Which to choose among red dot sight, prism scope & traditional optical scope?

July 05, 2021 3 min read

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Are you having trouble choosing an optical product?

Are you confused about which optics to use at different distances?

What kind of scenarios are different optical products suitable for?

The question of how to choose among red dot, prism scope and traditional optical scope seems simple, but still plagues many beginners. This article will give you the most intuitive reference through a simple comparison of parameters. (This article mainly discusses common optics and does not refer to special optics.) First, let's understand the principle of red dot, prism scope and traditional optical scope.


  • Red Dot Sight

Red dot sight also can be called reflect sight, which form the red dot by projecting the light source directly on the lens. The red dot on the lens allows for quick targeting.


  • Prism Scope

The above picture shows the internal structure of a prism scope, which, as the name implies, transmits images through prisms. The light is refracted by the prism and finally enters our eyes.

  • Traditional Optical Scope

There are several groups of lenses in the traditional optical scope, in addition to the ocular assembly and objective assembly, some lenses carry the reticle, some lenses control magnification and some lenses are used to adjust parallax. The light enters from the objective lens, passes through the scope, and exits at the ocular lens.

Different principles give them different characteristics, let's compare them by a few simple parameters.


  1. Magnification

Red Dot Sight: Most red dots don’t have any magnification.

Prism Scope: Usually fixed magnification, like 1X, 3X, 4X, 7X.

Traditional Optical Scope: Diverse variable magnification for option


  1. Shooting Range

Red Dot Sight: Usually close (Except combat style red dot, they have BDC reticle which can shoot up to 300-400 yards range.)

Prism Scope: Usually close and middle range.

Traditional Optical Scope: Close, middle and long range.

  1. Size & Weight

Red Dot Sight: Ultra-compact & Ultra-light

Prism Scope: Compact(100-140mm/4-5.5inch) & Light(300-400g/10.5-14oz)

Traditional Optical Scope: Middle to Long(200-400mm/8-16inch) & Acceptable to heavy (400g-1000g/14-35oz); some even reach 450cm/18inch and 1500g/53oz.


  1. Reticle Option

Red Dot Sight: Simple style.

Prism Scope: Various & BDC reticle.

Traditional Optical Scope: Various & BDC reticle (more complicated)

  1. Eye Relief

Red Dot Sight: Free eye relief.

Prism Scope: Usually around 2-3 inches(50-75mm).

Traditional Optical Scope: Usually around 3-4 inches(75-100mm).

  1. Battery Support

Red Dot Sight: Can not work without a battery.

Prism Scope: Can be used normally without a battery.

Traditional Optical Scope(Not Fiber Optics): Can be used normally without a battery.


  1. Image Quality & Field of View (Products of Same Quality Level)

Red Dot Sight: Acceptable.

Prism Scope: Better, compared to red dots.

Traditional Optical Scope: Usually best among the three.

  1. Usage Scenario

Red Dot Sight: Close-range shooting, moving targets and pistol applications.

Prism Scope: CQB and medium-range shooting that widely used on AR platform.

Traditional Optical Scope: Tactical, sporting, hunting, competition, long-range shooting, and almost all fields of application.


Generally speaking, red dot sight, prism scope and traditional optical scope each have their own advantages, optical scopes emphasize higher accuracy while red dot sights perform better on moving targets and fast shooting. When choosing we need to take into account your weapon type, usage scenarios, habits and preferences.

If you still have any doubts or questions that need to be answered, have scope-related questions that need help, or want us to expand on any of the above points,feel free to follow Riflescope page and leave a comment.

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