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These top red dots promise sure shots in the turkey woods
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Do you really need a red dot for turkey hunting? Yes, yes you do. Shotguns with a single bead were meant for pointing and shooting birds on the wing. Shooting a turkey gun that’s resting on your knee and fitted with a tight choke is much more similar to shooting a rifle. You want to aim precisely, but you don’t necessarily need the magnification of a scope. So red dot sight it is.
In recent years the field of red dot sights has grown to enormous proportions. This is largely because the optics are so popular among handgunners and AR shooters. But turkey hunters are also benefiting from this booming market. There are now more quality red dot sights than ever before.
As a turkey hunter, you want a sight that is durable, first and foremost. It will be absorbing the recoil of magnum turkey loads. You also want a sight that adjusts brightness (either manually or automatically) to deal with changing light conditions. Lastly, you want a sight that offers a wide field of view with minimal tint. This is key for picking out that gobbler’s head as he slinks through the dark timber. But still, there are a lot of red dots that fit those criteria. To help narrow the field, we picked the best red dots for turkey hunting.
We’ve been shooting red dots in the turkey woods for many years now. We’ve personally hunted with most of the scopes in this list. We’re also referencing the range testing of our Shooting Editor John B. Snow, who did in-depth testing on all of the best red dot sights.
Our list doesn’t include any cheap red dots. Inexpensive red dots might be ok on a plinking gun, but because a turkey hunting shotgun will get knocked around, exposed to the elements, and create a massive amount of recoil, you’ll need to pair it with a quality optic.
If you have a souped up turkey hunting gun with a custom choke and a vest pocket full of premium TSS loads, then you also need a high-end red dot sight to complete your setup. The Trijicon MRO is it. The sight was designed for battle. Its housing is made of forged 7075 (an aluminum alloy), and it’s fully sealed. It can handle heavy recoil, fog, and rain. It’s submersible to 100 feet, so if you happen to drop your turkey rig into a lake, at least your sight will still be fine.
The MRO is meant to be shot with both eyes open. The larger aperture allows shooters to find their target quickly, especially from imperfect shooting positions—like when that gobbler sneaks in from behind you and you have to twist and mount your gun awkwardly to get a shot. I’ve hunted with the MRO over several seasons and love its durability and functionality. One thing I’ve noticed about this sight is that its dot is very clear and precise. Some red dots have a starburst look out at the edges—they don’t form a perfectly circular dot. That’s not the case with the MRO. When you look through this sight, you know exactly where you are aiming. —A.R.
Leupold designed the Freedom RDS for AR-style rifles, but in the process they’ve turned out one of the best red dots for turkey hunting. A button on the left side (opposite the windage turret) turns the sight on and off. You also press the button to adjust brightness—there are more brightness options than a turkey hunter will ever need. The sight automatically goes to sleep if it sits perfectly motionless for more than five minutes. The moment you move the gun (even slightly) it turns back on.
Now, turkey hunters might worry that the sight will turn off while they sit still waiting for a gobbler to step into range. But the motion activator is much more sensitive than that. I’ve hunted with it for several seasons now and have never had an issue with it not turning on when needed. The thing I like most about this sight is its durable construction. Every Leupold red dot design must survive 5,000 impacts on the Punisher, Leupold’s recoil simulation machine. The force of each impact in the test is three times the recoil of a .308 rifle. This is critical for hunters who will be mounting their sights atop magnum turkey guns. I’ve hunted with the Freedom RDS in rain and snow (yes, turkey hunting in the snow) and it’s never fogged or failed.
The only downside to the sight is that because of its style, it rides a little higher on the gun compared to the smaller, open emitter sights in this review. Because of that, you might have to add a little extra comb height to your gun, which you can easily accomplish with some closed-cell foam and duct tape (as seen in the photo above). —A.R.
I sit through rain storms and deal with the silent birds they bring because you only get so many days to hunt each spring. It’s also a great way to avoid public land pressure. That’s why an optic that runs well in bad weather is important to me. The EPS Carry is an enclosed emitter optic, which means the point from where the light is projected to the glass it’s projected onto is completely enclosed. One of the main benefits is that rain drops, dirt, and leaves can’t disrupt your aiming dot.
I put that to the test by leaving my EPS Carry out in a rainstorm next to a Trijicon RMR. After five minutes the RMR’s dot was obstructed by a water drop and displayed a half moon shape. The EPS Carry’s dot was still crisp.
The Holosun EPS Carry mounts on guns with RMSc, Holosun K, Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, and Sig Sauer RomeoZero optic cuts or mounting plates. You can also use it with a Picatinny mount to attach it to a scope rail. It comes with screws of various lengths (use the longest that will work) each with Blue Loctite already on them. Holosun recommends torquing the screws to 15 inch-pounds.
The battery door is located on the right side of the optic and is accessible without removing the red dot. Holosun says the battery life is 5,000 hours, which is about 200 days. It’s not the five-year battery life of the Holosun 507 K, but changing a battery before turkey season starts and never turning the optic off is still pretty damn good.
The 6 MOA dot on my EPS Carry is crisp and round. This is exactly how a dot should look, but many red dot sights come up short in this feature. The EPS Carry’s glass has a slight blue hue, which is common on red dots. The window is large for such a low profile optic. I put mine through a reliability test, which included hard impacts, and the EPS Carry didn’t flinch (read the full review for details). When you combine the weather resistance, crisp dot, and relatively low profile, you end up with one of the best red dots for turkey hunting. —S.E.
Read the full EPS Carry review for more info.
The big, clear window on the Bushnell RXS-250 makes it easy to pick up the 4 MOA dot and place it on a turkey’s head. The 4 MOA dot is a great balance of precision and fast acquisition. Competitive pistol shooters tend to prefer the largest dots, around 6 MOA, because they’re easy to see and put on target quickly. I like a slightly more precise dot than 6 MOA for shotguns, and the 4 MOA is a great compromise. Whether you’re hunting in the timber at first light or in a sunny field, one of the ten brightness settings will work for you. I find settings five to eight are the ones I use most often.
My RXS-250 doesn’t produce a perfectly round and crisp dot, but in practical use it doesn’t affect performance. Another nitpick is the brightness adjustment buttons are smaller than other red dots and a little harder to adjust on the fly.
One thing I do like is that the buttons are separated—one on the left and one on the right side. That makes it easy to adjust without looking. Speaking of great adjustments, the 1 MOA clicks for sighting in are tactile and audible. In five years when it’s time to change your battery, you don’t have to remove the optic from the mount because the battery conveniently changes from the top.
You get a lot for your money with the RXS-250. It has a bright dot, waterproof rating, large window, plenty of battery life, and it comes with a Picatinny mount. —S.E.
The Trijicon SRO is one of the top options for competitive shooters because of its large window, which makes picking up the dot very easy. That’s also why it’s one of the best red dots for turkey hunting. If you don’t get the gun into the exact right position or if you need to make a fast shot, this optic gives you extra forgiveness and speed.
Aside from its large window, the SRO has six visible settings (two night vision), which give you a crisp dot on the absolute brightest days until legal light. The brightness up is on the left side of the optic and the brightness down is on the right. Keeping the buttons on separate sides makes it easy to change the setting without looking at the buttons. The brightness setting is also lockable, so you don’t have to worry about bumping it as you hunt.
The battery is swapped out on the top of the optic, and you’ll only have to change it once every three years. That three year rating is based on continuous use at the middle setting. —S.E.
If your shotgun is not drilled and tapped for optics and you don’t want to mess with optic harnesses, the Aimpoint Micro S-1 is a solid choice. The sight mounts directly to your shotgun’s vent rib (it will fit most rib sizes 6-12mm). The real benefit here is that the sight sits super low on the gun. This allows you to mount the gun naturally and get a good cheek weld on the stock. Interestingly, Aimpoint suggests mounting the sight about half-way down the barrel. Using an optic that’s halfway down the barrel will take a little getting used to, but it’s actually an incredibly fast and precise aiming system. The sight comes with a variety of base plates and a base plate selection guide, which you should definitely read.
There are only two downsides to this sight: First, it’s quite expensive. Second, it has a very large dot. Some hunters and shooters may prefer this. Personally, I like a smaller dot and more precise aiming for turkey hunting. —A.R.
Swampfox is a relative newcomer to the red dot sight game and they’re making a good name for themselves immediately. This little red dot is designed for compact, concealed carry guns, but its heavy duty construction makes it a capable turkey sight, too. This is another RMSC footprint red dot, so another good option for the new Mossberg turkey guns coming out.
One nice thing about the Sentinel is that it has a variety of manual or auto settings. You can mix and match auto vs. manual. For my turkey gun, I went with the manual brightness adjustment and the shake and wake variant. This means that the dot comes on the instant the sight moves. Brightness is adjusted with two dots on either side of the sight. There are a wide variety of brightness adjustments, which I appreciate.
The one downside is the small window, which actually isn’t really much of a downside. Because the frame is so thin, it doesn’t obscure your view while shooting. Shoot this sight with both eyes open and you’ll have no issues finding that gobbler’s neck. If you’re looking for a durable, low-profile, open emitter sight, the Swampfox Sentinel is an excellent option. —A.R.
You won’t find many other sub $200 red dots in this review because we generally don’t like cheap sights. But the Crimson Trace CTS 1550 is worth considering. Because of its small RMSC footprint, it’s compatible with Mossberg’s 940 turkey guns, which we field tested last year (read the full review of the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey). On this platform, the sight mounts directly to the gun, giving you an ultra-sleek, low profile.
The sight held up to a season of hard hunting and helped kill several toms. The sight comes with a plastic cover that we used to protect it from dings and moisture between sits. The sight has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the dot and turns it down to the lowest setting when you put the cover on.
The downside of this sight is potential long-term durability. As Snow noted in his review of red dot sights: The lack of a gasket between the unit and mounting surface means you need to be careful when using it in wet conditions as moisture can seep into the battery compartment. However, Snow has had one of these sights on his Kimber Mako R7 for more than a year and hasn’t had any problems. —A.R.
There are a ton of great turkey red dots, and finding the best is a matter of figuring out which features are most important to you.
Open emitter sights use a single lens which is protected beneath a hood. Closed emitter sights use two lenses and are typically designed with a tube-style body. Open emitter sights have a smaller profile and weigh less, but they tend to be a little less durable. Closed emitter sights are built to be durable and they’re more effective in inclement weather, but they tend to be a little bulkier and sit higher above the gun.
All the sights in this review adjust for brightness of the dot. This is important because as light conditions change you will want to change the brightness of your dot. For turkey hunters looking to make precise shots, you want to increase the brightness of your dot during brighter conditions (like a sunny mid-morning sit on a green field). If your dot isn’t bright enough during sunny conditions, you won’t see it clearly when a longbeard comes in.
You want to decrease the brightness of your dot in low light conditions (like right after flydown in dense timber). If your dot is too bright under twilight conditions, it will blow out the view of your target.
For these reasons, I prefer red dots with manual brightness adjustments. But I’m used to hunting with red dots and adjusting brightness throughout the day. There’s something to be said for having a dot that adjusts automatically. Just make sure that you experiment with it on both ends of the brightness spectrum to make sure it’s not too bright, or too dim. —A.R.
Red dots come in all sizes, from 1 MOA to 6 MOA. To break that down, a 1 MOA dot will appear to be 1 inch at 100 yards, and a 6 MOA dot will appear to be 6 inches at 100 yards. For turkey hunting I like the smaller size dots with 1 MOA to 3 MOA being about perfect.
Red dot sights don’t have to be red. Many of the sights in this review are also offered with a green dot option. For turkey hunting, I prefer a red dot. Late in the turkey season, on a bright sunny day when the new leaves and spring grasses are popping electric green, a green dot can be hard to see. The red dot pops nicely on all habitat—and on the black feathers of a turkey’s neck. Green reticles also usually have a lower battery life.
All of these sights come with a variety of mounting options. You can mount them directly into a matching optic cut. For example, optics with an RMSc or Leupold DeltaPoint Pro footprint can mount directly to the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey and 500 Turkey Optics-Ready.
If your shotgun doesn’t have an optic cut, you can mount a Picatinny rail to the receiver and attach your optic to the pic rail. Avoid mounts that raise your optic. The low optic mounts will allow you to keep a natural cheek weld and prevent height-over-bore issues. Here are some adapters that will allow your optics to mount to a rail.
Red dots are fantastic for turkey hunting. They aid in fast and accurate shooting without narrowing your field of view, all great things for turkey hunters.
You have three basic options for shotgun optics: LPVOs, holographic sights, and red dots. The most popular option is the red dot because of the battery life, field of view, and precise reticle.
Red is the best choice for turkey hunting because a green dot can get lost in the greenery that emerges during spring turkey season, and green dots have less battery life.
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It’s easier to miss or wound a turkey than you might think. Oftentimes, hunters pull their head off the gun in excitement right as they shoot. Instead of looking down the barrel, they look over it, which causes them to miss high. Using one of the best red dots for turkey hunting helps solve this problem. If you want to see the dot, you’ve got to get your head down and look through the sight. This also makes them ideal for new turkey hunters. Simply place the red dot on the turkey’s neck and squeeze the trigger.
Red dots will also help you shoot more accurately at farther ranges. Modern turkey guns with the right choke/load combo can be effective at 50 yards and beyond. But it’s unethical to shoot at these ranges if you don’t know exactly how your setup patterns and if you don’t practice with it. There’s no bit of gear (red dot sight or otherwise) that makes up for range time or time in the field.
Alex Robinson is Outdoor Life’s editor-in-chief. He oversees an ace team of writers, photographers, and editors who are scattered across the continent and cover everything from backcountry sheep hunting to trail running.
Scott Einsmann is Outdoor Life’s gear editor. He oversees the gear team’s editors and writers who are subject matter experts in bows, knives, hunting, fishing, backpacking, and more. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and two bird dogs.
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