Difference Between Reflex Sight Vs Red Dot

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This is an age old question that’s been answered so many time and yet you are here.  

Can’t blame you though. I, myself mix these two up even after all these years. That’s why I can imagine your confusion. Besides, the answer to this question is somewhat different for individuals. So, maybe you are just here to know the expert’s opinion.

Don’t worry, you are getting what you came for. But before that, let me tell you a secret:

Red dot and Reflex sight are the same.

Really? Reflex Sight and Red dots are same?

Yep, same.

Let me explain how. Red dot is not an actual type of gun sight. It is a term for a sights that have red dots in it. The Red dots are mostly available in three different types.

  • Prism Sight
  • Holographic Sight and
  • Reflex Sight

Yes, Reflex sight is actually a Red dot.

“So, does it mean there won’t be any comparison today?”

Well, there shouldn’t be as Reflex sight and Red dot are the same but this doesn’t mean we won’t argue over Reflex sight vs Red dot. As a matter of fact, instead of putting Reflex sight against Red dot, we can put it against other 2 Red dots, Holographic site sight and Prism sight – why not?

How They Work

Even though Reflex sight and other 2 Red dots, Holographic and Prism belong to the common Red dot group, there are few key differences in how they work.

 First of all, the Reflex sight works by projecting an image, which is known as reticle, on the lens. The lens then reflects the image or reticle to the human eyes and that’s where the Reflex name comes from.  Even though a Reflex sight can project in several ways, but the common term reflecting is used for these sights

But unlike the Reflex sight, Holographic sight is much more complex. Well, it also reflects the reticle but the reticle moves from your view and not from the target.

How is it possible you say? First of all, the view that the user sees with a Holo sight is not real. It is more like you are seeing a video recording but the events are happening at that very instant.

Prism sight is not as complicated as Holographic sights or Reflex sight, however. It works like traditional telescopes but instead of using lenses, it uses Prism and illuminated reticle.

Reticle Projection

Reticle projection is an import thing to understand while we are arguing over Reflex sight vs Red dot. Reflex, Holographic and Prism, all three projects the reticles very differently.

Reflex sights use battery powered LED to project light beams on the lenses. On the other hand, Holographic sights use lasers to illuminate reticle on the lens.

But unlike Reflex and Holographic sight, Prism sights doesn’t need an external source to project. The Prism itself works to project on the lens.

Parallax Issue

For pro shooters and hunters, parallax is a major issue with common gun sights. But each sight acts differently to get rid of this problem.

Reflex sight uses collimating lenses and lights to handle this situation. In case you are wondering, collimating light is actually the light parallel to the surface it is on. So when the light goes through collimating lenses, it gets straight to bounce off another lens into the eye. This way, the reticle you see on a Reflex sight is virtually fixed in a parallel position to the gun barrel. And that’s how parallax is eliminated.

Holographic sights also deal with parallax by pushing the dot at infinity. However, Prism sights aren’t known to be parallax free.

Eye Relief

If we need to talk about eye relief for the sake of Reflex sight vs Red dot argument, then let me say it up front. Reflex sight and Holographic sight have infinite eye relief where Prism sight has 2-4 inches of eye relief. So, Reflex and Holographic sights take the lead here as they both can be mounted on any place on your gun.


In magnification, Prism sight is also dissimilar to Reflex sight and Holographic sight. While Reflex and Holographic sights do not magnify the view at all, Prism sights usually come with a magnification of 1x to 5x or more. For some individuals, it is better as they have a broader view of the target. But others think this is just unnecessary.

I’ll say low 1x magnification is not a bad thing for targeting. That means the win goes to Prism or Red dots for today’s Reflex sight vs Red dot comparison.


Pro shooters pay a lot of attention to the sight battery. After all, you won’t like when your sight is on low battery.

That’s why Reflex sight gets the upper hand here as the LED operated unit takes much less power than Laser led Holographic sight. However, Prism sights don’t need any battery at all, as a matter of fact. So, we have to give the point to Prism sight or Red dot for today’s Reflex sight vs Red dot comparison.


I’m sure that by now, you all have become seriously confused about who is the actual winner for Reflex sight vs Red dot. But that’s not shocking because there aren’t supposed to be a clear winner.

Each of the three Red dots that we talked about in this comparison has their own perks and advantages. While Holographic sight and Reflex sight require a battery to run with, Prism sights work without any power source. But you cannot use Prism sight while keeping your both eyes open. Only the Holographic or Reflex sight allows using both your eyes. Again, Prism sights have a little magnification, which helps in targeting and keeping track but they only provide a little relief.

Like this, I can go back and forth the whole day between Reflex sight vs Red dot because the sights are useful in their own way. So the decision falls on to you and the way you want to use the sight. Consider the practical uses that you’d be doing and only then can you decide which one is better for you.

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