How to Zero a Red Dot Without Iron Sights

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How To Zero a Red Dot Without Iron Sights

Red dot scopes have become a very popular optic lately because they can get you on target fast and improve your accuracy. Not to mention, they’re very affordable compared to low powered variable optics.

Red dot sights have many different uses, but are especially effective close range. For home defense and close-quarters combat, they really can’t be beaten. This is because  they have unlimited eye relief and a simple reticle, which is quick and easy to use, even for a beginner.

Whether you’re brand new to red dots or you just bought a new one, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got it zeroed correctly, which can be a bit of a pain, especially without iron sights.

For those of you who don’t know how to zero in a red dot sight, I’ll explain the two different ways that it can be done without all the hassle.

Let’s get started!

Method #1: Laser Bore Sight

If you’ve ever tried to zero a new optic, you know that it can be time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive.

If you want to know how to sight in a red dot scope without shooting, a bore sight is the answer. Using a bore sight ahead of time will have you hitting paper at 100 yards the first time you shoot, saving you from wasting a lot of time and ammo trying to get to that point on your own.

Bore sighting is pretty simple and something that all shooters should know how to do. And if you learn how to do it properly, it only takes a few minutes!

So what is bore sighting?

A basic explanation is you’ll be aligning the bore, or center of the barrel, of your firearm with the sights that you’re using. In this case, that’ll be your red dot.

How to Zero your Red Dot with Bore Sights

Using a laser bore sight makes this process super easy, as you don’t have to look down the barrel of the gun to sight in. This means you don’t have to remove any parts. It’s also more accurate than bore sighting manually.

To use a laser bore sight, you’ll just insert the device into the barrel of your gun and turn it on. Move your firearm so that the laser is centered on the target. Look through your optic and line up the red dot with the laser dot. It’s as easy as that. Keep in mind you’ll need to take the laser out before you actually shoot.

Best Bore Sight Options for Popular Calibers

Most people think that bore sighting only works with AR-type rifles, however, you can bore sight long guns, shotguns, and handguns as well. Using a laser bore sight makes it a quick and painless process.

Rifle Caliber Bore Sights


This bore sight is great because it works just as well as higher-priced options at a more affordable price. It is nice and bright, making it easy to see and sight in. It’s very accurate, so fine-tuning at the range only takes a couple of shots. It also comes with 2 sets of batteries. Just make sure you take the batteries out when you’re done using it, as there’s no off switch.


What I like about this one is that it is already pre-calibrated for accuracy. This just means it saves you even more time when zeroing because it’ll already be close to center. It also has screws on the side for fine adjustments. This one is made of durable brass and comes with batteries and a little carrying case for storage.


This laser is just like the one above, only made for a different caliber. It has all the same features that allow you to sight in your red dot accurately before you even get to the range. It is compact and lightweight and the carrying case means it’ll be protected during travel.

Pistol Caliber Bore Sights


This bore sight needs to be inserted directly into the chamber, not loaded through a magazine. If you do that, it works flawlessly and is very accurate, having you sighted in, in no time at all. It is sturdy brass and very durable. You do need to take the batteries out after use, as it doesn’t have an off switch.


Sightmark makes great products all around and this one is no exception. As with the rifle calibers above, it has been pre-calibrated for accuracy and has fine-tuning capabilities. A small group of people have experienced an issue with the extractor pushing on the side of the bore sight and thus throwing the laser slightly to the right.


This bore sight will get you sighted in quickly. It produces a nice, bright light that is easy to see. The fine-tuning adjustments make it very accurate. It also comes with batteries and a nylon case for storage. As with most of the others, you do need to take the batteries out to turn it off.

Method #2: Manual Bore Sighting

The second option you can use to zero your red dot without iron sights is the old school method of bore sighting, without a bore sight tool. You’ll be doing this manually.

The most important thing to note when bore sighting your rifle is that you need to eliminate all movement, so you may want to put it in a vise or use sandbags to hold it steady. Also, make sure your weapon is unloaded.

The first thing you’ll need to do is take off the upper and remove the charging handle and bolt, on AR-type rifles. This is so you can see down the barrel. Then replace the upper with your red dot attached.

Your target should be 25 yards for bore sighting. This will get you on paper at 100 yards when you get to the range.

Visually match up the center of your bore with the center of your red dot optic. Adjust your red dot until it’s centered on the target, without moving the gun. You may need to go back and forth between the barrel and the red dot until you have both centered on the target. And that’s it! The process is complete.

While this isn’t extremely hard to do, as I mentioned before, using the laser bore sights eliminates some of the more complicated aspects of this and streamlines the process.

Do you Need Iron Sights with a Red Dot?

I’ve just described two different ways that you can sight in your red dot. Neither one of these uses iron sights. That might make you think that you don’t need iron sights if you have a red dot optic.

However, this was a guide on how to zero a red dot without iron sights, not what you should be using normally. Even though the battery life on most red dots last an extremely long time, you never know when they might run out. Or the red dot could malfunction.

Unlike the lower power variable optics, there is no reticle etched on the glass. If your red dot goes out for whatever reason, having iron sights will still let you find your target. Although you don’t need them for zeroing your weapon, I would recommend having iron sights as a backup on your firearm for regular use.


Hopefully, you’ve learned a few things now and know how to zero a red dot without iron sights.

Keep in mind that you’ll still need to do some fine-tuning once you make it to the range, but bore sighting ahead of time will give you a fairly accurate jumping-off point.

Whether you choose to do it manually or get a bore sight tool to help you out, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money zeroing your firearm at home without even firing a shot.

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