As we sit here in 2017, there probably isn’t a bigger controversy in the gun community than whether an electronic red dot sight is acceptable for concealed carry.
If you do choose to run one, you will no doubt be accused of carrying a space gun, a race gun, a Buck Rogers special, and all the tactical-cool dudes will tell you it is unreliable, stupid, and it will give you bad habits. Haters gonna hate, operators gonna operate, and you can probably throw some Dr. Seuss nuggets of wisdom in there too (Yertle the Turtle’s gonna smack you with a spurtle).
If you do not choose to switch to a red dot, then you are a dinosaur who should stop carrying a musket and step into the future like the rest of the civilized concealed carry crowd. As you can see, it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The truth is there are advantages to an electronic sight and some drawbacks too. My advice is, don’t worry about what others will say, don’t get wrapped up in idiotic “what if” scenarios and beware the ninja that has never owned a red dot but points to that one time at SHOT Show Media Day where he used one to put a whole 10 rounds down range.
Like with any other discipline, an informed decision about what’s best comes via practice and first-hand application. I was skeptical of many aspects of red dots too, but putting one head to head with irons changed my opinion.
Check out all the episodes in this series:
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 1 Stop The Nonsense!
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 2 Revolver or Pistol for CCW?
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 3 Fighting with Edged Weapons
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 4 Lights and Lasers!
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 5 Holster Selection & Where to Carry
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 6 Red Dots vs Iron Sights
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 7 Truck Guns
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 8 Training Program
- 9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 9 Ammo Selection
First, let’s talk about the things a red dot does well. It is not necessarily more accurate, but it is easier to be accurate for difficult shots. Slapping something electronic on the slide changes zero with how your barrel locks up and the Hubble Telescope on top won’t make up for bad trigger control. But all other things being equal, you will have an easier time making a hard shot. I tested this a few months ago by doing a walk back from a B-CC zone target, carrying identical pistols with different sight options. The red dot won hands down.
Like many others, I thought that a red dot was slower from the draw, and probably slower target to target for speed shooting. Most of this has to do with perceived time. I have thousands of hours on iron sighted pistols, as do many of you. For reasons unknown, it felt like a red dot in its little window was slower to pick up than the iron post I have looked for hundreds of thousands of times (And occasionally used. Even less occasionally used to correct a bad shot before I pulled the trigger). A simple test of putting this on the clock showed it also wasn’t true. With almost zero training time on the red dot, again identical pistols, the electronic option was always within 1/10th of a second. With some time spent on a red dot, I have little doubt it would catch up completely, and may even be faster.
If you were around when Christ was a corporal or maybe remember when Chesty Puller was a boot, it is entirely possible your eyes don’t work as well as they use to. It’s probably because of these damn kids (Get off my lawn!) and the high-def world they live in. If your eyes aren’t what they use to be, a red dot will change your religion. Many a man that can no longer see an iron front sight post has rekindled his youth just by switching over.
Lastly, red dots are extremely versatile. They work great with suppressors and they work in all light conditions. Good ones, at least. Shooting in fading light is no longer a problem, if you can see it, you can hit it.
At the moment, what are the drawbacks? There are a few and none of them should be taken lightly. First and foremost, many on the market today do not feature an auto on. This means you theoretically would have to pull your gun out every three hours or so and hit the “on” switch. And it would really suck to get in a firefight at 7/11, whip your piece out, and discover you have nothing to aim with. I don’t think most of us, present company included, would have the presence of mind to turn the red dot on in the heat of the moment. Same goes for remembering to switch batteries. Most have some kind of blinking pattern that tells you when the battery is low, but that only helps if you check it. Between us, I haven’t checked to see if my concealed carry gun still has a front sight post this week, and I might not check next week.
Second, the jury is still out on durability. I am sure at the dawn of Aimpoints, the old hands were in the team room talking about how red dots on rifles were just too unreliable for combat use. I don’t doubt that in the future, pistol red dots will be as tough as we now think rifle red dots are. That answer is “Hard as a coffin nail” in case you were wondering. I am just not sure that is where we are at the moment.
I do have my personal favorites. I have a SIG Romeo 1 I just abused so hard someone should have called the gun equivalent of Child Protective Services. I have an early RMR from Trijicon with 20,000 rounds on it. And I have a Vortex Viper in house that is about to go through the wringer. My best answer on this note is to check the reviews on GunsAmerica and the forums around the web to see what platforms are getting consistently high praise. I know, I know, consulting Internet forums is like asking a guy with a Dodge what kind of truck he likes, so you’ll have to cross-reference his feedback with the “Transmission Trouble” sub-thread to ensure he’s not blowing smoke. Make sense?
Red dots will have their day. I predict that within five years, iron sights on a pistol will be mostly obsolete. But we aren’t quite there yet. If you haven’t shot one, it is worth your time to borrow or rent one. If you are on the fence and have a spare gun, you can always start with a cheaper model and try it as a range toy. A cheap red dot will only set you back about $150, and the mechanics will be the same as any other. The durability, not so much. But it will give you a feel for what you are getting. You can always use it as a spare too. If you do decide to run one for concealed carry, I have another suggestion. Run a laser sight too, at least until micro red dots prove themselves. A catastrophic failure in two separate aiming systems is so unlikely that if it does happen, check the sky when your engagement is over. You probably just ate an EMP.