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Testfire: Holosun HS403R

By Luke Dixon

There are more than a few reasons why one might veer towards a red-dot as a sighting solution. For one, they’re fast to acquire over traditional iron sights, a statement that doesn’t really hit you until you try it on a timer. 


While it started with hunting, red-dots have become a staple of law enforcement and are a popular choice in certain military applications. The action target shooting community is also a big market for these sights, though in this arena the latest generation of low power variable optics (think Vortex Razor) which are a hybrid in some sense, are rapidly gaining traction. 


Forty-five years ago, the Swedish company of Aimpoint pioneered the technology and their success can be gauged by military and police contracts the world over. Today the red dot market is saturated with manufacturers ranging from the traditional telescopic scope makers to the airsoft commandos out of China. 


Side on view showing the zeroing adjustment dials and brightness adjuster/battery compartment.


Quality and price are in many respects as varied as the traditional optic market, but the some of the players are somewhat more specialised, tending to focus on a very narrow line of products. Due to the electronic nature of these devices, intellectual property theft is more prevalent, the production set up costs are also less, so buyer beware. 


Holosun is a Chinese company that was established in 2013. They came to the attention of most consumers when they launched their product lines at Shot Show 2015. The response was overwhelmingly positive given the sleek designs and the boasts of incredible battery life and durability for a fraction of the price of their competition.


It was the every man’s answer to the Aimpoint T-series micro dots, if of course, it could live up to those boastful claims. Up until I purchased this Holosun red-dot, my only positive experience with the type are with that of the Aimpoint Patrol, a somewhat heavier and larger sight. 


“The response was overwhelmingly positive given the sleek designs and the boasts of incredible battery life and durability for a fraction of the price of their competition.”


It never let me down and was a favourite of mine for some time, but it was bigger than perhaps it needed to be, at least for my needs. I have had a handful of negative interactions with red-dots over the years that had steered me away from ever trying anything other than Aimpoint. 


Recently however, I had a rig setup that would be perfect for such an optic. Despite my reservations I had heard some positive mummering’s about Holosun. Having been on the fence about a lightweight micro sized red-dot for some time, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase one when I saw it on sale for $287.50. 


The price seemed too good to be true, you stop and wonder, this isn’t some airsoft junk knock off is it? But no, it’s the Holosun HS403R!



Holosun have become a known brand in the US for the features/price ratio primarily. The features of each model would be those you’d likely see on other high tier brands like that of Aimpoint and Trijicon, but at a price point lower than even Vortex. 


The popularity comes down to the fact that Holosun have largely been consistent with their claims. What has always separated ‘the men from the boys’ in the red dot field has been two things - battery life (50’000 hrs+) and durability. Aimpoint has achieved this in large part to the LED technology they employ. 


The LEDs used in Aimpoint optics are incredibly small and whilst that might sound like an obvious design decision, it was difficult to produce. The smaller diameter diode is shaped more less precisely to what is emitted on the glass and requires significantly less power to run, thus increasing the battery life. 


Picatinny rails make mounting a simple task. The standard height riser block mount fitted here with a low profile mount included in the box.


This is the key difference between it and its cheaper competitors, who use larger, cheaper, more readily available, and less efficient LEDs. The competitors will then tape these LEDs down to the correct reticle size, subsequently draining battery potential on a part of the LED that will never be seen. 


The giveaway that this sort of thing could be the case will usually be the battery life stated on the box. Smaller LEDs are becoming cheaper and more available as the years have progressed, but even then, not all are equal in both quality and power efficiency.


Holosun has followed Aimpoint’s lead and implements the small LEDs in their optics and has also produced a remarkably efficient green LED that has extended battery life even further. 



The HS403R is a 1x (no magnification) red-dot optic with a multi-coated 20mm objective lens. The reticle is a 2 MOA dot (meaning the dot covers 2 inches-ish at 100 yards) with 50 MOA of adjustment. It has 12 intensity settings, that are operated by rotating a dial on the side of the main body. 


The rotating dial also doubles as the battery compartment cover for a button type battery (CR2032). The advantage being that the battery can be switched out without requiring the optic to be removed from the firearm. 

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As stated earlier this sight ‘borrows’ heavily from the Aimpoint T-Series Microdots, so suffice to say, it’s a good-looking little device. Made of Aluminium as one might expect, the quality of the machining is excellent. A few of the cheaper red-dots out there seem to suffer from some rather rough looking machining marks, but this sight is damn near perfect.


The main optic body is mated very securely to the riser block via hex screws. On top and on the right are the two raised turrets for adjusting the dot and are shrouded to prevent damage.


On each cap is a protruding engagement lip for the corresponding groove in the turrets underneath, a handy way to add or remove a ‘click’ on the fly. 


The sight adjustments notched cap doubles as the adjustment tool.


On the ‘R’ model we are having a look at here is a large dial for the illumination setting, this is a departure from the norm on the Holosun line as most have intensity up and down buttons. 


The advantage is the simplicity of operation, as I personally don’t like trying to punch combos into rubbery feeling buttons to change functions.


I like turn to desired intensity and off respectively. There is so little to this rather small and simple sight, but that is probably one of the appeals of this device, it’s size.



If you’ve had experience with other affordable red dots of the first things you’ll notice when peering through the Holosun is a lack of hue on the glass, there is a tiny bit there, but not enough to really notice. There is nothing that gets under my skin more than a distorted colour spectrum.


This is particularly frustrating when I’m standing in the scrub, elevated heart rate, focusing on my intended target with my eyes, then re-acquiring that subject in the scope and having to superimpose what I know to be there through a different colour filter. 


The time spent dealing with that distraction can be the difference between bringing that animal home or not. Suffice to say, it’s a relief to have an affordable optic with significantly less of that hinderance. 


Looking through the Holosun.


One of my other pet peeves about lower priced red dots is the emitter exposure. When you shoulder your rifle and look through the Holosun you cannot see the emitter, only the reticle is presented, like it should be. 


The beautifully crisp red dot is very easy to acquire and doing some parallax testing did not appear to move off point at all. Just a note, if you have astigmatism in your eyes like I have, (uncorrected by glasses) you will see more of a star effect than a crisp clear circle when using a red dot.


If you’re glasses correct your astigmatism the dot should be pretty near perfect. But if you don’t have glasses, then an alternative sight type worth considering might be a holographic or prismatic optic which should reduce if not totally remove the blurriness from the reticle. 



Situated on top of my Troy PAR, sighting in was a breeze. After bore sighting and getting on paper at 25 yards, my first shots went high right about 2-1/2 inches high and 1 inch right at 100 yards (when sighting with American sights I usually work in imperial units of measurement). 


Given the scope has .5 MOA adjustments I simply brought the reticle down 5 clicks and left 2 clicks, and bingo! It was zeroed, bearing in mind the dot covers 2 inches at 100yds. A couple of more tests of zero and yes it was confirmed, the centre of the group being right where I wanted. 


After about 320 rounds of firing on different outings it hasn’t skipped a ‘click’ so to speak. Bringing the sight up on target for rapid shots is what red dots are all about and for that purpose the sight worked flawlessly. 


The emitter never lost brightness or flickered, it was always easy to pick up and at dusk I simply adjusted the reticle to the conditions. There is nothing to report but perfect function. My only regret was not testing the sight with the 3x magnifier also produced by Holosun. 

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  • 1x Red Dot Optic with high mount installed (M1913 20mm Rail Type)
  • 1x Low mount (M1913 20mm Rail Type)
  • 1x ‘Bikini’ type rubber covers
  • 1x Instruction manual (of minimal detail)

Varied reports as to whether they come with batteries, mine didn’t, but my supplier very kindly threw one in the box without me saying a word. 



Ultimately performance and durability are king, and in that respect this optic is truly deserving. The only knocks I have on this optic are minor, the first being the screws, they’re cheap and easily distorted while tightening. 


The awful little tool provided for the mounting screw is garbage and should be immediately reserved for the odds and ends bottom tool drawer. Other than that, the only other knock I have is the origin, while many quality devices are made in China, there are trade-offs for those rock bottom prices, and it’s a personal thing as to how you go about accepting or rejecting these things. 


There are very few if any optics I would purchase from China unless they were reportedly exceptional, and to be fair the Holosun is to a degree. I do like the 403R and if I needed another red dot, I would not hesitate to look further into the Holosun range. And if I did buy another, I’d probably invest in the quick detach version. 




NOTE: Model Nomenclature

Figuring out what you’re looking at is half the challenge when looking at the wide array of models Holosun produce. I hope this helps and I’m sure there are some that may still be missing.


I’ve also noticed that even though a scope might have the feature it may not always have it in its designation, just to make things worse. 


4 (First digit) Single red dot

5 (First digit) Multiple type reticles (i.e. 2 MOA Dot with 32 MOA Ring)


HS Holosun Standard

HE Holosun Elite

A Battery on the bottom of the body

B Battery is located on a side mounted tray

C Solar and battery powered

G Dial side mounted battery compartment with button actuation

M 7000 series aluminium body 

O Open Circle reticle

K Sub-Compact optic

R5 Side mounted red laser emitter

G5 Side mounted green laser emitter

T Titanium body

L Model improved over previous iteration

RD Red illumination

GR Green illumination

GD Gold illumination

R Rotary illimitation dial


Holosun HS403R
Optical Data  
Light Source  LED
Reticle 2 MOA Dot 
Parallax Free  Yes
Unlimited Eye Relief Yes
Magnification 1x
Multi-Coatings Yes
Integrated Laser No
Electronic Data  
Battery Type CR2032
Battery Life Up to 100,000 Hours
Brightness Setting 10 Daylight & 2 NV Compatible
Mechanical Data  
Housing Material Aluminium
Surface Finish Matte 
Housing Colour Black
Adjustment per Click 0.5 MOA
Windage/Elevation Travel Range ±50 MOA
Working Temperature -5.5°C - 60°C
Submersion IP67
Vibration Up to 1000G
Physical Data  
Window Size 20mm Diameter
Dimension 70mm × 36mm × 41mm
Weight 106gms


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