carbine

With the Romeo 5, it’s the little things that make it feel a bit more premium. Note the form fitting lens cover, and buttons instead of a rotating turret.

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 close-up on buttons

The front has a similar type of coating to the Bushnell Trophy TRS-25.

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 front view on coated glass

It has a 2 MOA dot with a ½ MOA adjustment at 100 yards, and 10 brightness setting with 2 intended for night vision goggle use. I liked it at 7 for indoor use, and 10 for outdoor use.

Sig Sauer Romeo 5 reticle see through on target

A low-rise mount is included in the box too, which is a nice addition. There are a few different versions available, one with a 65 MOA circle in addition to the 2 MOA dot. I had no real problems with the Romeo 5, it did everything I wanted it to, and nothing I did not. The Romeo 5 weights 5.1oz and is 2.47in long. Included in the box is a Torx wrench, cleaning cloth, low-rise mount, and instruction manual. It retails for $219, but it can be found for much less online.

Pros
  • Ultra long battery life
  • Incredibly Durable
  • Waterproof
  • Turns on when it senses motion
  • Turns off on its own
  • With low and high mount
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Some people are critical of the provided mounts’ durability
  • When it comes to unexpected interactions, the MOTAC can be a disadvantage

Best Tube Style Red Dot: Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic)

Aimpoint Pro Red Dot mounted on Scorpion EVO

Aimpoint has a long history of making quality products, having released the first modern LED red dot way back in 1975. Their CompM2 was adopted by the US military in 2000, and the PRO is based heavily on that design, with a few improvements.

Aimpoint Pro mounted left side

Any concerns I had about damaging this red dot went out the window when I took it out of the box. From the clamp design to the heavy-duty brightness dial, this sight was built to handle a hard life. To properly attach it to your gun, you crank that big knob down until it clicks three times. The instant feedback is nice to have, and while it feels like you’re tightening a clamp built by Hephaestus himself, your rails will emerge unscathed. It stayed snug too, despite a fair amount of shooting and overall jostling.

The rear cover has a built-in clear window, which is another indicator of the PRO’s ‘always ready’ design. Your support hand can open the front cover, and the clear rear means you don’t need to reach back to open it or move your firing hand. If you usually shoot with both eyes open, you can also leave the front cover closed and let your brain do the work of superimposing what your eyes are seeing. I didn’t find opening the front cover to be that much of a burden, but debris hitting the lens and/or preventing scope glint are fortunately not big concerns of mine. If you would rather have a windowed front cover, or a non-windowed rear cover, both can be purchased from Aimpoint.

It comes with a 3v lithium battery, good for 30,000 hours of continuous use. And the red dot is always visible on this one, no motion sensor to worry about. It has the fog, water and shock resistance you would expect while adding a chemical resistance too. The dot is 2 MOA with 10 brightness settings and an ½ MOA per click adjustment at 100yrs. Brightness settings 0-5 are intended for ultra-low light conditions or use with night vision goggles. 6 was visible slightly during the day, but I preferred it set at 7 for indoor use and at 9 for outdoor use. At 10 it was too bright regardless of location for my eyes. If being able to co-witness with irons is a priority, high-rise iron sights will have to be used.


It also includes two hex wrenches, spare mounting screws and a service sticker. The sticker has boxes to track its date of issuance and when the next battery and mount inspection should be performed.

Aimpoint Pro Left Side

The glass used in the Aimpoint Pro is so clear that photos barely do it justice. The LED projector is recessed enough that it doesn’t block the view at all, and the lens openings are threaded to accept a magnifier or an anti-reflection device.

Aimpoint Pro see through on target

Size-wise, it does not have the compact design of most modern red dots. It’s closer to my 2.5x PA scope in length and height, but given its durability, it’s an acceptable sacrifice. And fortunately, it isn’t very heavy. It weighs 11.6oz, which is noticeably lighter than the 2.5x optic. My only real gripe is the size of the rail clamp knob on the side.

Rail clamp knob on Aimpoint PRO

It protrudes out from the side significantly. Even further out than the charging handle of my Scorpion. I’m sure it can take a significant beating, but I’d rather not have to find out due to it catching on to something. The price is pretty eye-watering for a red dot too, at $420, but the quality is superb. The PRO would easily be my first choice if I were stuck in a hostile situation.

Pros
  • Durable and reliable
  • Clear Lens
  • Huge Viewing Area
  • With 2 MOA dot reticle
  • Super Long Battery Life
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • A bit heavy for red dots
  • Not many additional features

Best Budget Open Style: Bestscope Holographic Red Dot Sight

The Holographic sight is made of high-quality aluminum alloy, making the red and green dot sights both sturdy and lightweight. It has a 33mm reflex lens with tubeless design for a wide field of view and quick target acquisition. Making it ideal for rapid-fire at moving targets from short to mid-range distances while hunting. It also consumes little power, allowing for a long battery life. This reflex sight offers four reticle patterns the Dot, Circle Dot, Crosshair Dot, Crosshair Circle Dot combinations which is one of the highlights of this superb product.

This sight also has water-proof, fog-proof, and shock-proof features. So you may use it in any weather situation because the internal components are well protected and enhanced at the same time. It’s also lightweight, making it convenient to carry anywhere and easy to set up. Overall, it’s a great option to buy.

Pros
  • Reliable Accuracy
  • Durable
  • Large Field of View
  • Customizable reticle
  • Fully adjustable
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Size (More suitable to rifles, needs adapter)
  • Limited manufactures
  • More sophisticated

Best Open Style Red Dot: Vortex Venom

Vortex Venom front
Source: C&H Precision Weapons

The Vortex Venom is a very compact open red dot that can pull double duty on pistols and rifles. It’s perfect on SBR’s and guns that make use of a pistol brace. The Venom has a 3 MOA dot or a 6 MOA dot, depending on the model, and at 1.6oz and 1.9in it is the smallest and lightest red dot on the list. It really puts the large open-style red dots of the past to shame. It doesn’t have the dot style options, like crosshairs, the opposing triangles, or a single triangle, but for the size difference, I’d say it’s worth it.

Remember this guy?

Old Vortex Red Dot

You can’t help but appreciate the steady march of technological progress.

Like the Sig Romeo 5, it includes some tech features that help maintain battery life. It will auto shutdown after 14 hrs and has an auto-brightness mode in addition to 10 manual brightness settings. The dot was plenty bright in both outdoor and indoor use, and the auto-brightness feature worked fairly well. It’s easy to bypass if you’d rather manually set brightness though.

The battery is accessible from the top, so the sight won’t have to be removed for a battery change. That means no re-zeroing, which is especially nice due to the smaller battery and consequently lower battery life in mini-red dots like this one. The Venom does have a smaller viewing window than a tube-style sight, but not drastically so. If you’re able to shoot with both eyes open, then it really becomes no issue. The 3 MOA dot, and especially 6 MOA dot variants make it more suitable for close-range shooting than midrange shooting.

Vortex Venom on handgun

For pistol mounting, a Picatinny rail is included. The rail attachment point should be able to fit into the slot the rear sight of your pistol was in. An adapter may be required depending on the type of factory sights, primarily dovetail sights. The Venom comes with an unlimited lifetime warranty and is waterproof and shockproof.

My only gripe would be the adapter issue. It would have been nice for Vortex to include some adapter options, rather than needing to find and buy the adapter from a third party.

A Torx wrench (T-15), rain cover, lens cloth, CR1632 Battery, Picatinny rail, and screwdriver are included.

Pros
  • Lightweight and Compact
  • Batteries can be changed without unmounting the sight
  • With Sharp and bright dot
  • Auto brightness settings
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Not SHTF rugged

Conclusion

A propper sight or scope is always the best upgrade and investement you can make for your weapon. So if you have not yet got one, then I highly reccomend buying one of these best universal red dot scopes.

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