Best Holosights [2020]: How, Why, and Best Picks

If you’re wondering about which holosight to buy, we’ve got you covered.

Holographic sight
Holographic sights may seem a little clunky, but there’s a good reason why.

We’ve tested every option out there (not that there’s that many in the first place) and picked the top five choices. These are the ones we run on our personal ARs for everything from carbine competition to home defense.

What Exactly is a Holosight?

If you’re not exactly sure what a holosight is, or why you would want one, that’s okay too! 

We’re not going to go too in-depth here, but it’s worth discussing a little bit about how they work, why they’re so desirable, and what differentiates them from a standard red dot that can be had for considerably cheaper.

holo vs red dot
A holographic sight versus a red dot.

With a red dot, you have a simple LED that projects a point of light onto a lens that is coated and ground in such a way that it sends that light back to your eye. This gives you that dot effect and acts as your aiming reticle.

With a holosight, you instead have a laser that is bounced off two mirrors and then onto a holographic grating which then reflects the image of a reticle through to the lens side of the optic and towards your eye. This extra complexity isn’t just somebody being clever so they can charge more money though.

EOTech Holo vs Red Dot
EOTech Holo vs Red Dot

There’s actually a few massive practical benefits to this, the number one being the fact that a standard red dot projects a light back towards your eye. This means that as far as your eye (and brain) are concerned, the dot is actually very, very close to you so you can’t focus on your target and the dot at the same time. 

And since our brains are wired to focus more heavily on what’s right in front of us, especially in a high-stress situation, our eyes default to focusing on the dot rather than the target. 

iron vs. red dot vs. holo
Even on camera, you can see how the holographic reticle looks a little further away.

Now, with a holosight, the holographic part means that the reticle appears to be on the same plane of view as whatever you’re looking at. That means that as far as your instinctive brain reactions are concerned, the reticle of the holosight is actually out there on your target, not right up in your face on the optic.

Holographic sights view
Holographic sights view, where the reticle appears to be beyond the front iron sight.

This little bit of optical and neurological trickery makes target acquisition noticeably faster and easier because as far as your eye is concerned, it only has to focus on one distance. This, coupled with the fact that most holosights have a ring reticle for shooting at different distances, also makes it easier to make longer range or precision shots with a holosight.

holo sight obstructed
Just try to do this with a red dot. All of these are on target, too!

Holosights also don’t cause the starburst effect that people with astigmatism will see with a normal red dot. If you’re doing any precision shooting at distance, this can make a huge difference. 

Best Holosight Options

Now that we have the background out of the way, let’s talk about some actual holosight models. The big name here is obviously EOTech. They did define this genre of optics afterall. We also have an upstart pick from another favorite manufacturer, Vortex. 

There’s also a Holosun option in here that is maybe cheating a little bit, but we’ll explain why it made the list when we get to it. 

red dot vs holo field of view
Red dot versus holosight field of view

Speaking of, here’s the list sorted by manufacturer. Any of these options would be a fantastic addition to your gun, and we’d happily defend life and liberty with any of them.

EOTech Holosights

EOTech was the holosight maker for a long time, so it makes sense that they’ve sorta perfected their offerings. There were some growing pains to begin with, just as there is with any new technology, but they’ve more than proven that those troubles are in the past now.

We’d happily run any of these optics for defense, competition, or just plinking at the range.

1. EOTech EXPS2-0

The EOTech XPS line is a little bit smaller than their flagship model, the 512 (which we’ll get to in a minute). The EXPS-2 still has the incredibly wide FOV of the 512 thanks to that big view window, and it’s still very clear. 

EOTech EXPS2-0 Mounted
EOTech EXPS2-0 Mounted (via Ballistic Magazine)

It also utilizes the same 68 MOA circle with a small 1 MOA dot in the middle. This gives you a good mix of quick target acquisition at close ranges where you can just put the big circle over the target and squeeze the trigger, and fine accuracy at longer ranges where you need to be a little bit more precise.

We chose the EXPS2-0 because it utilizes a 1/3rd co-witness instead of an absolute co-witness, so less of your sight is blocked if you have iron sights or your backup irons are flipped up. If you’re not going to be running irons, you can go with the regular XPS and be just fine.

EO-Tech-EXPS2-0GRN-Lifestyle-Reticle
A green reticle version of the EOTech XPS2-0, which is a similar model.

All the XPS models have a QD rail and side-facing buttons for use with a magnifier. If you’re running a thermal or NV flipup, go with the XPS3 model at it has night vision settings built in as well. 

EOTech EXPS 2-0

EOTech EXPS 2-0

Pros

  • Holographic technology works, even when obstructed
  • Easy to pick up targets with
  • Extremely durable and tolerant of bad conditions

Cons

  • Expensive

Overall, you get the rugged reliability EOTech is known for, 600 hours of runtime on one CR123A battery, and a 10ft submersion waterproof rating. Not too shabby at all.

2. EOTech Model 512

The original holosight, the 512 is still an excellent option. It has a longer body since it uses the more commonly-available AA batteries, and it can also run a little bit longer if you go with lithium AAs at around 1000 hours of run time.

EOTech 512
EOTech 512 (via Tactical Life)

You also don’t get the native quick-detach function from the EXPS-2, and it uses a screw-attachment that gives you an absolute co-witness making it a good option if you’re looking to add a holosight to a rifle with an A2-style front post or other fixed iron sights.

EOTech Model 512

EOTech Model 512

Finally, this is the OG holosight, so if you’re after that look, or trying to recreate a specific rifle you were issued or one that has been issued in general, this is a good option.

3. EOTech XPS2-0

The EOTech XPS2-0 (not to be confused with the EXPS2-0) is the newer, smaller model like XPS models. Unlike the EXPS, it doesn’t have the quick-detach which saves you a little bit of money.

EOTech XPS2
EOTech XPS2-0

The operation buttons are also on the front rather than the side, making this a bad option for anyone running a magnifier, but if you’re not taking your optic off often and you have no interest in a magnifier, this a phenomenal option. We particularly love it for a PCC optic.

EOTech XPS2-0

EOTech XPS2-0

Holosun “Holosights”

Holosun is another of our favorite optics manufacturers, and they offer a wide variety of excellent AR optics, one of which is their 510C model. While not technically a holosight by the traditional definition, this little guy has some excellent innovations that give you the best of both worlds. 

4. Holosun 510C

The Holosun 510c doesn’t use a laser and instead just uses an LED. This means that instead of 500-1000 hours, you get somewhere on the order of 50,000 hours. You also get the same reticle style as you get with the EOTechs. 

Holosun 501c Alabama Arsenal
Holosun 501c (via Alabama Arsenal)

The issue is that it doesn’t work quite the same way internally, so the fast target acquisition isn’t quite there. It’s still better than a traditional red dot by a wide margin though, and you can get the Elite model that has a green reticle which some folks think speeds up target acquisition even more.

Holosun 501C

Holosun 501C

Pros

  • Holographic-style reticle
  • Long battery life
  • Durable design

Cons

  • No holographic projection

Overall, if you’re looking for the holosight style reticle and don’t want to pay full-on holosight prices, this is a great option.   

Vortex Holosights

Vortex is our last manufacturer on the list. If you know them, you love them, and their lifetime warranty shows you just how much they stand behind their products. 

5. Vortex AMG UH-1

The Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 is the only high-quality holosight made by anyone other than EOTech. Often called the “Huey” because of the UH-1 designation, it utilizes a true laser-driven holographic system.

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Defense Review
Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 (via Defense Review)

Like the EOTech offerings, it’s built like a tank and while it is newer we haven’t heard any complaints about the model as a whole. Plus, you have that lifetime warranty if anything does go wrong. That warranty is even transferable so you’re still covered if you buy used.

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 Guns and Home Defense
Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 (via Guns and Home Defense)

Feature-wise, you get an excellent QD mount that holds zero well, and rear-facing buttons (so be careful with your magnifiers), and it has a rechargeable battery that you can charge via USB, meaning you can use a solar cell, a rechargeable battery pack, or even just a wall outlet to keep the optic charged.

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

And if you aren’t interested in that, you’ve got 1500 hours of runtime before you have to swap batteries, giving you the best run time of any true holosight. 

Holosight Accessories

There’s one thing you can grab to throw on your rifle to make your holosight (or red dot) a little bit more versatile, and that’s a flip-up magnifier. 

Primary Arms 3x LER Magnifier Gen IV
Primary Arms 3x LER Magnifier Gen IV

These optics, which you may know as hybrid optics if you’ve ever played any Call of Duty are a great choice because they give you a little more magnification for shooting at longer distance, or the ability to quickly switch back to 0 magnification with a wider FOV for close-in shooting.

Here’s our two recommendations if you want to go that route and add a little more versatility to your kit.

Primary Arms 3x Magnifier

Primary Arms is an excellent option in the budget optics world. Their no-frills 3x magnifier clocks in at around $100 and has really good clarity for the price. Make sure you get the option that comes with a mount or buy one separately though because the base model doesn’t include one. 

Primary Arms 3x Red Dot Magnifier

Primary Arms 3x Red Dot Magnifier

Overall, the FOV is a little tighter than our other pick, but it really does work well and is a great value.

Vortex VMX-3T Magnifier

If you’re looking to step up to something a little nicer, the Vortex VMX-3T is the option you should go with. It’s a little more expensive than the Primary Arms one once you factor in the mount, but it comes with it’s own excellent mount system that is ambidextrous and extremely rugged.

Vortex VMX-3T 3x Magnifier

Vortex VMX-3T 3x Magnifier

The glass is crystal clear as you’d expect from Vortex, and it has a very wide FOV, even though the overall optic is very sleek and slim.

Final Thoughts on Holosights

That’s all we have for this one. Hopefully you now know everything you need to know about holosights and how to choose the best one for your rifle or shotgun or what have you. These are all excellent options from excellent manufacturers, so you can’t really go wrong as long as you get something that meets your budget and your specific needs.

Which of these holosights is your favorite? Is there one out there that we missed? Let us hear from you in the comments below!

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