6 Best Holographic Sights Reviewed in 2020 ( For Hunting, Co-witnessing, NV, Magnifier…)

man in full gear aiming airsoft rifle using holographic sight

Optics are ever popular on rifles, shotguns, and pistols — and for good reason.

A good sight allows you to quickly get on target for rapid, accurate shooting without cluttering up your field of view or failing at an inopportune time.

For many people, this means a reflex sight, a red dot optic that floats the targeting reticle in front of your eyes.

But what if you want something even better than a reflex sight?

Holographic weapon sights are similar to red dots but have several advantages. Rather than reflecting the dot in front of your eyes, holo sights use a laser to create a holographic reticle that appears between you and your target.

Holo sights tend to be more expensive than most reflex sights, but their advantages make the expense worthwhile for some people. We’ll cover those advantages later. For now, let’s look at your holo sight options.

 

The 6 Best Holographic Sights of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best for Co-Witnessing with Iron Sights: EOTech 512
  2. Best for Hunting: EOTech XPS2
  3. Best for Use with Night Vision: EOTech EXPS3
  4. Best Holographic Sight For Magnifier: EOTech 518
  5. Best for Crossbows: EOTech 512 XBOW
  6. Best Non-EOTech: Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

 

CategoryBest for Co-witnessingBest for HuntingBest Non-EOTech
ProductEOTech 512
EOTech 512

EOTech XPS2
EOTech XPS2

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1
Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

Length5.6 inches3.8 inches3.6 inches
Weight11.5 ounces9 ounces11.8 ounces
Night Vision CompatibleNoNoNo
Battery Life1,000 hours600 hours1,600 hours
Battery Type2 x AAs1 x 123 lithium1 x LFP123 rechargeable lithium
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Holographic Sight for Co-Witnessing with Iron Sights: EOTech 512

EOTech 512

Specs

  • Length: 5.6 inches
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? No
  • Battery Life: 1,000 hours
  • Battery Type: Two AAs

Overview

The EOTech Model 512 is the classic EOTech holographic weapon sight and is what most people picture when they think of a holo sight.

The 512 is an older design, but it is not obsolete. In fact, it uses the exact same laser emitter technology, glass, and metal body as all of the other EOTech models. It’s also the least expensive model.

The 512 mounts to MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rails using either a bolt or a thumb screw. The control buttons are on the rear and adjustment dials are on the right side.

The reticle is a 1 MOA dot (which covers approximately one inch at 100 yards) inside a 68 MOA circle, which makes the 512 good for both rapid target acquisition and precision shooting.

The long front holds two AA batteries. Lithium batteries give you up to 1,000 hours of battery life in the middle battery life setting. You’ll get up to 600 hours with standard alkaline AA batteries. If you turn on the 512 with the Decrease Brightness button, the sight will turn off automatically after four hours — eight hours for the Increase Brightness button.

The internal optics are fog resistant, and the 512 can survive submersion in 10 feet of water.

The 512 will have absolute co-witness with AR-15-height iron sights, making it an attractive and comparatively inexpensive option as a primary, non-magnified optic.

Pros

  • Least-expensive holo sight
  • Very durable

Cons

  • Least feature-rich holo sight
  • Long battery compartment

Recommendation

The EOTech 512 is EOTech’s most basic model and is a great choice for co-witnessing with iron sights.

 

EOTech 512 is also available at:

Bass Pro

Brownells

 

2. Best Holographic Sight for Hunting: EOTech XPS2

EOTech XPS2

Specs

  • Length: 3.8 inches
  • Weight: 9 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? No
  • Battery Life: 600 hours
  • Battery Type: One 123 lithium

Overview

The EOTech Model XPS2 is a shorter, lighter version of the 512. It’s the smallest EOTech holographic weapon sight available and is under four inches long.

The major difference between the XPS2 and the 512 is the battery compartment. The XPS2 gives up the ability to use common AA batteries and replaces them with a single 123 lithium battery that gives up to 600 hours of battery life.

This saves both weight and bulk on the rail. The battery compartment on the 512 overhangs quite a bit, which can get foliage caught in your gun. The much shorter XPS2 is less likely to do this and will save you a bit of weight on long hikes too.

This shorter length also frees up rail space for backup iron sights, magnifiers, or other options.

Basically everything else is the same as the 512, though. It has the same laser emitter, same protective hood, same water resistance, and same mounting capability.

Pros

  • Same battery life with a smaller battery compartment
  • Shorter and lighter than the EOTech 512

Cons

  • CR123 batteries are not as common as AAs

Recommendation

The EOTech XPS2 is the shorter and lighter version of the 512 and uses a less common battery. This weight savings is good for carrying in the woods.

 

EOTech XPS2 is also available at:

Bass Pro

Brownells

 

3. Best Holographic Sight for Use with Night Vision: EOTech EXPS3

EOTech EXPS3

Specs

  • Length: 3.8 inches
  • Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? Yes
  • Battery Life: 600 hours
  • Battery Type: 1x 123 lithium

Overview

EOTech’s EXPS3 is the “extreme” version of the XPS3, which itself is the night-vision-compatible version of the XPS2.

Most EOTech holo sights have 20 brightness settings, all intended for daylight use. The EXPS3 has 10 more settings that are all darker than the darkest daylight setting. This means that the EXPS3 can be used with night-vision devices, from first-gen to third-gen tech.

The EXPS3 also has several other improvements over the XPS2.

The controls are on the side instead of the rear of the unit, so you can put a magnifier right up to the EXPS3 without having to squeeze your fingers in a tiny space to turn it on.

There are more reticle options, including the EXPS-4, which has four 1 MOA dots intended for engaging targets hundreds of yards away.

Also, there’s a built-in quick-detach mount. This raises the EXPS3’s height over the bore, so it has lower one-third co-witness capabilities instead of absolute co-witnessing with iron sights. It also makes installing and removing the sight easy.

You can also get a tan EXPS3 sight to match your FDE rifle.

It can even be submerged down to 33 feet, not just 10 feet!

Pros

  • Night vision capable
  • Quick-detach mount

Cons

  • Most expensive model

Recommendation

The EOTech EXPS3 has all the bells and whistles EOTech offers with their holographic weapon sights. It’s designed for use with night vision and excels in the night hunting role.

 

EOTech EXPS3 is also available at:

Bass Pro

Brownells

 

4. Best Holographic Sight To Use With Magnifier: EOTech 518

EOTech 518

Specs

  • Length: 5.6 inches
  • Weight: 13.8 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? No
  • Battery Life: 1,000 hours
  • Battery Type: Two AAs

Overview

When you’re using a magnifier with a reflex or holographic sight, you get better results by having the front of the magnifier as close to the back of the sight as possible.

The problem with doing this is that EOTech used to put the control buttons on the rear of the device.

Magnifiers can get in the way of turning on your sight!

The EOTech 518 is a redesigned 512 that’s optimized for use with a magnifier, whether it’s permanent or a flip-to-side option.

The controls have been moved to the side of the sight so you can easily access them even with a magnifier close to the rear of the sight. The 518 also has a quick-detach mount that raises the sight up by seven millimeters, which puts it into the lower one-third co-witness sightline most magnifiers also use.

Other than the controls and the QD mount, the EOTech 518 is exactly the same as the EOTech 512. It’s only a little more expensive than the 512, so many people prefer the 518 over the 512 for the quick-detach functionality.

Pros

  • Controls are on the side
  • Good for use with magnifiers
  • QD mount

Cons

  • Heaviest EOTech model

Recommendation

The EOTech Model 518 is a slightly modified 512 that works well with either EOTech’s G33 magnifier or magnifiers produced by other companies.

 

EOTech 518 is also available at:

Palmetto State Armory

Brownells

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5. Best Holographic Sight for Crossbows: EOTech 512 XBOW

EOTech 512 XBOW

Specs

  • Length: 5.6 inches
  • Weight: 11.1 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? No
  • Battery Life: 1,100 hours
  • Battery Type: Two AAs

Overview

Anybody who uses a crossbow knows that there aren’t many good crossbow optics out there.

A good crossbow is as expensive as a good rifle and can be trusted to do its part to take down a deer. Why, then, do almost all crossbow optics seem to be no better than cheap no-name red dots you buy for your child’s first .22 rifle?

You can put rifle optics on your crossbow but then you lose out on the ballistic reticles that help you aim properly at farther ranges.

Thankfully, EOTech has the 512 XBOW, which is perhaps the best non-magnified crossbow sight available today. The reticle has four dots so you know where your bolt will impact at four known ranges. The package includes a ballistic table that gives the range of each dot for velocities from 225 feet per second to 450 feet per second, so the 512 XBOW works with a wide variety of crossbows.

More impressively, though, the 512 XBOW has a built-in rangefinder!

It’s not a laser rangefinder but instead a ranging scale next to the aiming reticle. You put the bottom line on the deer’s stomach and use the distance up to the deer’s spine to judge the deer’s distance, from 20 to 60 yards away.

Pros

  • Excellent for crossbows
  • Includes a rangefinder

Cons

  • More expensive than other crossbow optics

Recommendation

If you want the best non-magnified crossbow optic on the market, the EOTech 512 XBOR is your best choice.

 

 

6. Best Non-EOTech Holographic Sight: Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

Specs

  • Length: 3.6 inches
  • Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Night Vision Compatible? No
  • Battery Life: 1,600 hours
  • Battery Type: One LFP123 rechargeable lithium

Overview

EOTech had a monopoly on holographic weapon sights until Vortex released the AMG UH-1.

Sometimes called the Huey by fans (because the UH-1 was also the model number of the first Huey helicopter), the Vortex UH-1 gives EOTech a run for their money in the civilian optic market.

Make no mistake. The UH-1 is a tough holo sight. However, it’s not as proven as EOTech’s sights, and its construction is not quite as durable. It is, however, tough enough for hunting and home defense work.

The UH-1 has several features unique to the device. FHQ technology prevents any emissions from being visible forward of the device. It also sports a USB port, so you can replace the LFP123A lithium-ion battery.

Not only does it have 1,600 hours of battery life instead of 1,000 hours or 600 hours, you don’t have to replace the battery to keep your optic working!

The reticle is a bit crisper than any EOTech reticle. It also has a triangle at the bottom of the circle for shooters who prefer that style for precision shooting.

The UH-1 also has a slightly larger field of view than the EOTech 512.

It even has more elevation and windage adjustment than EOTech sights!

Pros

  • Crisper reticle
  • Long battery life
  • More features than most EOTechs
  • Rechargeable battery

Cons

  • Bulky design
  • Slightly less durable (but still more durable than most optics)

Recommendation

The Vortex Razor AMG UH-1 is a great competitor to the EOTech range of holographic weapon sights and has some nifty features but is not yet proven in battle.

Learn more about the Vortex Razor AMG UH-1.

 

Why Should You Choose a Holographic Sight Over a Red Dot Sight?

holosight vs red dot sight view
Holosight vs red dot sight view

Holographic sights, at first glance, are similar to reflex sights.

Both types of optics superimpose a dot (often with a circle) in your view of the target.

But how the two sights accomplish this is different and has big ramifications.

 

Holo Sight Pros

holographic sight held over air rifle

The biggest advantage a holo sight has over red dots is how the reticle is superimposed over your target.

For most people, holographic reticles feel better. This is a hard feature to quantify, but if you try a rifle with a reflex sight and then try the same rifle with a holo sight, the holo sight will likely seem more intuitive and faster to use.

Another advantage of holo sights is that people who have astigmatism tend to have trouble with red dot reticles but not holo sight reticles. This isn’t true for all people with astigmatism, though.

Also, magnifiers work better with holo sights.

man holding rifle with magnifier and holo sight mounted

If you magnify a red dot sight then the dot itself is magnified. A 1 MOA dot with 2x magnification will turn into a 2 MOA dot, which, thanks to the area of the circle, covers a four-times larger part of the target. And red dots are typically larger than 1 MOA to begin with!

Holo sight reticles, on the other hand, do not increase in size when you use a magnifier. A 1 MOA holo dot is 1 MOA even with a 6x magnifier. This makes holographic weapon sights a better choice for magnified use.

Finally, holo sights are not dependent on all of the optic’s glass!

If you break a red dot sight’s front window, then your sight is worthless. Holo sights will still show a reticle on any shards of glass in the sight.

 

Holo Sight Cons

man holding EOTech XPS2

Holo sights do have some disadvantages compared to traditional red dot sights, though.

For one thing, they are often physically larger, both in bulk and weight. There are no pistol-sized holo sights like there is pistol red dots. Don’t expect to use a holo sight as a backup optic, either. They’re too big.

Also, because holo sights use a laser instead of an LED, they consume a lot more energy. Good red dots can survive being on for tens of thousands of hours. The best you can get with a holo sight is the UH-1 with its 1,600-hour lifespan, and that’s at a lower brightness than most people will want to use.

Also, holo sights tend to lack features common in higher-end red dots, such as shake-awake or solar cells — not to mention that the cheapest holo sight is still more expensive than high-quality red dots!

 

How to Choose the Right Holographic Weapon Sight

EOTech 518 mounted on rifle upclose

The field of holographic weapon sights is pretty small, so there aren’t too many factors that go into choosing one model over another.

Your first big decision is whether you want to go with EOTech or Vortex.

EOTech’s HWS models are all based on relatively old technology that has been iterated upon and improved. The EXPS3 is the same basic sight as the venerable 512 with some additional features, which itself is a bit upgraded compared with the 512s that were available back in 2008.

Vortex, however, upset EOTech’s monopoly on holo sights when the company introduced the UH-1. This sight improves over all of EOTech’s offerings in some ways, such as battery life, but still isn’t entirely comparable.

The UH-1 is not a military-grade optic.

Many users tend to prefer the UH-1’s reticle, which is crisper than the EOTech’s grainy reticle. Though the Vortex version does have some graininess still; this is a side effect of the hologram process.

view through the Vortex Razor AMG UH-1
View through the Vortex Razor AMG UH-1

It also uses polycarbonate instead of glass — scratch-resistant polycarbonate, true, but it’s still not as scratch resistant as any of EOTech’s sights.

Aesthetically speaking, the UH-1 is also a big box. Some people think it looks like a “space force” optic, while other people think it’s ugly.

EOTech’s sights are all military grade, even the civilian models. If you expect to knock your rifle around or drag it through the mud, then any of the EOTechs are a better choice.

However, with so many different models, how do you pick which one? EOTech’s naming system is somewhat confusing.

The 512 is the basic EOTech model. All of the 500 series holo sights have a long battery compartment that holds AA batteries.

finger pointing at EOTech 551 on rifle
EOTech 551

The second number lets you know whether the brightness controls let you use the extra-dark brightness levels compatible with night vision. So, the 552 is the night-vision-compatible version of the 512.

Unless you use night vision, you don’t need to spend more for the 552.

The last number tells you where the controls are located. The 512s controls are on the back, and the 518s controls are on the side, which is better for use with magnifiers. The eight also means that the model has a higher quick-detach mount. The 558 combines night vision with the side controls and QD mount.

The XPS series, on the other hand, uses a single 123 lithium battery instead of AAs. They’re smaller and lighter. The number after “XPS” tells you whether the optic is NV-compatible or not. The two isn’t night vision compatible, but the three is.

EOTech XPS-3 held up by hand
EOTech XPS-3

An E in front of “XPS” means that the holo sight has the QD mount. So, the XPS2 is shorter and lighter and uses a smaller battery than the 512. The EXPS3 is the same holo sight as the XPS2 with darker brightness options and a higher QD mount.

Also, if you see a dash and a number after the XPS model number, that’s the specific reticle. The XPS3-2 has the two-dot reticle instead of the one-dot reticle of the XPS3-0.

Basically, the lower the model number, the fewer features and the less expensive the model. They all have the same laser emitter, so only buy a higher-number model if you want to spend the money on those features.

The XPS series is lighter than the 500 series. Ounces are pounds, and pounds are pain, so if you’re going to take the EOTech for a long hunting trip, it can be worthwhile to save the weight and get an XPS instead of 512.

 

Top Brands

EOTech

EOTech logo

For a long time, if you wanted to buy a holographic sight for your rifle, your only option was EOTech.

And nobody complained.

EOTech was formed in 1995 by the Michigan Development Corporation, which itself was the commercial spin-off of the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan. The first holo sight was shown at the 1996 SHOT Show and won the Optic of the Year award.

EOTech put out several versions of their holographic weapon sights in 2000 and 2001 until they got a contract with U.S. Special Operations Command in 2005. Ever since, EOTech has been one of the more iconic and beloved military optics.

Their current line of holographic weapon sights are the result of occasional improvements to the design, such as a water ingress problem that was resolved in 2014.

2015 saw a blow to the company’s reputation when a fiasco about thermal drift hit EOTech. They handled it well, and by 2018, EOTech had (mostly) recovered their reputation and was again contracted with USSOCOM to produce high-quality close-quarters combat sights for elite military units.

Civilian sales have never been the primary source of revenue for EOTech. This also means that all of EOTech’s products are designed to exceed military standards.

 

Vortex Optics

Vortex Razor logo

Vortex Optics is one of the top optics manufacturers today. The company produces a wide variety of products, nearly all of which have some sort of lens system.

And everything else is a tripod.

Vortex’s rifle scopes, spotting scopes, red dot sights, rangefinders, and binoculars are well regarded. They have products for every budget. Vortex also has one of the best warranties in the business. It’s fully transferable between owners, you don’t need the receipt, and it’s an unlimited lifetime warranty that covers practically everything except for deliberate damage!

This warranty is rarely used.

It was only a mild surprise when Vortex released the first non-EOTech holo sight.

And it was also no surprise that the UH-1 is a darn good optic!

In fact, Jerry Miculek used a Vortex Razor UH-1 to set a world record at SHOT Show 2017.

If there’s any company that would put out a good competitor to EOTech, Vortex Optics is that company.

 

FAQ

FAQ

What holographic sight does the military use?

Multiple EOTech models have National Stock Numbers and are or have been in use by the U.S. military. Also, some units allow soldiers to purchase their own EOTech holo weapon sights.

U.S. Special Operations Command has a contract with EOTech for close-quarters sights and magnifiers. That particular model is the EXPS3. Other models can also be found on non-SOCOM military rifles.

EOTech models used officially by military and law enforcement agencies include the 552, 558, 300 Blackout, XPS2, and EXPS3.

 

Can you co-witness holographic sights?

Yes, you can co-witness holo sights with iron sights. Most of the time, at least.

There are two types of co-witnessing:

  • Absolute co-witnessing
  • Lower one-third co-witnessing

If you look through the iron sights and optic at the same time and the holographic dot is on top of the front sight post, then your sights are absolutely co-witnessed.

Lower one-third co-witnessing is when you look through the holo sight so the reticle is in the center of the glass, and the front sight post appears on the lower portion of the glass.

Some people prefer absolute co-witnessing so you don’t have to adjust your head position if you want to use the irons. Flip-up irons can help keep your sight picture from getting too busy.

EOTech models with built-in quick-detach mounts, such as the EXPS3, are designed for lower one-third co-witnessing with iron sights. The other models mount lower on the rail and so will give you an absolute co-witness sight picture.

Note that this is AR-15 specific. An EOTech 512 that has absolute co-witness on an AR-15 will not co-witness at all on a C308.

 

Didn’t EOTech have a large lawsuit? Can I trust the company after that?

Back in 2015, allegations started appearing about EOTech holographic weapon sights being susceptible to thermal drift. The military stopped fielding EOTech sights, the company starting refunding everyone who turned in their sight, and a class-action lawsuit was filed.

A few years later, the military replaced their old EOTech sights … with EOTech sights.

Thermal drift is when you sight in your optics in one temperature (say, 70 degrees) and the point of impact changes at other temperatures (such as −40 degrees) because of the sight being affected by the temperature change. This could cause your bullet to impact six inches away from where you aim at 100 yards!

All optics will exhibit a certain amount of thermal drift, and it primarily occurs at extreme temperatures. The Trijicon MRO, a red dot that competes with EOTech’s lineup for military contracts, also suffers from thermal drift. The problem can be solved with a few confirmation shots before you take your gun hunting.

As for how EOTech handled the situation, well, they freely refunded unhappy customers, settled with the government, tightened their manufacturing standards, and are still one of the best close-combat optic manufacturers today.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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