For fast target acquisition and speed shooting like required for a steel challenge event, red dots on 10/22s can’t be beat. Although there are many offerings by almost as many companies there are only a few that stand out as being the best.
These things make 22 rifles super fun to shoot by allowing ultra fast target acquisition and easier shots on moving or multiple targets.
Why would anyone want a red dot sight on a 22 rimfire rifle? With a rifle most people concentrate on accuracy – group size or making that perfect shot placement. That’s what rifles are for whether hunting or target shooting. Right?
Absolutely, but there is another whole group of people out there who enjoy and compete with 22 rifles in speed shooting events or just fast shooting at the range. Check the video below from the NSSF to learn more about speed challenge events
Scope vs red dot sight
A scope is one of the best tools you have for a rifle if accuracy is your goal. One reason for this is because of the magnification. If you can’t see it, you certainly won’t hit it. Without magnification to allow exact placement of cross hairs not only on the target, but on an imaginary dot in the middle of the bullseye, a shooter will never attain ultimate in accuracy.
But in a speed shooting event, a scope, especially one with high magnification is not the best tool for the job. In this sport you are not trying to focus on and hit that tiny little spot, you are trying to hit a large spot, the target, and you are trying to hit it quickly in order to move on to the next one.
ed dot is the perfect tool for this purpose. With no magnification, the field of view is much larger than with a scope. This makes it much easier to pick up the target while not losing the dot. This means you can acquire the target and shoot at a much faster pace.
A scope with magnification would cause you to have to move very slowly in comparison in order to find the target.
You do however give up accuracy with a red dot. If you know your rifle will shoot say a half inch group at 25 yards, don’t expect anywhere near that with a red dot.
Even shooting from a bench, you will not able to match a scope with magnification as far as accuracy goes. Without magnification you simply won’t be able to place the cross hair, or in this case, the red dot, as consistenty.
What kind of rifle is best for a red dot sight ?
Again, the reason you would install a red dot sight on a rifle is to quickly hit multiple targets at fairly close range. This alone eliminates bolt actions, or any other manually cycled actions. Semi-autos rule the roost at steel challenge competitions and you guessed it, the Ruger 10/22 is the king.
Of course there are many other types of semi-auto 22s used in these matches and for plinking. Some more expensive, and some in the same price range.
To compare semi auto performance rifles in order to choose the right one for you, see this article where all main features of each rifle are compared and my recommendations made for each specific purpose.
Top 4 red dot sights for 10/22 rifles
There are quite a few offerings of red dot sights on the market….but which is the best choice for a small bore rifle? The prices are all over the board and some go over $1000.
I have owned several different brands and can tell you to stay away from the very cheap ones you will find on Amazon. They don’t tolerate any type of rough handling and most don’t even hold zero well.
My favorite brand of reflex red dot sights is Vortex. I run them on both pistols and rifles. I have never experienced a failure or change of zero in any of the ones I own – six of them. I also quickly found that Vortex has the best price out there which is what originally drew me to them.
I have one installed on a S&W M&P 15-22 and let me tell you, this thing is a blast. Even though a red dot is designed for relatively short range you will be surprised at how far you can hit 12 inch x 12 inch targets.
Here are my recommendations.
The Viper is my favorite because it allows you to change the battery without removing the sight from the rifle.
Not that changing the battery happens often as I have only changed mine twice in 4 years and the sight stays on continuously on a medium brightness setting.
I have this sight on both a rifle and a pistol. The low profile allows me to cowitness with iron sights with no additional hardware. The rifle is an M&P 15-22 and the pistol is a M&P 9L, It comes with a picatinny mount or has the ability match mounting plates usually supplied with the firearm.
Once zeroed, the 1 moa elevation and windage adjustments can be mechanically locked down. I have never had a zero move on any of my units once this is done.
I love the sight picture on these units. It’s large and the frame is thin and doesn’t obstruct the target. When trying to shoot fast, I always shoot with both eyes open.
With the red dot in front of my dominant eye, it’s almost as if the red dot is floating in mid air making target acquisition fast and easy.
The Venom is very similar to the Viper red dot with the same controls and made of the same materials.
The only two differences I have found is the venom is available in two different dot sizes – 3 MOA and 6 MOA.
Also, the venom requires removal of the sight from the firearm in order to replace the battery. I can attest to the fact that the mounting hardware that comes with the sight is substantial enough that when I replaced the sight, no additional zeroing was required.
All other features such as battery life, lense coating, etc. are the same.
I have had, at one time or another, all of my Vortex reflex sights mounted on semi-auto pistols with not one failure in service. Even when subject to the violet movement of the pistol slide when firing, not one failure or loss of zero.
Both of these units are priced at less than $230 at this writing. That is less than half of similar quality sights and is in my opinion one of the best values on the market.
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This optic is really the tactical version of the two above. The view window is slightly smaller but still provides a tool that enables fast shooting at moving targets while having a much more durable design for combat type use.
It works really well on my M&P 15-22 and looks the part. It operates on a AAA battery, the others use a small watch battery, and provides over 300 hours of battery life on the highest setting. It automatically shuts off after 12 hours of no use.
There is unlimited eye relief and therefore no magnification. It has digital rear facing controls for power and brightness allowing adjustment without sacrificing shooting positions. Price comes in at less than $160.
I have this unit installed on a 10/22 and it works well. It is very compact and adds almost no weight to the rifle.
It’s low profile allows good cheek weld on a normal rifle. The sight window is not as large as those on the Venom and Viper which can slightly slow down target acquisition, but this thing is built really well and designed to take a beating.
This is a good red dot for small game hunting like squirrels, etc. The dot is 2 moa which is pretty small and a little harder to find during target acquisition but allows for a finer point of aim.
There are tens to hundreds of different brands of red dots available on the market right now. I have tried some of the cheaper versions with not a lot of success. They either failed due to the internals breaking allowing the zero to wander and broke physically because they couldn’t take the use. I highly recommend Vortex. You can’t go wrong with them,