Open vs. Closed Emitter Red Dots

  • Jack Collins

The world of firearms is a long, deep rabbit hole. And few tunnels delve as deeply as the one that brings you to optics. In this post, we’re going to (metaphorically) scratch the surface of red dot optics by looking at the difference between open and closed emitter models.

Open vs. Closed Emitter Red Dots: What’s the Difference?

Opened and closed emitter designs are the two ways that a red dot projects light from an LED or laser over its lens. Open emitter designs feature an LED or laser that’s totally exposed to the outside world. In contrast, closed emitter designs completely enclose the source of their dot in a metal casing.

While the original red dot optics made in the 1970s all featured closed emitter designs, that changed moving into the 2000s. To save on weight, space, and money, companies started making open-emitter red dots.

Open Emitters and Pistol Red Dots

The place where you’re most likely to encounter an open emitter red dot these days is on a pistol. Since pistols need to be light and handy, manufacturers often build pistol red dots with an open emitter design.

However, this can be a problem, especially for anyone who carries their pistol concealed. An open emitter design allows debris to get between the emitter and the lens, blotting out the emitter’s dot. Sweat, dust, dirt, and as Caleb likes to mention, belly button lint, can all hinder an open emitter red dot’s functionality.

Fortunately, many companies are starting to come out with closed emitter pistol red dot designs. Check out the Holosun EPS Carry for an example of what we’re talking about.

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