I first started carrying with a red dot on my everyday carry (EDC) pistol in 2017, it was still in the phase of being widely acceptable then. red dot optics (RDO) were already in use on rifle platforms and it was definitely the hot new thing to buy even If you didn’t really need it. I remember thinking when, if ever, could they make red dot optics work on pistols without being too bulky. Of course, fast forward and here we are with a plethora of red dot optics to choose from. I want to share with readers what I have learned from shooting, carrying and training students with red dot optics because I don’t see some of the cons addressed nearly enough in the industry.
First, the pros of using red dot optics. For many people, myself included, being able to pick up your targets faster when compared to using iron sights is a major benefit. This is predicated on training of draw, presentation and sight alignment. The theory behind why it’s faster for most people is because with a red dot you only have two focal points to line up, your target and the dot. With iron sights you now have three focal points to line up, rear sight, front sight, and then your target. In short, it would seem using a red dot is more forgiving if you don’t have perfect sight alignment with iron sights.
The second pro, is a red dot may help with tunnel vision in a stressful situation. When you are in a fight or flight situation most people will get tunnel vision where both eyes are open and focused on the threat. Tunnel vision will make your iron sights blurry; in fact, some people that have had to use their firearm in self-defense do not remember seeing the iron sights at all. A red dot is supposed to work with your body’s reactions in stressful situations. When using a red dot, both eyes should be open and focused on the target; you look through the dot on to your target. I consider this a major advantage over iron sights.
Now the cons… the things you find from experience that some don’t talk about.
The first con is the learning curve This can be different for each person.
Finding the dot - Due to poor presentation and sight alignment, finding the red dot at the center of the sight can be difficult when you begin using the attachment. This can be improved with training; it’s not a deal breaker.
Cross eyed dominant shooters - When both eyes are open, all of a sudden every shot is to the left or right. The shooter is not conscience of which eye they’re using for sight alignment, again training will fix this. I’ve had a couple of students with RDOs overcome this once they were aware of it.
The arc of movement is amplified - This just means the dot will show more movement in your arms and hands. This can cause anxiety and lack of confidence when pressing the trigger.
The second con is that the optic is easily obstructed. The optic window gets dusty, dirty, wet, or fogged. I’m constantly dusting the optic window making sure it’s clean. I dust it at least twice a day when I can…discretely of course. In rainy weather it has gotten slightly fogged but I use an anti-fog lens cleaner that keeps it less foggy. Personally, I have not had the optic get wet, but when it’s raining outside it can happen.
The third con is the bright and dark transitioning of the optic that occurs when changing environments. This can happen when you’re out on a sunny day then go inside somewhere or vice versa. The red dot brightness setting may be too bright inside and flood your sight picture, or when it’s too dim in an outdoor setting you might as well just use your iron sights. Some red dots have an auto setting to counter this but they are not perfect either.
The fourth con is it’s something extra that can fail; sometimes the old ways are the best. The K.I.S.S method, Keep It Simple Stupid. What I mean is, the red dot can fail, or you forget to turn it on…etc. Granted, they are pretty damn reliable given that you get a good one, but a good one will cost around $300 to $600. For that price you can buy ammo and pay for a good training course.
So don’t run out and buy a red dot right away, red dots don’t work for everyone. Some people will not gain much advantage having a red dot on their EDC pistol. Statistically, most self-defense encounters take place inside of 10 yards and at that distance a well-trained person may not even need to use their sights that close. So each person needs to look at what is going to work for themselves. Rent one at your local range or see if a friend will let you shoot theirs before you decide. If you do get a red dot, make sure you seek training before you carry one on your EDC pistol. You can find excellent options for training here at www.Shootingclasses.com, you can also contact me at www.gstworkshop.net.