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Difference Between Red Dot and Holographic Sights

army-niper-pdRed Dot vs. Holographic Sights

When it comes to sighting mechanisms for weapons, red dot and holographic sights are the popular choices. The differences between the two are not readily identifiable by just a simple side by side inspection and comparison. With a red dot, or reflex sight, you have a low power LED that produces the reticle, while a holographic sight uses a more powerful laser that bounces around to produce the holographic image of the reticle. The biggest impact of this difference is the duration of the battery life for the sight. As the holographic sight consumes more power, it understandably dies quicker compared to a red dot sight. It is always recommended to turn off your sight if you do not intend to use it for some time to avoid draining the battery.

The biggest advantage that holographic sights have over red dots, is its near immunity to parallax distortion. Parallax problems with red dot sights appear when the eye is not perfectly aligned with the sight, as in this case, the line that is drawn from the eye to the reticle and beyond is no longer parallel with the barrel. This problem is more pronounced as you increase the distance between the shooter and the target. The holographic reticle in a holographic sight is able to composite for this misalignment, thereby reducing errors due to parallax distortion, even at very long distances.

When it comes to disadvantages, there are also a few besides the reduced battery life stated above. Holographic sights are a little bit more complex compared to red dots sights. Due to this, holographic sights are a bit bulkier compared to red dot sights. Then there is the slight problem of temperature. Holographic sights are not as immune to temperature variations as red dot sights. So if you are going to a location which is too hot or too cold, then it may be better to carry a red dot sight instead of a holographic sight.


1. Red dot sights use a LED to produce the reticle, while a holographic sight bounces a LASER to produce a holographic reticle.

2. Holographic sights consume more power compared to red dot sights.

3. Holographic sights are more immune to parallax errors compared to red dot sights.

4. Holographic sights are slightly bulkier compared to red dot sights.

5. Holographic sights have a lower temperature tolerance compared to red dot sights.

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  1. you comparison of these two optics systems was informative, but contradicted itself at one point, in the body of the text you stated that one advantage of a holographic sight is its near immunity to parallax error, yet in the summary portion, item 3, you declare that holographic sights are less immune to parallax error. please explain

  2. You fail to mention that some red dot sites are open to dust and weather.

  3. You also fail to mention the problem of muzzle side light transmisson. ie the enemy can see your red dot but not your holo sights from the front (even in IR)

  4. Not much information here. Lots of claims with little support. If this is a research or “passing along knowledge” paper it was written poorly. You need to support the evidence with actual data from the field or from scientific method.


      • No he is completely valid and the writer did do a very minimal job explaining the differences and the main reason to have one over another in the field. Just saying one uses an LED while the other uses a laser isn’t enough information and there was too much emphasis on battery life. Holographic sights are much better but this made red dots seem better which is not true. A holographic sight is an improvement over a red dot and they didnt even mention cost.

  5. What is the chemical in the little tubes located above the optic I want one but dont want to feel like a loser going in buying something i dont know about.

    • I believe you are asking about tritium. It is a radioactive gas which excites a phosphor inside of tiny glass tube which then glows without the use of batteries. These tubes are used in gun sights. They can also provide the illumination source red or green dot sights. Tritium sights generally lasts for about 20 years.

  6. Red dot sight vs Holographic sight-Top Red Dot Sights . which one best?
    Ah yes. The age-old dilemma: red dot sight vs holographic sight. There are people who think that one is better than the other. And then there are people who don’t even recognize the difference between the 2 sights well enough to debate about it. The truth is, while they exist to serve the same purpose, which is to lock aim, they do it a tad bit differently.

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