Canted sights are a Good Thing, at least in certain situations. So too is an offset red dot sight (aka a canted red dot).
Why You Should Embrace the Offset Red Dot
No one likes to make a compromise.
With optics, that compromise is usually between precision and speed—but what if we told you there was a way to get both? What if this option was even faster than either a variable scope or a red dot with a magnifier? Would you be interested?
If so, let us introduce you to the offset red dot. [It’s similar to canted sights, but with an RDS or reflex sight.]
What Is An Offset Red Dot
An offset red dot is a secondary mini-reflex or micro-dot mounted alongside a rifle’s primary optic.
Traditionally, offset red dots are used in conjunction with a magnified scope, so the user can transition between optics as they engage targets at close and long distances. While this practice was popularized for competition, many tactical groups have seen the benefits and are now utilizing offset red dots on service weapons as well.
Offset red dots come in two popular mounting configurations: angled and piggyback.
Angled offsets place the red dot beside your primary optic at a 35- to 45-degree angle. To use an angled offset, the marksman will rotate their entire rifle inward. This motion takes practice, but proper execution will give an excellent cheek weld for accuracy and recoil control through rapid fire. Angled offsets have a standard height over bore, so holdovers are easy to predict when shooting inside your zero distance.
Piggyback offsets place the red dot on top of your primary optic. To use a piggyback offset, the marksman will raise their head up to peer over their scope. This motion is intuitive, but it can turn a cheek weld into a ‘chin weld’. The largest benefit of a piggyback offset is ambidextrous use. Angled offsets favor strong-side use, while piggyback offsets work equally well for left- or right-handed technique.
Regardless of mounting position, offset red dots provide a number of important performance benefits that make them attractive to the modern gun-owner.
Benefits of the Canted Red Dot
The most obvious benefit is speed.
First and foremost, offset red dots improve your agility when engaging targets at varied distances. With practice, anyone can transition from scope to offset and back in fractions of a second. No other optic setup will give you a faster engagement speed when shifting magnification power.
Beyond speed, there is another unspoken benefit: optic optimization.
If you plan on running an offset red dot, it can affect the way you choose a primary optic too. For example, let’s say you’re comparing a 2.5-10×44 riflescope and a 1-10×24 riflescope. Without an offset optic, the 1x magnification of the LPVO is a considerable benefit. However, once you factor in an offset optic, this benefit becomes less important, since you’ll primarily transition to the offset in close quarters. As a result, you may choose the 2.5-10×44 for its larger objective lens, which will give you better performance at high magnification.
As a final benefit, offset red dots can be invaluable when used with night vision devices. If you are wearing night vision binoculars, you can still aim through an offset red dot for passive aiming.
Are There Downsides to an Offset Optic?
The most obvious downsides are cost and weight.
With some red dots, you could pay up to $1,000 for an offset setup. Of course, this is the extreme maximum. If you choose an affordable micro dot and pair it with a quality mount from Arisaka Defense or American Defense Manufacturing, a complete offset setup could cost as little as $250. Ultimately, the price depends entirely on your own demands, so it’s not fair to count it as a real downside.
Weight, however, is a downside.
Offset optics will always add a few ounces to your rifle. By choosing a mini-reflex sight like the Trijicon RMR or Holosun 507, you can reduce the weight and profile of your offset setup, but it comes at a higher price point. Also, some mini-reflex sights will not survive the impact of a shoulder-height drop on concrete, so if durability is a leading concern, micro dots will give you better survivability.
Some individuals might argue durability is its own downside.
We’d disagree. Aside from weight, it is better to have an offset that might break than not to have one at all.
Prism + Canted Red Dot Setup
Prism optics are commonly paired with a piggyback offset, as their compact size makes it easy to transition upward to your second optic.
Nowadays, most prism optic manufacturers will offer a mount for piggybacking optics. Some manufacturers, such as Trijicon, even sell prism optics with a complete offset package included. This can be more economical than buying every item individually.
Our SLx 3x and 5x prism scopes include mounting rails right out of the box—free of charge! These can be paired with the low mount on a microdot or a picatinny-compatible reflex for an optics combination that excels in both close and long range.
In general, prism optics benefit less from offset red dots than rifle scopes do. While a red dot will always be the fastest CQB optic, most prisms can be used with the Bindon Aiming Concept to keep pace.
Riflescope + Offset Red Dot
With riflescopes, you can choose between piggyback and angled offsets.
Both options are equally viable, and your choice will depend on your scope and user preferences. If you have a tall scope mount, a piggybacked red dot might be too high to use with a cheek weld.
If you’re worried about cheek weld, angled offset mounts are very easy to use once you’ve practiced the rotation. Your cheek weld is just as good as a standard red dot, and your overall technique remains mostly the same. As we said earlier, the only downside of an angled offset is that it doesn’t work as well when shouldering weak-side.
With any offset, your scope should stay near maximum magnification. For scopes with a high top-end magnification, you might dial it down a wider range of effectiveness, but most users will keep it near max power and only adjust when necessary.
Variable Riflescope Performance Comparison
To illustrate the benefits of an offset red dot, let’s take a look at variable riflescopes.
To change magnification on a variable scope, your support hand must come off the rifle and turn the power ring. Immediately, you’re losing some control over your rifle—and this happens every time you move between minimum and maximum magnification. If your hand slips, you’ve added even more time.
Compare this to the offset setup. For targets outside 100 yards, you use the scope as normal. For targets inside 100 yards, you snap to your offset. You don’t need to take your hand off the rifle, and transitioning between optics takes only milliseconds for an experienced marksman. No manual dexterity required.
The comparison shows a clear improvement in performance. For only a slight increase in overall weight, you can elevate the practical efficiency of your riflescope by pairing it with an offset red dot.
Offset Red Dot vs Red Dot With Magnifier
One popular debate focuses on comparing offset setups with a traditional red dot and magnifier combo. While they each have their own benefits, here are a few important areas of consideration:
Close Range Performance: In close quarters, the red dot and magnifier are faster than any offset setup. While offset optics can be lightning fast, nothing beats the swift acquisition of an inline red dot. For close-quarters carbines and PDWs, we’ll always recommend a red dot and magnifier above most else.
Medium Range Performance: From 100 yards to 300 yards, the offset has a very slight advantage. While a magnifier can improve a red dot’s mid-range performance, both variable riflescopes and prism scopes are superior, especially when paired an advanced BDC reticle like ACSS®. ACSS reticles show you both your point of impact and wind-holds, along with a multitude of ranging tools that improve your first-shot hit probability. While a 2MOA dot might leave you guessing your hold, ACSS provides all the information you need in an instant.
Long Ranger Performance: At long range, riflescopes are the stand-out performer. The extended magnification and optical clarity of a riflescope make it much easier to spot and hit targets at distance. Once again, your scope’s reticle is a key determinant for engagement speed, which is why we emphasize reticle technology so heavily.
Transitional Agility: This is where the offset most excels. Flipping a magnifier is faster than adjusting a variable riflescope, but the process still requires you to take a hand off your firearm. Offset setups are 100% hands-on, making them much faster in transition. When it comes to agility, offset setups are the clear and distinct winner.
Durability: Neither setup is fragile. The comparison will ultimately depend on which red dots are being compared. If the offset setup is using a mini-reflex, it will not be as durable as a micro dot. If both setups are using a microdot, then the difference is negligible.
Weight: The winner here depends on the type of magnified optic used in the offset setup. Prism scopes are a lot lighter than variable riflescopes, and many prism scopes have built-in offset mount, which further trims weight. Depending on the weight of the prism scope, the prism is usually the lightest of the three, followed closely by the red dot and magnifier. Variable scopes will almost always be the heaviest, but that’s the cost of stellar long-distance performance.
Minimum Price: Generally speaking, a red dot and magnifier are the most affordable. You can get a good-quality red dot and magnifier mounted for less than $300. A prism optic with microdot offset can be had for less than $400, while most riflescope setups will be well-over $500.
Again, it all depends on your choice of products. We compare on ‘minimum price’ because there are so many options available in every category. Budgeting is a very personal aspect, and objective comparison on pricing is difficult to establish.
Offset red dot optics are a great way to help improve your rifle’s speed and versatility. With so many sight and mounting options hitting the market this year, anyone can find a setup that matches their budget and preference.
- Learn more about optics in the SIGHTSEEING series.
- Read more from Primary Arms.
- Dial in on red dots.