Etched Reticle Red Dot, Red Dot or Optical Scopes, How to Choose?

Nov 16, 2022

Many shooters have a favor for prism scopes, especially in close-range, rapid situations.

Why do shooters love it? The answer is simple.

The prism scope, also known as an etched reticle red dot, combines the advantages of red dot sights and telescopic sights.

Compared with rifle scopes, this small and lightweight optic can achieve complex reticles not typically found in red dot sights.

And you can get on your target very quickly with it, which is particularly evident in scenarios such as CQB.

Some people will doubt the usefulness of prismatic sights compared to red dots and low-magnification scopes.

Are prismatic sights really worth buying?

Today, we will thoroughly compare the performance of red dot, prismatic sights, and traditional low magnification scopes! Also, take a look at VictOpticss budget etched reticle prism scope.

Red Dots with Etched Reticle vs Red Dot Sight and Optical Scope

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope (Etched Reticle Red Dot) Optical Scope
Shooting Range Close Close/Middle Close/Middle/Long

Red Dot Sight: Most red dots don’t have magnification and can only be used for close-range shooting (15–150 yards).

Prism Scope: Almost all prism scopes have fixed magnification, the magnification is generally lower, like 1X, 3X, 4X, 5X, or 7X, depending on the choice of magnification, and can be applied to different ranges. Compared with a 1x red dot sight, the magnified etched reticle red dot is more suitable for mid-range shooting, for it can present a clear and crisp image processed by optical systems. Also, shooters who have special needs for precision would go with an etched reticle prism sight.

Optical Scope: We can divide optical scopes into 2 main types. One is LPVO (low-power variable optics), and the other is a long-range rifle scope. Etched reticle LPVO can achieve a true 1x zoom factor and can be used as a red dot on air rifles or shotguns for fast target acquisition as well. Similarly, long-range rifle scopes like the 10–40x type have more applications in aiming distant targets with precision. Optical scopes have variable magnification options, so you can select the magnification that applies to long, medium, and close ranges as needed.

Size & Weight Difference Among Red Dot & Etched Reticle Red Dot & Optical Scope

Red Dot Sight Etched Reticle Red Dot Optical Scope

(Medium&High Magnification)

Regular Size Ultra-compact Compact Long
Regular Weight Ultra-light Light Acceptable

Red Dot Sight: The size of the red dot is undoubtedly small, while the weight of the open-style red dot is basically in the tens of grams, Vector Optics Frenzy-S Polymer Red Dot Sight is even only 12.8g (0.44oz); the tube-style red dot is around 100-200g (3.5-7oz). eg. VictOptics 1X22 Tube Style Red Dot Scope is 115g (4.0 oz).

Etched Reticle Red Dot: A prism scope’s length is around 100-140mm, and weight is around 300-400g (10.5-14oz).

Optical Scope: The optical scope’s length is usually from 250 – 400mm, and its weight is around 400-900g(14-32oz).

Etched reticle red dot, red dot and optical scopes products

3. Reticle Option

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Optical Scope
Reticle Option Simple Various&BDC Various&BDC

Red Dot Sight: A red dot sight’s reticle is usually a simple dot and once the battery runs out, the reticle will be unavailable.

Prism Scope:

It adopts an etched glass reticle, which allows various types of use and can be used normally even without batteries. Take our budget red dot with etched reticle VictOptics 4X32 Etched Glass Reticle Prism Scope as an example. It has a chevron rapid-changing etched reticle in 3 different colors (red, green, and blue). Besides, customized etched reticles are always available at VictOptics. You can customize different etched reticles according to your special needs; read this blog to learn more about red dot reticle customization business; or send us a quote via the following form.

Optical Scope: Same as prism scope.

Etched Reticle Red Dot More Complex Reticle than Red Dot

4. Eye Relief

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Optical Scope
Eye Relief Free 50-75mm/2-3inchs 75-100mm/3-4inchs

Red Dot Sight: One of the biggest advantages of red dot sight is its free eye relief.

Prism Scope: The exit pupil of the prism scope is usually shorter, at around 2-3 inches.

Optical Scope: Excellent scopes can have an exit pupil of 4 inches, basically around 3-4 inches.

Etched Reticle Red Dot on a Rifle Scope

5. Image Quality (Products of the Same Level)

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Optical Scope

(Medium&High Magnification)

Image Quality Acceptable Great Excellent
Field of View Acceptable

(Tube Style)

Great Excellent

Red Dot Sight: Since the red dot does not have an optical system, the image quality seen through the red dot is just acceptable.

Prism Scope: Prism scopes, just like optical scopes, have optical systems, so the image quality will be better compared to red dots.

Optical Scope: The image quality of optical scopes is the best in terms of light transmission, contrast, resolution, and color rendition.

Image Quality Difference of Etched Reticle Red Dot Sight & Refelx Sight

6. Reticle Brightness (Under strong light)

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Optical Scope

(Not Fiber Optics)

Reticle Brightness Great Acceptable Acceptable

Red Dot Sight: Red dot sight also can be called reflect sight, projecting the light source on the lens to form the red dot. The reticle formed in this way can maintain a high brightness under strong light.

Prism Scope and Optical Scope: Prism scopes and optics scopes’ reticles are etched on the glass and are illuminated by the light source, like a switchable battery-powered light emitting diode (LED). In bright light, the reticle brightness is darker compared to the red dot.

Battery Life of Three Scopes

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope Optical Scope

(Not Fiber Optics)

Battery Life Excellent Acceptable Acceptable

Red Dot Sight: Due to the highly integrated circuit used in the red dot, the battery life of the red dot is relatively longer. Red dots are pursuing low power consumption, some red dots can be greater than 50,000 hours of battery life.

Prism Scope and Optical Scope: Due to the different principles, prism scopes and optical scopes consume more power and have shorter battery life. They both use an etched glass reticle which can work even if the power runs out.

  • An Extra Note: 

After a detailed comparison of shooting range, size weight, reticle, eye relief, image quality, reticle brightness, and battery life among these three kinds of products, you may have your judge over choosing a favorite one. In addition to those elements above, when you are hesitant between red dot sight and prism scope, please be aware of whether you have astigmatism or not. If you have, then a prism scope might be a better choice, because it has a complex structure of prisms inside to reduce distortion, thus more friendly to people with astigmatism.

Vict Optics prism scope vs red dot sight vs optical scope

In short, red dot sight, prism scope, and optical scope each have their advantages, when choosing them, you need to take into account your weapon type, use scenarios, habits, and preferences.