How to choose among red dot sight, prism scope & optical scope?

Nov 16, 2022

The use of prism scopes has become more frequent in recent years in many close range rapid shooting situations. To an extent, prism scope is the combination of Red dot sight and traditional optical scope. It’s ultra-compact size with some magnification contributes to its popularity. And you can get on your target very fast 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 to buy? This time let’s have a comprehensive comparison of the performance of red dot, prismatic sights and traditional low magnification scopes!

 1. Shooting Range

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope 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(15-150yards).

Prism Scope: Almost all prism scopes are fixed magnification, the magnification is generally lower, like 1X, 3X, 4X, 5X, 7X, depending on the choice of magnification, can be applied to different range.

Optical Scope: Optical scopes have a wide range of magnification options, so you can choose the magnification that applies to long, medium and close ranges as needed.

2. Size & Weight

Red Dot Sight Prism Scope 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).

Prism Scope: A prism scope’s length is around 100-140mm, weight is around 300-400g(10.5-14oz).

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

VictOptics-How-to-choose-among-red-dot-sight,-prism-scope-&-optical-scope size

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: Prism scope’s reticle is etched glass reticle which allows various types and can be used normally even without batteries. Take our VictOptics Fiber Sight 4X32 Prism Riflescope as an example, it has chevron rapid-changing reticle w/ 3 different color (red, green and blue). Besides, customized reticle is always available at VictOptics.

Optical Scope: Same as prism scope.

VictOptics-How-to-choose-among-red-dot-sight,-prism-scope-&-optical-scope size and weight

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 advantage 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.

VictOptics-How-to-choose-among-red-dot-sight,-prism-scope-&-optical-scope eye relief

5. Image Quality (Products of 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 same as 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 performance in terms of light transmission, contrast, resolution, and color rendition.

VictOptics-How-to-choose-among-red-dot-sight,-prism-scope-&-optical-scope image

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

7. Battery Life

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 are relatively longer. Red dots are pursuing low power consumption, some red dots can be greater than 50,000 hours of battery life.

Prism Scope&Optical Scope: Due to the different principles, prism scopes and optical scopes consume more power and have shorter battery life. They both use 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 own 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 that if you have astigmatism or not. If you have , then a prism scope might be a better choice, because it has 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 own advantages, when choosing them, you need to take into account your weapon type, use scenarios, habits and preferences.