Gideon Optics red dot sight mounted to a custom built pistol

How to Choose the Best Red Dot Sight for Your Pistol

When you want to improve your accuracy and precision with your custom handgun, you need the best red dot sight for the job. Adding a pistol reflex sight is a beginner-friendly upgrade that speeds up target acquisition, supports the development of proper firearms fundamentals, and helps you put out tight groups. Not every red dot sight is right for every application, however. Understanding what you’re looking for in a red dot and how to avoid buying more sight than you need can help you create a better shooting experience without emptying out your pocketbook when you don’t need to.

Intuitive Pistol Aiming

The best red dot sights are so popular because they’re easy to use. Rather than the three aiming planes present with iron sights (rear sight, front sight, and target), a pistol reflex sight effectively reduces the complexity to two planes, with the shooter simply moving the reticle onto the target. With practice, red dots vs. iron sights provide a quicker and easier transition for the eye when lining up your shot and retain a better view of the area immediately around the target. 

Red Dot Features to Look For

Every red dot is different, but if you want to find the best red dot for your pistol, you need to understand the features they offer. Let’s take a look at some common (and not-so-common) specifications you want to keep an eye out for.


Your red dot reticle will replace your iron sights as your primary aiming mechanism, so it’s important to shoes one you’re comfortable with. Reticles can be as simple as the eponymous red dot that provides small MOA accuracy to a larger circle for quicker close-range target acquisitions. Chevrons and crosshairs are also popular choices that may be engineered to help you adjust for windage, elevation, or range on the fly. 

View through an optic showing red dot reticle


Your sight only works if you can see the reticle to aim. The best red dot sights for pistols will have adjustable brightness settings that let you turn up the reticle for brighter lighting, down for lower, and may even offer night-vision-compatible settings. Adjustable brightness can help you not only aim better but help preserve your tactical vision in transitional lighting, such as when using your gun for home defense.

Windage and Elevation

Adjustable windage and elevation help you zero in your pistol reflex sight for improved accuracy and make adjustments to account for environmental conditions. It’s important to note what range your red dot sight offers, how it’s adjusted, and at what rate the adjustment occurs. As an example, 45 MOA of adjustment to both windage and elevation at the rate of 1 MOA per click of the adjustment screw tells you that your sight is designed to give you up to 90 MOA of total adjustment horizontally and vertically to ensure your gun is zeroed.

Mounting Options

Modern optics are designed to make mounting these popular accessories easier on the right firearms. The best red dots for your pistol will mount securely to provide a stable aiming base. There are several popular mounting patterns preferred by manufacturers as well as the 1913 Picatinny rail mounting system that’s common on rifles, carbines, shotguns, and some large-frame handguns.

Battery Life

If your battery is dead, so is your new gun sight. Modern electronics are incredibly efficient, and most red dot sights boast a lifespan of tens of thousands of hours from a single button-cell battery. The best red dot sights for pistols go further, however, featuring energy-saving technology that puts the optic to sleep while it’s motionless but wakes it up when shaken. Some premium red dots also offer solar panel backup power sources that can keep your sight working with ambient sunlight.


Size is an important consideration when choosing your pistol reflex sight. While most red dots are relatively small, you may want a larger window for the range, to practice aiming fundamentals, or for shooting competitions. Conversely, you may want a small, lightweight footprint on a gun intended for concealed carry, decreasing the printing on your clothes or the risk of it snagging on draw.


Be sure to check for design elements that help your red dot sight stand up to real-world use. Waterproof design, fog-resistant lenses, and shock-resistant housings can help ensure you aren’t sidelined by a damaged optic at the worst possible time.


Take note of your red dot sight’s warranty. While most manufacturers have a robust quality control program, no system is perfect. Look for the length of time the optic maker will stand behind their product and the conditions under which they’ll repair or replace them. Some manufacturers only offer a few months when obvious manufacturing defects are covered, while on the other end of the spectrum, Gideon Optics offers a lifetime warranty that covers just about anything short of intentional damage to protect your investment.

Considerations When Choosing the Best Red Dot for Your Pistol

Now that you know what to look at when comparing the best red dot sight models, it’s time to see how those features work with your weapon. It’s not always the toughest, most expensive, or most technologically advanced option when it comes to choosing the right reflex optic your pistol needs.

Use Case

Start by considering how you plan on using your weapon with the red dot sight. A gun owner who needs a concealed carry weapon for self-defense has very different needs than a law enforcement officer or soldier. Think about likely engagement ranges, the environments you may need to use your weapon in, and what features will help you most when you need to get the shot right the first time.

Glock 19 with a Gideon Optics Mediator mounted using an MOS to ACRO adapter plate

Pistol Mounting Pattern

If you’re using an optics-ready pistol, look for the best red dot sights that match your pattern, or be ready to buy an adapter plate that bridges the gap between the two, like a MOS to ACRO adapter plate. For rail mounting, ensure that the rail mount’s height will work with your intended use and whether it allows for co-witnessing, the use of your iron sights in conjunction with the red dot.

Ease of Carry

Think about how much weight and bulk you’re willing to add to your pistol. If you only use it at the range, this may not matter as much. If you intend to carry your gun, however, you need to ensure the optic still allows safe use of your holster and that the added size and weight are easy to use and carry. Remember, anytime you add or change a component on the gun, you’ll need to retrain your muscle memory past its learning curve to make the new configuration feel “natural.”


For most of us, we need to find the most bang for our buck. That means our firearms purchases, from guns and ammo to accessories like the best pistol red dot, represent a balancing act between cost and benefit. Can you spend more to buy a sight rated to jump out of a plane into the ocean so you can James Bond your way into enemy territory? Sure, but if you don’t plan on doing that, Mr. Wick, you can save money by choosing an optic that meets your self-defense or range needs instead.

Package Deals

If you’re planning a custom gun build, look for bundles that give you quality parts and save you money. The Patmos Arms Judah 19 Optics-Ready Slide Package gives you a quality slide, match-grade barrel, and lets you add a Gideon Optics red dot sight at a steep discount over buying these components separately.

Order the Right Reflex Sight for Your Pistol

When you’re ready to take your shooting game to the next level, we’ve got your six with quality parts and accessories at a fair price. Make sure you catch the hottest deals and newest product information by subscribing to our email newsletter. Order the best red dot sight for your pistol from JSD Supply today.