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Open vs. Closed Emitter Red Dots

Posted by Cerus Team

Open vs. Closed Emitter Red Dots

Today I want to dive into a conversation that is happening a little more often these days in regards to pistol optics. Should I go with an Open or Closed Emitter for my handgun? I want to talk about what the differences are and why you might be interested in one option more than another. Read our red dot comparison below.

What is an open emitter? 

Simply put, an open emitter is something like your Trijicon RMR, Leupold Delta Point Pro, and honestly 90% of your pistol red dots. They have an emitter that projects the dot onto a piece of glass. However, dirt, water, and other elements can get into the emitter and block it. This means your dot does not appear on the glass. Now, how often does this happen? For most concerned citizens, very rarely, if at all. I have only encountered it once while I was shooting due to snow getting into the emitter. If your primary and only use for your handgun is to EDC then you will probably never have any issues with an open emitter because it is hidden under a t-shirt or jacket. However, if you are a LEO or someone who wants that added level of assurance, then something like an Enclosed emitter might be more your speed. Open Emitters do have a lot going for them though! They tend to have larger windows which means it’s easier to find your target and dot. They are also proven optics, open emitters like the RMR have been around for 10-plus years now and are built like tanks. Plus, a lot of red dots mount to the RMR footprint so you can try a lot of different optics! So if you are happy with your open emitter then there is pretty much no reason to switch

What is a closed Emitter?

Closed emitters have grown in popularity in the last year or so. This is because there are just better options on the market and more companies are making them. You have probably seen the Aimpoint Acro P-2, Holosun 509t, and the Steiner MPS pop up on social media and thought to yourself “Those things are huge”. Closed emitters prevent debris from blocking the emitter because the emitter is housed within the optic itself. This means that by simply brushing off the debris on your optic you are back to shooting. This can be a huge benefit but for most of us it just becomes a nice peace of mind feature. As I mentioned before, I have only had 1 issue with an open emitter but that one issue caused me to start looking into closed emitters because I wanted a dot that would work when it snows and rains. However, like I mentioned before, how often will you find yourself in that situation? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself.  

 So which one should I go with?

Just like everything else in this industry, the answer comes down to “It depends”. On paper, it seems enclosed emitters give you all the benefits of an open emitter red dot without any of the downsides but there are a few that you need to be aware of. The biggest is battery life. Most closed emitters simply do not have the same battery life as their open emitters counterparts. Thankfully, most companies have battery trays that make switching batteries easy but it’s 2024, so we shouldn’t have to swap our batteries every 3 months. Closed emitter optics can also make it seem like you are looking through a huge box, which you essentially are. For some people, they hate this and for others, they say it helps them find the dot easier so it comes down to personal preference. The other downside is how few people use them. Now you might be wondering how is that a bad thing. As I mentioned before, red dots like the RMR have a 10-year track record, you know exactly what you are getting. Red dots like the ACRO, and MPS have been around 2-3 years and since not a lot of people are running them there is just less information on them. 

The Verdict: 

For me personally, I have owned both and loved using both. When it comes to durability I have never broken a red dot. I don’t notice a difference when it comes to shooting and battery life isn’t the biggest issue for me. I would rather have the best red dot I can on my gun and if that means changing the battery every 3 months then that is fine with me but for you, that could be a deal breaker. Currently, I am rocking with the closed emitter but time will tell if I go back to the open emitter. Choose an optic and train with it, you can shoot just as well with an open emitter as you can with a closed emitter and vice versa. It just depends on how much time you spend learning how to become better. Closed emitters are becoming a trend, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to change just because you see everyone else up on the bandwagon. Open and Closed are the same thing at the end of the day, so pick one you’re happy with.