A lot of attention is paid to red dot sights, reflex sights, and holographic sights in the civilian shooting market.
For many years, true holographic sights were in the domain of professional shooters in the military and law enforcement. The cost and complexity of the technology kept civilian shooters in the dark, so to speak, about holographic sights.
Many civilian shooters still don’t understand holographic sights
In a technical sense, Holographic sights stand-alone among all other optical sights. Typically, holographic sights are non-magnifying gunsights that use a laser diode to create a true holographic image of the reticle superimposed on the target image.
The light from the laser diode is projected forward toward the target and not back toward the shooter’s eye.
The US military has used holographic sights for several years alongside the ACOG and M4 Aimpoint because of their benefits such as ease of use, field of view, night vision capabilities, and durability.
Many shooters may find the differences between a red dot optical sight and a holographic sight minimal.
However, the differences can be significant depending on how the holographic sight is used and the shooter’s needs.
Accepting the concept that holographic sights are not just another type of red dot or reflex sight is key to understanding the differences.
TL;DR, Top 3 Best Holographic Sights You Can Buy Today:
There are only a few true holographic sights on the market, and if it isn’t a true holographic sight you don’t get the benefit of the technology. Buy EOTech if you are looking for a holographic sight.
What is a Hologram?
The first thing to understand is that the reticle image you see in a holographic sight result from a complex technical process.
This process is vastly different than the system used to put the red dot in a red dot sight. Creating a hologram is a bit like photography and a bit like magic.
Laser beams are split, the target is scanned, and a hologram is created.
It is, of course, much more complicated than I try to make it. The process is also expensive. The technology needed to bring that hologram back to life is complicated and somewhat costly.
Hence, the price of true holographic sights is more than most traditional and red dot sights.
In effect, a hologram is a three-dimensional photograph of an object.
Exposing the media holding the image to the same sort of laser light causes the image to be visible to the human eye.
The image that your eye sees varies depending on the angle from which it is viewed. This gives the projected image a three-dimensional quality.
Fiction – Holographic Sights and Red Dot Sights are the Same
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Many shooters think red-dot sights and holographic sights are the same beasts under different names. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The only things that the two types of sights share are their relative size and the need for batteries.
Many red dot reflex sights indeed look like holographic sights.
Don’t let looks fool you.
What’s going on inside those housings is as different as night and day. There is one key difference that most shooters don’t understand about red dot sights and holographic sights. This difference is key to why holographic sights are often better than a red dot reflex sight.
The Critical Difference – The Light You See
Both holographic and red dot sights depend on an outside light source.
A red dot sight typically has an LED light that creates the illuminated red dot you see.
Holographic sights require a laser diode to generate the holographic image displayed over the target.
The Red Dot Problem
The device used to generate the light is different, but how the light is used is the critical factor.
Red dot sights use a set of mirrors to reflect the image of the red dot back to the shooter’s eye.
The image of the target is allowed to pass through at least one of these mirrors.
The method of overlaying the red dot on a mirror creates the problem. Passing the image of the target through the mirror is at the crux of the problem. This forces your eye to focus in the near range on the red dot in the mirror.
At the same time, you must focus on the target in the distant range. The usual outcome is that the target is blurry or the red dot blurs, making it appear larger than it is.
The Holographic Advantage
Holographic sights address the shortcomings of red dot sights and address these focus factors by projecting the laser light downrange instead of back to the shooter’s eye.
The holographic image of the reticle appears to your eye to be in the same focal plane as the target.
This allows your eye to focus on both images without problems.
This arrangement eliminates parallax problems with the holographic sights used at extreme ranges.
The holographic image of the reticle in a holographic sight usually remains crisp and clear with the target image.
The Key Factors in Selecting a Holographic Sight
If you are shopping for a holographic sight for your rifle or pistol, you need to be very careful.
There are a couple of issues in the market if you are shopping online. Beyond finding the right sight for your needs and expectations is important, especially when considering the cost of a decent holographic sight.
Make Sure You Are Looking at a Holographic Sight
The single biggest warning I give anyone shopping for a holographic sight is to make sure you are looking at real holographic sights.
Many manufacturers build reflex sights that mascaraed as holographic sights. However, the look and feel of these sights may mimic a true holographic sight.
In truth, they don’t use holographic technology.
Anyone shopping for a holographic sight should understand that only two \optics manufacturers currently offer true holographic sights to the civilian market.
EOTech and Vortex Optics both manufacture and sell true holographic sights.
Other manufacturers offer products that look amazingly like both EOTech and Vortex Optics holographic sights, but these sights are all reflex red dots.
If you are in the market for a true holographic sight, it will be a Vortex Optics or an EOTech.
Make Sure the Holographic Sight it is Not Counterfeit
Counterfeiting is another huge problem with the growth of E-commerce.
The popularity of holographic sights has prompted a surge in counterfeit products available. These offshore knockoffs are sometimes extremely hard to detect and fool even the most aware shooters.
You can do several things to ensure that the holographic sight you want to order is not counterfeit.
The most important is to always deal with a reputable dealer like Amazon. Both EOTech and Vortex Optics maintain a list of authorized dealers for their products.
The second bit of advice is to use a little common sense. If the holographic sight you want is normally $700 everywhere else, and you suddenly find a deal for $300 on the exact same holographic sight, alarm bells should start ringing.
If the deal sounds too good to be true, you can almost always bet your intuition is right.
The Currently Available Holographic Sight Options
There aren’t too many options for Brand names when shopping for a holographic sight.
Your choices for a true holographic sight are limited to EOTech and Vortex Optics. Many retailers and manufacturers will advertise other reflex sights as “holographic,” but these are all reflex sights.
What you get in the options and features categories from these two manufacturers is a huge array of choices.
The EOTech Option
EOTech pioneered the holographic sight in 1996. In January of that year, the first generation EOTech holographic sight debuted at SHOTSHOW and created quite a stir in the shooting community.
EOTech has continued developing and refining the technology used to create the holographic reticle image.
The US Military quickly saw the advantages of holographic sights in combat situations and adopted the EOTech 553 as the SU-231-PEQ weapons sight system.
Thousands of military personnel and law enforcement officers continue to use and depend on EOTech 553 sights.
Known Issues with the EOTech 553
In 2015, the US Military initiated a lawsuit against EOTech. The lawsuit claimed that EOTech was aware of and had concealed knowledge of problems with the EOTech products then in use. The problem centered on “thermal drift.”
These holographic sights displayed a tendency for the reticle to drift at extremely high or low temperatures. The aim point change could be as much as twelve inches at one hundred yards.
A second lawsuit soon followed due to moisture incursion, which caused the reticle to lose brightness.
EOTech eventually settled both lawsuits. The moisture incursion was successfully solved, but the thermal drift problem was never eliminated satisfactorily.
Continued Government Partnership
Despite these lawsuits and the problems encountered with the EOTech systems, the government continues to purchase and use EOTech products for every branch of the service. In 2018, EOTech received a multi-million dollar contract with the Special Operations Command.
The EOTech Options – Understanding the EOTech Designators
There are more models and options in the EOTech holographic sight line than it is possible to detail. However, we are about to try and make sense of the options based on how these sights are used by civilian hunters and shooters.
The Battery Decision
Eotech offers two styles of a holographic sight. Most shooters refer to them as the long model and the short model.
The underlying difference is the type of battery that powers the holographic sight.
The long or classic model uses two AA batteries. The newer model is shorter and uses one DR123 battery.
The Classic Models
The Classic models have model number designators that are three digits and begin with a 5.
Model 553 that we discussed earlier in this article is a classic EOTech model. These classic models have long been the choice of large frame pistol shooters as well as many tactical shooters.
You will find many AR-15 platforms outfitted with a classic EOTech model at three-gun matches.
The New XPS and EXPS Models
EOTech recognized the need for a smaller and more compact version of their holographic sight.
The result was the introduction of XPS and EXPS lines. These sights use a CR123 battery for power, allowing a smaller footprint on top of your firearm.
Eotech identifies sub-products in these lines with the designator, a number and a dash followed by a second number.
For example, you will see the new versions of the EOTech holographic sights listed as XPS2-0.
Our Choices of Holographic Sights
Eotech has such a wide array of models with many different features.
Deciding which EOTech model best suits your needs and expectations can be challenging.
We have tried to select choices that reflect the best fit with most civilian shooters’ requirements. Your needs and expectations may be different.
Below is the list of the best Holographic Sights currently in the market.
Best Overall EOTech Holographic Sight – EOTECH XPS3-0 Holographic Weapon Sight
- EOTECH XPS3-0 - Holographic Weapon Sight in black with 68MOA ring & 1 MOA dot reticle
- Night Vision Compatible - Works with all Gen 1-3 night vision devices
- Compact Design - Leaves more rail space for rear iron sights or magnifier
In our opinion, the best all-around choice of an EOTech holographic sight for the civilian shooter is the EOTech XPS3.
The XPS3 is one of the new models in the EOTech line and offers many features that make this a great optic choice for most civilian shooters.
If you aren’t familiar with the EOTech standard features, here are the are some of the features to learn a little more about:
- The reticle is the standard EOTech 68MOA ring and 1MOA dot reticle. EOTech shooters consistently choose the ring and dot reticle as one of the quickest to bring on target of any reticle style.
- The EOTech XPS3 holographic sight is compatible with all Gen 1-3 night vision devices
- The XPS line of EOTech holographic sights uses a single CR123 battery for power. This creates a shorter footprint on your pistol or rifle and is lighter.
- You can easily mount this EOTech optic on a one-inch Weaver rail or a MIL-STD 1913 rail.
- Automatic shut-down preserves your battery life. The XPS3 can deliver over 1,000 hours of use on one CR-1213 battery.
What is the Major Difference Between the XPS-3 and the XPS2?
The EOTech XPS3 is more than an upgraded XPS2 version of the Eotech holographic sight. Changes to the internal electronics provide an upgraded visual experience and more features on the XPS3. For example:
- The XPS3 offers full night vision compatibility, which the EXPS2 does not.
- If water submersion is a factor, the XPS3 features 33 feet of waterproof protection compared to the 10 feet of the XPS2.
- Adding a magnifier to the XPS3 is easier since the controls have been relocated to the side of the holographic sight.
The EXPS3 is not just an upgraded EXPS2.
In truth, the EXPS3 is an improved model that builds on the features and technical specifications of the EXPS2.
The simplicity of operation, long battery life, and compact size get this EOTech XPS3-0 holographic sight a place on my list. The EOTech 10-year warranty just adds to the value we see in this holographic sight.
The XPS3-0 is a great choice for general shooters who want quick target acquisition and durable service, whether rifle or pistol mounting.
Best EOTech Holographic Sight for AR-15 – EOTECH 558 Holographic Weapon Sight
- EOTECH 558.A65 - Holographic Weapon Sight in black with 68MOA ring & 1 MOA dot reticle
- Night Vision Compatible - Works with all Gen 1-3 night vision devices
- Mount - Quick Detach lever fits 1" Weaver and MIL-STD 1913 Rails
There is little argument that the AR-15 platform has become one of the most popular rifle choices in the United States.
These lightweight and versatile rifles are used for varmint shooting, game hunting, competitive shooting, and self-defense firearms. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that many AR-15 owners opt for a holographic sight for their AR-15
Our choice from the EOTech line of holographic sights for mounting on an Ar-15 platform is the EOTech 558 holographic weapon sight.
The EOTech 558 is a classic style holographic sight. Many military members will remember the 558 fondly as it closely resembles the standard-issue holographic sight.
We prefer this holographic sight for an AR-15 mount for several reasons. Following are some of them:
- The EOTech 558 holographic sight comes with the famous EOTech ring and dot reticle that has proven versatile through years of military and law enforcement service.
- You get night vision compatibility from Gen 1 to Gen 3 with the EOTech 558
- A quick-detach mount integral to the EOTech 558 frame makes moving this sight from one firearm to another quick and easy.
- Side control buttons adjust the EOTech 558 easily without dismounting the firearm. This control position also allows easy installation of an EOTech magnifier to this holographic sight.
- The top mount battery compartment doesn’t require removing the holographic sight from the weapon to change to two AA batteries
- Battery life of up to 2500 hours means fewer battery changes and no worries about battery failure at the wrong time.
The EOTech 558 is a proven operator that anyone should consider when outfitting an AR-15 with a holographic sight.
These sights are rugged, durable, and perform as advertised.
From the toughest competitive shooting to the most extreme field conditions, the EOTech 558 is a good pairing with your AR-15
- The AMG UH-1 Gen II is an incredibly fast holographic display to conquer any situation, now with...
- With the UH-1 Gen II, you get an improved sight picture through the enlarged viewing window and easy...
- The lightning-quick EBR-CQB reticle with 15 illumination settings and our FHQ technology virtually...
The only other manufacturer of true holographic sights is Vortex Optics.
Vortex Optics introduced their AMG UH-1 holographic sight several years ago as a direct competitor to EOTech with some success.
Built with the same attention to detail and features as the other traditional optics and red dots offered by Vortex Optics, many shooters were soon mounting one of these sights on their rifles.
Vortex Optics designed and built this holographic sight for military and law enforcement operators.
The holographic image is sharp, clean, and fast, giving these shooters a quickly recognized advantage. Civilian shooters rapidly learned about this new option in the holographic sight market, and Vortex soon had a new hit on its hands.
You get the following features from Vortex AMG UH-1 holographic sight at a relatively reasonable price.
- The UH-1 offers a slightly larger viewing window that enhances the field of view. This can aid target acquisition and give you a slight edge in time on target.
- Vortex Optics has taken the standard CQB ring and dot reticle and given it a new twist. You still have the ring and dot, but Vortex has added a chevron point at the bottom of the right, making putting the reticle on target at a distance much easier.
- An integrated quick-detach mount puts the UH-1 holographic sight on your rifle at a 1/3 co-witness height.
- Built to Vortex Optics tough standards with their ArmorTek coating on all-optical surfaces as well as O-ring construction for waterproof and fog-proof performance.
- Side-mounted controls for easy operation without having to dismount the rifle.
- The UH-1 includes a night-vision mode that allows using night vision equipment.
- Uses one CR123A battery for long operations and easy battery replacement without dismounting the scope.
Vortex Optics has brought their expertise and commitment to quality to the holographic sight game by introducing the UH-1.
Many people affectionately call this holographic sight the Huey after the helicopter that served for many years with the military and carried the same designation.
Putting a Huey on your favorite rifle will certainly give you more flexibility and greater capability, and no, the Vortex AMG UH-1 is not discontinued.
Holographic Sight with Magnifier Combo – EOTech HHS Holographic Hybrid Sight – EXPS2-0GRN
- HHS Green Holographic Hybrid Sight - EXPS2-0GRN sight with G33 Magnifier
- Green Reticle - 6x easier to see than red during daytime operation
- Quick Transitions - Change quickly from close quarter to medium range targets with the included G33...
Neither EOTech nor Vortex Optics offers a version of their holographic sights with built-in magnification.
Adding a separate magnifier to a rifle with an EOTech holographic sight has become so popular that EOTech has started producing a hybrid-style holographic sight with the EOTech G33 magnifier.
This hybrid version of the EXPS2 holographic sight offers the best of both worlds in one package.
This sight package gives you all the functionality of the EOTech EXPS2 holographic sights with the convenience of a swing-away 3X magnifier.
The entire package mounts to your rifle using one quick-detach mount that will fit 1” Weaver mounts or MIL-STD 1913 rails.
Can I get a Holographic Sight with Magnification?
However, there are other options to consider if you need some magnification with a holographic sight on your rifle. Below are the holographic magnifier options from Vortex and EOtech that you may consider:
|Vortex Optics Micro 3x Red Dot Sight Magnifier...||Check Best Price|
|EOTECH G33 Magnifier||Check Best Price|
|EOTECH 5 Power Magnifier with Quick Disconnect,...||Check Best Price|
Magnifiers in General – Buy quality if you Buy
There are almost as many flips away magnifiers on the market as scopes.
Many shooters routinely use these magnifiers with red dot and reflex scopes successfully. If you intend to pair your holographic scope with a magnifier, remember that the single biggest issue with magnifiers is the quality of the optical glass.
When you can, purchase the highest quality optical glass, you can afford.
Mounting a $400 holographic sight on your rifle and then airing it with a $39.99 magnifier just doesn’t make good sense.
The expensive holographic sight won’t make the cheap glass work better. The poor image from cheap optics will almost certainly degrade the performance of your holographic sight.
Aren’t the Holosuns, Sightmarks, Sig Sauer, and Aimpoint Holographic Sights?
If you read the specifications for this sight, you quickly realize the Holosun is another red dot sight.
Conclusion: The Truth About Holographic Sights
The truth about holographic sights is that there seem to be more untruths than truths floating around the internet.
Selections of holographic sights are a bit limited.
Your two options are EOTech and Vortex Optics. This is a fact we may have to live with for a few years yet as technology and the industry evolve.
In the end, if you want a true holographic sight, there are just two options to consider, EOTech and Vortex Optics.