In the past few years the AR-15 market has exploded in terms of units sold, most of those rifles featured a flat top M4 style upper rail, a perfect spot to place a red dot style optic. So it’s not by chance that right around the time the AR-15 market grew that the number of red dot style optics on the market also increased substantially. The problem with many of the optics on the market is that they often cost almost as much as the rifle they are sitting on. Aimpoint, EOTech, Trijicon were well-known and respected manufacturers who offered fantastic optics but were outside the price range for many budget minded shooters. This fact was not lost on some manufactures and several have swept in to offer a wide range of well-built red dot style optics, all price at levels that don’t put a huge hurt on your wallet.
We decided that after reviewing many optics over the last two plus years that we would put together a list of red dot style optics that we felt offered quality & affordability, at a price of under $300. Why $300 you might ask ? Our thought process is that a quality optic should cost roughly 1/2- 1/3 of the price of the gun it is sitting on. In the 2017 firearms market we have been seeing most AR-15’s with a suggested retail price of between $600-$900 dollars so we set our parameters accordingly. We chose five optics that we listed below in no particular order. Each optic is listed with a few highlights, an average price point and at least one website where you can purchase them yourself. All of the optics listed have either been owned or reviewed by our staff.
#1.) Sig Sauer Romeo 5
The Sig Sauer Romeo 5 is a relatively new offering from Sig Sauer’s optics division and combines a waterproof aluminum case, a ridiculously long battery life, simple controls, and a 2 MOA red dot in a package that averages between $169.00-$259.00. The optic also comes with 1.41″ tall riser for shooters that want their optic to sit a little bit higher. This optic is currently being reviewed long-term by us and has split time between a semi automatic .22LR rifle and a .223 caliber AR-15 with a 16″ barrel.
Available: B&H Photo Video ($169.99)
Romeo 5 Highlights:
- 2 MOA Dot
- 40,000 Hour Run Time
- Simple two button control
- Can be found for under $170.00
- Features Sig’s MOTAC automatic on/off feature
- 20mm Objective lens
- 10 Brightness settings
#2.) Holosun Paralow HS503G
The Holosun HS503G is an optic that offers what we come to expect from a small red dot style optic but with a few twists. Holosun has managed to build an optic that offers price, durability, simple controls AND a Close Quarter Battle (CQB) style reticle. This reticle is the patented ACSS reticle that offers shooters the modularity of being able to use it and zero it correctly across several rifle calibers as well as 12 gauge shotgun chambering. When you combine all these features and offer it at $219.99 you have our attention.
Available: Primary Arms Link:
Holosun HS 503G Highlights:
- Priced at $219.99
- CQB Style Reticle
- Weighs 4.87 Oz
- Using “zero” ranges of 25, 50, or 100 yards, the ACSS BDC is compatible with the following calibers:
- 5.56 NATO / 5.45×39 from 100 to 600 yards
- 300 BLK / 7.62×39 from 50 to 450 yards
- 12 gauge 1 oz. slug from 25 to 150 yards
- 7.62x54R from 100 to 600 yards
- 7.62 NATO / .308 Win from 100 to 600 yards
- 300 BLK 220 gr subsonic from 50 to 150 yards
- .22LR 40 gr from 50 to 175 yards
- 9mm carbine 115gr from 25 to 200 yards
- Uses a single CR2032 battery
#3.) Vortex Spitfire Prism
Vortex is a manufacturer that we trust to deliver outstanding quality and price combined with a no question asked lifetime warranty. The company is well-known for their more expensive variable powered optics but has been making waves with their non magnified optics like the Spitfire Prism. The optic uses a single AA sized battery and features a “non-standard” 25 mm objective lens. The reticle on the Spitfire is a dual circle pattern that aids shooters in target acquisition time. Lifetime warranty, easy to see reticle, and legendary Vortex build quality will run you an average of $249.00
Available: Midway USA LINK (249.99)
Vortex Spitfire Highlights:
- 25 mm objective lens
- Lifetime Warranty
- Dual circle reticle
- Uses one AA battery
- 4″ Overall Length
- Easy to use rotary illumination control
#4.) Bushnell TRS 25
The Bushnell TRS-25 is an optic I have bought and sold a few times, usually it leaves my collection when I trade rifles, and I generally regret it a few days after the trade. The TRS-25 is by far the cheapest optic in the Top 5 line up but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in anyway. A 3.0 MOA dot and a 25 mm objective lens make up the heart of this little red dot. The overall length of the TRS-25 is roughly 2.4 inches and features a simple rotary control set onto of the optic in the 10 O’clock position. At $95.75 the TRS-25 allows even the shooter on the tightest budget to get an optic with a lifetime warranty.
Available:OpticsPlanet.Com LINK ($95.75)
Bushnell TRS-25 Highlights:
- Priced at sub $100.00
- 25 mm objective
- Lifetime warranty
- 3 MOA Dot
- 2.4″ Overall length
- Uses one CR2032 battery
#5.) Sig Sauer Romeo 7
The Sig Sauer Romeo 7 is the biggest and most expensive of all the optics in the Top 5, but slides in at just under our $300 cap. The Romeo 7’s most notable attributes are it’s 30mm diameter aluminum body tube and it’s 2 MOA dot. The optic comes with a built in low mount base which doesn’t allow users to run a higher base on the optic. There are eleven brightness settings including two for infra red settings. This optic is currently undergoing testing on a Sig Sauer model 556 Classic Swat. The total round count that I have fired with this optic on my rifle is only 500 rounds at this time. It has recently dropped in price from $369.00 to $299.00 at some retailers.
Sig Sauer Romeo 7 Highlights:
- 30 mm tube
- Can be found at jus under $300.00
- Only available with low mount
- Uses one AA battery
- Small illumination control dial at rear of optic
- Features Sig Sauers MOTAC automatic on/off feature
Available:OpticsPlanet.Com Link ($299.00)
Any of the five red dot style optics we have reviewed would be a perfect addition to any carbine that features a picatinny style accessory rail. All of them offer simple controls and wide range of illumination settings, many of them also have lifetime warranties. Our selections offer a little bit of something for everyone and cover several price points, we did this on purpose. In our mind the selection of the TRS-25 allows users to purchase and try a red dot style optic and not risk a large amount of money. If a shooter likes shooting with red dots they can always rotate the TRS-25 to another rifle and move up the food chain to more expensive and slightly larger optics like the Sig Sauer Romeo 5.
What are you using for red dot optics ? Are you running a budget optic ? a different model of Holosun or Primary Arms optic or did you save up and get a Trijicon MRO or Aimpoint T1 Micro ? We want to hear from our readers and know what are you running and why ?