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Pistol Circle Dot Reticles – What They Are and How to Use Them

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There are many types of red dot reticles coming in all different shapes and sizes, ranging from the simple dot-style reticles to more intricate designs. Regardless of the option, complex reticles add another level of utility to your rifle or handgun

One of the most popular reticles available for red dot sights today is the circle dot reticle. This reticle may appear to have a simplistic design, but it can provide the user with a lot of information, including windage and range. Originally popularized by EOTech for rifles, they’ve since been adopted by other manufacturers and have also become popular for pistols as well.  

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Understanding MOA 

So, what does MOA mean? MOA is an acronym meaning “minute of angle”, which is an angular measurement that can be applied to both the adjustments of your optic and the size of your reticle.  

One MOA accounts for 1/60th of a degree; think of it as the minute ticks on a clock. In terms of adjustments, on an optic with .5-MOA “clicks”, each click will move the point of impact approximately a ½-inch at 100 yards. At closer ranges, that adjustment will be reduced. For example, the same .5-MOA adjustment at 25 yards will move your point of impact only 1/8th of an inch. 

For reticles, one MOA approximates 1 inch at 100 yards. A more common 2-MOA reticle would cover approximately 2 inches of the target at 100 yds, 4 inches at 200 yards, 6 inches at 300 yards, and so on. Essentially, the smaller the MOA, the finer the reticle is. 

For red dots, the most common is 2-MOA, but there are smaller 1-MOA dots available and larger 3- to 6-MOA dots. Most optics come with ¼- or ½-MOA adjustments. So, if you wanted to adjust your reticle one inch at 100 yds, you would need to adjust it by four and two clicks, respectively.  


Circle Dot Reticles 

Circle dot reticles get their name because they have two core components, an outer circle and a center dot. Most circle dot reticles have a 65-MOA outer circle and a 2-MOA center dot, though for mini-reflex sights, a smaller 32-MOA outer circle is more common. This smaller size doesn’t affect its versatility, though. Just like for rifles, they provide data for the user while also making the reticle much easier to pick up.  

One of the biggest problems enthusiasts run into when using a pistol dot sight is that it’s often difficult to pick up the reticle. This isn’t as big of an issue when using a circle dot reticle as the reticle image is much larger, making it easier to find the dot.  

How to Aim with a Circle Dot Reticle 

If you’re used to just using a regular dot, you may be wondering how exactly to aim with a circle dot sight. Aiming with a circle dot reticle is essentially the same as aiming with a regular dot reticle, but like we said before, you have some additional information at your disposal. As we noted, a circle dot reticle can be used to hold for windage and elevation when taking shots at longer ranges. On handguns, you likely won’t be shooting far enough to ever need to account for bullet drop or windage, so the main benefit of having the outer circle is target acquisition. 

In high-stress scenarios where split-second target acquisition is needed, such as competitions and defensive scenarios, finding a standalone dot isn’t always easy. Fortunately, the larger outer circle makes it easier to quickly acquire your sights, getting you on target faster. So long as your optic has been zeroed properly.  

Popular Pistol Red Dots with Circle Dot Reticles 

We hinted at it earlier, but there are a plethora of manufacturers implementing this style of reticle on their optics. While there’s a lot to consider with a pistol red dot, below are some great examples to choose from:  

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Holosun: 507C/507K and SCS 

Holosun needs little introduction, as they are one of the most popular optic manufacturers around. As such, they’re very well known for their mini-reflex sights and pistol red dots, with some of their most popular models being the 507C, 507K, and SCS.  

The 507C is compatible with both full-size and compact pistols and is available in multiple reticle systems, including a 32-MOA circle dot option. There are a lot of features that make this optic so popular. To start, it’s made from an incredibly durable aluminum construction, has two reticle modes (circle dot and dot only), is available in either red or green, and it has a wide field of view. This optic also has a long battery life of up to 50,000+ hours, thanks to its integrated solar failsafe and shake awake technology.  

Built for smaller sub-compact and micro-compact pistols, the 507K is another great choice from Holosun. Though it’s a smaller optic, it comes with many of the same features as the 507C. That said, the 507K doesn’t come with a solar failsafe, but it still has an impressively long battery life, lasting up to 50,000+ hours.  

One of the new entrants in Holosun’s lineup is the SCS. SCS stands for ‘Solar Charging Sight’ and as such, they come equipped with an added solar charging system integrated into the rear of the optic. Whereas other Holosun optics are compatible with multiple handguns through adapters, each SCS model is fitted specifically for varying handgun models. They’re each constructed from Grade 5 titanium, have a 50,000+ hour battery life, and of course, can come with a circle dot reticle. Something to note is that these optics don’t come with a shake awake feature, so they’ll need to be powered off when not in use. Still, the solar charging unit makes up for this.  

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The ROMEOZERO PRO from SIG Sauer is a versatile mini-reflex sight. Similar to the 507C in its size, it also features a circle dot reticle with a 32-MOA outer ring. Instead of having an aluminum construction, the ROMEOZERO is made from a durable polymer, giving it a lighter overall weight while still having high durability. It features a larger 30mm front lens and even has a rear iron sight notch integrated into the optic for easy co-witness. Lastly, it has a long 20,000-hour battery life, and instead of using button controls, it comes with SIG’s Touch-Activated Programming, allowing you to control the brightness via touching the optic.  

Trijicon RMR HD 

Trijicon is one of the industry’s most well-known optic manufacturers. With many optics to their name, their newest iteration of the RMR, the RMR HD, comes with an updated circle dot reticle. The RMR HD is essentially a more robust variation of the standard RMR, having the same mounting footprint and many of the same features, albeit with a few upgrades. To start, the HD has larger controls, a larger lens, a more durable aluminum construction, better waterproofing, and a top-loading battery compartment so you don’t lose zero when changing it out.  

Like the previously mentioned optics, the RMR HD can switch between a 3.25 MOA dot reticle or a circle dot reticle. It even has a forward-facing light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness for optimal viewing. Though it doesn’t have automatic shut-off or motion-activation, it still has a long battery life of 20,000 to 50,000 hours, depending on its use and brightness level.  

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ACSS® Vulcan® Dot Reticle 

This reticle system is one of the most innovative reticles ever designed. Superficially, you could call it a ‘circle dot’ reticle, but that would be a bit of a mischaracterization, as the outer circle serves a completely unique purpose, which you won’t find in any other reticle. It’s a purpose-built reticle for mini-reflex and pistol red dot sights that incorporates a patented aim-correcting feature.  

We mentioned before that one of the biggest problems surrounding pistol reflex sights is the issue of “finding the dot”. This isn’t a problem when using the ACSS Vulcan Reticle though. It features a large 230 MOA outer circle that’s only visible when your aim is off. This outer circle is present to guide you back to the center dot (or chevron, depending on the model) to make certain that you’re always able to come back to your point of aim.  

Our GLx® RS-15 Mini Reflex Sight is the first Primary Arms Optics model that features this reticle, and as such, is one of our most popular reflex sights.  

As a collaboration, there are even Holosun red dots with ACSS Vulcan reticles. The previously mentioned 507C and 507K each have options available that come with our ACSS Vulcan reticle. They even offer an enclosed pistol red dot, the HE509, that comes with it as well. It shares many of the same features as the 507C, albeit with a shorter battery life of 25,000 hours.  

Which Reticle Type is Right for You? 

When it comes to choosing a reticle, that’s ultimately up to your discretion. If you want a reticle that offers a bit more for acquisition, a circle dot reticle is the way to go. On the other hand, if you want a reticle that can help correct aim for fast action shooting without referring to iron sights, we recommend opting for an optic that uses the ACSS Vulcan reticle system.  

Remember, optics can be a costly investment. It’s important to take your needs into consideration before buying. If you already have a red dot ready pistol, you’ll need to make sure that the optic you’re looking at either matches the slide’s mounting footprint or has an adapter plate to make it work.  

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The circle-dot reticle and its variants have become some of the most renowned pistol red dot reticles around. Though it was initially developed for rifles, it also provides enthusiasts with a similar degree of utility on pistols, making it easier to acquire your sight and make an accurate shot on target.  

Like we said before, there’s a lot to consider when selecting a sight for your picture and this article barely scratches the surface of what all’s available. Our guide on reflex sight vs. red dots goes much more in-depth on these optics and is full of optic recommendations for both rifles and pistols.