I got into it on X on my opinion on red dot optics on pistols.
I thought I’d take the time to lay out my complete opinion, based on my experience as a shooter, pistol instructor, and engineer in the arms industry.
I am not anti red dot.
I’m not somr boomer Fudd who thinks they are some fad. Red dots are here and they are only getting more prevalent.
I just have some reservations and qualifications about red dots, especially on defensive pistols.
My reservations and qualifications break down into two categories: equipment failues and user failures.
For equipment failures, it’s pretty simple.
Red dots are more complex pieces of machinery. They are larger, contain electronic components, and experience more stress. They are more delicate.
We experience many more warranty claims on pistol optics than iron sights.
I’m not saying irons sights are indestructible. They too, experience failures. I’ve seen irons come loose from dovetails, fiber optic and tritium vials fall out or stop working.
But, in my experience, a set of quality iron sights, properly fit into a dovetail, is about the most robust sight possible.
On a defensive pistol, I want robustness.
If you insist on putting a red dot on a defensive pistol, having a set of backup irons that can be co-witnesses is important. This is true for rifles as well.
For user failures, I’ve seen a few different things.
First and foremost, are the people who treat dots as a magic pill. They shoot for shit and believe that by adding a dot, they will become better shooters.
It doesn’t work. Usually, their fundamental problem is that their trigger control sucks, not their sight alignment.
I’ve seen people adjust their red dots to compensate for hitting a foot low-left at some prescribed distance.
We get warrant service requests from people who maxed out the travel on their dot trying to compensate for flinching.
When I was at Thunder Ranch, everyone with dots started by checking dot zero, and we had one guy who did that. Rob Latham zeroed his dot for him and he had to do a lot of trigger discipline drills.
Second, guys who put a dot on their micro compact carry gun, then continue to drill at three, five, and maybe seven yards.
The advantage to a dot it better accuracy at distance, but these guys generally can’t shoot well, so don’t push themselves outside of their comfort zone.
These guys are not taking advantage of the capabilities of a dot. For them it’s a waste of money.
Third, is the toxic aspect of gun culture.
We’ve all experienced it.
“If you don’t have [latest thing], and you need to use your gun in a defensive situation, just just going to fucking die.”
Latest thing being:
- Newest plastic fantastic
- Laser sights
- Kydex holster/carry position
- Red dot
- Next industry toy the IG influencers get
You tell someone you carry a snub nose 38 or a 380 in a belly band, and they will launch into a tirade how if your carry gun isn’t their favorite high capacity wonder-nine with an extended mag, ported barrel, red dot, and weapon light, in a $200 appendix carry hybrid holster, you might as well just shoot yourself because you’ll never win a gun fight with the guy mugging you.
Right now, the debate online isn’t, “is the shotgun still a worthwhile self defense weapon compared to the AR,” but, “how obsolete is the shotgun as a home defense gun and how fast will you die with one in your hands when someone kicks in your door.”
These people have latched onto pistol dots, which is how you end up with a guy running a pistol with a dot no further than five yards.
Lastly, and this is the most dangerous, people who learned to shoot on dot who do not practice with their irons.
I’m starting to see this with pistol.
This has been an issue with rifles for a while, to the point where it affected the military.
Soldiers were being trained on optics because it’s easier. But those soldiers would go to non-combat units where they were not issued optics. Then, they had no capability to shoot with iron sights and would fail qualification, or worse, be in a fire fight with a weapon they didn’t know how to use.
Iron sights are not going away anytime soon, but I’m afraid proficiency with irons will.
At the last match I was at, out of thirty shooters, 28 were carry optics.
As Clint Smith says, be a student of weaponscraft. Don’t be limited because you let a valuable skill atrophy in favor of a new toy.
If you want to run optics on your pistol, I wont stop you.
But understand their limitations, maximize their advantages, and make sure you develop and maintain proficiency for when you have to rely on irons.