several sight pictures with red dot sights

How to Shoot with a Red Dot Sight

Do you want to shoot more accurately with a rifle or pistol? There are various steps you can take, but one of the best options is a red dot sight. It’s become an industry game-changer and can help to put you on target faster.

The key is to learn how to shoot your firearm properly using a red dot sight. It all starts when picking the right unit for your needs. Then it’s about mounting it in the place that reduces the line of the sight and makes you as comfy as possible. You should make sure to learn about issues like dot brightness and target transitions. The extra tweaks you’ll have to make will ultimately result in more shooting accuracy. There’s also no substitute for good old-fashioned practice.

Red Dot Sight Basics

In the past red dot sights simply projected lit red dots onto an objective lens. Today it’s used to describe aiming colored dots or reticle shapes. These devices are quite popular due to being simple yet accurate.

You can pick from various types of red dot sites including tube, reflex, holographic, and prismatic. The differences are in how the sight functions to project a reticle. More specifically this includes reflective glass lenses or lasers.

The top benefit of these sights is ease and speed. For example, the point of aim, as well as the point of impact, always line up. There’s also no lining up sights, no tweaks for distance, and the reticle stays on focus when pointed towards the target.

How to Use Red Dot Sights

The first step is to switch on the red dot sight and verify if it’s working. The world’s best sight won’t do much if it’s malfunctioning.


Next, adjust the reticle’s brightness by using the brightness adjustment knob/buttons. If it’s too bright, then the reticle will show fuzziness or a halo when shooting in low-light or indoors.

Meanwhile, if you’re in bright light or outdoors and the brightness is cranked up, then the reticle will simply disappear.


When mounting the sight, you can place it at any place on the gun that’s comfier for you and that maximizes how much the line of the sight is reduced. For many shooters this is centered over the ejection port.

One of the benefits of red dot sights is they provide unlimited eye relief. What’s it all about? This is the distance between what your eyes see within the field of view, and the eyepiece.

red dot sight on pistol with slide back

How to Zero Red Dot Sights

This process is the same as zeroing other rifle scopes. The extra work you’ll have to do is zeroing in backup iron sights in the case you have them.

It’s highly recommended to boresight your weapon before you hit the range. Afterwards, it’s a matter of sighting through it or removing the optic when necessary.

When you zero iron sights keep the optic switched off and simply ignore it. After the iron sights get zeroed just flip them down if you can. Switch on the optic and zero based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Why should you ignore the iron sights? They’re two separate sighting systems and aren’t related to each other. The iron sights and dot are not zeroed to each other.

How to Shoot with a Red Dot Sight

Here are the basic steps to follow:

1. Know your target

You should also be aware of any objects that are behind it.

2. Look at the target

Stay focused on it and bring up your firearm to a shooting position. Make sure to keep both eyes open.

3. Watch for the reticle on the target

As you bring up your gun, the reticle will move over the target.

4. Fire your weapon when the reticle meets the target

Those are the basic steps. The sight will definitely help you to engage your targets better and faster. Other benefits you can experience are the reticle is self-correcting. It’s also nearly parallax-free, which is related to the reticle’s visual movement in relation to your target.

One thing to keep in mind is you won’t find any sights that are actually 100% parallax-free. That’s because it will still exist as close distances.

red dot sight on weapon on wall

Tips for Selecting/Using Red Dot Sights

1. Practice, practice, practice

There’s no substitute for practicing whenever you can at the range. This is especially true if you’re just starting out with these sights. You should make sure to practice long-distance shooting in particular.

2. You can use them for shotguns and pistols

These sights are usually used for rifles. However, you can also use them for shotguns and pistols. The key is to do your homework so you can pick the right unit for your particular needs.

3. Trust the dot

A common newbie mistake is attempting to center the red dot in the window perfectly then holding it as if it were a front sight that has to be lined up in the rear notch. It’s a rookie mistake. Make sure to avoid slowing down in order to center the dot.

4. Practice on different sized targets

You can make the target a reference in order to establish the hold on distant targets. This includes hold top half, hold center plate, hold line of light, etc.

It’s important to practice on targets of different sizes. This will provide you with the know-how to tweak holding based on the plate size. When you’re under the clock, it can result in you either hitting or missing the target.

5. Ditch pistol’s rear sight

If you want better results then make sure to take this bold step. The reason is the red dot might seem to be wrongly giving you a green light when the front sight isn’t lined up properly in the notch. This can cause a lot of unwanted confusion.

6. Mount it low on pistols

This advice could change based on future pistol designs. However, for now, it’s critical to keep the dot as low as possible in order to maintain wrist/muscle alignment so the dot can be seen when the shooter pushes out the handgun.

7. Learn about dot brightness

When shooting your rifle, it’s important to know about point of aim versus point of impact. This requires more tweaking but will ultimately result in more accurate shooting.

Make sure to practice transitions ranging from close paper targets (e.g. less than 10 yards) up to longer distances (e.g. 100 yards). This will allow you to figure out which dot brightness you prefer when you’re dealing with this kind of target transitions.

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