Virginia Red-Dot Reconnaissance

Our shopper searches for red-dot optic knowledge in the Shenandoah Valley

customer yelling at empty desk with news channel on TV
The search for red-dot optic knowledgePixel Pushers

Red-dot optics are hot—like, really hot—in today’s market. People are putting them on things from EDC pistols to home defense shotguns and everything in between. One of the most popular host platforms, of course, is the modern sporting rifle (MSR). By that logic, any gun shop that’s even remotely worth its salt would have some MSRs and red-dots, right?

Store A


A lot of smaller gun shops in the South aren’t stand-alone businesses. It’s not uncommon to find firearms for sale in the local hardware store, like they were in the old days, and that’s just how Store A was set up.

I found the gun counter at the back of the store easily enough. It wasn’t big, but boy was it packed with inventory. The cases were crammed full of pistols and revolvers, and the racks behind the counter were well stocked with a variety of rifles and shotguns.

The aisles of accessories were equally well stocked. Much to my delight, there was an entire aisle case chock-full of optics of all kinds under lock and key. You name it, they had it, including about 12 options that fit what I was looking for.

Unfortunately, the two guys behind the counter were engaged with someone who was clearly a regular. Meanwhile, I wandered the aisles, passing by the three of them multiple times. I made sure to spend a good deal of time at the optics case, which was right in their line of sight, so I know they saw me.

After 15 minutes or so, it became clear that their conversation was far more important than a potential customer. I walked away without their ever having said a word to me.

Store B


As soon as I walked into this gun store, I felt valued. There were numerous customers milling around and being helped at the various counters. Even though they were busy, two people welcomed me right away and told me not to hesitate asking for help.

I thanked them and got the lay of the shop. Their ammo selection was one of the best I’d ever seen. Accessories were everywhere, for any kind of gun you could think of, along with a healthy mix of used and new guns.

One of the long display cases was full of optics, but they were mostly the traditional kind. Only a few red-dots were visible.

One of the employees asked if I had any questions. I told him what I was looking for and asked about the selection.

He apologized that they didn’t have more available but offered to answer any questions I had. He knew all about the models in the shop, and even about others not on hand. By the time we were done, I had figured out the kind of red-dot I was looking for. They didn’t have it in the shop, but the clerk helping me recommended a place online that had a good deal on the specific model I wanted if I didn’t want to wait for them to get one in stock.

Store C


Nestled in a strip mall, the store’s outward appearance, with diverse brand logos posted on the exterior, gave no indication of exactly what I’d find inside.

Upon entering the shop, I was immediately surprised at the size of the place and was greeted by a saleswoman. The store was much bigger than one would imagine looking at it from the outside. I scanned the store quickly and asked where I could find the firearms. “Around the corner,” she advised.

Sure enough, just a few steps away was the gun room. A man behind the counter greeted me right away and asked if I needed any help. (I was the only person in the store.) I told him I’d never been to the store before and was getting ready to tell him that I was looking for red-dot optics when he interjected.

“Well, let me tell you a little about our gun shop. We’re an old-school establishment; we don’t sell any black guns. I mean, occasionally one’ll come in as part of a trade, but we don’t stock ’em.”

I glanced around at the racks. Sure enough, not a single “black gun” in sight. Shotguns and bolt-action rifles dominated the sea of glistening wood stocks, occasionally broken up by a camo pattern on a shotgun.

“Do you carry any red-dot optics?” I asked.

“Nope,” came the quick reply. That was it. They didn’t have any and he didn’t know anything about them, not even for turkey guns. With that, I left the store, which was just as silent upon exit as it was upon my arrival.

Store D


A few miles from Store C, in another strip mall, was Store D. Bright and open, the shop was very welcoming. Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by the man behind the counter, who asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I wanted to browse first, so I said no.

As I looked around, I couldn’t help but hear and see a large TV blaring one of the 24/7 news stations. It was just the employee and me in there, and he was talking to the TV a bit too enthusiastically.

Eventually, I asked if they had any red-dots for rifles. They had a couple of options, and we talked about each of them. He wasn’t an expert, but he did his best to explain the differences between each one, their best application, and the reasons behind the different price points. He was a bit distracted by the talking heads on the TV, but I endured it because he was the only person there.

I left the shop feeling like I’d been helped, but knowing there was much more that could have been offered.

How’d They Do?

Customer Service

Store A: No Stars. Clerks were too busy chatting with a regular to acknowledge me.

Store B: Five Stars. Even though the shop was busy, multiple people greeted me and asked if I needed help.

Store C: One Star. I was greeted by both employees, but it was made clear they don’t sell “black guns” or accessories for them.

Store D: Three Stars. The clerk was friendly and as helpful as could be but was distracted by the TV, which was supposed to just be background noise.

Product Knowledge

Store A: No Stars. The employees couldn’t be pulled from their conversation to talk to me about what I was looking for.

Store B: Five Stars. The clerk I spoke with knew a lot about red-dot optics, and not just the ones they had in stock. He had done his homework.

Store C: No Stars. The clerks don’t sell red-dots so they didn’t know about them.

Store D: Three Stars. The clerk knew enough about red-dot optics to tell me all about the ones they had in stock, but that was it.

Product Availability

Store A: Five Stars. It had a great selection to choose from- the best among all four stores.

Store B: Three Stars. Most of the store’s optics selection was made up of traditional models, but it did have some red-dots to look at.

Store C: No Stars. The store doesn’t sell red-dots.

Store D: Three Stars. The shop had only a couple of options, but the clerk certainly knew there were other options out there on the market.


Store B: The employees were very polite, helpful, and knowledgeable. Even though their red-dot selection wasn’t the best, the employee I worked with knew a lot about them. He offered to order what I wanted, and even made a recommendation for an online retailer if I didn’t want to wait.


7609 Main Street

Middletown, VA 22645