Question of the Day: Red Dot Sights on A Handgun?

[HTML2]

I have two slides from TSD Combat Systems with an RMR (Rear-Mounted Red dot) and back-up iron sights. [Not shown. That’s GunUp’s Caleb Giddings shooting a Trijicon RMR on a Smith & Wesson M&P.] I’ve been running the TSD sights on my Glock G17 and G19. After shooting them a bit, I believe they’re an excellent sighting system. Here’s what I’ve found . . .

Advantages

-Precise sighting, but you still have to be able to shoot.

-Sight in the same focal plane as target.

-Dot will improve trigger control because you see every flaw while dry firing.

-No loss of durability.

-No loss of close range ability.

-I tested open sights back to back with RMR, and with quality open sights (not stock Glock). My precision and accuracy were essentially equal out to 15 yards. In other words: typical handgun distances. Perhaps I just am not a good enough shooter to tell the difference. My groups are like 6 inches at 15 yards. This guy is doing 1.5 inch groups at 25 yards] which I can’t even come close to….

-Once you have acquired the dot, target to target transitions are faster.

-the RMR is a freaking fantastic charging handle and more than rugged enough to handle it.

-Beyond 15 yards, the dot has an advantage because it is simply a more precise targeting system.  You still have to be able to shoot though The precision gains you nothing if you don’t have strong fundamentals of pistol!  I hit steel out to 100 yards 50/50 with it, and >75% of the time at 75 yards, almost 100% at 50 yards.

Check this out:

[HTML1]

Ignore the commercial at the end, the first few seconds is an impressive example of shooting.  I’m sorta think the guy could do that with irons as well.

Drawbacks:

-cost: $800-1200 (RMR itself is around $500 and has to be milled into slide)

-Dot can be slower to acquire on pistol presentation. In fact, if you look for the dot, it surely is slower It is easy to miss, and you waste time looking for it when you should be shooting. This is fact that has to be trained around.

Having iron sights that co-witness with the dot is essential to this training. You still start presentation looking for that front sight. If you do that it is no different from open sights, you look for the open sight at usual, then the dot magically appears. If you look for it, it is slower, don’t look for it, no speed loss, sort of illogical, but there it is.

-Maintenance: wipe screen every hundred shots or so, change battery yearly.

Conclusions:

-No immediately apparent drawbacks (although I’m ready to be schooled)

-Back up irons are essential to the learning curve and function, otherwise, time is wasted on presentation looking for the dot which can be hard to find.

-Possibly best for older shooters since it puts target and sight in one focal plane, also RMR makes a great charging handle for those with weak hand, or one handed charging.

-Improvements cost a bunch of money and are pretty marginal for typical handgun distances.

-Who needs to shoot further than 15 yds with a self defense handgun?

-The sight won’t do the shooting for you.

Those are my honest thoughts. I may be too close to the TSD folks to make an impartial judgement. Why don’t we ask the Armed Intelligentsia for their thoughts?

comments

  1. avatar Todd Price says:

    For bullseye shooting, it is a must have, for other applications, not so much. I don’t hunt with a handgun, but I can also envision that as a valid application.

  2. avatar Shawn says:

    Hmmmm. I counted 21 rounds with 5 misses at what appears to be no more than 10 yards. Impressive??

  3. avatar Jason says:

    I have a RMR on a FNP-45, and in my not-so-humble opinion, a red dot without a compensator is little more than an expensive toy. As you noted, the best way to find the dot on presentation is to look for the front sight. But you also need to re-acquire the dot between shots, as recoil causes it to slide off the lens of the sight. That means looking for your front sight again. If I’m going to watch my front sight anyway, why not just stick with an inexpensive and simple fiber optic?

    Red dots are great on open-class guns, with compensators and larger lenses. I love them on rifles, where a stock keeps the eye aligned and the dot visible through recoil. I can also see some applications for people who have vision problems or aren’t going to be shooting quickly. An older handgun hunter will probably benefit from a slide-mounted mini red dot, for example. But most people will see very little added utility for the money. They would be better off spending the money on ammo, range time, and better conventional sights.

    Or a laser. Lasers are genuinely awesome, as it’s much harder to lose the dot. And you don’t even have to bring the up to your eye, much less hunt for the front sight in addition to the dot. Unfortunately, they’re not legal for competition, so they don’t get the attention and the workout they should receive to turn them into a really robust technology. Also, they’re more power-hungry than an in-sight red dot, so there’s no laser with “always on” technology, and the activation switches are often clumsy.

    But if you’re not shooting competition, and you can find a model for your handgun that turns on simply by grasping the gun, and you absolutely must try a new sighting technology, I think a laser is the best value-add.

  4. avatar 2Wheels says:

    I think we’re getting to the point where they’re just about reliable enough and tough enough to be considered on duty guns, the batteries certainly last long enough nowadays. Bit out of my price range though, and I don’t have any guns currently I’d be willing to slap one of these things.

  5. avatar Matt Gregg says:

    I’m saving my pennies for the FNP-45 Tactical. I’ll be throwing a RMR on top of it.

  6. avatar Justin says:

    I do think that it will be the handgun sighting system of choice in the somewhat near future.

    The issue right now is cost and lack of holsters. (Don’t get me wrong, there are some out there, but they’re few and far between.)

    If I could, I’d gladly carry a RMR equipped gun on duty 🙂

  7. avatar Daver says:

    This sight requires learning a new manual of arms when it comes to rapid slide manipulations. In competition the speed advantage might be worth the added risks that go with manipulating the slide forwards of the ejection port. However, in an emergency scenario , I highly doubt that the sighting speed gained is worth the real risk of short stroking the slide.

    1. avatar Pete says:

      @ Daver – I’m not following the concept of mandatory changes in slide manipulations w/ an RDS. The gun’s manipulations don’t change – it still works the same.

      I have a RDS-mounted pistola and can slingshot the same way I always have. I can also gorilla/vise grip from the top down for a rack-and-clear drill; with an RMR I have a much better grip actually.

      The RMR adds some new options. I can now rack on the back or side pocket of my jeans now, an improvement on the old rear sight-and-belt drill. I found I can do the cool-guy, skatetape on the top of the slide rear swipe, only I use the RMR frame without adding any friction tape.

      Me – I still rack and chamber the same way I’ve been doing for 25 years… But I could change…

  8. avatar Rabbi says:

    While they have started becoming all the rage, I have tested red dots on handguns and found them to be less than desirable for defensive shooting.

    If you have a perfect presentation (gross alignment), the dot can easily be seen within the sight and it is easy to align to the target. The problem comes when you do not have a perfect presentation, and your gun is not well aligned with the target. This can easily happen under stress, while moving, in odd shooting positions, etc.

    Notice in the demo video, neither the shooter nor the target were moving.

    Without proper gross alignment, the red dot is off the screen, but worse, you don’t know by looking at the screen which way your alignment is off. The dot could be too high, too, low, too far left, too far right, or a combination. When that happens, you have to divert your eyes to the back-up, iron sights (which are a must to have–factory sights need to be replaced with suppressor sights to see over the red dot sight) to get the dot to appear within the screen, or finish the shot with the irons. Either way, this slows down the process and takes your focus off dealing with the threat.

    Additionally, the red dot bounces quite a bit during recoil, and continuous to bounce while trying to align your target at the end stages of recoil which I find very distracting. They may work on a square range, with little movement and no stress, but not so much in the real world.

    Their place is for competition were: 1. a bad result does not end in death 2. The ammo is tuned to the gun and compensator for minimal recoil.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    I can understand the fascination with lasers, reflex and holographic sights. Electronics are fine for certain applications, but that little bladey thing on the muzzle end of the gun is the only sight anyone actually needs.

  10. avatar frankgon4 says:

    Red Dot for hunting possible. I think a Laser such as those built into the grip is a better choice for close up self defense situations.

  11. avatar Al says:

    It’s always the Indian, never the arrow.

  12. avatar Tom says:

    I think a red dot might be better on a long gun.

  13. avatar DJ says:

    Wondering about debris collecting on the sight lens. If it’s warm outside, I sweat rather profusely; heck, I sweat just THINKING about summer. It’s not unusual for me to unholster a Glock in August and find it literally dripping perspiration (on one side, at least). Doesn’t sound like that would contribute to a clear sight picture with a dot sight, nor would lint/dust bunnies or a coating of anti-monkey-butt powder migrating up from the nether regions. None of these hinder the use of iron sights.

  14. avatar Daniel says:

    That’s a lot of money. But I’ll tell you what. I’ve got something EVEN BETTER, and it only cost me $180.

    A laser.

  15. avatar hsoi says:

    -Who needs to shoot further than 15 yds with a self defense handgun?

    Who can predict what their self-defense situation will bring? I know I can’t.

    Granted the statistics tend to put most self-defense gunfights within 5 yards. But that doesn’t mean YOUR situation will be. Tom Givens of Rangemaster (Memphis, TN) has had almost 60 students involved in incidents. I believe in one of those the student had to make a 22 yard shot (the VCA was shooting from across the street at the student and children in the student’s front yard). Statistics are of little comfort when you are the anomaly.

  16. avatar Pete says:

    I’ve been using a RDS on a Glock 19 for the last three months. Eric did a great job in describing the advantages and disadvantages. Mine has co-wtness sights, which I added to address dead battery and lint on the lens issues.

    I have been having fits with the Glock trigger, coming from real DAO guns. A RMR is an expensive fix, but my trigger pull has improved consistently with dry-firing. Very similar to a laser for improving trigger pull, but instead of the laser taking away from the proper sight picture as you glance up to index the trigger pull impacts, proper sight pull is reinforced with a RDS.

    I understand that some folks will never pay the freight ($6-700) to deploy a RDS handgun – YMMV. From a user’s prespective, it’s worthwhile.

  17. avatar racer88 says:

    I got an FNP-45T, which has a slide that is pre-milled for an optic. So, I just HAD to get one. (It also has a standard threaded barrel… suppressor some day!) I put a Trijicon RMR (RM-07) on it. The FNP-45T also comes standard with taller sights to work with a suppressor. They also happen to co-witness with the red dot. So, as the article describes, finding the dot is as easy as lining up your iron sights.

    Is it worth $500? Prolly not. But, I got one because I could. And, I do like it. My FNP-45T is not a carry gun. It’s a home defense and range pistol. Do I like the red dot? Hell yeah! To me, guns are both serious and fun. Gotta have some fun… and try new and different things.

    1. avatar doc says:

      Is there a reason your 45 isn’t a carry gun? Is it because of the RMR?

      1. avatar Nick says:

        More likely because the gun itself is already a huge piece of hardware and weighs something like three pounds fully loaded. It’s a full-size combat pistol on par with the HK USP, and definitely not built with everyday carry in mind…

  18. avatar JP in Tennessee says:

    What’s did the author mean when he said he was “too close” to the TDS folks? What is a”VCA”?

    1. avatar hsoi says:

      VCA – Violent Criminal Actor

    2. avatar Eric says:

      TSD is my local gun shop, I know and am friendly with everyone that works there and I have bought some items from them. That friendly relationship may compromise my objectivity.

      I paid for my red dot stuff, however.

      I just think it is best to keep all influencing relationships clear when reviewing something.

  19. avatar Levi B says:

    Red dots help you more quickly acquire a sight picture–put dot on target. This tends to reduce time to first shot and split times for competent shooters. They will not close up your groups, unless you don’t know how to line up your handgun sights and so use an inconsistent sight picture.

  20. avatar cmd says:

    I have a C-More Systems red dot on my FNP-45 Tactical. While not as good as the RMR it works well. It co-witnesses with the tall iron sights with no variation after a feww hundered rounds. I primarily use it the FNP-45 and red dot with a sure fire X300 and a YHM suppressor. The added weight of the suppressor compensates really well for the recoil and makes follow up shots pretty easy. As long as I use good fundementals anyway. The red dot is right where it should be when I bring up the weapon just like the front sight.

    So I say it is a great addition and very useful but I still practice with the iron sights. I like to use the combo as my by the bed night time home defender. I figure waking up in the middle of the night my eye sight will be blurry and the red dot could be very useful. The light helps me decide if the person is armed and truly needs shooting and the suppressor will protect my hearing. A great combo.

  21. avatar doc says:

    Is there any concern about the weight of the RDS affecting the reliability of the slide cycling properly?

  22. avatar Dane says:

    I have a G19 w/rm06. Yes the red do jumps out of the window during recoil, but just look at your irons like normal and the red dot is right there.
    Distances inside of 7yds is a wash, at those distances most will just point shoot anyway under stress vs lining up irons. Where it really shines is at longer ranges past 10yds. Plus, with my aging eyes I can no longer get a clear front sight.
    I really enjoy shooting now!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email