Red dot sights for pistols are widely accepted these days and one of the hottest topics in the industry. Im old enough to remember the introduction of these for rifles the parallels are striking. Experts once called them a gaming toy never to be used “on the street”, or for “duty”, those days are long gone. Considered all but mandatory on rifles today it’s a far cry from “iron sights rule”. Irons are great, you should learn on and practice with them, but denying yourself the ability to better aim and get hits on a threat or target is kind of ridiculous. Red Dots for pistols has followed the same progression and are becoming more standard each year.
I have had front and rear sights fall off, dots come out and every conceivable level of pistol fail from fantastic plastic to works of machining art, red dot sights are no exception considerably. Still, not everyone needs an RDS that can be dropped from a helicopter, run over by a tank then submersed at 33 feet for an hour without losing zero. Avoid getting sucked into the idea your equipment is not usable unless you can smack it with a sledge hammer and keep on trucking.
How fast you shoot is about you, not the dot!
Accuracy and speed at close range are about position, stability, and a good trigger press. Any difference will be negligible inside 7 yards, the better you were before the RDS the less the difference. The fastest shooters on planet Earth use red dot sights, have for years, many are faster without sights then us mere mortals with them. Move things out farther and that all changes. Fist sized groups at 50 yards is the norm using an RDS. Hitting a silhouette at 100 yards is doable. Hold the dot reasonably steady and you can get hits with a dot you may not with irons, especially as you age. Picking up that red dot is just easier for most, add movement and it gets even better. Using solid basics, recoil and muzzle control and proper training you will be more accurate, faster, and have better repeat shots using a dot in most every situation.
Chasing the dot!
If you are an experienced shooter do what you have always done, build and maintain solid basics. Don’t try and change what may be decades of patterning. Bring the pistol to target the same way you always have and there will be a dot there, generally before the front sight. Don’t chase it, just see it, don’t change your stance, grip, or anything else. Unless you need precision, keep the dot on the threat and press, no need to align the irons, and no need for a “crisp focused dot”. If you need to be precise, or are at range than sure, focus on the dot, but for most things just focus on it and keep the dot on target. With a Press away with a smooth straight trigger pull disturbing that dot as little as you can, until the desired effect is achieved, simple basics.
So many choices!
If your sight must survive punishment there are a few proven examples. Trijicon’s type 2 RMR is the big dog. Designed to withstand military type punishment they are as rugged as it gets. You will pay for it, and it has a slightly smaller window, but it is proven rugged. Leupold’s Delta Point PRO also seems to be a strong choice for duty applications with a proven track record. Trijicon’s SRO is another solid choice Not as rugged as the RMR by Trijicon’s own admission it is plenty strong for most of us, an SRO sits on my carry pistol today. The round screen makes it easy to aim, and the dot is clearer and easier to find under stress. Mine has seen use on rifles, shotguns and a dozen pistols and has yet to fail. Aimpoint’s ACRO looks has a growing set of fans. Completely enclosed, including the emitter it has a different look, but it is built to Aimpoint standards. For many, the covered emitted is a huge advantage, although it may not be for all. SigArms Romeo 1 Pro has also proven to be strong and has a couple of government contracts to its name. Both the Delta Point Pro and Trijicon’s RMR / SRS have secured military contracts making them solid and proven choices.
Concealed carry sights or MRDS can be smaller and easier to conceal fitting on smaller pistols. Shield Sights makes several including the RMS-C (Compact), one of the most popular. Sig Sauer Electro Optics Romeo Zero is a great example designed around their Sig P365 XL pistol. Springfield Armory just entered that market with their new HEX MRDS marketed with their HellCat subcompact pistols along with Holosun and Vortex. Trijicon’s RMRcc is also smaller, although to be fair not that much. On the other hand it is built to a similar standard as the Type 2 RMR and will likely to prove very strong.
Vortex has offered several sights for years, Crimson Trace has jumped into this market with a vengeance but Holosun has really captured a large part of the market. While not as proven as the Trijicon and Leupold they are less money, easier to get, and have been growing in popularity in the Law Enforcement market. With new sights hitting the market almost monthly there are a ton of choices that are excellent for most. If it’s truly just for fun, or on a rimfire many of the less expensive imports are fine, and just plain fun. It’s really all about what you are going to do with the pistol it’s on, not everything is best served by spending more on the sight than the pistol.
The two most common mounting patterns are the RMR and Delta Point Pro, along with the Shield Sights for the smaller pistols (RMSc). It seems everyone else is doing their own thing. Sig Sauers P320 is fit for their Romeo 1 Pro, it will work with a Delta Point Pro, but the mounting pegs don’t line up. Everyone seems to put their locking pins in a different spot. Many factory pistols will offer plates that fit into their slide letting you use several models. FN America’s 509 is a great example as is Glock’s MOS line and HK’s VP9 / 2020 and the Canik pistols. Others have slides cut to fit one pattern, the Sig P365 XL and new Springfield Armory Hellcat are good examples. Both use the Shield RMSc pattern, perfect for their size. Universal seems to be the thing for factory offerings, but custom CNC machining is available for just about anything. Ultimately the tighter the fit at the front and rear of the RDS the less it beats up the sight.
To Iron or not!
My recommendation is that carry or duty pistols have back up iron sights that can be used, co-witnessed if possible. Whether the rear is in front or behind the RDS is personal preference, or dictated by space on the slide. Many newer RDS have built in rear sights that line up with the front and that’s fine, especially with smaller pistols. It’s just not acceptable (to me) to end up with no visible sighting mechanism on a carry pistol and iron sights insure that. Red Dots break, all of them, and you need sights in a fight.
Competitive shooters seldom have iron sights on their RDS equipped pistols. Given their time on the trigger they are practiced at indexing through the screen. Besides, no one’s life depends on what they do at a match. Some will practice with no iron sight on a range or game pistol and carry the same kind of pistol with iron sights. It does make it easy to get dialed in on the dot while still providing a basic system for fighting.
Consumer demand drives improvement and the industry is catching up. Perfect, not by a long shot, but pistol RDS are getting None are magic wands making you lightning fast but they offer serious improvements for many. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses depending on who they were designed for. As they become smaller, more rugged, and proven they will only increase in use. If interested get some training, don’t just shoot a few rounds and call it good. If you are going to use it in a fight step up and use one that is proven. Above all, practice, because all an RDS does is help you aim, not shoot, and that is only made better through practice.