9 Critical Concealed Carry Lessons: Ep. 6 Red Dots vs Iron Sights

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What’s the better option, red dot or iron sight?

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:

Advantages

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.

Red dots certainly have some distinct advantages over iron sights.

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.

Drawbacks

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.

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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.

{ 75 comments… add one }
  • Craig August 23, 2017, 12:38 am

    Why are you wasting time pointing like you are a cop at a perp. Pull the gun out point it at the target and just start shooting, Saves a lot of time and maybe your life!!! If you can’t just pull it out, shoot and hit what you are trying to hit you need to give up your firearm.

  • Marco August 17, 2017, 1:25 pm

    . The RM05G is a battery free sight, featuring Trijicon fiber optics and tritium.
    RMR can be fitted on many firearms without the ad of a Gunsmith some will need to have the slide milled.
    @ 50yo my vision ain’t what it once was. I have found the above RMR to work for me, there was lots of extra range time to get adjusted.
    Once I had the RMR dialed in and knew it was a keeper I had suppressor height sights installed as a BUS.

    YMMV!

  • Bill Fairfax August 17, 2017, 9:12 am

    Well my 2 cents would be that you spent $600 on a Trijicon RMR to put on a CCW what a $500 G19 really did you spend $200 on a better trigger and $300 more on a better barrel and while you where at it did you get a fancy lightened slide maybe $500 more at least then your gun costs more than the optic.Oh and I forgot you need that laser that’ll be $200 more . I think I’ll stick with my P2000SK or it’s friend in my safe the 228 both with nights sights as their only upgraded .

  • Jay August 17, 2017, 8:53 am

    Interesting. One thing I noticed. He needs to update his info. He said one problem is that they do not have “auto on” so that you havge to switch them on or leave them on. Not so and more to the point, not so an a product he recommended. I followed the link provided to Sig’s Romeo sight. The description of the sight includes the following… “-MOTAC™ (Motion Activated Illumination) powers up when it senses motion and powers down when it does not provides for optimum operational safety and enhanced battery life”
    So at least one product has a system in place and I would be very much surprised if some others do not have also.

    • Bill Fairfax August 17, 2017, 9:41 am

      Wouldn’t that be an issue if you where carrying the gun . It would sense motion every time you moved and turn itself on . I think this would much more quickly run the batteries down . We are talking about using a red dot for concealed carry right .My previous point is it worth $800 to add a red dot and a laser , which seems to be what’s being advocated.

  • Russ H. August 17, 2017, 1:34 am

    If it works for you, have at it. I\’ll stick with tritium iron sights. Red dots on handguns are a bit much for me – I like the KISS philosophy.

  • Dennisws August 16, 2017, 11:50 pm

    I have been shooting since I was 8 years old with a Red Ryder BB gun,(Never put an eye out. I was a bounty hunter who was paid by my father for keeping the sparrows out of our peach orchard. Iron sights. Progressed through high school with better weapons. Iron sights or scopes. USMC, iron sights. At 74 years of age now I have tried ant and every red dot, green dot, blue dot to no avail. I was born with astigmatism. Dots look like bottle rockets on their last burst. There are many ways to correct it but at my age I’ll pass. I wish manufacturers more info about astigmatism on their product disclosures. Maybe even GunsAmerica could post some info. Just a thought.

  • Grant Stevens August 16, 2017, 10:39 pm

    Too much gadgetry just gets in the way of quick, instinctive pointing and shooting. With a little practice, accurate, instinctive shooting becomes second nature with one or two hands. When your life is on the line and split-seconds count, the last thing you should be doing is fumbling with gadgets on your gun and looking for laser dots on your target. Fix you master eye on the center of your target, point with resolve, trust your instincts and squeeze. it isn’t rocket science, it’s survival.

  • Chris Jones August 16, 2017, 9:51 pm

    My worry with carrying a red dot for concealed carry would be that it’s a large part to snag on the way out. Have you had any troubles with that? Thanks for the article!

  • Lenny Wiuff August 16, 2017, 9:17 pm

    “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?”

    As a Dodge truck owner and a member of more than one forum, this caught my eye, and I got a laugh from it! Thanks!

  • Alan B. August 16, 2017, 9:17 pm

    I’ve got red dots on 2 standby ARs but my go-to AR has a Crimson Trace green laser/light combo just like my S&W PC Shield .40 and My 1911 because the laser marks the impact point on the target and it will allow me to shoot in places where I can’t even use the sights or an optic. That’s a game changer.

    • iRev August 17, 2017, 10:53 am

      Exactly why I use the veridian instant on (out of the holster) laser on my LCP (with underwood extreme penetrator).
      Worst case I just look at the point of impact and not the sights on the gun. My laser is parallel to the flight path.

  • Adam Jeppson August 16, 2017, 6:59 pm

    Practicing to “point shoot” answers this question. Muscle memory is compromised during a fight. You fight like you train.

  • JOHN T. FOX August 16, 2017, 6:55 pm

    EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER. AS I’VE AGED MY EYES HAVE WORSENED. ON ALL MY RIFLES AND SHOTGUNS I HAVE SCOPES ON THEM. I HAVE AN ELECTRONIC SCOPE ON ONE SHOTGUN AND 2.5X20 SCOPE ON ANOTHER. THE PROBLEM WITH THE ELECTRONIC SCOPE IS THAT WHEN HUNTING, I HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT TO GET LIGHT ENOUGH OUT, SO THAT MY RED SCOPE (SET ON THE LOWEST BRIGHTNESS LEVEL) DOES NOT WASH OUT MY TARGET. WITH A REGULAR SCOPE THAT IS NOT A PROBLEM. ALSO, AROUND 0930 HRS ON A SUNNY DAY, THE SCOPE WASHES OUT (WHEN SET ON THE HIGHEST BRIGHTNESS SETTING) WHEN LOOKING THROUGH THE SCOPE. MY REGULAR SCOPE DOES NOT DO THAT. IN THE EVENING AS SUNSET NEARS, THE ELECTRONICS SCOPE BEGINS TO WASH OUT THE TARGET. THE REGULAR SCOPE DOES NOT DO THAT. THE SAME PROBLEMS THAT I EXPERIENCE WHILE HUNTING WITH MY BUSHNELL ELECTRONIC SCOPE, ARE THE SAME THAT YOU WILL EXPERIENCE WITH A HANDGUN. NOW RED DOTS ARE DIFFERENT THAN ELECTRONIC SCOPES. IF YOUR EYES ARE GETTING BAD AND YOU HAVE NOT PRACTICED, AND KEPT PRACTICING, THEN IT WILL DO YOU NO GOOD. IF YOUR USING A SCOPE FOR SELF DEFENSE AND HAVEN’T PRACTICED THEN YOUR INVITING DISASTER. IF YOU CAN’T SEE AS GOOD AS YOU USED TOO THEN PRACTICE THE POINT SHOOTING METHOD. THAT METHOD IS FASTER AND FAIRLY ACCURATE, FOR SELF DEFENCE SHOOTING. IF YOUR HUNTING WITH A HANDGUN, THEN STAY AWAY FROM ELECTRONIC SCOPES. IF YOUR HUNTING HOURS ARE FROM 0600-0730 HRS THERE WILL ONLY BE ABOUT 6HRS DURING THAT PERIOD OF TIME WHEN YOUR ELECTRONIC SCOPE IS NOT WASHED OUT OR THE TARGET IS NOT WASHED OUT. IF IT IS A SUNNY DAY, AND YOU ARE IN THE WOODS. IF YOUR NOT IN THE WOODS, THEN LESS THAN 3HRS WILL YOU BE ABLE TO USE IT. BOTTOM LINE: DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU. I TRIED A RED DOT (NOT A RED DOT SCOPE) ON MY SHOTGUN, BUT THE GLASS IS CURVED AND I COULD NOT LINE IT UP WITH THE TARGET, WITH THE BASE THAT I HAVE ON THE GUN. THE BASE NEEDED TO BE TALLER. A REAL REDDOT SCOPE WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO GO, INSTEAD OF WHAT I TRIED. FOR CCW PURPOSES THE SCCY C?X 2 IS THE PERFECT GUN TO USE. 15 OZS UNLOADED, 10 +1, EASILY FITS A LARGE HAND OR SMALLER (GLOVE SIZE).

  • christian focht August 16, 2017, 3:42 pm

    #1 Having a laser and or a red dot on a primarily concealed carry firearm for a dedicated close quarters defensive weapon is not only harder to conceal, but totally unnecessary. If you need all that bling on a concealed carry defensive weapon; then you need to re-evaluate if you are a private citizen why and if you should be allowed to carry.
    #2 My home defense weapon; which is a shotgun has a laser and a top quality light on it.

    #3 The iron sights that have come out especially over the last five years (tritium, fiber optic, etc.) are amazing.
    #4 Anyone who carries should dedicate range time enough so that one realizes how serious things can become and also spend time on your mindset; every time you leave your house or car or whatever remind yourself that you are carrying a weapon.

  • Bob barker August 16, 2017, 1:34 pm

    It’s “wringer” not “ringer”. What the hell does “through the ringer” mean? Use some common sense.

    • Russ H. August 17, 2017, 1:16 am

      Seriously? Thats your comment on this topic? You\’ve clearly worked out what it means, why ask? Use some common sense. LOL…

  • Slappy August 16, 2017, 12:46 pm

    I love how you guys have figured out a way to shit all over each other FOR carrying guns. You should shoot each other until you settle this once and for all.

  • Tug August 16, 2017, 12:43 pm

    I am a firm believer in IRON SIGHTS only because of the battery problems. What do you do if the battery dies? The same goes for lasers. Iron sights need no foofaraw except a bit of paint or nail polish on the front sight to make acquisition a little easier for aging eyes like mine.
    I have used red dot sights on a rifle, but that was for hunting and I carried a spare battery or two in my day pack. That is a bit different from a defensive scenario where you don’t have that option if things go bad in a hurry.
    Even on my rifles I still practice using iron sights as well as my scopes and add on sights.

  • Pete W. August 16, 2017, 12:17 pm

    I practice both types of shooting.

    I ignore my sights for 30′ or less. I practice, practice, practice. I dry fire and hit range time. I shoot two handed, one handed, from the belt to learn muscle memory. Know your gun and know your body. I also do “long distance” to try and enforce the “Aim Small, Miss Small” doctrine. I use the sights for this one. At 50’+, point shooting is tough.

    Practice makes perfect. I hate to use the statement “Sights are a crutch”. In a CCW situation, they’re a delay in your response.

  • Alan G August 16, 2017, 12:15 pm

    I tend to agree with the article. First, I do remember when Christ was a corporal. I had a 39 year law enforcement career and have worked with NIJ and departments in designing, evaluating and purchasing equipment to include firearms and gear. I have also been a firearms instructor for most of that time. I can tell you that when I first brought up the subject of semi-automatic handguns to our range staff in the early 90’s I was burned at the stake.
    The most important thing that I have learned is to keep an open mind. Firearms instructors are prone to get stale, complacent and closed minded if they are not careful. Ten years ago, I predicted that weapons lights would start showing up on patrol officers handguns. The reaction, “Oh my god, these guys will be pulling guns out to look under car seats”. Today, patrol cops, plainclothes officers as well as tactical and canine are using lights on their handguns. I have had the opportunity to use red dot sights on both handguns and long guns. I would not go on patrol without one on a long gun. The longer range of engagement in lower light as well as the ability to focus on the target is a key advantage on a long gun. Ok, so what about handguns. There is a lot of potential. Holsters are being made for Glock and Sig equipped pistols with red dot sights. I have a friend that carries his Sig P320RX concealed with no issues. The battery life and instant on features have been addressed by several manufacturers. The Sig also uses suppressor height sights for back up as well. I see some very compelling advantages for red dots as the technology improves. Also, when you train, you should train with and without the electronic aid, be it a laser or a red dot sight. Murphy will always be your partner in a gunfight or competition. Stuff happens. In a real gunfight, the engagement distances will be within 7 yards. For cops it is 3 to 7 feet. It is likely the officer will never see the sights. Most likely, he will start off shooting one handed. No two hand weaver, isosceles, modified weaver stance. Follow up shots may use two hands and sights. But you need sights to hone your skills. You need them to get to the point that shooting is reflexive. You need them in lower light and longer distances. If an electronic aid gives you an unfair advantage. So be it- it is a gunfight and I will take any advantage that I can get- fairness isn’t an issue. Personally, I prefer a good set of tritium sights. As I have gotten older, I like the Truglo TFO/TFX, the Sig X-Ray, Trijicon HD and other sights that have a more easily seen front sight. Meprolight makes an interesting circle dot that I really want to test out. As for lasers, they are great tools if used correctly. I ran a pilot project for my old department where we fielded 25 lasers to officers. What we found was their skill without the laser also improved as the laser became an effective teaching tool (you can definitely see trigger control issues) as well as instant feedback creating reflexive hand eye coordination. One of the things people don’t always think about is the de-escalation tool that lasers also provide. Having pointed my handgun at many a suspect. The ones that saw the red dot on their chest tended to be a lot more attentive to commands.
    My point is that technology is not always bad on a firearm and that firearms users need to keep an open mind. If it works for you, go for it. Practice with and without the red dot. The military has left the door open on their new handgun as it has the removable plate to allow mounting of the optic. As for the guy with a single action six gun, let me know how that works out.

    • George August 16, 2017, 12:47 pm

      Excellent comments and as a fellow peace officer, I concur wholeheartedly with every point you make. Guns America should sign you up to write articles as you have more idea and depth of knowledge based on hard won experience than most of their ‘writers.’

  • Danny Koch August 16, 2017, 11:18 am

    Electronic sights are great, but any electronic devise can fail. If if you don’t train with your iron sights and your electronic sights fail you are in big trouble. So use the electronic,but prepare for failure by training with the iron sights also.

  • Johnny August 16, 2017, 11:16 am

    I own a Glock 19 MOS that use to have a RMR mounted. After 500 or so live rounds and about 15 hours dry fire with this set up, I sold the RMR and kept the G19MOS. What follows is my opinions on this setup as a defensive firearm that is carried daily.
    – The RMR is battery operated
    – The RMR has brightness setting buttons on the side of the housing which could be accidently depressed while carrying in holster (I carry AIWB and I have a little bit of a gut. This didnt happen to me in my time with it, but its easy to see how it could happen)
    – Daylight brightness setting may not equate to a tolerable night time setting. This may require adjustment at dawn and dusk.(daylight setting too bright for night use).
    – More screws that can become loose (hot/cold environment, hot gun from firing, jarring of recoil. One of my mounting screws did come loose and I did use loctite. I have never had a set of Irons sight come loose….yet. knocking upon the wood.)
    – Finding the dot after draw and chasing the dot after each shot. (This was annoying and never got any better throughout live fire and dry fire practice).
    – Multiple industry professionals recommended pairing the RMR with suppressor heigth sights in order to assist in locating the dot. (IMO, if I need iron sight to help me find the dot…..Do I really need a red dot?)
    – On the timer, I was consistently faster with iron sights. Accuracy was close to the same.
    – Holsters will need to be able to accept the RMR. Thankfully mine already was (Raven Eidolon ).
    + I didnt really notice the RMR while carrying.
    + The RMR allowed me to wring all the accuracy i could out of the Glock 19. It was producing benched clover leaf groups at 20 yards with Winchester Forged 115gr.. I have never been able to do this with iron sights at this distance. The RMR is great for busting stationary clay pigeons and knocking down tin cans…….but this is a defensive pistol for me, not a target pistol.

    Overall, The RMR had too many “cons” for me. The biggest one was initially finding the dot and then chasing the dot after each shot. I think with the right technology advances Red Dots could alleviate this issue. Like I said, just my opinion from my limited use. For a target or hunting pistol, this set up would be great……but the use of red dots is nothing new to those arenas.

  • Aaron August 16, 2017, 10:48 am

    1.Anyone else notice that this article and the video are littered with Crimson Trace ads/sponsorship and Clay keeps pushing the use of lasers as a redundant sighting system? No matter what we decide, definitely buy a crimson trace laser system or you could be left without any other way of aiming at someone 20 feet OR LESS away! OK!
    2.So we want to take our CC piece and add the weight/bulk of a laser and a red-dot?
    3.I’m sure a red-dot and a laser would really make my Shield so much more accurate. Hey, I guess since I’m in my 30s and wear glasses that I am no longer fit to shoot irons at 7 yards, better pony up and buy $500 worth of redundant sighting systems!

    Point being there is a huge difference between shooting an M&P with red-dot on the range and actually carrying it for truly defensive purposes.

  • Hughston Shooting School August 16, 2017, 10:25 am

    There are few auto on optics the trijicon RMR offers a battery less option also the doc optic offers a battery version that is always on with a light sensor with auto dim and sleep approx 5+ years run time. The red dot offers a few other limitations on the operator side that each use should check out in humid and wet conditions (hint).
    Hughston Shooting School
    Hssidaho.com

  • Rick hearn August 16, 2017, 10:19 am

    nothing said about the court baddle for you caring a assault weapon vs a handgun, add the lazier is more ammo for the other side in court.

  • mike August 16, 2017, 10:13 am

    I know how to reload, I know how to make black powder. I can even make projectiles…I just don’t know how to make a CR2032 battery.

  • Tenbones August 16, 2017, 10:09 am

    At this point I am of the mind that if you are going to be shooting defensively, at the distance Clay was shooting at, sights are not necessarily needed. Your goal is center mass, as quickly as possible in these close encounters, 15 yds and in. If you train enough, it becomes instinctive and at the range Clay was shooting at, I’m not so sure he wasn’t shooting instinctively.

    Red dots and lasers are great if you are shooting X ‘s and 10 rings, where speed is not life and death.

    • DaveW August 16, 2017, 10:53 am

      Agreed. Law enforcement stats show that most shooting incidents take place over short distance (5-15 ft).

      I have fitted my carry guns with Crimson Trace laser grips because the rubber grips give me more control over the gun. At 69, my eyesight isn’t what it was ‘back in the day’. The laser gives me a quick point and shoot. Most of my shooting is point and shoot short distance. However, the laser provides me confirmation of shot placement over shot distance and also carries over into longer distances.

      • Paul August 16, 2017, 7:43 pm

        Probably the most cogent comment on the board. If you have time to raise your weapon to shoulder height and aim, your life is not in imminent danger. As a CC you’d better know when to shoot in terms of the law. There is no scenario whereby a jury will find you within your rights to defend if you are taking aim at someone 50 yards away. Nobody needs Red dots or Trijinon for self defense. Crimson Trace? Most assuredly!

        • Glenn August 17, 2017, 12:35 am

          “There is no scenario whereby a jury will find you within your rights to defend if you are taking aim at someone 50 yards away.”
          Bull.
          Example: Charles Whitman, University of Texas tower shooting.
          Example: Mark Essex, NOLA Howard Johnson shooting shooting.

          It will be a very rare day indeed if a lawful CC needs to engage someone who is more than 50 yards away in lawful self defense, but the only legal relevance that distance between the CC and the bad guy has is in determining if the bad guy credibly presents a lethal threat.

          • AXE August 19, 2017, 2:14 pm

            Active shooter scenarios, albeit uncommon, may have an assailant firing at you from much further than “defensive distances”. That is an engagement distance that someone else has chosen for you. I don’t think my thousands of hours of point shooting up close is going to be of much help in this rare circumstance. Almost all legal CC’ers are planning for the “rare” circumstance–no reason to not plan for a longer engagement distance. In short, I agree with your assessment (and disagreement with the previous poster) that engagement distance will assuredly gain you legal disaster.

  • Mark August 16, 2017, 9:58 am

    I have Trijicon RMR’s on some of my 1911’S, what ever you put the red dot on it hits. What kind of holsters’ have you found that will facilitate the optic?

    Thanks’

    Mark

  • Mathew August 16, 2017, 9:23 am

    Iron sights will never be obsolete, especially for CC. With most defensive shoots occuring at relatively close range iron sights are exactly what you need. If it goes down at 5 yrds or less you will most likely never see the sights. How many people are stopping bad guys at 25 yrds with their Glock 19? Not saying red dots on a pistol are bad just saying iron will always be around.

  • Tom August 16, 2017, 9:23 am

    I guess it depends on distance. If up real close and personal, I was trained to use the outline of the weapon to get shots on the threat. It’s faster than anything, doesn’t depend on batteries or lining up little dots. If up closer than that, then all you see is the bad guy.

  • Buzzman August 16, 2017, 9:16 am

    Many years ago in my younger days I had a friend that taught me how to in essence kill people but it was taught in a defensive situation. He kept saying things like people freeze for a second when they are shot and that’s when you take your second more aimed shot, and you don’t kill people for a living so your going to be nervous. Found out later he knew from experience. Saying all of that, red dot sites are more than accurate enough for pistol engagement ranges. Red dots allow even average nervous people to acquire the target and squeeze the trigger. May not be the best placed shot but it will allow for an aimed follow up. Nothing beats practice and good weapons skills but since we don’t shoot people for a living and perps rarely cooperate and stand still like paper targets on ranges Red Dot sites can be a great help for many people. Just wish prices would come down,

  • S. Smith August 16, 2017, 9:14 am

    I have a red dot in the recoil rod of my Glock 22 and the biggest set back is, you can’t see the laser in sunlight. It’s fine in the dark. Even inside the house​ during daytime hours you can’t see it.

    • D. Connolly August 16, 2017, 9:48 am

      Red dots and lasers are not the same. Red dots do not project anything. The Red Dot is only visible to the shooter.
      Lasers project a red dot on the target.

    • Jasper August 16, 2017, 10:05 am

      Red Dots and lasers are not the same thing. You have a laser if it is in the “recoil rod” of you Glock.
      A Red Dot sits on top of the slide/frame and you look through it to see a Red Dot spot on the point of aim. Good ones are not bothered by the ambient light out.

  • Cool hands Luke August 16, 2017, 8:37 am

    Good article glad so many angles were covered.
    I train quite often but seldom at a Booth type range. All my instructors would agree you will be too close or won’t have time to even put a bead on someone in a self-defense situation while shooting from the hip either forward or to your 6, clap position or moving defensively to a roll away. My opinion would be a self activating laser would be most benificial in a high stress environment where your adrenaline will be flowing and all your muscles shaking. If your vision isn’t perfect and your corrective device was compromised I still believe in the laser. Nothing beats training and awareness. All my pistols run iron sights, for now.

  • Benny August 16, 2017, 8:24 am

    Red dots are not allowed in my state as far as I know MA.

    • retrocon August 16, 2017, 9:15 am

      MA? I thought bullets weren’t allowed in your state if they go faster than 62 FPS.

      just kidding, but i don’t envy you your fascist government.

  • James Drouin August 16, 2017, 8:01 am

    Interesting analysis. One other undiscussed drawback is a red dot’s profile, and if you’re CC’ing, that’s a tough hurdle to overcome.

  • srsquidizen August 16, 2017, 8:01 am

    Iron sights obsolete in 5 years? I think that’s kinda like the guy who predicted manual shaving would disappear after the first electric razor came out. From a technological standpoint iron sights were obsolete when the first dot sights hit the market. But you’re talking about an industry where a large percentage of customers buy designs that haven’t changed much in 100 years and don’t want them messed with. IMO iron-sighted pistols will be plentiful for as long as we’re allowed to buy handguns at all.

    • Alan August 16, 2017, 9:05 am

      Agreed. Just like no ground troops needed because of “push button” wars, no guns needed on fighter jets because of air to air missiles, and other blunders of the human mind when it comes to technology.
      It seems Clay may have forgotten his history.
      The K.I.S.S. principle will always be with us, and is often the best method.
      It is certainly the only method when all else, especially technology, fails.

  • Jerry K Brown August 16, 2017, 7:57 am

    Good point about “auto on” and which “mainstream” models have this feature? Also, good point about laser sights, which I have on all handguns and MSR’s. Have convinced a number about value of lasers, so maybe they wil be receptive to red dot on pistols?

  • C. Wilson August 16, 2017, 7:48 am

    I agree with Clay. If you’re getting older like me (50+), you’re probably not always going to be wearing your reading glasses when the sh*t hits the fan at the convenience store. The problem with that? You’re probably not going to be able to see your front sight crystal clearly, if at all. I put Vortex Vipers on all my Glocks a couple of years ago and never looked back. Yes, it’s takes a little training to use a red dot, but it has made me a faster, more accurate shooter. I trained under a former Navy Seal and gained a LOT of useful pistol shooting knowledge, but there was one thing I couldn’t get past. He told me to always train with my reading glasses in order to aquire the front sight. That just wasn’t a realistic option for me. I moved to slide mounted red dots, and like I said, I’m faster and more accurate now… the shot timer doesn’t lie. Thanks for all the great content Clay!

  • Mike Hipshire August 16, 2017, 7:44 am

    I do not use sights at all in a close quarters gunfight,and I do not use plastic semi-autos! I use a single-action revolver and I will get six rounds off before You get your plastic semi-auto out of your holster!

    • Alan August 16, 2017, 9:00 am

      Bold talk, without any real proof.
      Braggadocios at least.
      Next you’ll be telling us how big your ‘thing’ is.

      • Mike H. August 18, 2017, 10:02 am

        I can back up my talk,Boy! Do not think so? come see me! I would come see You but You are evidently a Yankee. I an tell by the way crap spills from Your mouth,and Your interest in the size of my Thing!

      • Mike H. August 22, 2017, 9:40 pm

        You think this is bold talk Boy! Come see me and try me! Oh,I forgot. You are more concerned about the size of my Thing! Ha! Ha! Come try me. I will carry my single action 1873 44-40. You bring your plastic Glock,or whatever junk You have!

    • Chris Smith August 16, 2017, 9:01 am

      What a joke. I guess that means you’ll draw and get six rounds off in less than 1 second. I’ve never understood what causes fools like you to even make comments like this. Baffling.

      • Mike H. August 24, 2017, 9:52 pm

        Who said anything about six rounds in one second? You can’t get six rounds of in one second with anything,Boy! I guarantee I’ll get six rounds off with my single action quicker than You will with Your plastic semi-auto! Come try me and see, if You’ve got the nuts!

    • Michael Keim August 16, 2017, 9:40 am

      Golly gee Wyatt! Can I get your autograph?

      • John Wilson August 16, 2017, 9:59 am

        that is funny as hell

      • Mike H. August 22, 2017, 9:50 pm

        Sure,come get my autograph! It’s not Wyatt, it’s whatever You’ll call me when I show You how to shoot!

    • Jasper August 16, 2017, 10:08 am

      You have never shot with the aid of a timer, have you?

      • Mike H. August 22, 2017, 9:45 pm

        I don’t need a timer. I know what I can do!

    • Jake August 16, 2017, 12:02 pm

      Ever met Max from SIG? Draw and hit five targets in under two seconds with a P320. Draw four times and hit 20 targets in 7.87 seconds. “Wyatt Earp” might not be obsolete but he isn’t carrying a Ned Buntline Special these days.
      In the real world five rounds is probably enough for the typical armed confrontation. If it isn’t, you are going to be a statistic pretty quick since the opposition has 7,8,9, 10, 15, 17, 21, 23 rounds and then slaps in another 15-23 in the time it takes you to shuck your empties even if you are amazing.
      I have ’em all and as low as I’ll go is a Chief Special with a 5 round speed loader. My “if I could only take one pistol to a gunfight” gun today is the Ruger American 8605 9mm with 17 round mags. The biggest reason being the Novaks on the American come up for me with both eyes open faster than anything I’ve ever had. The pistol is also totally reliable and has an outstanding trigger.

  • Infidel762x51 August 16, 2017, 7:42 am

    If Trijicon would make a small one for handguns the on/off and dead battery problem would be solved.

  • Frank August 16, 2017, 7:30 am

    Nothing was said about the SIZE of a red dot sight and the problem of getting a holster to fit. I like one on my rifle, use one on a scout mount on a Mosin-Nagant for plinking. Mounts on a rail that takes the place of the original site, no alterations to the rifle, easy to adjust. A pistol scope works, but had issues with the shock vibrating it loose. The light weight of the red dot works better.

    Having used red dots on the range with an M-4 while in the USAF, it is quicker to come on target for most than iron sights, at least on a rifle. But it’s not more accurate. The range guys told us it would be less accurate as distance increased, and I quickly discovered that to be true. Just did qualify my first time with one! IIRC they told us accuracy got worse from about 100 meters out. We were just shooting to be “in the black” on target though, not bullseye. Under 100 yards it was quicker to hit the target, not necessarily a kill shot, just a quick hit. With practice a red dot might be as accurate. All I can say is the one on my Mosin-Nagant is a lot better than the old factory sights… which isn’t saying much…

    • Infidel762x51 August 16, 2017, 9:09 am

      The pistol red dots he is talking about are very small and many have mounts that go in the rear sight dovetail.

  • Edward Glenn August 16, 2017, 7:25 am

    Yabut….don’t you have to have the slide custom machined to mount most red dot sights? I’d love to try one for my older eyes, but I don’t want to permanently alter my slide, until I’m sure I love it.

    • Tom August 16, 2017, 9:19 am

      I just stumbled upon this yesterday…

      https://suarezinternational.com/suarez-l-mount-universal-red-dot-base/

      The only thing is getting a sight tool to avoid having to go to the gunsmith.

      • Dan August 20, 2017, 11:58 am

        Always liked Gabe Suarez’ no B.S. way of thinking. Looks like a good product, but I don’t any combat tupperware.

    • Jake August 16, 2017, 12:14 pm

      Most of the majors are making pistols with slides ready to accept mini red dots. You could probably just buy a slide. I think I have pistols from four different outfits right now that are set up for them. SIG P320, Canik TP9SFx, M&P C.O.R.E., and Walther PPQ Q5. Springfield and Glock have models as well. S&W revolvers easily mount a 1913 rail in most cases.
      I have used red dots starting with the original Aimpoint for 35 years. I used that big old museum piece on a High Standard Victor match pistol. I wasn’t competitive in Bullseye with the centerfires but I was able to go toe to toe with Nationally ranked guys with the .22 Victor with that red dot. My league average went from 240’s to 280’s out of 300. All time high 296.
      I don’t think you can even get batteries for those original pieces anymore.

    • Wesley August 17, 2017, 9:45 pm

      I felt the same way. Have been carrying with a red dot for 3 years now. First I used a mount from JTDefense it is a 3 pt mount for a glock. I have a G27 and used this mount to see if I would like it and to see if the Vortex Venom would hold up to the recoil of a subcompact 40 and take the abuse it would get with my work.. For $200.00 verses $600.00 for the RMR I was skeptical. Vortex said if it breaks they would replace it for free. After 9 months of carrying and 3,000 rds I was surprised. The Vortex was scratched & bent but always worked & never lost zero. I do leave the sight turned on all the time with dimming it at night. Battery life about 3 months. I than sent in a slide and had the Vortex machined onto the slide and installed suppressor night sights for a back up. I carry every day and have had no issues with holsters, snags or sight turning off. I use a kydex holster & had to make just a little cut so the sight would slide down where if belonged. The Vortex Venom is one of the smallest. I don’t even notice it on the gun. I have now carried my new one almost 2 years and shoot on the average of 100+ rds a week plus bang it around a lot with my work and have had no issues. On one of my drills I duck down and shoot under a bench and have had the sight hit the bench when the slide snaps back no problems. I have had the battery cover loosen up a couple of times during a heavy shooting drill so it is something to check after a hard drill. It is not an iron sight you have to maintain it. Change the battery when the dot gets dim & wipe the glass off ,it does get dirty. I wear glasses and do have astigmatism but if you keep the light turned down a little there is no issue.

  • Gray Man August 16, 2017, 7:19 am

    Great article. I’m one of those old farts that has not yet tried a pistol red dot, and just converted my rifle to iron sights only. I’m sure the points you make are correct. They’ve helped me to keep an open mind, and I will give this new-fangled whiz-bang technology a try. But hey, if an EMP does hit, when the red dots and lasers are gone for good, my tritium irons will be as good as ever.

  • piper August 16, 2017, 7:10 am

    Red Dot, all they way.

  • Jon Arck August 16, 2017, 6:28 am

    Thanks for your posting! Now, how about red dot vs. laser?

    Cheers,
    Jon

    • Deadmeat99 August 16, 2017, 2:28 pm

      We know how that article would go. Can’t make your sponsors mad.

  • John S. August 16, 2017, 4:45 am

    Try shooting with NO sights. OK, I’m a dinosaur with bad vision. I learned to shoot so long ago that I was expected to know where the barrel was pointed without looking. The next time at your range try this: Bring your target in to “in the room” range. Aattach a paper plate to the chest area of your target. In your off hand hold a sheet of cardboard above you gun in your normal hand so you can not see your gun. Shoot the target. Notice all the holes that appear in the plate/chest area of the target. I don’t need 1/2 “ groups at 100 yards, I want bullets in the chest quickly and the bad guy falling down dead. If you feel you MUST have a sight, paint a fluorescent line along the top of your gun. Use it like the ramp on top of a shotgun barrel. Most of us end up looking at the bad guy or the weapon he is holding, not the sight picture anyway.
    I also have a .22 conversion for my Glock so I can practice the first shot a lot.

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