The 4 Best Optics for AR Pistol [2021 Hand-Tested]

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I own multiple AR-15 pistols including the 5”, 7.5” and 10-11.5” models. 

I’ve used all the sights: iron sights, red dots and even LPVOs. And after all my testing, the best optic for AR pistol needs to match the following criteria: 

First, reliability. It needs to work on the fly every time. 

Second, wide field of view (FOV). AR-15 pistols are used for close quarter combat (CQB) which requires fast target acquisition. Finally, it needs to be rugged and light.

Out of the 15 optics I’ve tested, I believe the Aimpoint PRO fits these criterias and is the best AR-15 pistol optic on the market.


Best Overall
Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841
993 Reviews
Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841
  • Designed to deliver premium performance under harsh conditions
  • 2 MOA dot with 4 Night and 6 Daylight brightness settings
  • Up to 3 years of continuous operation using one DL1/3N battery (included)

The Aimpoint PRO is the only combat-proven red dot that is used by law enforcements and Navy SEALs. It’s also one of the best AR-15 optics.

And for a good reason: it’s super durable (pretty much bomb-proof), has clear glass, wide field of view, and three years of battery life. Plus, the reticle is always on so my rifle is ready for use at moment’s notice. 

This is the optic I’ve personally been using for the past 4 years.


Runner-up
Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 1x20mm Compact 2 Moa Red Dot Sight, Black
6,935 Reviews
Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 1x20mm Compact 2 Moa Red Dot Sight, Black
  • 2 MOA Red-Dot provides 10 illumination settings (8 daylight plus 2 NV) for visibility in all light conditions
  • MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) powers up when it senses motion and powers down when it does not. Provides for optimum operational safety and enhanced 40,000+ hour battery life
  • Integrated M1913 Picatinny interface provides industry-standard mounting options for a wide range of applications

If you’re on a budget and can’t spend more than $150, then I highly recommend the Sig Sauer Romeo 5. 

This thing is a beast: it has clear glass, great battery life and it’s super durable. What I love about this optic is the MOTAC system. Just like the PRO, the red dot will automatically turn on when it senses motion. But where it differs is after 2 minutes of idleness, the optic will turn off.

As a result, battery life is extended to about 40,000 hours! That’s crazy good, and one of the many reasons why the Romeo 5 is my back-up optic.


Most Compact
Sale
Trijicon RM06-C-700672 RMR Type 2 Adjustable LED Sight, 3.25 MOA Red Dot Reticle, Black
  • 3.25 MOA ADJUSTABLE LED RMR: Features an automatic brightness mode and easy push buttons for eight adjustable brightness settings including 2 NV and 1 super bright
  • DEPENDABLE ELECTRONIC DESIGN: Ruggedized Battery contacts and electronics ensure performance and survivability in harsh environments
  • UNIQUE PATENTED HOUSING SHAPE: Military-grade aluminum alloy forged housing shape diverts force of impact away from the lens, greatly increasing its durability

The Trijicon RMR is one of the most compact and smallest red dots I’ve ever used. 

It’s perfect for a low-profile setup that values quick target acquisition, accuracy, wide FOV and most importantly, weight (only 1.2 oz). However, it’s the most expensive red dot on this list.

If you can’t afford it and need a compact red dot, then I’d recommend getting the Vortex Venom (only 1.6 oz).


Best Budget
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black
11,205 Reviews
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black
  • Matte black featuring a 3 MOA Dot reticle with 11 brightness settings; Mounts easily on most picatinny rails and is compatible with pistols, shotguns, rifles and muzzleloaders
  • Waterproof construction: O ring sealed optics stay dry inside, even when totally immersed in water. Parallax - 50
  • Shockproof construction: Built to withstand bumps, bangs, drops and the rough and tumble environment of the field

Not everyone has deep pockets, and that’s where the TRS-25 shines: it’s only $70 and performs just as good as optics twice it’s cost.

Although the glass isn’t as good as the Aimpoint PRO, the TRS-25 is super durable, reliable and has 11 brightness settings that last anywhere from 3,000 – 6,000 hours (250 days).

Not a bad choice for plinking or target shooting if you’re on a budget.

Why you should trust me

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I own several AR pistols. 

I’ve hand-tested most of the sights online: red dots, LPVOs and micro sights. I’ve even tried all the brands from Vortex to Leupold. As a result, I know what makes a good optic. 

In fact, my work has been featured on big firearm publications like:

  • SOFREP
  • Daily Caller
  • The National Interest
  • The Truth About Guns

I’ve bought all of the optics recommend down below at retail price from Amazon. No reviewer scopes or outside contributions were accepted for this review. In fact, I do not accept any sort of advertising on my website.

This allows me to write the most honest review without answering to some corporate head. 

I do not charge readers a single cent to access my review. But I do make a very small commission (typically 2-4%) if you make a purchase through my link. I don’t see what you purchase, nor does it affect the price you pay. 

With the money I make, I use it to keep the reviews unbiased, put food on my table, and keep those annoying ads off my site. 

The 4 Best AR Pistol Optics

  1. Aimpoint PRO: Best Overall AR Pistol Optic
  2. Sig Sauer Romeo 5 Red Dot: Best Optic for the Money
  3. Trijicon RMR 6.5 Red Dot: Best Compact AR Pistol Optic
  4. Bushnell TRS-25: Best Budget Scope

1. Aimpoint PRO: Best Overall AR Pistol Optic

If there’s one red dot sight the law enforcement uses, it’s the Aimpoint PRO.

The reason?

It’s versatile, reliable and accurate. But that’s not all.

Let’s take a more in-depth look…


Glass Clarity & Reticle

Very good clarity with a slight blue tint.

Aimpoint Pro Blue tint

The reticle has 10 settings for brightness.

Aimpoint Pro Brightness Settings

Levels one through four are night-vision compatible, then five through ten are for naked eye/daylight use.

Level 10 is extra bright, causing a bit of halo inside the body of the optic. However, you shouldn’t need to use the highest brightness setting, unless you’re shooting in an extremely bright environment.

If you need a dedicated scope for night time shooting, check out my best night vision scope guide.

The battery life is also REALLY good — lasting up to 3 years.

Aimpoint Pro Battery

Eye Relief & Eye Box

Unlimited eye relief.

Which means:

You could mount the Aimpoint PRO anywhere on your rail and you’ll still get a clear sight picture.

Aimpoint Pro Flip-up Cap on

The eye box is also quite forgiving.


Durability & Weight

This thing is durable, easy to mount/unmount, and is super easy to sight in.

Aimpoint Pro Mount

It’s argon purged and O-ring sealed, making it completely waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof.

In short:

The Aimpoint PRO isn’t going to break. Nor will it freeze or fog up.

The best part?

It weighs 7.8 ounces. That’s much heavier than the RMR. But again, 7 ounces is light.


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The windage and elevation caps each have their own keeper straps.

(In fact, they’re the same ones that they put onto the military Aimpoint versions). 

The adjustments for windage and elevation are easy and do not require tools. The on/off knob is large and has a solid detent.

Aimpoint Pro Windage

It also holds zero very well. I’ve fired hundreds of rounds through my ACP carbine and still haven’t lost zero to date.


Magnification & Parallax

Although not used for long-range shooting, the Aimpoint PRO could shoot up to about 300 yards.

It’s easy to fire accurately with both eyes open whether or not you have the protective caps on.

Aimpoint Pro Reticle Front Lens Closed

This allows for the faster recovery from recoil for quick, follow-up shots. It even shoots like my best scout scope.

However, when you have the front cap off, the housing disappears after a while when you have both eyes open, sort of like wearing a pair of glasses.


Summary

If you’re looking for the best pistol red dot sight that professionals use and won’t break the bank, get the Aimpoint PRO.

It has:

  • Strong durability
  • Bulls-eye accuracy
  • Unlimited eye relief
  • Variable brightness settings
  • Three year battery operation
  • Military version windage and elevation caps

Plus, you’re backed by Aimpoint’s 2 year warranty. Although I’d prefer it to be lifetime warranty, I’ve never actually had to use the warranty.

That said, if this tactical red dot sounds like it’s for you, then give it a go.

Best Overall
Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841
993 Reviews
Aimpoint PRO Red Dot Reflex Sight with QRP2 Mount and Spacer - 2 MOA - 12841
  • Designed to deliver premium performance under harsh conditions
  • 2 MOA dot with 4 Night and 6 Daylight brightness settings
  • Up to 3 years of continuous operation using one DL1/3N battery (included)

Alternatively, you could check out my post on the best rimfire scopes for the 22LR.


2. Sig Sauer Romeo 5 Red Dot: Best Optic for the Money

The Sig Sauer Romeo 5 is the best budget AR pistol red dot.

In fact:

It performs very similar to more expensive red dot sights at a fraction of the price.

Interested?

Keep on reading…


Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass on this optic is crystal clear thanks to the anti-reflective spectracoating. It has no distortion or ‘fisheye’ effect whatsoever.

SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 RED DOT Lens

Displayed on this glass is a simple 2 MOA dot that is crisp and clear.

Sig Romeo 5 side reticle

It has 8 daytime and 2 night-vision illumination settings which means you can use the dot ANY time — day or night.

In fact, it’s comparable to the best night vision scopes for the AR-15 I’ve tested.

The best part?

The battery life is a whopping 50,000 hours! This is due to MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination).

Which means the sight automatically turns on and off based on movement. As a result, your battery won’t drain.

Sig Romeo 5 reticle

To cap it all off, this optic comes with removable caps to protect the glass.


Eye Relief & Eye Box

The eye relief is unlimited.

SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 RED DOT cowitness mount

Meaning:

You can mount the Romeo 5 anywhere on your rifle’s rail.

It also comes with two different risers for mounting so you can co-witness the dot with the iron sights. As long as the iron sights are zeroed, dialing in the red dot is simple and quick.

To co-witness with another scope, you’ll want to use the best scope rings.


Durability & Weight

The Romeo 5 is made out of anodized aluminum and is IPX-7 rated.

Sig Romeo 5 Red Dot

It’s completely waterproof (up to 1 meter), fogproof, and shockproof.

SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 RED DOT ice test

It’s also insanely light weight. At only 5.1oz, the Romeo 5 mounts easily on picatinny rails and is covered by Sig’s lifetime warranty. Matter of fact, I currently have the Romeo 5 co-witnessed on my best scope for 17HMR.

It’s been there for almost a year now and I have yet to experience a failure. Check out this video showing how the Romeo 5 held up after 2,500 rounds later:


Elevation and Windage Knobs

Located at the top and side of the optic, the turrets are securely capped.

These caps can be unscrewed, flipped over, and used to make adjustments. There are markings on the inside of the caps for this task.

SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 RED DOT knobs

The adjustments are made in 0.5 MOA intervals and the turrets have a +/- 40 MOA range. It’s a simple design that is easy to adjust.


Magnification & Parallax

The Romeo 5 has a 1X magnification and an ultra-low parallax.

SIG SAUER ROMEO 5 RED DOT parallax

Due to the 20mm objective lens, you have a nice field of view too. This makes the Romeo 5 perfect for short to mid-range shooting.

Field

If you’re looking for added magnification, you’ll be interested in my best 1-6x scope guide.


Summary

If you’re on a tight budget and looking for a battle-proven red dot that is reliable, get the Sig Sauer Romeo 5.

It’s got everything you need…

  • Clear glass
  • Easy to install
  • Great battery life
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Extremely durable

…all at a price that hits the bullseye.

Plus, you’re backed by SIG’s lifetime warranty. So if anything ever happens to the optic, SIG will repair it for free.

Runner-up
Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 1x20mm Compact 2 Moa Red Dot Sight, Black
6,935 Reviews
Sig Sauer SOR52001 Romeo5 1x20mm Compact 2 Moa Red Dot Sight, Black
  • 2 MOA Red-Dot provides 10 illumination settings (8 daylight plus 2 NV) for visibility in all light conditions
  • MOTAC (Motion Activated Illumination) powers up when it senses motion and powers down when it does not. Provides for optimum operational safety and enhanced 40,000+ hour battery life
  • Integrated M1913 Picatinny interface provides industry-standard mounting options for a wide range of applications

3. Trijicon RMR 6.5 Red Dot: Best Compact

The Trijicon RMR is one of the top AR Pistol optics for under $1,000.

In fact:

It’s been used by law enforcement, militaries, concealed carry self-defense, and hunting applications.

But is it worth the hefty price tag?

Keep reading to find out…


Glass Clarity & Reticle

The glass is decent.

The lens is multi-coated, so it takes in a lot of light while guarding your eyes against the sun’s glare. I’ve had no problems with glass, but its clarity is average.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot rear view

You might find better glass with alternative brands, but its reticle heavily compensates for it. 

Speaking of which, the dot comes with three different MOA sizes:

  1. 1.0 MOA
  2. 3.25 MOA
  3. 6.5 MOA

If you need a quick breakdown of which MOA to choose, what this video:

The largest size dot (6.5 MOA) is best for you if you need to move and acquire your target quickly. It’s also ideal if you have poor vision or suffer from red dot astigmatism and need a larger center dot to grab your focus.

The dot has eight brightness settings. You can easily switch between automatic and manual adjustment settings.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot high brightness

The auto-adjust feature modifies illumination to current lighting conditions. This is a huge benefit for shooters moving in and out of the shade or dealing with backlighting.

One downside to the RMR is that at higher settings, I’ve noticed a mild blurring effect. This could be due to the LED’s intensity or my old eyes. Not sure yet.

Lastly, the battery life is solid (around 3 years). In fact, the sight self-adjusts to the lighting level of your surroundings, after 16.5 hours of usage.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot battery

If you’re worried about disrupting the brightness settings (due to jostling, for example), you can hold down both plus (+) and minus (-) buttons on each side for up to three seconds. This locks out accidental setting changes.


Eye Relief & Eye Box

The eye relief is unlimited.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot Eyebox

Meaning you can focus your eye on the sight at any distance or angle. 

You could also keep both eyes open when looking through the sight — even if you have cross eye dominance. The eye box is forgiving and features a large field of view.


Durability & Weight

The RMR can take a beating.

Whether you throw it out of a moving car or submerge it in ice cold water, the forged aluminum housing could take it all.

The best part?

The RMR weighs only 1.2 oz (with battery). That’s INSANELY light!

Trijicon RMR Red Dot side view

It could also be fastened onto various models of firearms — most notably Glock and Smith & Wesson firearms. However, you’d need to purchase a mounting plate and possibly a sealing plate to keep your battery in the sight’s receptacle.

Not really happy here with Trijicon not including a mount or sealing plate with the sight, considering the cost of the sight is approximately $700. 


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The elevation and windage knobs are much smaller than those you’d find on a scope.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot Windage
Via: SageDynamics

To adjust them, you can use your finger or a small coin to insert into their grooves.

The adjustments are 1 MOA per click. I’ve had no issue using these dials. The product a nice, audible click and won’t move around when handled or holstered.

They’re more than ready to handle a beating like some of the best shotgun optics.


Magnification & Parallax

The sight stays at 1x, meaning it doesn’t magnify your view.

Trijicon RMR Red Dot reticle

However, you can co-witness this sight on a scope with variable power.

The RMR is parallax-free at 100 yards, keeping you in line with your target at all times. 


Summary

If you’re looking for a sight that’s quick and accurate at closer ranges, that you can adjust to your lighting and ballistic conditions, the Trijicon’s RMR 6.5 MOA is your best bet.

It’s perfectly suited for home defense, self-defense, and close-range hunting.

At $700, it’s a great sight with great features:

  • Accurate
  • Decent glass
  • Easy-to-mount
  • Multiple MOA dot sizes
  • Durable yet lightweight
  • Auto-adjust lighting (saves battery life)

Plus, you’re backed by a reliable lifetime warranty. If ANYTHING happens to the sight, Trijicon has you covered.

Trijicon often takes the cake for the best optics, like the best .300 blackout scopes.

If the RMR sounds like it’s for you, feel free to give it a try.

Most Compact
Sale
Trijicon RM06-C-700672 RMR Type 2 Adjustable LED Sight, 3.25 MOA Red Dot Reticle, Black
  • 3.25 MOA ADJUSTABLE LED RMR: Features an automatic brightness mode and easy push buttons for eight adjustable brightness settings including 2 NV and 1 super bright
  • DEPENDABLE ELECTRONIC DESIGN: Ruggedized Battery contacts and electronics ensure performance and survivability in harsh environments
  • UNIQUE PATENTED HOUSING SHAPE: Military-grade aluminum alloy forged housing shape diverts force of impact away from the lens, greatly increasing its durability

4. Bushnell TRS-25: Best Budget Scope

There are many budget red dots out there…

…but one that stands out is the Bushnell TRS-25. 

This compact little dot is a great, reliable choice whether it’s for a rifle, shotgun, or pistol. On top of that, it’s easy on the wallet!

Let’s explore what makes the Bushnell TRS-25 so exceptional.


Glass Clarity & Reticle

The reticle is a simple but crisp 3 MOA dot. 

Bushnell TRS 25 Red Dot

It features 11 brightness settings and works well in the bright sun. The brightness is adjusted with a large dial for easy adjustment. The dial can be a bit stiff but will not shift while shooting. 

Bushnell TRS 25 brightness knob

The reticle is displayed on multi-coated glass. The high-quality glass is crystal clear and colored with Amber-Bright.

Bushnell TRS 25 Lens

But what does Amber-Bright do? 

It’s simple: it makes it easier to see brown animals apart from brown trees. 


Eye Relief & Eye Box

This red dot has unlimited eye relief.

Bushnell TRS 25 Eye Box

It also has a huge field of view and can be used with both eyes open. 


Durability & Weight

The TRS weighs in at 4 oz. and is just under 2.5 in. long. 

Bushnell TRS 25 weight

It’s also nitrogen purged and sealed with O-rings. This means it’s fogproof AND waterproof! It’s also shockproof and can hold zero like a champ. 

In fact, it holds up just as well as the best muzzleloader scopes I’ve tested – and those take a beating.

The TRS-25 comes with rubber lens caps. It also mounts easily on picatinny and weaver rails.

Bushnell TRS 25 Mount

It does sit low so if you want to mount it on an AR or other rifle, you may want to consider getting a 1″ UTG riser mount.

Sale
UTG Hi-Profile Compact Riser Mount, 1' High, 3 Slots , Black
2,317 Reviews
UTG Hi-Profile Compact Riser Mount, 1" High, 3 Slots , Black
  • New Gen. Riser Mount for Rifles with Picatinny/Weaver Rail
  • 1.6" Long Picatinny Rail with 3 Slots
  • Side Plate with Spring Tension for Quick Easy Installation

The reticle is powered by a CR2032 battery and can last up to 3,000 hours! To top it off, it comes with a one-year limited warranty from Bushnell. 

Overall, this is a light, reliable dot. 


Elevation & Windage Knobs

The elevation and windage turrets make 1 MOA adjustments per click. They have an adjustment range of 70 MOA. 

Bushnell TRS 25 Knobs

They sit on the top and side of the red dot and are easily adjustable. There are no caps so they can be adjusted quickly as well. 

Bushnell TRS 25 Knobs 2

Magnification & Parallax

The magnification is a 1X and it has a 25mm objective lens. It is parallax-free as well. 

Bushnell TRS 25 Eye box (2)

This gives the TRS-25 an excellent field of view and allows for quick target acquisition. 

Bushnell TRS 25 Field 2

Summary

Absolutely. Let’s go over why:

PROS:

  1. Cheap, cheap, cheap
  2. Crystal clear glass
  3. Water/fog proof
  4. Lightweight/compact
  5. Versatile (shotguns, rifles, pistols)

CONS:

  1. Stiff brightness dial
  2. Mount riser not included

In short: If you’re on a budget and are looking for a reliable (and simple) red dot, then I’d highly recommend checking out the Bushnell TRS-25.

Best Budget
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black
11,205 Reviews
Bushnell Trophy TRS-25 Red Dot Sight Riflescope, 1x20mm, Black
  • Matte black featuring a 3 MOA Dot reticle with 11 brightness settings; Mounts easily on most picatinny rails and is compatible with pistols, shotguns, rifles and muzzleloaders
  • Waterproof construction: O ring sealed optics stay dry inside, even when totally immersed in water. Parallax - 50
  • Shockproof construction: Built to withstand bumps, bangs, drops and the rough and tumble environment of the field

If you shoot a .30-06, check out my guide on the best 30-06 scopes.

Which of These Scopes Is Best For You?

What’s the best overall optic?

I’d recommend getting the battle-proven Aimpoint PRO. It’s been used by law enforcement and militaries for years. This would be the scope I’d opt-in for.

What is the best AR Optic for the money?

Get the Sig Sauer Romeo 5. For less than $130, you could get yourself a reliable optic that is accurate, sturdy and holds zero.

What about the most compact?

You’re looking for a Trijicon RMR 6.5. I wouldn’t say it’s the most premium. However, it costs $600 and functions just as good as the $800+ optics.

What if I’m on a tight budget?

Then opt-in for the Bushnell TRS-25. It’s reliable, accurate and durable.

Whatever optic you choose, you’re bound to hit a reliable and accurate scope.

Trust me — I’ve hand-tested each one in-depth and these 4 came out on top.

So pick one based on your need and try it out. If it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you could always return it back to Amazon thanks to their 30-day guarantee 🙂

4 thoughts on “The 4 Best Optics for AR Pistol [2021 Hand-Tested]”

    • No question is dumb 🙂

      It depends on the optic you purchase.

      Most red dots sit high enough to give you a co-witness with irons on there. So you wouldn’t need to purchase a riser.

      Reply
  1. Hi Richard, a friend sent me to your site and I’ve found it incredibly helpful. Especially the “basics” articles on how to choose a scope.

    Above, you mention that you have a Sig Romeo co-witnessed with your favorite AR-15 scope, which I assume is a either the Vortex Spitfire 3x Prism or the Primary Arms 1-6x. How does that work with a red dot sight co-witnessed with a scope that has a reticle etched in the glass? Is it similar to co-witnessing a red dot with backup iron sights?

    Secondly, why co-witness a red dot with a scope instead of adding a magnifier to the red dot? – Matt

    Reply
  2. I just bought a Saint Edge Evac and need an optic so I read this with particular interest. I have two issues that concern me. First is that whatever I put on must be compact enough to still fit in the standard bag. All of these should work and it looks like the Sig might still cowitness with mbus. A bigger concern is that this gun will be frequently carried along in a vehicle. I am concerned this might impact the auto on enough to significantly reduce battery life. Your thoughts on this application?

    Reply

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