Using an Aimpoint on my M4 in combat taught me many real world lessons on the advantages of a red dot over traditional iron sights. That said, when it comes to handguns, I’m an iron sights kinda guy. None of my pistols have a red dot, not even those made to take one. As red dots have gotten smaller, lasted longer and become much more rugged, I figured the time had come to try one out for an extended period . . .
As luck would have it, RF needed someone to put the new SIG SAUER P320 RX head-to-head with the established GLOCK 19 MOS with a JP Enterprises JPoint reflex sight. On paper, both of these guns are extremely similar. As equipped, they’re within a Benjamin of each other. In the hand, however, they’re as similar as apples and bowling balls.
Although they appear identical and are similar in execution, they’re very different when you shoot with them. I shot each pistol through each stage of this comparison side-by-side. I put 50 rounds through both for familiarization at the 10 yard line and then got out the timer. What a humbling experience.
I always feel like I have to point a GLOCK downward to get the sights on target. Drawing the GLOCK 19 MOS with the red dot increased that sensation. Even though the dot and the sights were correctly co-witnessed, I was still looking through the top of the optic, effectively pointing the gun at the horizon and searching for the dot.
With my EDC 1911, I’ve been averaging 1.10 seconds to draw and fire into an eight-inch circle at 15 yards. I get a few sub-one second draws in there, but I’m usually just over that.
My first series of shots with the G19/JPoint combination ran closer to 2.5 seconds. It was very confusing. I felt like my hands were doing the right thing, but my eyes just couldn’t find the sights. After 100 rounds, I ended at a two-second draw and strike time. Time to switch to the P320RX.
You would have thought — I certainly did — that I’d have started where the G19 left off, but you’d be mistaken. It was like starting all over again. Heck, it was like learning to shoot all over again.
The SIG Romeo sight is considerably larger (both wider and taller) than the JPoint. That’s to give you more view of your target while you look through the sight. But that also means there’s more real estate for that dot to hide in, until you have the gun in line with the target.
I was actually slower initially with the P320 RX than I was with the G19/JPoint. But after about 100 rounds, this one settled down to about the same draw and strike time.
I spent more of my time with the next set-up. I placd a steel silhouette with a 4X6-inch center plate at the 15 yard line and timed my draw and strike with two, three, and five rounds. I spent a few days on this drill, sending a full 500 rounds downrange, trying to get used to really seeing the dot when I pressed the gun forward.
For each pistol, my times steadily went down as the round count went up. Although the guns felt entirely different in my hands, they performed with shockingly similarly.
If I had not had the timer with me, I would have sworn the G19/JPoint combination was faster than the P320RX. I would shoot 50, average the scores, then switch guns and repeat, until all 250 were done. The difference between my draw and strike time between the guns was never more than 2/10th of a second between the guns in any group.
What is really surprising: my first and second shot split times. On average they were .17 of a second for the GLOCK and .16 for the SIG. Yup, a whopping 1/100th of a second. My total draw and strike with two with the Sig was 1.91, with a draw of 1.75 and a second shot .16 of a second later.
For the GLOCK, that total time averaged to 1.84, with a draw of 1.67 and a split time of .17 of a second. Although my draw time varied a bit for both guns, with a slightly wider standard deviation with the P320RX, the split times of .16 to .17 is extremely consistent throughout both guns. Pulling out my log from my training with my EDC, I had recorded a .17 split time, with iron sights.
What’s to learn from all this? It seems pretty obvious that, once my sights are on target and my hands are in the right position, I’m shooting consistently and it doesn’t matter what sight I’m using, I’m bring the gun down in recoil the same and firing the same no matter what. The variation is that first round out.
Although they are so close as to be practically meaningless, the slight edge to the G19/JPoint comes down to the smaller window. Or specifically, the shorter sight window. I naturally want to look down the middle of the optic, but both of these optics place the red dot closer to the bottom than the middle. As the Romeo has a taller sight, I’m moving it down a little bit more than the JPoint to see it. I seem to be looking for it with my eye a tiny fraction of a second longer. But really, only a teeny tiny fraction longer.
At the 10, 15, and 25 yard lines, I didn’t see any improvement with the red dot when it came to accuracy. In fact, up to the 15 yard line, I was more accurate with the iron sights. At 25 yards, I was just about even. Push it out to the 50, though, and things radically changed.
With the G19/JPoint, my standing slow fire 50-yard five-shot groups were about 5 1/2 inches. With the P320 RX, they were 5 inches. That level of accuracy is what I would expect shooting with iron sights off of bags.
What’s really cool: those groups didn’t change much when I went to single-hand shooting. That’s something I just can’t do with traditional sights with a G19, certainly not with any consistency. Without worrying about lining up three planes, the red dot floating right over the target let me focus much more on my trigger squeeze. So the red dot was definitely a help in long-range accuracy, but neither gun was any better than the other.
Beyond long-range accuracy, another advantage of the red dot, at least for me, was firing with my weak hand. I’m horrible with my left hand. First, the tendons of my thumb and first two fingers on my left hand have been cut, making them a little slower and weaker, and I’m extremely right eye dominant.
Shooting normally, I keep both eyes open with no problem, I always have. Shooting left handed, I have to close my right eye if I want to hit anything. If I don’t, I’m likely to miss a silhouette entirely at 25 yards. But using either of the red dots I have the same accuracy with both eyes (or either eye) open. Tactically, that’s an advantage, even if using it is rare.
In the end, I’ll still stick with traditional irons on my EDC guns. I don’t see the need to drill with another piece of equipment until it’s as good as what I’ve already got. The long range and single-handed advantage I get from the optic just doesn’t sell it for me.
But that didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me: how similarly the two guns, both of which felt very different in my hands, performed. Yet another example where the target and timer don’t lie, but my perceptions certainly did.
GLOCK G19 with JPoint (https://us.glock.com/products/model/g19) (http://www.jprifles.com/1.6.1.php)
Draw and strike time: 1.67
Draw and strike two rounds time: 1.84
50 yard standing group: 5.5 inches
SIG SAUER P320RX Compact (https://www.sigsauer.com/store/p320-rx-compact.html)
Draw and strike time: 1.75
Draw and strike two rounds time: 1.91
50 yard standing group: 5 inches