Red Dot Sights


by Paco Kelly

photography by Paco Kelly

August 12th , 2008




The world of red dot sights has grown to overflowing with styles, designs, and of course prices.  From Aimpointís CompM4 at $700 plus dollars to BSAís 22 Red Dot sight for 22 rimfires at $25, and the rest at every price level in between.  No matter the price, or the design they all fall into basically two shapes.  The telescope tube type where you look through it like you do a regular telescope, and the upright window type.  Both basic designs come in many shapes, cosmetic appeal, and prices

The tube type will give you a number of red dot options, and not all dots.  There are circles with the red dot in the center, crosses called crosshairs, and red dots of many different sizes. And even a model from Cabelaís that has a crosshair through a circle..... personally I find on a rifle or pistol I would rather use a normal low power telescope than a scope bodied red dot system

The window type, called Reflex Lens, also has circles with the red dots inside, and a number of sizes of the red dots within the sight itself for the shooter to select according to his needs in target acquisition. After testing them extensively I really like the reflex or open window type.  They are faster, and easier for me to use, especially on 22 rimfire pistols.

After looking over many in a well stocked gun store, trying a number of them on my guns, and checking out a blistering number of catalogs selling all kinds of red dot sights. (I was testing to see if the less expensive types were as good as the expensive ones, as clear, as rugged, and as quick to target.)  I met with a few surprises along the way.

Just to make this review possible, I tested three and I set an upper price at $100.  So before we describe the values and short comings of the ones we tested in that price range, let me say... as usual you get what you pay for.  From the Trijicon line, the Aimpoints, the EOTech, and many others in the $500 range and up, they are as expected, very fine.  Their clarity is top notch, rugged, easy to zero in, and rock steady on holding their zero

One of the surprises I found was duplication.  For example, BSA puts out two excellent window type red dot sights.  The MPDS model is a compact window sight with a 30mm window and four adjustments for red dot sizes, and a coated lens.  It has clamp on system that can be put on any type of base, even grooved 22 rimfire bases. I mounted it on a Target 22 rimfire after testing it on a a brutal kicking load in my 35 Whelen Improved, (a 290 gr. Roundnose at 2550 fps), it has passed both with top of the class marks.  I think Iím going to keep it on the Beretta mod. 87 Target auto. (See photo).

And the second is the BSA RMDS with a 32mm window (see photo). The manufactures call them reflex lens. The RMDS is longer than the PMDS, and really it is for rifles but can also be used on autoloaders.  It also passed the 35 Whelen test with top grades.  I have had telescopes that couldnít take the punishment these two sights took.  They even took more than my shoulder did.  But the interesting part is they are $49.95 for the PMDS compact, and $79.95 for the RMDS, available from many venders like MidwayUSA.  Hereís the surprise,  ATN offers their Ultra Sight in the Cabela's catalog for $99.99... and it is the same sight as the BSA RMDS.  And I have seen the PMDS in other catalogs at prices that range up to $199 from many different companies... companies other than BSA.  And I have seen it cheaper at $40 from SIGHT MARK. So the buyer must shop and compare... many of these sights are obviously made overseas and purchased by many companies that have their name put on them for resale at all kinds of different prices.

I also tried a very inexpensive Barski 1x25mm CO-11220. It offers itís red dots sizes in both red and green.  For those that find red difficult to see (which means you are slightly color blind, and probably blue eyed), the green is very nice. The Barski was $29 but the window or lens doesnít look like itís large enough to be 25mm, so for a 22 rimfire shooting standing still targets, it would be alright.  I put it on a CZ 452 mod.2500 22 rimfire rifle.  And for the price it works very well.  (See photo).

And talk about duplication, two sights may be slightly different in style but give the same service and shooting abilities at vastly different costs. The BSA PMDS is so close to the Truglo TruPoint Open red dot sight in clarity, size,  and ruggedness, and since it is $180 cheaper, you really have to weigh the difference in what they offer in dot sizes and styles for the extra cost.  They both have coated lens, both have variable sight sizes, both can take heavy recoil, both have long battery life, excellent sight adjustment, and both keep their zero very well.  The Truglo is lighter, and has a cover that shuts the sight off.  The BSA doesnít.

What I like about the window type is the dot can be anywhere in the window, if itís on your target and you fire thatís where the bullet is going.  That gives very fast target acquisition, especially for multiple targets or moving targets.  They are deadly on running southwestern jackrabbits...the tube type red dot scopes donít give that same speed ability on moving targets. With the large window type reflex lens and 22 rimfire ammo run through my Acuírzr, itís a deadly combo on small game.

So the word to the wise is shop around.  Look at the offerings in the local gun stores, check the catalogs, check the web sites that sell shooter equipment. Check the real differences, not just cosmetic, but lens size.. very important.. Dot sizes and styles, are the lens coated, does the red dot show up well during a very bright day, red dot sizes down to very small are important for longer distance shooting... the 4mm and such are fine for 50 yards or so.  But out at 100 to 150 yards or more, that size and larger will cover too much of the target.

My opinion on red dot sighting systems changed when testing these.  I had no real feeling for them.  I still donít go for the tube type... of course I have not had a chance to test the top of the line tube types, that may make a difference. But the right reflex lens of 30mm or more, coated, compact and rugged, has won a place on some of my firearms...... and that states a lot.

Paco Kelly

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Barski 1x25mm CO-11220.



BSA MPDS on a Beretta Model 87 target pistol.






Long a skeptic of Red Dot sights, Paco is now a believer!