Red dot sights are undoubtedly one of the most common gun sights available on the market. Due to the availability of these gun sights and being comparatively cheaper than other high-end tactical gun sights, hunters and shooters use them with their firearms whether it is for practice runs or professional shooting competition.
Due to their existence for decades, people are caught up with the ins and outs of how to use a red dot sight. However, there is one question that still needs answering. I get asked this very often –“How far can you shoot with a red dot sight?”
This is a question that many fail to answer and sometimes I hesitate to answer properly.
Because the answer is not definite or binary. There are a lot of factors to entertain before I or anyone else can answer with absolute certainty that this is how far you can shoot with a red dot sight.
In this situation, the best possible answer is to explain the effective range of a red dot sight and then address what factors come into play in deciding how far can someone shoot with their red dot sight.
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What is the usual effective range of a red dot sight?
First of all, before you know what the effective range of a red dot sight is, you must know what does the term effective range mean?
By effective range of red dot sight, we mean the range up to where the accuracy or precision of the aim is maximum.
It is widespread that on average a red dot sight without any magnification can be used to aim at the target as far as 100 yards away. Even though it is not a universal or manufacturer claimed info, it says a lot about a red dot sight. Actually, the red dot sights weren’t developed to the best in long distance shooting. Red dot sights are popular because of its fast target acquisition. So, it is not a shock that a typical red dot sight would have a 100 yards effective range. That being said, it is definitely not unheard of or impossible to use a red dot sight beyond this range. The range of a red dot sight actually depends on a good number of factors that are either natural or the red dot sight build related. To evaluate roughly how far you can shoot with a red dot sight or more precisely, how far you can shoot with maximum precision with a red dot sight, these factors need to be addressed.
Factors that affect the shooting range of a Red Dot Sight
1. The type of red dot sight
The manufacturing company, that means the build of the red dot sight has a lot to do with the range of a red dot sight. With some engineering feats a red dot sight can be easily tweaked to aim further than the general 100 yards range.
However, this might cause an increase in the total expenditure of manufacturing a red dot sight which leads to more expensive red dot sights to exist on the market. To get the mass audience many manufacturing companies try to avoid such a thing, which is understandable from a marketing perspective.
2. The Size of the Dot
This might come as a surprise but the dot of the red dot sight has a lot to do with the effective range. In simple words, the bigger the dot is, the shorter the effective range tends to be.
For example, if you have a boar at 100 yards distance, the boar could take 25% of the viewfinder. However, when the same boar is at a greater distance like 300 yards, it will appear very small on the viewfinder. So, to the shooter’s eyes, the boar has become smaller. But if the dot size remains the same in both 100 yards and 300 yards situation, accurately targeting the boar will be difficult in the last situation. Accuracy of both situations will be similar if the dot is reduced by the same proportion as the target in viewfinder. That’s why with a 5 MOA dot, it is more difficult to shoot at 300 yards distance than with 1 MOA.
3. The shooter himself
The shooter himself is a contributing factor here.
Even if the red dot sight is capable of precisely targeting the boar at 100 yards distance, if the shooter doesn’t have good eyesight, he will miss it. For him, the effective range of the same red dot sight will be less than for someone who has 20/20 vision.
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4. The environment
Sometimes, the fog can be an obstacle to the accuracy of shooting. With the same red dot sight, you could be targeting from 100 yards or even more distance but when fog is dense, the effective range will decrease exponentially.
5. The daylight availability
This is similar to how fog affects the effective range.
When you are targeting at broad daylight, your visibility is maximum. But when you try to aim at that exact same distance with that exact same red dot sight, it might be a bit difficult for you as the visibility has decreased for you.
6. Size of the target
When the target comes closer, it takes more space in the viewfinder and aiming at the target with a fixed sized dot becomes easier than aiming at the target at a much greater distance with the exact same red dot sight and same fixed sized dot.
7. The surroundings of the target
The contrast between the surrounding and the target is a major factor. The greater the contrast, the greater your visibility. That’s why shooting at a deer in greenery is easier than shooting at that deer while it is in pale or brown fern or grass.
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8. The use of Magnification
And lastly, the magnification. Using a magnifier, the shooter can increase the range of the red dot sight drastically. Even though it is not the red dot sight that is aiming at that greater distance, you are still using it to target, just with an addition of a magnifier. So, it still counts as the red dot sight effective range.