When we think of shotguns, we don’t think of precision instruments that you need to aim. Instead, we’re conditioned to think of shotguns as indiscriminate weapons that are pointed, casting a cloud of shot pellets that cover a wide area. This is partly because of fictional Hollywood portrayals, especially of so-called sawed-off shotguns.
However, even when you are using a cylinder-bore shotgun firing buckshot, you need to aim the weapon to achieve the best results. Traditionally, many shotguns were equipped with nothing more than a brass bead for a front sight. Later, shotgun manufacturers and companies modified them, adding rifle-type sights to be used with slugs. These sights often consisted of a front blade and an open rear leaf-type sight. The ghost ring — a large aperture sight with a thin rim — was an example of a further upgrade.
While iron or mechanical sights, including on shotguns, offer an inexpensive and simple way of aiming the weapon, modern red-dot sights provide several notable advantages.
Best Shotgun Red Dots
1. EOTech 510 Series 512-A65 Holographic
One of the first red-dot sights that come to mind for a shotgun, whether hunting or tactical, is the EOTech. Although not exclusive to the EOTech brand, the combination of a dot and ring sight reticle achieves several objectives for aiming a shotgun.
The red-dot, which is 1 MOA, provides a more precise option when firing rifled slugs enabling you to reach farther. For close-range shooting, the 68-MOA ring can coincide with the spreading pattern of defensive buckshot loads. The actual spread depends on several factors, such as the size of the shot pellets, the number of pellets in the charge, and the barrel’s choke type. However, even if the spread doesn’t conform perfectly with the ring’s diameter, it can provide a useful index.
Adopted for military service, EOTech sights are built to endure some of the planet’s harshest environmental conditions. A protective steel hood shrouds the lens, and the controls are inset to avoid accidental activation. Windage and elevation dials are located on the right side of the housing.
The EOTech sight has a distinctive shape. Part of that stems from the removable battery compartment, which is located forward of the lens. To remove this compartment, there’s a camming latch you can lift up. Removing the battery for replacement is a simple process you can do without detaching your weapon’s sight.
Two AA alkaline batteries power the EOTech.
Rather than the brightness of the reticle gradually fading as the battery depletes, the sight is designed to maintain a constant level of brightness until the sight powers down entirely.
2. Trijicon RMR Type 2 RM07
The Trijicon RMR Type 2 is a highly versatile sight for handguns, carbines, and shotguns, especially with the 6.5-MOA reticle. For close-range home defense or tactical applications, especially when using buckshot loads, the wider reticle allows for rapid target acquisition across a hallway or interior room.
Whereas the EOTech is one of the heavier options, the RMR Type 2 only weighs 1.2 oz., which is light enough for a pistol. Despite its lightweight construction, Trijicon has designed the RMR to be exceptionally durable, hence its uniquely shaped lens housing. The sight’s angles direct impact forces away from the lens, ensuring that the sight can stand up to constant abuse.
Trijicon provides both dual-illuminated and battery-powered models to suit a variety of preferences. However, the brightness adjustability of the battery-powered unit allows you to synchronize the reticle’s brightness with any standalone illumination devices you may be using. If you’re using a weapon light, synchronizing the light’s brightness with the reticle’s brightness can help keep the red or amber dot in view, rather than having it washed out by the beam.
The one disadvantage of the RMR Type 2 is battery accessibility. To remove the battery — a 2032 lithium coin cell — for replacement, the sight must be detached from the weapon.
Windage and elevation are adjustable using two flush-fit dials on the top and right side of the housing.
3. Holosun HS403C
Primarily intended for rifles and carbines, the Holosun HS403C is a 20mm closed red-dot sight that features unique Solar Failsafe Technology. Although the Holosun uses a single CR2032 lithium battery, that’s not its only source of power. Living up to its name, the Holosun uses a silicon solar cell on the top of the housing, so if your battery fails or runs dry, solar power keeps the reticle illuminated and highly visible.
In keeping with this technology, the Solar Failsafe also adjusts the reticle’s brightness according to whether you’re standing directly under the sun’s rays. If you’re inside or in a less well-lit area, the brightness adjusts automatically to the ambient lighting conditions.
With 12 brightness levels to choose from, including 2 for daylight and 2 for night vision, the HS403C provides sufficient variability to suit your vision and the ambient light. You can also choose between a red or a green dot, but both are 2.0 MOA — roughly 2” at 100 meters regardless of the color.
Holosun’s Shake Awake feature means that the sight powers down when not used to preserve battery life. When the sight detects motion, it reactivates.
Simple to remove and replace, the battery is located in a tray accessible from the right side, below the brightness adjustment buttons. This red-dot sight is built for rugged use, so you can take it on long hunting expeditions in any climate. The battery is designed to last for up to 50,000 hours.
4. Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
Leupold is a well-known name in optical sights, having introduced its first riflescope in 1948. However, the company also manufactures red-dot sights for various applications, from the sporting to the tactical. The DeltaPoint Pro makes an excellent accompaniment to any tactical shotgun.
One of Leupold’s signature processes is the appropriately named Punisher. This recoil-simulation machine subjects the sample product to 3× the recoil force of a .308-caliber rifle 5,000 times. This means that despite the lightweight construction — 1.95 oz., including the CR2032 cell — it’s durable enough to withstand the heaviest shotgun loads, up to and including 12-gauge 3” magnums.
Replacing the cell is easy enough; the battery compartment can be accessed without detaching the sight from the weapon mount and opened without tools. To further preserve the battery life, so you won’t have to open the compartment as often in the first place, Leupold uses Motion Sensor Technology. If the sight doesn’t detect movement, it powers down after five minutes. However, once you raise the shotgun, it powers up instantly.
The controls are simple and out of the way. There’s nothing to accidentally snag or activate because the brightness and power buttons are flush-fit with the housing.
5. Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec
For the shotgunner still experimenting with sighting systems, the Sightmark Ultra Shot M-Spec is a relatively affordable option. Housed in lightweight but durable magnesium alloy, rather than heavier aluminum, the Ultra Shot M-Spec weighs 8 oz. While this is heavier than other options, part of that increased weight comes from the protective hood shrouding the lens, which the Sightmark shares with the EOTech. The lens itself is double-pane.
Featuring six daytime settings and six settings compatible with night-vision devices, the reticle is a 65-MOA circle containing a 1-MOA dot. This type of reticle provides both precision for slugs and a wider circle to represent the spread of buckshot for close-range targets.
Because the Ultra Shot M-Spec is rated for .50-caliber rifles and listed as impact-resistant and shockproof, Sightmark’s products can endure the recoil of a wide variety of 12-gauge shotgun shells, from standard 2¾” #00 shotshells to 3½” magnums. If you’re a hunter or you shoot competitively, you need to know that your shotgun sights will stay in one piece as you fire dozens or hundreds of rounds a day.
Fully submersible, the Ultra Shot M-Spec is water-resistant and capable of functioning in adverse weather.
Benefits Of a Red-Dot
Regardless of whether you’re a hunter, a competition shooter, or keep a shotgun for home defense, red-dot sights are an upgrade over the traditional brass bead or blade and leaf sights. These advantages include:
- Speed: One of the primary advantages of red-dot sights — reflector or holographic — is speed. As opposed to iron sights, the target and the sight reticle share the same focal plane, so you can acquire a target and superimpose the reticle on it without shifting your focus. This allows you to obtain a sight picture faster than traditional iron sights.
- Precision: A shotgun is not a blunderbuss — it has to be aimed, especially at close range, to achieve the desired effect. When aiming, red-dot sights offer a more precise alternative to conventional iron sights.
- Eyesight: If you have difficulty focusing on the front sight or aligning a front blade with a rear notch, finding a bright red, green, or amber dot or other reticle may be easier for you.
- Contrast: The simplest solution to seeing your sights at night is to use dedicated night sights illuminated using tritium. However, the brightly colored dot or ring provides superior contrast relative to night sights.
While shotguns are probably the best option for home defense, it’s a myth that you don’t need to aim a shotgun to achieve accurate hits. From across the room of a house or down a hallway, a buckshot charge can produce a hole the size of a man’s fist. If you don’t aim and don’t practice with your weapon, you can miss. In a self-defense situation, this can cost you precious seconds or send your projectiles through a wall or door.
While you do need to aim shotguns, you aren’t limited to traditional iron sights. There are superior options available such as the red-dot sight, illuminated by batteries, the radioactive decay of tritium, or ambient light.
Red-dot sights are a universal sighting upgrade, suitable for handguns, carbines, and shotguns. Regardless of whether you own a shotgun for home defense, hunting, competitive target shooting, or duty, a red-dot sight can enhance your ability to acquire a sight picture quickly. This delivers a bright, contrasting dot or ring that shares the same focal plane with the target.