Shotguns…trusty, great for hunting and home defense, and practically impossible to miss a target with…or are they?
Shotguns are pretty good at hitting things with only a general sense of aim, but if you want to hit things consistently (or hit the right things), it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra help in the aim department.
I’ve been a huge fan of shotguns for years, and one thing I have learned is that the sights on your shotgun are more important than you think.
Let’s talk about that, as well as go over a multitude of the best options for shotgun sights.
Summary of Our Top Picks
Table of Contents
Why Do I Need Shotgun Sights?
Modern shotgun ammo holds together well.
The idea that you can’t miss with a shotgun is one of the big myths about this weapon and it makes me cringe whenever I hear it. You got to aim the gun like any other, and that means using the sights.
Most shotguns come with a simple bead sight. In general, there is nothing wrong with a bead sight. It works fine for buck/birdshot and out to 100 yards, it’s effective for slugs. It’s not perfect though.
Beads are often quite small, and they can be difficult to see, especially in low light, or if you are in a hurry the bead can work, but they are not the end all be all for shotguns.
The majority of weapons can benefit from upgraded sights and the shotgun is no different.
I’ve gathered a variety of both optics and sights that are well suited for shotguns of all types — covering sporting use as well as defensive use. Additionally, I tried to accommodate a variety of budgets.
On top of that, I’ve also included options for the most popular styles of shotguns, as well as some that are a little more universal.
I think there’s something for just about everyone here, so let’s get to it!
Best Shotgun Sights
The cool thing about shotguns is that iron sights are still a very valid way to use these guns.
Optics are cool, but shotguns really don’t need them for the tasks most of us use a shotgun for. There are several shotgun sights out there that are much better than your standard bead sight.
For shotguns, iron sights come in beads, open sights and ghost ring sights. Bead and open sights are easy and quick to use with shot. Ghost rings can be used with shot effectively but aren’t typically as fast but work well for slugs.
Open sights are often a compromise that works okay with both.
1.Hi-Viz Snap-on Sight
If you want an incredibly cheap and easy way to upgrade your shotgun’s bead is the Hi-Viz snap-on fiber optic front sight.
There is no gunsmithing required to install this little device. It just snaps on the barrel and you are ready to roll.
This Snap-On sight provides a very high visibility green or red fiber optic front sight. It’s much easier to pick up the front sight in all light conditions and allows you to quickly pick the dot up and put it on target.
A design like this isn’t designed for high volume shooting.
Shotgun barrels get hot and this may cause the polymer to heat up and stretch which may compromise its hold on the barrel. This is still a good choice for hunting and even home defense.
Shotguns are not high-volume weapons and this issue is unlikely to come up in a standard home defense situation or when hunting deer, turkey, hogs, etc. Bird hunting may be another situation where you are shooting a ton of rounds at one time and this might be an issue.
At this low cost, it’s a simple solution to a simple platform. Perfect for those on a tight budget using the always great Maverick 88 or 870 Express.
This is a sight designed for 12-, 20-, and 16-gauge shotguns and it will only work with bare barrels. No vent ribs.
2.XS Big Dot Front Sight
XS sights are well known for their big front sights designed for handguns.
The idea is to improve your speed by providing you a much bigger, and much easier to see bead that just so happens to glow when the lights get low. XS took that same idea and applied it to shotguns.
This single dot replaces your bead by being inserted over the bead. It will work with some beads but includes a bead to replace yours if it’s too big or too small. The difficulty of installing will vary on your gun and the ability to remove the bead.
With a Mossberg 590, I had zero issues unscrewing the front bead and installing this system. It has been on my gun for over a year without any issue.
The XS Big Dot Sight has a tritium vial in the middle that glows very brightly and it’s easy to see in low light. Its white ring is also easy on the eyes and works great for both low light and normal daylight conditions.
Basically, it’s a solid front sight that acts like a bead on steroids.
It is better suited for using shot than slugs. At long ranges, the large size of this front sight is going to make it hard to shoot slugs at smaller targets.
Not to mention, it is affordable and will fit a variety of shotguns. Certainly, double-check the XS website and ensure your gun is covered. It’s a great investment for a home defense shotgun.
3. Williams Gun Sight Fire Sight Ghost Ring
I didn’t want to leave my hunters behind and I know most sporting shotguns come with a ribbed barrel. That ribbed barrel just so happens to be an excellent base for sights.
The Williams Gun Sight Fire Sights are a very handy set of sights if you have a vent rib shotgun.
These sights attach to the vent rib and they work for most shotguns.
Best of all they require zero gunsmithing to install. The front sight sits right behind your traditional bead and provides you a high visibility orange front sight.
Its rear sight is a ghost ring model that flanked by two glowing green orbs for low light shootings. These sights are quick and easy to acquire and well suited for hunting deer, hogs, turkey, etc.
They are an excellent choice for slug guns and because they are easy to install and remove you can easily switch from deer season to bird season. Also, they are affordably priced.
4. Trijicon Night Sights
Trijicon is the name in duty grade night sights, and duty optics, and basically anything that glows in the dark and Trijicon night sights are also made for shotguns!
Well, they are made for Remington shotguns to include the 870, 1100, and 1187.
These sights are not for everyone, and not for every 870. You’ll have to take it to a gunsmith for install.
The receiver needs to be tapped for a rear sight and installed and the barrel will need to bead removed and the front sight permanently attached via welding.
They are outstanding for long-range slug work, and precision buckshot work.
The tritium vials glow brightly, and one is placed in the front sight and one on each side of the ghost ring. It’s perfect for home defense, including night time work.
These are explicitly made for defensive and duty use and are duty grade sights.
Trijicon is the professional’s choice for a reason. These are serious sights for serious work, and I’ll say it again aren’t for everyone.
However, if you want a bombproof, well-proven design for defensive and combative use these sights are an excellent go-to option.
5. TacStar Shotgun Sights
Being able to replace a bead sight with a ghost ring usually requires you to send your shotgun off to your gunsmith.
TacStar makes tons of budget-grade shotgun gear, and these iron sights are quite affordable. They install easily enough and provide you with a set of adjustable iron sights that give you ghost ring precision without the need for a gunsmith.
The rear sight allows you to adjust for both windage and elevation and makes it easy to zero your shotgun for buckshot and slugs.
It’s simple to adjust and uses a set of hex screws that you loosen to adjust and tighten to create a fixed point. Sadly, this loose and free method of adjustment doesn’t allow for any kind of measurable movements.
It’s a bit of guesswork. However, it’s easy enough to get on target. I wouldn’t use these sights for tactical applications of any kind.
They aren’t exactly rock-solid or made of metal. It’s a lot of thin plastic, and I think these sights are best reserved for hunting and maybe just for fun shooting.
6. Magpul MBUS Sights
MBUS sights on a shotgun? Am I crazy? Well, no, not at all.
I know these Magpul MBUS sights are mostly known for their use on rifles, specifically AR-15s. However, there are lots of shotguns out there these days with inline stocks.
This includes the S&W M&P 12, the Sentry 12, the VR 80, the VRBP-100, and, well, a ton more.
On these shotguns, the MBUS sights sit perfectly on the gun, and of course, the bigger peep sight makes more sense on a shotgun.
They work well as stand-in ghost ring sights. They don’t have the speed of a bead or red dot but offer plenty of precision and are fast enough to be capable.
$37 at OpticsPlanet
Prices accurate at time of writing
These sights fold out of the way when not in use and will co-witness perfectly with whatever red you might be rocking and rolling with.
Magpul makes competent iron sights that can take abuse. Plus, you can make measurable adjustments when zeroing your weapon to slugs or buckshot.
What’s your take?
As close-range weapons, shotguns can be easily equipped with a red dot and be ultra-effective. Red dots are not necessary on shotguns but can make you faster and would allow you to easily use both slugs and shot.
They aren’t limited to a load. If you are going to be using both slugs and shot, then you should zero the dot to slugs.
Your use of shot at close range will still be incredibly effective. The dot will be zeroed enough for dropping buckshot into a target accurately enough to take it down.
7. Holosun 507C
The Holosun 507C is my all-time favorite red dot sight for shotguns.
It’s super small, easy to use, and provides a versatile platform for directing your loads of shot. Not only do you get the Trijicon RMR footprint, but a solar panel, a side-loading battery, and multiple reticles.
The multiple reticles are where the magic sits. The reticles include a 2 MOA dot, a 32 MOA circle, and a 32 MOA circle, and a 2 MOA dot. For shotguns, the 32 MOA circle works perfectly.
Smart shooters will pattern the load inside the 32 reticles at specific ranges.
For example, I know that my chosen load of home defense buckshot will pattern within the circle at 12 yards. Twelve yards is the range of the longest possible shot in my home.
I have full pellet accountability with my red dot.
The 507K has taken tons of abuse and keeps on ticking. It eats up abuse, mounts nice and low on a shotgun, and is super easy to use.
The dot outperforms ghost rings, beads, and rifle sights in every way for shotgun shooters.
12-gauge shotguns are like hammers recoil-wise; but the 507C eats it up. All in all, this is a decent optic for those that prefer that red dot style.
8. Burris FastFire 3
The Burris FastFire 3 is a great mini red dot for a few reasons and is great on shotguns for a number of other reasons.
First, it is small and light and easy to use. It’s rugged, dependable, and affordable for what you are getting.
This red dot has three intensity settings and an auto setting that will adapt the reticle to the light around you. The auto setting is legit and does adapt quickly to the light around you.
It’s also a pretty solid unit and mine has been banged around a lot and it still keeps going. The FastFire 3 comes in 3 or 8 MOA. And to me, the 8 MOA is better for shotguns, but the 3 itself isn’t bad either.
You can find it with a Picatinny mount as well as a hood to protect the optic. It’s got a top-loading battery, one-button controls, and is very lightweight.
A big reason I love it is the Speed Bead mounting system. This mounts between the stock and the receiver and the red dot replaces your bead. It allows you to mount the optic to guns without needing to tap them for an optics rail.
Not to mention, it also positions the optic far enough down that it is super low profile and easy to use with a traditional shotgun sight.
9. EOTech EXPS2
The EOTech offers shotguns a very interesting design for shotguns, I specifically like the EOTech EXPS2 for shotguns.
EOTech optics provide a combination of features that compliment shotguns very well. Let’s explain some of these features.
First, the square-shaped design encourages two eyes opened shooting, which is perfect for a shotgun. It gives you a wide field of view that is a must for close-quarters shooting. You have time to miss seeing your target.
Next, the traditional reticle is perfect for shotguns and works well for both slugs and buckshot.
The 68 MOA ring and 1 MOA red dot combination are very versatile. You should pattern your shotgun for different distances and you should know the distance you can engage with a shotgun.
With that in mind, the shotgun rules in close quarters use and the big red 68 MOA circle makes it easy to put that big circle on the target and pull the trigger.
When it comes down to speed the big circle makes a big difference.
The 1 MOA dot can be zeroed for slugs and be quite precise for hunting or just long-range engagements in general. This combination is an excellent choice if you want an optic that can do a little bit of it all.
The EXPS2 model is smaller, lighter, and needs only 1 inch of rail to mount. It has 20 brightness settings and a 10-year warranty.
Plus, it handles shotgun recoil very well.
10. Meprolight Foresight
I typically prefer smaller red dots on my shotguns because I find that large red dots get in the way of port reloads.
But I make an exception for the Foresight. Shotguns are versatile weapons, and the Foresight is a versatile red dot.
The Foresight can hold up to 10 zeroes, and you can use your Android or iOS device. You can zero multiple loads of different buckshots, slugs, and birdshot.
For example, I know slugs have more range and benefit from different zeroes.
Heck, even different buckshots can benefit from different zeroes. A load of Federal Flitecontrol travels further than standard buckshot and can benefit from its own zero.
The Foresight allows me to do all of that, and as such, it becomes a pretty handy weapon when you use a variety of different shotgun loads.
It’s a super modern optic that’s all kinds of cool. You can choose five of over 20 different reticles and even zero through your phone or tablet. The optic is charged via USB and lasts for hours and hours.
The Foresight has a sight leveler built into it, as well as a compress that utilizes degrees.
Oh, did I mention the optic’s software updates and improvements? In the future, they are looking to add a round counter to allow you to monitor your ammo capacity as well.
11. Crimson Trace Laser Saddle
One of the most fun I’ve had at SHOT shows range day was at the Crimson Trace booth.
Their new optics were outstanding, but the reason I had so much fun at the booth was the Laser Saddle for shotguns. They had one mounted on a Shockwave and it was a literal blast.
The Laser Saddle fits on the receiver of a Mossberg 500 or 590 series shotgun and gives you an ultra-bright laser sight that allows you to fire from the hip accurately.
It’s absurdly low profile and very bright.
Also, it adds hardly any bulk to the design and is easy to use in a firing position without compromising your positioning.
Not to mention, it’s ultra-bright and gives you a sure shot and a solid idea of where you are aiming.
Variable Slug Scope
Slug guns are quite popular in states where it’s very flat and rifles are prohibited.
A slug gun is technically a shotgun but is designed with a rifled barrel to accurately shoot a slug. These guns shoot pretty far so a variable scope is a great addition to a slug gun.
12. Bushnell Trophy Shotgun Scope
Bushnell makes affordable optics that often punch above their weight when it comes to quality.
You won’t need a crazy level of magnification, and the Bushnell Trophy Shotgun Scope is a 1.75-4x power compact optic designed for slug guns.
The Trophy Shotgun scope has their rain guard HD which makes it easy to aim in wet conditions. It uses a simple circle X reticle that is far from complicated and well suited for short-range slug gun shooting.
This shotgun scope has a fast-focus eyepiece, and this makes it quick to go from shoulder to shoot.
It features fully-multicoated optics, ¼ MOA adjustments, and its backed with a Lifetime Warranty.
This is a purpose-built scope and that’s why I appreciate it for a slug gun. Plus, the low price and excellent warranty are great selling points.
Never underestimate the need to aim with a shotgun and the need for good sights. Hopefully, we’ve give you some decent options — whether you’re after irons, red dots, or scopes.
Did your favorites make our list? Let us know in the comments below! While you’re here, why not check out the Best Shotguns for Home Defense?
12 Best Shotgun Sights: Iron, Ghost, Red Dot, Scope is written by Travis Pike for www.pewpewtactical.com