ACOG vs Red Dots Comparison (2024 Review)

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What’s the difference between a Red Dot vs. ACOG sights?

A red dot is perfect for CQB (0 – 100 yards) since it’s lighter, faster and easier to use. But if you want to shoot further out (100+ yards) without worrying about batteries, then go for an ACOG.

Still unsure? In this short ACOG vs. Red Dots comparison review, I’m going to explain the key differences between them and reveal which one is best for you.

Let’s get started!

Quick Comparison Table

Features

ACOG

Red Dot Sight

Glass Clarity

Perfect

Perfect if clean

Battery Life

None needed

100-1000 hours

Eye Relief

1”-2.5”

Unlimited

Weight

8-9 oz average

4 oz average

Price

$1,000 average

$200 average

ACOG vs Red Dots Review

Whether you’re a first-time shooter or looking to upgrade, it’s good to know the difference in optics. Red dot vs ACOG largely depends on what you’re trying to do.

I prefer anything to iron sights, whether it’s an ACOG, holographic sight, or my red dot. It’s great for close-quarters and competitive shooting because it’s so maneuverable. And although Trijicon ACOG sights have the ability to be close-range, they excel at medium to long range.

Let me explain, starting with…

Glass Clarity & Reticle

Because ACOG sights are better for medium- to long-range shooting, their glass clarity is perfect.

TRIJICON ACOG LENS

They’re usually easy to distinguish between targets, too.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 CLARITY

One of the best features with ACOG sights is the double-illumination.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 OVERVIEW

The reticle adjusts to light levels and makes it easy to see in low-light situations with fiber optic for a bright picture.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 RETICLE

ACOG reticles have a built-in bullet drop compensation, or BDC, that helps with long-range shots. The hash marks are etched into the glass to a 5.56 NATO standard for multiple calibers.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 EYEPIECE

My red dot has a clear sight picture and reticle as well.

VORTEX VENOM CLARITY

Their glass is usually multi-coated and you can choose between a red or green dot.

VORTEX VENOM MULTICOATED LENS

Some people prefer a color over the other for low-light shooting, but it’s up to you.

VORTEX VENOM DAYLIGHT VISUAL (1)

Once adjusted, a red dot sight is just as effective in the dark.

VORTEX VENOM INDOOR VISUAL

It’s important to note that some red dot optics auto-adjust for lighting, while others are manual. You should also keep your glass clean to function properly.

VORTEX VENOM MOUNTED (1)

You’ll also have a few choices of designs when it comes to your reticle. The dot size can affect your shooting experience, with larger red dots making reticle clarity worse for some.

VORTEX VENOM CLARITY

Winner: ACOG has the edge. The glass-etched reticle means less chance of your sight being obscured and I love the bullet-drop compensator. Red dot optics have a clear image as long as you keep it clean and have enough battery.

Battery Life

Most shooters love the fact that ACOG sights don’t rely on batteries for illumination.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 SIDEVIEW WITH TURRETS

The tritium built into the reticle creates light transmission. Some use fiber optics in the reticle to do the same thing.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 CLARITY

On top of that, you won’t have to worry about that self-illumination for about a decade. Some models last longer, but 10 years is still a long time to run with a scope you trust.

TRIJICON ACOG OVERVIEW

In this way, ACOG sights are used by a lot of military and law enforcement.

TRIJICON ACOG USED IN MILITARY (2)

However, red dot optics are just as loved.

VORTEX VENOM OVERVIEW (1)

While they use batteries, a red dot sight can last anywhere from 100 hours to 1,000 hours without a recharge.

VORTEX VENOM BATTERY TRAY (1)

And that’s just standard models.

VORTEX VENOM BATTERY

Higher-end or newer red dots, like the Holosun HS403C Micro, use “shake awake” technology.

HOLOSUN 503C LENS

This shuts off power to your red dot when not in use to conserve battery.

HOLOSUN 503C RED DOT
Sale
Holosun HS403C Dot 20mm Micro Reflex Sight w/Solar Failsafe HS403C
  • HOLOSUN RED DOT SIGHT - HS403C is a solar and battery powered 20mm micro sight designed for rifle and carbine applications; This rifle sight features Holosun's Red Super LED with 50k hour battery life...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE - This micro red dot sight is unique in that it is always on and ready; If there is ambient light available it will power this Holosun sight even without a battery; Additional...
  • SOLAR FAILSAFE - If your battery fails, this red dot sight for rifle has a backup power source when natural or artificial light is available; Solar Failsafe is activated while in Auto Mode where...

It also uses a solar feature to provide power without anything left in your battery.

HOLOSUN 503C OVERVIEW (1)

Even without that, though, 1,000 hours is a long time.

HOLOSUN 503C EYE RELIEF (1)

Winner: ACOG sights. Red dots can last hundreds of hours or longer, but ACOG sights last indefinitely due to the built-in light transmission.

Eye Relief & Eye Box

ACOG sights may be great for distant targets, but they have a pretty good eye relief.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 EYEPIECE

Most can be easy to use with 2” or more of clearance without affecting your sight picture.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 CLARITY

However, that eye relief has been known to make the BDC hard to see in ACOG sights. If you rely on the bullet-drop reticle for long-distance, you might only have 1” or less of eye relief.

TRIJICON ACOG HORSESHOE RETICLE VISUAL

While red dots aren’t designed for long-range, they do have excellent eye relief.

HOLOSUN 503C EYE RELIEF (3)

In fact, it’s unlimited eye relief because of the reflexive nature of the sight.

VORTEX VENOM DAYLIGHT VISUAL

Of course, some of the newer red dots can be a magnified optic.

HOLOSUN 503C EYE RELIEF (2)

They still won’t compete with the long-range capabilities of ACOG, but you might put up a fight at medium-range.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 MOUNTING (1)

Winner: Red dot sight. Especially if you need the BDC, the unlimited eye relief of red dots can’t be beaten.

Durability & Weight

When it comes to taking a beating, neither sight has a disadvantage. ACOG sights have an aluminum construction for time-tested punishment.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 OVERVIEW

They’re fog-proof, weatherproof, and waterproof, which makes ACOG sights perfect for any type of bad weather.

TRIJICON ACOG OBJECTIVE LENS

The lack of a battery helps make ACOG sights lightweight and smaller.

TRIJICON ACOG OVERVIEW (2)

A good ACOG might weigh around 8 or 9 oz.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 FIBER OPTIC (1)

Of course, red dots are about half that.

VORTEX VENOM OVERVIEW

The aforementioned Holosun red dot weighs just over 4 oz.

HOLOSUN 503C OVERVIEW

The red dot is also built tough to withstand CQB action.

HOLOSUN 503C MOUNTED (1)

You just have to be careful with cheaper red dots. Any kind of dirt or smudge on your red dot can throw off the dot projection.

Winner: Red dot sights. In the battle of red dot vs ACOG, the latter generally weighs about double.

Windage, Elevation, & Brightness Knob

ACOG sights don’t have a brightness knob, because of the light transmission.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 FIBER OPTIC (1)

Their windage and elevation knobs are usually easy to use.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 SIDEVIEW WITH TURRETS

Some need a screw or penny while newer ones just need a finger to adjust on the fly.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 TURRET CAPS

On the flip side of this, the red dot needs a tool to make adjustments.

VORTEX VENOM BUTTONS

If the model doesn’t have an auto-brightness feature, that will need a tool to adjust as well.

HOLOSUN 503C LENS

Winner: ACOG sights.

Mounting

Both sights are pretty universal with their mounts.

VORTEX VENOM REAR LINE

ACOG mounts can be found to fit most rails, like a Trijicon Picatinny mount adapter.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 MOUNTING (1)

The Trijicon is 3x3x15”, so it’s sturdy.

Trijicon ACOG Picattiny Rail Adapter
  • Package length: 4.8 cm
  • Package width: 9.8 cm
  • Package height: 15.4 cm

ACOG sight mounts are lightweight and designed to be just as effective in combat as the sight itself.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 OVERVIEW

The red dot can be mounted on all kinds of weapons.

VORTEX VENOM OVERVIEW (1)

Because of the CQB utilization, they’re used for anything from combat to competitive shooting.

HOLOSUN 503C EYE RELIEF (3)

It’s worth noting that a lower-end red dot either doesn’t have a mount or doesn’t have one that you should replace.

HOLOSUN 503C MOUNTED

The best option is to opt for a high-end red dot sight or spend what you save on a better mount.

VORTEX VENOM MOUNTED (1)

Winner: Both.

Price

You can expect to pay a lot more for ACOG sights.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 SIDEVIEW WITH TURRETS

In fact, their price is one of the biggest drawbacks.

TRIJICON ACOG FIBER OPTIC

The previously-mentioned Holosun red dot is a high-end, quality sight and it goes for just over $200.

HOLOSUN 503C ELEVATION TURRET

Red dot optics are typically an inexpensive option for better accuracy.

HOLOSUN 503C EYE RELIEF
Sale
Holosun HS403C Dot 20mm Micro Reflex Sight w/Solar Failsafe HS403C
  • HOLOSUN RED DOT SIGHT - HS403C is a solar and battery powered 20mm micro sight designed for rifle and carbine applications; This rifle sight features Holosun's Red Super LED with 50k hour battery life...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE - This micro red dot sight is unique in that it is always on and ready; If there is ambient light available it will power this Holosun sight even without a battery; Additional...
  • SOLAR FAILSAFE - If your battery fails, this red dot sight for rifle has a backup power source when natural or artificial light is available; Solar Failsafe is activated while in Auto Mode where...

A quality ACOG, like the Trijicon 4x32mm, can go for around $1,000 or more.The cost of the ACOG is warranted, but they’re usually a lot more than a red dot.

TRIJICON ACOG OBJECTIVE LENS
Sale
Trijicon Trijicon ACOG 4 X 32 Scope Dual Illuminated Crosshair .223...
  • BATTERY-FREE ILLUMINATION: Features a tritium/fiber optic illuminated reticle that automatically adjusts the brightness based on available light
  • RUGGED ALUMINUM-ALLOY HOUSING: Forged 7075-T6 aircraft-aluminum-alloy housing provides for a nearly indestructible sighting system
  • ?BOTH EYES OPEN? DESIGN: The ACOG can be used as a CQB sight when shooting ?both eyes open,? utilizing the Bindon Aiming Concept

They’re both made to last and take a beating, but the optics and internal components of an ACOG cost more. Plus, you have the light transmission and longer magnification.

TRIJICON ACOG HORSESHOE RETICLE VISUAL

Winner: Red dot sights. Despite being worth the value, ACOG sights are still five times the cost. Plus, my red dot is a magnified optic which is perfect for my needs.

Red Dots vs ACOG: Which Red Dot is Better?

Which sight works better is a matter of personal preference and intended use.

ACOG sights are designed for precision at medium range or farther.

TRIJICON ACOG USED IN MILITARY

Red dot optics are better for reflexive shooting at close range.

VORTEX VENOM DAYLIGHT VISUAL (1)
Sale
Holosun HS403C Dot 20mm Micro Reflex Sight w/Solar Failsafe HS403C
  • HOLOSUN RED DOT SIGHT - HS403C is a solar and battery powered 20mm micro sight designed for rifle and carbine applications; This rifle sight features Holosun's Red Super LED with 50k hour battery life...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE - This micro red dot sight is unique in that it is always on and ready; If there is ambient light available it will power this Holosun sight even without a battery; Additional...
  • SOLAR FAILSAFE - If your battery fails, this red dot sight for rifle has a backup power source when natural or artificial light is available; Solar Failsafe is activated while in Auto Mode where...

The bullet drop compensator on ACOG reticles helps determine calculations quickly. This makes accuracy a breeze at longer ranges with a Trijicon ACOG.

TRIJICON ACOG 3.5X35 CLARITY

If you’re taking the role of spotter, you can use an ACOG scope the same as a telescopic lens. This is made even more useful given the night-vision capabilities.

A red dot sight, on the other hand, can be mounted on something as small as a handgun.

VORTEX VENOM MOUNTED

You also have more reticle options with a red dot.

HOLOSUN 503C RED DOT

Most red dot sights need a tool to adjust your windage and elevation for the perfect zero. Of course, with the close-range purpose, you probably won’t do that often.

VORTEX VENOM PACKAGE

Plus, if you want to shoot farther with your red dot, it’s not hard to make it a magnified optic.

VORTEX VENOM INDOOR VISUAL

So, you really just need to ask yourself what distance you want to shoot and go from there for red dot vs ACOG.

FAQ

What does ACOG sight stand for?

ACOG stands for Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight.

Is ACOG better than red dot?

It’s a matter of preference and what kind of shooting you’ll be doing, but they’re both better than iron sights.

For CQB or competitive shooting, a red dot sight is more efficient. Medium- to long-range targets are better with a Trijicon ACOG. Even then, there is a red dot in the center of many ACOGs for closer targets.

How much zoom does ACOG have?

The standard fixed magnification of an ACOG sight is 4x. However, some can be as low as 1.5x all the way to 6x.

Does ACOG work at night?

Yes. The built-in light transmission is effective in low-light and dark situations. It’s also a battery-free light source, so you won’t be left in the dark.

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