Best Shotgun Sights: From Tactical to Practical
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Stock shotgun sights are fair at best and will get the job done in a pinch, but who doesn’t love customizing the sights on a new gun? Like anything else, choosing an aftermarket sight is about setting the shotgun up for a specific purpose.
Shotgun sights vary in application – -some excel at hunting, others competing, and sill others home defense — or shooting sports like dusting clays with friends.
We all see differently, so choosing a sight that works for you, especially in the right color, can be a process. Even with all the categories of shotgun types, there are aftermarket sights available. This article is part of our ongoing Guide to Shotgunning.
In This Article
What to look for with shotgun sights
1. Easy Installation & Long-Lasting
Whether you’re putting on a shotgun sight for hunting turkey, to keep by your bedside, or for shooting competitions, you need to be able to trust that your new sight will not fail you in your time of need. With iron sights, you don’t have to worry about them failing, but they can fall off or become dislodged if not correctly installed.
Tritium sights have a long “glow life,” but eventually, the lamps will dim and need replacing – any night sight will fade after years of use. A quality red dot sight will have a long battery life or even be solar-powered.
Look for the longest-lasting sight, but also check the manufacturer’s warranty. A good manufacturer will replace the lamps, offer several years of replacement warranty, or even have a lifetime warranty.
2. A Sturdy Installation/Mount
There are many gimmicky sights out there — some snap on, clip-on, slide onto the barrel, sit in front of the rib, etc. If the activity you’re doing doesn’t involve much movement — and isn’t as crucial as a self-defense scenario or winning a competition — these sights will serve their purpose.
Quality shotgun sights should mount firmly on the gun, screw into the barrel, or even require gunsmith installation. QD mounts, for example, are great for certain situations, but if you’re using an optic for shooting competitions, the lever can loosen or get caught on a dump barrel, and there goes your sight.
Before choosing a sight, read reviews from actual customers and the installation instructions to see how it mounts onto the gun and gauge others’ thoughts.
3. Proven Durability
Quality shotgun sights can have a long-lasting battery and have a sturdy mount but may not offer the same level of durability for every situation or weather condition. When it comes to scopes and red dots mounted on the shotgun, you need to be able to trust that your zero will hold even if the gun is dropped or bumped.
The other consideration for dots and scopes is the temperature range for which they are rated. Most scope hunting seasons are in the fall and winter, where encountering sub-zero temps might be more likely than bagging a trophy buck. Ensure that whatever your intended purpose is for the shotgun, the optic can also handle it.
Just like with any firearm, iron sights will always be a reliable option, but with shotguns they’re still very useful thanks to the wide spread a shotgun creates. Many popular versions of iron sights for shotguns include colored beads, long fiber optics, and — much like a pistol — a rear and front sight.
1. Best Basic Bead: Carlsons High Visibility Beads
One of the simplest upgrades you can make is changing out the front bead on your shotgun to a color your eyes pick can up quickly. Carlsons high visibility shotgun beads come in red and white and can screw into any shotgun with a 3-56 or 6-48 thread.
2. Best Universal Fiber Optic: TruGlo Universal Front Sight
TruGlo is a popular brand in the pistol market, but they also make solid shotgun sights, and their TruGlo front universal sight is about as simple as it gets. No gunsmithing or really much involved other than snapping it onto your barrel. They come in 12, 20, and 410 gauges and be had for a little under $20.
The shallow profile keeps things low, and bright green fiber optic is much improved over a basic bead, especially when shooting in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.
Granted, this isn’t something that you’ll want to use for extended range sessions or bird hunting where you’re swinging and spraying — the plastic can get warm and expand leading it to move around — but for larger game or home defense, where one or two shots is all you get, this works a treat.
3. Multi-Colored Option: Hiviz Spark III
Hiviz is a big name in the colored fiber optics market. The Spark III front interchangeable three pipe bead replacement sight fits most vent-ribbed shotguns.
Not only does it come with a green, red, and white fiber optic front sight, it also comes with five different screws in varying thread sizes to fit nearly any shotgun.
4. Best Front/Rear Combo: TruGlo Slug Front/Rear Set
Shooting slugs out of a shotgun is a lot easier with a rear sight. For most shotguns, the rear sight keeps your eye aligned with the front sight. The TruGlo slug gun front/rear 3-dot sight set was designed for Mossberg shotguns to look identical to what you would see on a pistol.
These sights are fully adjustable for windage and elevation and include rear green fibers, and a front, red fiber.
Ghost Ring Sights
Ghost ring sights on a shotgun allow for longer distance shooting and are ideal for shooting slugs. They are an alternative to the traditional front and rear sights you’d commonly see on a pistol.
If you’re using a shotgun for hunting, ghost sights are a great option. The front sight can be a small dot, a fiber, or a notch post. The rear is an open circle that you line up with the front sight.
5. Best Ghost Ring Sights: XS Sight Ghost Ring Sights
XS Sight systems created a tactical ghost ring sight set that fits Remington models 870/1100/11-87, Mossberg 500/590, and Ithica 37. The front sight is similar to their handgun sights, which uses a green tritium sight with two options for the rear sight, opening it up for both long and short-range shooting.
The front sight may require minor fitting but it’s well worth the time investment if you ask us. You get a much larger bead that’s easier to see and glows in the dark, for even more use out of your scattergun.
6. Best Snap-On Ghost Ring: TacStar Ghost Ring Sight
A top ghost ring sight for the Remington 870 is the TacStar shotgun ghost ring sight. Both the front sight attaches directly onto the end of the barrel while the rear sight is installed onto the shotgun receiver. No drilling, tapping, or gunsmithing involved. This has some of the same shortcomings and other snap-on sights (they can heat up & not designed for extended use) and they’re not particularly durable, but if you want ghost rings the easy way, this is the ticket.
A pair of hex screws allows for both elevation and windage adjustments, which lack precision but are helpful if you plan on living as a forest dweller.
7. Best Night Sight Set: Trijicon Adjustable Sights
Trijicon is a well-known brand in the red dot and scope markets, with a particular foothold in the duty-grade market, but they also design night sights for shotguns.
Their duty-grade adjustable night sights include both a front and rear sight that adjust for elevation and windage. The ghost ring aperture rear sight has two tritium inserts that can give you easy sight acquisition in low light conditions. The front sight has a single tritium dot with sealed glass lamps making these perfect for home defense.
These are not compatible with every 870, and a gunsmith will be needed for installation to tap the receiver and weld the front sight in place, but that level of effort means you get a rock-solid setup for slugs and longer-ranged shotgun use.
If you’re a professional (or aspire to be one) these are the sights you’ll want on a combat shotty, no question.
Red Dots & Reflex Sights
Red dot optics come in all shapes and sizes. They can run red or green dots, include holographic sights, work with night vision, offer solar energy panels, and easily mount onto a shotgun with a Picatinny rail.
8. Best Reflex Sight: Holosun 510C
The Holosun 510C reflex sight circle dot reticle is popular for its wide field of view and a large reticle that aligns with shot spread. It is powered by solar panels and also has a battery backup for use in low-light conditions.
It is QD integrated onto a standard Picatinny rail. The reticle can change from dot only, ring, or dot and ring reticle combinations. The brightness settings are adjustable, and its night vision compatible. I’ve used my 510C in a variety of 3 Gun competitions — dropping into barrels and bouncing off barricades, and it’s held up to it all.
It’s tiny, simple, and gives you lots of options. Plus the Trijicon RMR footprint is almost ubiquitous, a solar panel adds battery life, and side-loading battery ensures you can swap them without losing your zero. What’s not to like?
9. Best Red Dot: Sig Sauer Romeo5
Sig Sauer’s Romeo5 red dot is a classic, and I’ve used mine since 2018 for everything from ARs to PCCs and shotguns. I really think its the value best red dot anywhere, and it’s loaded with features you want. It’s got 40,000 hours (!) of battery life is also compatible with night vision, has motion-activated illumination for optimal battery life, and mounts onto Picatinny rails — plus it’s fully waterproof.
When I want a simple red dot that I know can put up with a day of training, I reach for the Romeo5. The shake awake tech ensures the battery is always good to go, and I love the high mount, which makes co-witnessing a breeze. It’s just such a solid performer.
10. Premium Red Dot Pick: Aimpoint Micro
The Aimpoint shotgun rib red dot sight is a unique sight, and a little different from most red dots. This dot mounts directly to the shotgun at any point along the vented rib. Aimpoint also includes interchangeable adapter plates to adjust for a more snug fit.
This dot gives shooters the ability to set the dot up specifically for how they see best. The rib mount means the sight does not sit up particularly high but is built with a lower possible optical axis to align it with the shotgun’s bore, just like if you were aiming with your eye and front bead sight. It’s a unique mix of red dot tech with shotgun usability, which makes for a very comfortable shoot.
11. Turkey Hunting Pick: TruGlo Gobble-Stopper
The TruGlo gobble-stopper turkey hunting dot sight was made for, you guessed it, turkey hunting. One of the unique features is the dual-color dot sight that you can switch from red to green, giving you the best of both worlds in all lighting conditions.
When you’re hunting turkey, your gear will most likely be fully camouflaged, and lighting conditions will be forever changing, so the versatility is a serious advantage.
This dot sight is ready to head inna woods with its all-purpose green camo color. There is a spare battery storage compartment and has an integrated weaver-style mounting system with the option of a riser mount.
Having a scope on your shotgun is great for hunting with slugs, hunting deer and turkey alike, and making those longer shots more accurate.
12. Best Fixed Magnification Scope: TruGlo Compact Shotgun Scope
TruGlo’s compact shotgun scope has a 4x magnification and 4” eye relief. The field of view is 24’ at 100 yards making this an excellent option for hunting turkey and deer.
This scope is durably made of aircraft aluminum, is scratch-resistant and lightweight — plus it mounts using Weaver-style rings. The Diamond reticle makes target acquisition easy with coated lenses for maximum brightness, clarity, and contrast.
13. Best LPVO: Crimson Trace Brushline Pro
Crimson Trace designed the Brushline Pro second focal plane (SFP) shotgun scope with a 50mm objective lens. This allows for more light to see in those early mornings or last light conditions when hunting, and the BDC pro reticle gives you accurate holds for longer-range shots.
14. Best Slug Scope: Hammers Cantilever Scope
Hammers Cantilever barrel deer slug shotgun scope has a 7x magnification and windage and elevation adjustment screws are easily adjustable without any tools. The reticle is a simple fine line x reticle, and the scope mounts via weaver or cantilever mount, everything you need in a basic shotgun scope, nothing else.
15. Best SFP: Vortex Diamondback
Vortex Optics is a big name in the optics industry and makes excellent quality scopes and red dots. The Diamondback second focal plane scope has 5x magnification.
It is made with aircraft-grade aluminum for maximum durability and resistance to magnum recoil — plus it’s both waterproof and fog proof. There are two options of reticles – a dead hold BDC and V-Plex. The BDC reticle allows for holdover options for longer-range shots, and the scope is rated for big game hunting, muzzleloader, slug shotgun, and brush hunting.
Any aftermarket or non-stock piece or part added to a firearm immediately puts the gun out of spec. Aftermarket parts are also most always not an “approved” part by the actual manufacturer of the weapon.
While most shotgun sights are not going to change the internal functions of the shotgun, some installations may require a Dremel tool, threading a new hole, or tapping into the rib of the gun. Just know that with any modification of the firearm, that is a point of weakness.
Always maintain your firearm, check aftermarket parts for wear and tear, and know that eventually, they may need replacing.
One of the benefits of finding a more versatile sight is the ability to customize it to you. With fiber optic sights, look for options that allow you to switch out the green fiber with a white fiber, for example. Red dots that have both green and red options are beneficial for when lighting conditions change.
If something were to break on a shotgun sight, would you have to buy an entirely new set, or could you replace what was broken? This is where knowing the manufacturer’s warranty policy is essential. Companies like Vortex most always replace the entire scope or red dot, no questions asked. Some companies don’t warranty a product if you weren’t the original owner.
The other consideration is finding out how much aftermarket support is available with the product before land in your final selection.
Some sights can be incredibly niche — often leaving you with very few (or even a single) aftermarket options available.
If you haven’t purchased a shotgun yet — and you know you’ll want upgraded sights — take some time to consider the aftermarket part options before selecting a gun in the first place. You’ll thank yourself later.
Another item of consideration is whether or not you need professional installation from a gunsmith. For example, adding a rear sight to your shotgun can help tremendously when hunting using slug ammunition. While the front sight may be an easy swap with a few turns, having a gunsmith properly cut and install your rear sight can be a good investment.
It’s sometimes too easy to listen to what others recommend or tell you to buy and call it a day. But when it comes to seeing the sights on your firearm and making an accurate shot when it really counts, only you can pick the correct sights for your eyes.
March 19, 2023 — We re-checked this guide and continue to stand by our recommended shotgun sight products. Images and links have been reviewed and updated.
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