Traditionally, AR 15 rifle users have used the conventional iron sight. If you haven’t already bought a red dot sight, then this would be the only way you could aim accurately when shooting your AR 15. As the technology for red dot sights grows year on year with no sign of stopping, red dot sights are becoming a lot more accessible and thus affordable for the casual shooter. But there is still a need for these iron sights as they provide most of the functionality that red dot sights have. They are also a good backup to take on shooting expeditions if your main red dot sight fails you. Have a look at our review of what is the best red dot sight or take a look at our recommendations for the best cheap red dot sight for your AR 15 here.
WHY SHOULD YOU BUY AN AR 15 IRON SIGHT?
AR 15 Sights such as these iron sights are great for beginners.
The more advanced AR optics that peppered the market with a wide range of high-end products certainly have their place in the modern era. They offer such advantages as increase shooting accuracy, faster target acquisition and they also allow you to shoot at targets which are quite far away. And with the inexpensive price tag of some of the low-end models, it has become quite a simple decision for many AR 15 users to switch up. And because of this, we have found that a number of the newer AR 15 guns on the market do not even come equipped with a traditional iron sight! This shocked us a great deal. But this shows the direction of travel if the AR 15 manufacturers don’t feel the need to include such basic functionality on their rifles anymore, as they will probably assume that you will go out and buy your own optic for your AR 15. But while there is a decline in the use of the iron sight, I wouldn’t discount purchasing one straight away. And why is this? Well, they are perfect for beginners and their simple design makes them usable and accessible to the casual shooter who doesn’t want to spend $500+ on an advanced red dot sight. What are the advantages of a AR 15 iron sight? Not only is their functionality more basic but user-friendly, an iron sight for a AR 15 rifle also offers the following advantages
Not heavy – AR 15 optics often contain electronic components packaged with heavy glass – not to mention the batteries which also come included. This makes iron sights weigh little in comparison to red dot sight optics.
Not affected by the weather – While some of the high-end AR 15 red dot sights may be waterproof and fog proof, some of the low-end red dot sight optic models are affected substantially by the weather, rendering them useless to be used in poor weather conditions.
The design is basic – Iron sights only have two parts – namely the rear sight with aperture and the front post. So with only two parts to an iron sight, they are very easy to use! Red dot sights often come with large instruction manuals which you’d need to read before you used the optic, otherwise, you could end up damaging it inadvertently.
Useful as a backup to your main optic – As you can see from the advantages listed above, your iron sight could be used in conjunction with your AR 15 optic. Or if the main optic becomes broken for any reason, you can always slap your iron sight on and shoot away!
How Does a Red Dot Sight Work?
For you to be able to choose the best red dot sight for your AR-15, it is important to learn first how red dot sights work.
The red dot sight is often known as a reflex sight, which is a term stemming from the fact that red dots rely on non-magnifying reflectors to display the red dot. Basically, a small LED generates a coloured dot of light, which reflects against a small spherical mirror. The mirror focuses the dot on a lens, which is what you see when you look through the sight.
On more advanced (and expensive) red dot sights, additional lenses may be added to the setup to eliminate “parallax”. Parallax refers to changes in the position of the dot when you look at it from different angles.
For example – you put your gun in a vice with the red-dot sight right on your target’s bulls-eye. When if you move your head to a different angle and look through the sight, is the dot still on the bulls-eye? Hopefully, the answer is yes – that means that your red dot is “parallax-free”. This enhances the overall accuracy and usability of the sight. But be prepared to pay a little extra for a truly parallax-free sight!
Best AR-15 Red Dot Sight Comparison Chart
|Product||Price (MSRP)||Max Battery Life||Dot Size|
|Trijicon MRO||$579||50K Hours||2 MOA|
|Eotech 512||$459||1K Hours||2 MOA|
|Aimpoint Micro T-2||$846||50K Hours||1 MOA Dot & Ring|
|AT3 RD-50 PRO||$99.99||50K Hours||2 MOA|
Best Overall Red Dot Sight for AR15:
Launched in 2015, the MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) is a relative newcomer to the red dot space. But we believe that the quality, functionality, durability, and decent price (under $500) of the MRO puts it ahead of the competition, and it’s our top overall red dot sight.
Trijicon is best known for their legendary ACOG rifle scopes, which have been the go-to military optic for mid-range applications for over 20 years.
The Trijicon MRO red dot sight packs many of the best features of the ACOG into a small red-dot sight. The forged aircraft-grade housing is as durable as you’ll find and even waterproof up to 100 ft. The glass quality is superb, with exceptional clarity and a crisp red dot RETICLE. The MRO offers 3 choices of mounts – low, medium, and high – with the medium and high mounts designed for co-witness on AR-15.
EOTech is a premier manufacturer of Holographic Red Dot Sights that allow heads-up, 2-eyes-open shooting. EOTech red dot sights come in many different styles and reticles, some of which are made for specific calibres like0 .223, 0.308, and 0.300 Blackout.
What makes the EOTech sights so great? For one, they are reliable – these sights are used extensively in combat and law enforcement. They also have excellent low-parallax optics and unique rectangle-shaped lenses for a wide field of view. Many of the EOTech red dot sights are also night-vision compatible.
In 2015, EOtech’s parent company lost a fraud lawsuit, where they were implicated in knowingly selling defective sights to the US military and government agencies. The company recalled many red dot sights after this, and they say they have since addressed the issues, but this incident damaged EOtech’s reputation in the firearms community.
Now that these issues are addressed, we think that EOtech sights are still an excellent choice. Want to learn more about EOTech sights? Check out our selection guide and comparison chart.
Aimpoint is a Swedish optics company that makes red dot sights for civilian, police and military use. It is Aimpoint’s belief that a weapon sight should simplify aiming while performing reliably under the toughest conditions. And they most certainly succeed in that.
Aimpoint sights are regarded by many as the best sights on the market – and for good reason – they are nearly indestructible red dot sights with excellent battery life. Aimpoint sights are pricey, and the functionality is fairly basic, but you cannot go wrong with an Aimpoint.
What are the Different Types of AR-15 Available for the Money?
There are many characteristics of a AR 15 sight which you should look out for when you are looking to buy a AR 15. I would recommend you take a look at such features as:
- Alignment Functionality
- Mounting Capabilities
- The Sight Functionality
But the imperative point to consider when you are searching for the best AR 15 sight is finding a sight that enhances your performance and enjoyment from shooting your AR 15. So what sights that could help improve your performance
Other Excellent Red Dot Sights
45 DEGREE OFFSET SIGHTS
45 degree offset sights are great for AR 15 rifles.
Many AR 15 users have found that their red dot sights aren’t perfect for every shooting situation. For example, if you are in close quarter combat battle or shooting at close range, a magnified red dot sight scope wouldn’t be suitable for you.
Perfect for close range shooting are 45 degrees offset sights. Why is this? Well, 45-degree sights are able to be mounted at an angle away from the rail. This enables them to be held out of the way until the AR 15 user needs the sight. They could use the sight quickly and effectively by twisting the rifle. Offset sights such as this are perfect when you need to aim fast and shoot at a target which is a short distance away.
RAPID TRANSITION SIGHTS FROM SUREFIRE
Surefire Rapid Transition Sights are excellent for those who want a sight for their AR 15 which is low profile
An alternative to the 45 degrees offset sight discussed above is the rapid transition sight, most popularly advertised by Surefire. They offer the best rapid transition sights in my opinion. These sights are made of sleek anodized aluminium and because of this, they are strong and so maintain their zero excellently. A slight knock will not affect rapid transition sights in the slightest.
When you mount a Surefire rapid transition sight, most of the time they only extend upwards by roughly 0.2 of an inch above the rail. This makes it very compact and is unlikely to get in your way. As the name suggests, rapid transition sights allow fast target acquisition which is like a red dot sight optic for AR 15 rifles.
Don’t worry if you are right or left handed shooter, these Sights can be mounted on both sides of a rail. This is one of the best sights for AR 15 rifles that you should consider.
DIAMONDHEAD D-45 COMBAT SIGHTS
Diamondhead D-45 Combat Sights are the best iron sights for AR 15 rifles.
I would recommend that you only use a D-45 combat sight from Diamondhead if your main Sight for your AR 15 is out of commission. The neat flip design means they can be neatly tucked away to the trail when they are not being used which keeps them safe from any knocks or bumps.
You can release these combat sights very quickly by pressing a button that launches the Diamondhead D-45 combat sight into operation. This Sight is ideal for CQC. What makes this combat sight different from others on the market is the diamond-like aperture & housing, which makes lining up the front post in the rear sight very quickly.
ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE – THE FOLDING BACKUP SIGHT FOR AR 15 RIFLES
Most shooters like to keep their sight tucked away until they require it to be used. So the folding sight may be perfect for you! If your main AR 15 optic became damaged, or the weather conditions became tough, you could put your main optic away, unfold the backup optic, and still continue to shoot at targets which are quite far away.
Like the Diamondhead combat sight described above, the folding sight is unlikely to be damaged if it is hidden away.
DIAMONDHEAD FLIP-UP COMBAT SIGHTS
Diamondhead Flip-Up Combat Sights are perfect if you are looking for a co-witness iron sight for your AR 15.
Another Diamondhead product you should consider is the Diamondhead Flip-Up combat sight. These combat sights are ideal to use if you are looking for a primary or co-witness iron sight. Our review team found the flip-up combat sight to be very rigid. The sight seemed to hold its zero very well over time, which is important if you want a sight to last for a long time.
Like some of the other sights on the market, it is made of aircraft grade aluminium and is able to be mounted to the top rail of all AR 15 rifles. A unique feature of this Sight is the innovative sighting system which allows you to make lightning fast target acquisitions.
CO-WITNESS AND PRIMARY SIGHTS
Co-witness sights combine the advantages of a red dot sight with an iron sight.
As we all know, some people like to stick to what they know and sometimes feel they don’t need to switch away from their conventional iron sight, as they know it works well for them and investing in an expensive optic can feel like a waste of money. An alternative to buying an optic may well be to co-witness the sights with a red dot.
So what is this? Well, it works by mounting a red dot sight and an iron sight to the top rail, and lining it up so that the red dot is overlaid on the end of the sight when you peer through it. Having a setup such as this enables you to have the advantages of a red dot sight optic whilst still retaining your iron sight.
TROY INDUSTRIES MICRO TRITIUM BATTLE SIGHTS
Troy Industries Micro Tritium Battle Sights are great for using your AR 15 in low light conditions.
These sights are quite unique compared to some of the other sights on the market at the moment. The end of the front sight is layered with what is known as tritium, which enables you to use the sight in poor lighting levels and at dusk. This enables you to have one of the advantages of a red dot sight whilst still using a red dot sight.
These battle sights retain their zero very well over time as well. This is a great sight if you want a model that remains low profile and doesn’t extend well above your rail. You are also able to make fine corrections for wind and elevation by using the conveniently positioned knobs found on the bottom of the battle sight. It is quick and simple to slap on this Sight to your AR-15 rifle rail.
UTG MODEL 4/16 COMPLETE MATCH-GRADE REAR SIGHT
UTG Model 4/16 Complete Match-grade Rear Sight is a military standard sight for AR 15 rifles.
As we have shown in our review articles, all UTG models we have looked at have been very impressive. And this model is no different. This is a great sight for shooters who want to make fine precision changes to their shot.
Like the models above, it is made of anodized aluminium and looks very sleek compared to some of the other models. This is a mil-standard sight, so it is authorized for use by the military. So if you are a casual AR 15 user, you know you are getting quality right away for an inexpensive price tag. It is perfect for those shooters who want to use their AR 15 in close quarter combat and are looking for fast target acquisition.