Is a Red Dot a Scope? | Optics Trade Debates

Welcome to another Optics Trade Debate. Today, we are going to answer a question that is perhaps a bit more difficult to answer, that is: Is a Red Dot a Scope?

We already have many videos where we explain the differences between the two. But this simple question also needs a simple answer. No, a red dot sight is not a scope. Firstly, what defines a scope and what defines a red dot sight?

The most important feature that defines them is magnification. Most of the red dots operate at 1x magnification. With some of them, the image is a bit distorted. With scopes, if the magnification starts at 1x, this means it is most likely a variable magnification, which can go up to 4x, 6x, or even higher.

The scopes have an objective lens in their construction, an eyepiece lens, and quite a few lenses in between – something that red dots lack. A scope also has a reticle that is physically inserted into the scope and blocks the light so the user is able to see it.

Diopter compensation is also another feature that cannot be found on red dot sights. Reflex sights are the perfect example of red dots. Namely, they feature a single lens, which reflects the light. The lens is always curved and tilted, so you can move your head and still see the reflection of the dot.

As you are moving your head, the dot floats around with you. This is why manufacturers often refer to this as unlimited eye relief’, or ‘unlimited eye box, which is also something very different compared to the scopes. Scopes have a small eye-box and if you move too far away, you will not see the image.

With scopes, there is a limited field of view. But when it comes to red dot sights, we would not exactly call it a field of view, as it is just glass, through which you can observe everything around you. Some red dot sights are enclosed – glass is on other surfaces to protect it from outer elements, but the function remains the same.

For all such questions we receive, we blame Aimpoint’s Hunter series, as these red dots look like scopes. All of them come with a 1x magnification, which means they do not magnify the image at all.

Do check out our videos where we compare wide-angle riflescopes and prism scopes to red dot sights, and we will see you there!

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