Saturday, October 12, 2019

Is a Red Dot Useful or Not?


GILES CUSTOM w/ Aimpoint MKIII Courtesy of Morphy Auctions

My first experience with a red dot sight on a pistol was the Aimpoint Mark III in 1983 when I was a member of an Army pistol team. The Aimpoint was the “newest thing” and several of my team mates had purchased them and mounted them on their bullseye pistols. Even though the sight was too large and heavy for practical carry they worked well as bullseye pistols. We had several Distinguished shooters on the team who could hold the 1.69 inch “X” ring on an NRA standard B-6 50-yard target with both iron sights and the red dot.

I mounted one on my Giles Custom 38 Wadcutter 1911 pistol; however, I could not consistently hold the 8-inch bullseye at fifty yards much less the X ring. The bouncing red dot frustrated me because it was a constant reminder of how large my arc of motion was at that point in my shooting career. I took the Aimpoint off the pistol and installed it on a Ruger Mini-14 and proceeded to use it to hunt jackrabbits. I still have the sight and it still works.

Fast forward to 2015 and my introduction to the Miniature Red Dot Sights (MRDS) and their ability to be slide-mounted for daily carry. I tried a MRDS during one of Gabe Suarez’s classes and was immediately struck by its utility.

What impressed me about the red dot was that it removed one variable in the aiming process. With a dot, you do not need to maintain the relationship between the front/rear sights that you must maintain with iron sights. The red dot is on a single focal plane. If the dot is on the target and you maintain this alignment while properly pressing the trigger, you will hit the target assuming a properly zeroed pistol.

Notice I said maintain the dot’s position in relation to the target and properly press the trigger. A red dot sight will not correct a flinch, jerking the trigger, etc.

Some studies have stated that a red dot does little to enhance accuracy at the 0-5 yard ranges for typical targets. In my experience the red dot does not give an accomplished shooter a clear speed or accuracy advantage over iron sights at these distances.

Precision and distant shots are where sight selection becomes important whether you are looking at the width of the front sight blade on adjustable iron sights or the minute-of-angle (MOA) diameter for a red dot sight.

In 2015 & 2016, Karl Rehn and KR Training partnered with the Texas A&M Huffines Institute to conduct a study comparing shooter performance using iron sights, green lasers, and slide mounted red dot sights.* They collected data on 118 shooters of all skill levels from age 18 to 76 years old over a two-year period. I learned of Rehn’s study at the 2016 Tactical Conference where he summarized the study’s conclusion: Shooters using the slide mounted red dots did not shoot better than those using irons or lasers.

As I listened to the Tactical Conference presentation one thing immediately caught my attention. Per the study: “There was not time in the testing to give participants significant training time to learn the red dot or the laser. They were allowed 10 or less dry fire presentations before testing began. Red dot advocates insist that finding the dot on presentation improves with training.”

In my experience this is absolutely true. The physical alignment of the pistol on target results from properly positioning the body, your hand eye coordination, and a proper grip on the pistol. These factors are what align the pistol on target, not the sights.

If you do not have a solid mastery of shooting fundamentals or if you cannot properly present the pistol from a draw, the red dot will not magically cure these problems.

The pistol’s ergonomics can affect your grip and ability to obtain a consistent pistol presentation. The grips size compared to your hand size and the grip angle come into play. In my case, I personally don’t like the grip angle on some pistols because they cause me to present the pistol with the muzzle elevated—iron sights or red dot. I don’t have that problem with other pistols such as the 1911, S&W M&P, or the SIG P320. My current carry pistol is a SIG P320 with a Trijicon RMR and the SIG Lima Laser Grip module.

SIG P320 & SIG Lima Laser Grip module

If you have a pistol that fits you and have practiced to the point that you have a consistent presentation then the red dot will be exactly where you need it to be in relation to the target. All you need then is a good trigger press and you will hit.

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* https://blog.krtraining.com/red-dot-study-key-points/

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