Which Reticle Should You Use?

When comparing different red dot sights one of the key features that needs to be considered is what kind of reticle  style it utilizes.  This choice can have an effect on target acquisition, accuracy, and situational shooting.

Every style has its tradeoffs in each of these categories so it is important for shooters to know the difference between reticles and figure out which ones will work best for their setup.

Depending on what type of rig they are running a shooter will have a preference towards a certain reticle.  It is recommended that shooters put some rounds down range with as many types of reticles they can to figure out what work for them and how they differ from stock AR 15 sights.

Reticles are the actual aimpoint that is illuminated within the sight itself and used to overlay on targets for sighting.  Simply line up your target with the aimpoint and squeeze the trigger.  As long as you’re zeroed in you should have a clean hit on target.

As the name implies the classic version of the reticle is typically a simple ‘red dot’.  Red dot sights use either reflex or holographic illumination to impose this into the viewing window.

While the dot has its benefits there are a variety of shapes and features to consider.


Shape is the most noticeable difference between reticles and has the most effect on what type of situation it should be used in.  There are three main categories of reticle shape.


This is the most classic reticle shape there is.  You can’t get any more simple then a single red dot centered in the sight.  The dot is great because its small size allows it to not obscure the bulk of the sight picture, giving the shooter more situational awareness.

The smaller size also means more accuracy with a proper zero established.  This style is recommended for close to long range non-magnified shooting distances.  Most inexpensive red dot sights are equipped with this style of reticle.


This is another common shape that looks like it sounds.  It is a hollow circle, or ring, with a radius larger than a single red dot.  The benefits of this are that it makes target acquisition quick in close range situations as it gives the shooter a larger aimpoint to line up on.

This does make long range shooting less accurate but the upper and lower parts of the ring can be used for simple bullet drop markings at known distances.

Reticles of this style are popular on both shotguns and rifles.  A large ring gives a better approximation for shotgun spread and is quick to line up on target.  Some sights, like EOTechs, have a 65 MOA ring with a 1 MOA dot in the center.


These reticles are made up of vertical and horizontal hash marks which aid in bullet drop compensation for longer distance shots.  Using the hash marks shooters can adjust their shots for windage and elevation by choosing which marks to align the target with.

This gives an advantage over dot and donut sights but needs an accurate zero to be effective.  I’d recommend these reticles for mid to long range non-magnified shooting distances.

Magnified AR 15 Optics like scopes are typically always equipped with crosshairs because they are intended for long distance shots and the hashmarks provide bullet drop compensation.


The most popular illuminated reticles come in a red color.  This provides good contrast in outdoor shooting or at night.  The other typical color is a green illuminated reticle which is good for indoor or night shooting but can get washed out against a wooded or outdoor background.

Most shooters find this lack of contrast with green reticles to be more trouble than their worth.  Looking through the sight and having to search for the reticle takes precious moments that you don’t have when it counts.


Reticles are measured in ‘minutes of angle’, also called ‘MOA’.  One MOA covers 1 inch at 100 yards.  A typical red dot will cover 5 MOA, so think of 5 inch groupings at 100 yards, which is plenty accurate for close range shots.

For quicker target acquisition a larger dot or donut is preferred.  These can range from 10-15 MOA, giving that much more area to line up over the target quickly.

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