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To Red Dot or Not: What Sights Should I Use on My Pistol?

We welcome the “Princess Gunslinger,” aka our managing editor Michelle Cerino, to her new column of the same nickname here at The WON. Michelle is sponsored by Trijicon, at The WON and at shooting matches across the country. We think you’ll enjoy her information on using a red dot and like following her adventures. Be sure to check out her social media, too. ~BB

Princess Gunslinger is sponsored by Trijicon

Do you have a red dot on any of your long guns? Many of us do. But what about a red dot on your handguns? Why not? It’s definitely popular now and not just for competition.  Today you will find people using them for competition and on their defensive pistols. Don’t believe me? Go to almost any training class these days and you’ll see as many as 10% of the students using red dots on defensive guns. Stop by any pistol matches and you’ll see as possibly 50%, or more using red dots on their pistols. These numbers come from my experience as a trainer and a competitor.

 

If you’re at a match, don’t be afraid to ask some of the competitors why or why not they chose the red dot they have on their pistol. You can learn a lot that’ll save you heartache and money in the long run. Not going to any matches soon or just not a talker? Read on to decide if you should red dot, or not.

Disclaimer: My family and I are members of Trijicon’s Pro Staff. We believe in their Brilliant Aiming Solutions™ for the consumer, military and law enforcement markets. If it’s good enough for the military we are confident in our use both in competition and personal defense. Plus, we really like the people behind the Trijicon brand. 

Red Dot

Iron Sights

Let’s look at iron sights. The standard configuration is of a front sight and a rear sight that  align with each other and then on a target to make the desired shot placement. With iron sights, primarily what I use, you need to train yourself to focus on the front sight, through the window of the rear sight. Then place them properly on the intended target downrange. It sounds like a lot but it’s not that hard. However, for some people it can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. Poor eyesight from old age or just common eye problems. My husband started to have problems focusing on the sights to make precision shots. The difficulty arises when a shooter, while firing, shifts her focus to the target. Or when she forgets about the relationship of the front sight to the rear sight. This usually results in misplaced shots.

Now, for those who learn how to shoot well with iron sights, the process of focusing eventually becomes second nature. And honestly, depending on the size of the target and the distance to it, you may not need much focus at all. For some, it’s always a struggle but remember this … front sight through the window of the rear with the target behind it all. Stay focused and press the trigger!

Night Sights

But what about low light situations? Trijicon has an answer for that, and for increasing your precision game as well. Did you see its newly released  HD XR Night Sights; (MSRP: $175)? These sights combine all the feature of defensive sights with the best features of competition sights.

The front sight is really easy to find with an orange or yellow glow-in-the-dark photoluminescence painted front sight outline. The HD XR Night Sights have Tritium inserts front and rear, making shooting in low light situations simple. If you’ve never used night sights, you’ll be amazed at how much they help. A thinner front sight post allows for a greater field of view, thus making target identification and precision shots placement easier. I like that these have more light spacing around the front sight. It helps me line up shots more quickly and precisely. These iron sights work perfect for a shooter in any type of light environment. Best of all, no batteries needed!

Red Dot

 

Why the Dot?

With all the greatness of the iron sights you might wonder why even bother with a red dot. First of all, notice the term sight, not sights. This saves on some portion of the, “lining things up.” Because, unlike iron sights, with red dots, you have nothing to line up. It can be as simple as putting the dot on the target and pressing the trigger. Unless of course you don’t know how to manage the trigger. But that’s an entirely other article.

I have a lot of experience with red dots on long guns, but not much with red dots on handguns. Usually I only get to use them on staged guns at matches. I do have a pretty good idea what works and lasts long.  Trijicon’s RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex) sight (MSRP: $577 – $708) is the most rugged miniature red dot sight available and hugely popular — especially in the defensive market. when you bet your life on something, you need it to be rugged and reliable.

Red Dot

The RMR comes in a variety of options for whatever your need.  Available in LED, Adjustable LED, or Dual Illuminated versions, it’s perfect for those who may not need the dot to be on all the time or who may want to have a backup plan for a dead battery. And  with dot sizes ranging from 1.0 MOA to 13 MOA, you are sure to find a combination you prefer. Batteries are always an issue, but if you adhere to the manufacturers recommendations you’ll be “in the red” when you need to.

 

Many people love the red dots for their ease of use and target acquisition. With old eyes, there really is not any focusing.

So, if you’re in a place where you need bi-focals or reading glasses, or glasses to see far but not near, you will find a red dot to be a lifesaver.

I have many friends on the pro shooting circuit, and when I ask them why they started shooting open guns with red dots, the standard answer is, “I just can’t see the darn sights anymore.”

 

Red Dot

Consider the following before purchasing a red dot sight:

  • How much money are you willing to spend?
  • Will your current holster work with a red dot sight?
  • Will a red dot make shooting easier in regard to what you can see?
  • You will still need to  know how to use your iron sights, as a backup to a dead battery situation, especially if the firearm is for competition or home defense.

So, red dot or not? Honestly, you have to decide for yourself.

  • About Michelle Cerino

    Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, is the managing and social media editor at The WON. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers.

     

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