Choosing the best red dot sight for a shotgun is not easy. Everyone has different needs and personal preferences, so finding the right red dot sight for you can be tricky.
If you know very little about red dot sights, it can be even trickier.
Luckily, this article is here to help.
So, how do you choose the best red dot sight for a shotgun?
First, you need a good understanding of what a red dot sight is for, how it can be applied to use with a shotgun, and how each red dot sight works. For example, are you looking for a red dot sight for use at short range or long-range?
Are you shooting ducks from 20 yards or are you trying to hit a deer with a slug from 75 yards? It matters.
If you are a complete beginner, you are probably looking for an all-around reliable choice. Such as the Aimpoint Micro T-2 MOA Red Dot Reflex Sight.
Alternatively, there’s the popular Vortex Venom Optic.
If you are looking for something a little more specific, then you are in the right place. Here is everything you need to know about how to choose a red dot sight for a shotgun:
Who Needs A Red Dot Sight On A Shotgun?
Red dot sights do not come with a shotgun as standard. If someone were to attach one of these sights it would be for a very specific reason.
For example, are you an avid hunter who is trying to pull off some very impressive shots? Then having a decent red dot sight might be the difference between hitting your target cleanly or missing it entirely.
If you are someone who uses their shotgun in potential combat, you may want to use a red dot sight for tactical reasons. When finding your target as quickly and accurately as possible can very literally be the difference between life and death.
If you are looking for accuracy above all else, you need a red dot sight. If you are hunting for, let’s say deer, you will be trying to get a clean shot.
If you are using slug shots to get a cleaner kill you are going to be lacking in accuracy at range without some sort of visual aid.
Shotguns by definition are pretty accurate, they have a widespread effect so hitting your target is easy. But not clean.
FIring a slug is clean, but not easy. So having a red dot sight on your side will make you accurate enough to get a clean kill. Hunters benefit from red dot sights perhaps the most.
Are Red Dot Sights Good For Shotguns?
Red dot sights are good for shotguns, in some ways. It largely depends on what type of rounds you are using. Imagine you are using standard birdshot, if you were to fire it down a firing range at a person-shaped target you would struggle to miss.
If you aimed for the chest you might expect the shot to hit all over the chest from 20 yards. From 50, you might end up hitting them all over their body.
From head to toe, assuming your target dummy had a lower half.
The reason being that the shot is supposed to spread as much as possible when you are shooting birds, like turkeys or pheasants.
Birds are small, hitting them is hard.
By increasing the spread you increase your odds of hitting your target. But how much does a red dot sight help here?
If you use the dot to track the bird you will be aiming in the general area your chances of hitting your target is pretty good. But, not much better than the iron sights.
You aren’t looking for precision you are looking to be aiming generally in the right direction.
If, however, you were trying to hit something or someone bigger than a bird you would find a lot of benefit from using a red dot sight.
Since your round will be going where you are aiming, rather than the general area of where you are pointing your shotgun, it makes a far bigger difference.
If you are hitting a person trying to harm you, or a deer trying to escape you, then making sure you hit your target is vital.
Can You Mount A Red Dot Sight On A Shotgun?
Yes, you can mount a red dot sight on most shotguns. Your typical pump action will be perfectly fine to fit an aftermarket sight on, some may require the help of a professional to fit the sight properly but that isn’t always the case.
For example, you cannot mount a red dot sight on your typical farmer’s double-barrel shotgun.
Nor would you need to. Many shotguns are manufactured with a Picatinny rail along the line of sight so they are already ready for a red dot sight, or any other sight, to be mounted.
Or perhaps you would need to buy a rib or saddle mount to attach your red dot sight, this means an extra step in the installation process. Luckily, it isn’t an overly difficult one. It is just something that must be factored into the price of the sight.
How A Red Dot Sight Is Mounted On A Shotgun
A red dot sight is pretty easy to mount on your shotgun most of the time.
If you have a rail along the line of sight, mounting a red dot sight can be as easy as just sliding it on and turning some screws.
Many shotguns nowadays come with one of these rails for this exact reason.
It makes installing and removing the sight as easy and as convenient as possible. This is ideal because the iron sights are still usable, even with the red dot sight off.
If you were to use a rib mount the iron sights would still be usable but you would lose some of your field of view.
If you haven’t got a pre-installed rail, you are going to want to install it yourself. Well, have your gunsmith install it.
There are other ways to mount your sight, but this one is arguably the best. You could install the rail yourself but it requires a very steady hand and a lot of expertise. as many as 40 tiny screws may be needed to screw the rail into your gun.
Getting it dead straight is another matter altogether. You could give it a go yourself, but the results would be poor and your gun would be very inaccurate.
A straddle mount is one of the easier mount types to install.
It simply slides on to the receiver and is then screwed in.
You will find there are normally 4 screws, opposed to 40 as mentioned above. Even easier to install is a simple Rib mount. Simply slide the mount down the barrel of the gun, and screw it into place. The rib mount doesn’t screw into the gun, it just clamps around it.
Making it quick and easy to install/uninstall. Not all shotguns can be fitted with a rib mount, some are too wide barrelled.
What Qualities Does A Red Dot Sight On A Shotgun Need?
When finding a red dot sight for your shotgun there are a few things to consider.
Most of all it is assessing whether it is worth buying. Some sights are pretty accurate, for a while, but quickly become less so due to recoil and being bumped around. Here is a list of the things you are looking for most of all:
Durability is of the utmost importance. Buying a red dot sight is an investment, you are going to be far more accurate for a couple of hundred dollars.
But, how long is that going to last? If your sight lasts just a year or two it isn’t worth it. You should be looking for a sight with the longest warranty as possible, a long warranty usually implies a company believes in their product.
Recoil over time can knock a sight off target, this is an inevitability that happens with any sight. But, it shouldn’t happen a lot and it certainly shouldn’t happen quickly.
Your sight should remain on target for weeks of use. If you have to practice fire and readjust between every shot you are going to scare away your prey every time.
It is a sign of a poor red dot sight and most of all it’s just annoying having to dial your sights back in every time. Not to say rather pointless.
The price will play a big part in picking the right sight for you. Finding a sight, including the mount, that fits your budget is very important.
The more you are willing to pay, the better your red dot sight will be. But not at a constant rate. The difference between a $50 sight and a $200 one is going to be huge.
The difference in quality between a $200 and $500 sight is going to be a lot smaller. Anything over that is just an outrageous waste of money for most people.
There are also some matters of personal preference to decide on. The field of view and size of the sight are the biggest factors.
For example, if you are looking for a tactical sight rather than one for hunting whitetail you are probably going to want a smaller sight.
If you are hunting, rather than using your weapon for self-defense, you may not particularly want a wide field of view.
When hunting, you only truly need to be looking at your target. When defending yourself, a bigger field of view is important for your safety.
The Pros And Cons Of Mounting A Red Dot Sight On A Shotgun
Mounting a red dot sight on your shotgun can come in handy, as mentioned above. But, it’s not all positives. There are some drawbacks to having a sight mounted on your gun. Here is a breakdown of all the pros and cons of mounting a red dot sight.
Some of them may surprise you
- Having a red dot sight can drastically increase accuracy over short distances.
- Improved reaction times. Having a red dot sight makes acquiring your target and getting a shot off easier.
- You can still use both of your eyes. Many people find shooting a shotgun accurately requires one eye to be closed, having a red dot sight allows both eyes to be open. This makes being aware of your surroundings much easier.
- Red dot sights can allow you to shoot accurately at night. When it is dark, using iron sights can be pretty tricky. You cant see all that well, so you are playing a high-risk guessing game. Red dot sights are designed to be used in low light situations
- The extra cost may price some people out of the game. A decent sight mount and the sight itself might cost a few hundred dollars, that you might not have on hand to spend. But, this isn’t often a problem. It is a one-off purchase that should last for a very long time.
- Having a red dot sight means you can no longer use the iron sights, which during the day might drastically decrease accuracy.
- The inconvenience of carrying a shotgun around with a sight attached can be a pain. The shotgun might not fit in its case properly, so it will get banged around in transit. This can, again, lead to decreased accuracy.
Some Good Shotgun Red Dot Sights To Consider
Here are some all-around good red dot sights that would be perfect for use with most shotguns. Any of these sights would make a pretty good choice for most people, you are of course perfectly fine searching for something a little more specific to your needs. Everyone has their personal preference and specific needs, these are just some good all-around well-balanced sights:
- The Aimpoint Micro T-2 Red Dot Reflex Sight.
- Sig Sauer Romeo 5
- Vortex Venom 3 MOA Red Dot Sight
- BSA 30mm Red Dot 5 MOA.
- TRUGLO 30mm Dual Color Dot Sight.
- Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
- Holosun HS403C
- Field Sport Red and Green Reflex Sight.
Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea about how to install a red dot sight. And, what you should be looking for in a red dot sight. Everyone has their preferences, so what is good for you might not be good for me.
But, you won’t go far wrong with the above-mentioned sights. They are very well balanced and reasonably priced.
The dual color or green reflex sights are even perfect for use by colorblind people. If none of those sights are quite what you are looking for, it’s a good idea to just ask a local gunsmith for their advice.
Good luck finding the right sight for you and happy shooting!