3 MOA vs 6 MOA: Difference Between Reticles in Red Dot Sights

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Optics are one of the most important tools for a shooter, aside from his or her gun.

If you see options like 3 MOA vs 6 MOA in red dot sights, don’t worry— you’re not the only one scratching your head.

In this article, I will break down their differences and more. By the end of it, you’ll know which one is the best option for you.

Let’s dive in!

Let’s Talk about the Red Dot Sights

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the best red dot sights. Also known as reflex sights, these optics are very popular in the market today.

They’re designed to be used at close to moderate ranges to make target acquisition easier and improve accurate shots.


You only need to line up the target and the dot, as opposed to lining up the front sight and the rear sight. Pull the trigger and you’ll feel like Agent Liberty with tight, small groups.

There is one factor that can affect that: the MOA or minute of angle. Those three letters mean a great deal.

What exactly? I’m glad you asked…

What Is Minute of Angle?

Reticle sizes are measured in milliradians (mrad or mil) or minutes of angle (moa). Both are angular measurements used in ballistics.

Red dots use MOA, so we’re going to focus on that today.

Minute of Angle is an angular measurement that expresses approximately a one-inch diameter circle at 100 yards.

The good news is: it’s relatively easy to measure.

The size of the red dot represents a specific area you can expect your rounds to land in when target shooting.

When you aim that red dot in a sight picture at a distance of 100 yards, a 3 MOA reticle will look like a 3-inch circle. Meanwhile, the 6 MOA bigger dot will look like a 6-inch circle on the target.

In general for 3 MOA vs 6 MOA:

A 6 MOA larger dot is best for shorter ranges while the smaller dot of 3 MOA is better for longer or more distant shots.

Let’s talk a little bit more in detail…

3 MOA vs. 6 MOA


A 3 MOA reticle covers a 3″ diameter at 100 yards, 1.5″ diameter at 50 yards, and 0.75″ diameter at 25 yards.


The 3 MOA reticle size is the best option if your goal is to shoot more precisely. Aim small, miss small with the 3 MOA.


A 3 MOA dot covers less of the target and is versatile enough to be used at varying distances— a great balance between precision and speed.


Let’s take the Vortex Venom as an example. This red dot sight is a magnificent optic that comes with a 3 MOA reticle.


Unfortunately, a smaller dot like the 3 MOA can be hard to see— especially in bright sunlight. Also, it takes more time and focus to line up your shot at close ranges.



A 6 MOA reticle covers a 6″ diameter at 100 yards, 3″ diameter at 50 yards, and 1.5″ diameter at 25 yards.

The 6 MOA reticle size is a more popular choice for most defensive and law enforcement situations.


When you draw and look through the glass, a bigger red dot is more visible and easier to track. If you have old or tired eyes, the 6 MOA intensity helps you find the dot quicker.

Let’s look at the Vortex Viper. This 6 MOA optic is one of the best Vortex red dot sights on the market.

The 6 MOA is highly visible in most weather conditions. If you suffer from astigmatism, you’ll worry less about seeing a starburst or reticle smear.


On the other hand:

It’s difficult to shoot accurately at long range. Plus, the 6 MOA bigger dot is trickier to co-witness with a gun’s front sight.


Which one should I get?

Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer between 3 MOA vs 6 MOA.

When it comes to picking out a red dot or choosing the right riflescope reticle, it’s entirely up to your dot size preference and your gun’s limitations.

This can be based on your gun choice, eyesight conditions (Where 6 MOA has the edge), distance to the target (3 MOA wins that), and more. You just need to find the dot size that works best for you and no longer worry about the front sight.


Red dots are no good if they fall off when you shoot. Don’t forget to read up on my best quick detach scope mounts review!


What is the best MOA for the red dot? 

There is a wide variety of options, ranging from 1 MOA to 12.

One sight isn’t mechanically superior to another. Simply, the dot size limits how precise your shooting will be.

If the quickest way to spot a target is your top priority, the 6 MOA red dot is a great option. But, if you want both precision shooting AND reasonable close range acquisition– a 3 MOA will work just as well.

What MOA is best for a pistol? 

In the question of 3 MOA vs 6 MOA, the 6 MOA red dot sight is better for pistols— whether it’s plinking, target shooting, or home defense.

Given the gun’s design, you most likely won’t be shooting past 100 yards. A larger dot reticle will start to lose precision at farther distances. The bigger dot of the 6 MOA is better for close-range.

If you rarely shoot targets farther than 50 yards out with your pistols, the 6 MOA red dot reticle will work excellently for you.

Which MOA is better for rifles? 

If you’re wanting a red dot sight for high-precision applications: a 3 MOA is the better option. It provides better accuracy at longer distances— ideal for a rifle.

Picking a red dot sight is easier than choosing a magnified riflescope—so if you buy the latter, take note:

The reticle behaves differently in a First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane riflescope. With an FFP reticle, the size of the reticle will appear to change as the scope’s magnification is changed. An SFP reticle’s size will look the same regardless of magnification. 

If you haven’t sighted in your scope yet, we recommend you follow our guide on how to adjust a riflescope

How does a 6 MOA dot perform at night? 

Red dot sights in general work very well at night- including the 6 MOA red dot.

An illuminated 6 MOA red dot gives you a better advantage compared to black iron sights or a black optic reticle on a dark background. 

22 thoughts on “3 MOA vs 6 MOA: Difference Between Reticles in Red Dot Sights”

  1. While never having used anything but the iron sights on weapons I have fired, I found this article extremely useful in my consideration of a red dot sight. You learned me well, thanks!

    • Me too. I had a chance to buy a red dot reticle sight for a pistol I was buying from s friend a few yrs ago but knew nothing about them sand never used one though seeing them used by other shooters and in tons of movies. I now after reading this article know the difference between the different size moa dots. Thank you for the information so I can now but a red dot and know which to buy.

  2. Thanks for GREAT, condensed info. I have done some research and chose a 6 MOA Viper for my defensive handgun. You confirm I made the best decision, Cheers!

  3. Considering a red dot for both a pistol and rifle…Found this super helpful and a much better explanation than other sites that go into complex math and trigonometry explanations for MOA.

  4. If I were pairing a vortex crossfire gen 2 prism 5x with a red dot above, would the viper 6moa be the best one to pair it with?
    i.e. Viper for close range and crossfire for magnification?

  5. Understanding MOA is fairly simple. I did find your examples and pics one of the best for explanations. I’m searching for a dot sight for a 357 lever action . low pic rail system and as you pointed out there’s quite a few. Some cheap and some more than the gun. Thinking of the CT-1400 or similar.

  6. In my late 60’s, I’m a 40 year hunter and 30 year Turkey hunter, eyes are weakening some. I’m in the market for a red dot site, my shots on gobblers are from 20 to 50 yards, should I purchase a 3 or 6 moa? Would someone respond please. Thanks

    • If you can see a 3 moa dot easily, I’d definitely go with the 3 for shots beyond 20 yds, especially when trying to hit the small head of a turkey! You’ll need the precision.

  7. I shoot slugs with my shotgun 10 yards to 25 yards in competition which red dot would you recommend that will take the pounding from the slug and keep high precision.

  8. You know how some jack— always throws a wrinkle into a clear presentation? Well, I’m Jack! Great article btw, the simple, common sense explanations is a winner. However… while I don’t have a red dot on any of my pistols yet, I do have an illuminated reticle on my deer rifle and on one AR. The AR has a Sig Bravo 5, which I like but the ring around the small dot is way too small, thus it blurs into the center dot. Still it allows very quick acquisition with some ability to finite the aim. My deer rifle has a Meopta Optika 6 with illumination, which I am in love with!!! It sports a small red center dot, with a black reticle ring around it. I can vaguely see the black ring when illumination is on. To me, this is the best possible setup! Small red center dot with a narrow ring around the dot… because our eyes naturally find the center of a small ring! Thus, it is easy to find the small, more precise dot. This takes nothing away from accuracy yet allows a more full view of the target (for instance, you may see the perp reaching for a gun in his pocket, etc).

  9. Scopesfield you are definitely the best and most informative out there. Period! Thanks so much. I took your advice for the best scope for a Mini-14 and bought the Leupold VX- Freedom 1.5×4 and damn you were spot on. I’m gonna pick up the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro 1x Red Dot – 6 MOA Dot and try that on the Mini-14 too and try out the VX-Freedom on another rifle to play around and see what I like.


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