|Simple Sights on an Early S&W Revolver|
However, if the target is close enough, the sights are often unnecessary. Although the definition of “close” is dependent upon the shooter’s skill and other factors like the size of the target, the body mechanics of pointing the pistol will allow you to align the bore and hit the target absent some intervening factor such as severely jerking the trigger. 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 or MOA* diameter for a miniature dot sight or MDS.
When it comes to iron sights, the typical 0.125-inch blade width found on most factory pistols with iron sights is an acceptable compromise between accuracy and speed. I prefer a thinner front sight blade (say 0.115 or even 0.110 inches) because the thinner blade covers less of the target at longer distances and is therefore more precise. I personally believe that front sight blades wider than 0.125 are unacceptable because such a wide blade covers too much of the target at 20 yards and beyond. Manufacturers of tritium night sights often use blades that are 0.135 or wider to accommodate the tritium capsule. While these sights work fine up close, the excessively wide front sight makes precise distant shots difficult.
The same holds true with the dot size in an MDS. I started my MDS training with a 6.5 MOA dot in a Trijicon RMR 06 red dot and still use the RMR for steel matches and other short range, fast action events. The RMR 06 dot size works well out to ranges of 25 yards or so; however, I discovered that the 6.5 dot covers too much of the target for precise shots at longer distances. I now use a Holosun MDS with a 2 MOA green dot on my carry pistol and the smaller dot works very well for short range as well as longer shots.
Some MDS brands have multiple reticle systems including a dot within a circle, solid triangles, open triangles with a dot in the center, etc. Personally, I find these reticles too busy and distracting with a triangle reticle being the one possible exception. If you zero the pistol/rifle for the point of aim/point of impact coinciding with the apex of the triangle, then you have a precision aiming point (the apex) for longer distances and a gross aiming point (the entire triangle) for short range engagements.
The MDS does have limitations; however, if you understand these limitations it will work for you. But what if it’s raining? I carry concealed and rain is typically not an issue since the cover garment protects the sight from rain until you draw the pistol. I used an MDS during a Gunsite 3-day class and it rained hard every day—all day. The initial MDS sight picture with water present was a bit fuzzy; however, first shot cleared the water away. How about batteries? With modern battery technology, the battery in your MDS is unlikely to fail. If you replace it every six months with a quality battery, you will almost entirely eliminate this possibility.
I’ve heard discussion concerning whether iron sights or the MDS is faster. In my experience, for short-range engagements there is no practical difference. I recently shot a Sensible Self Defense Short Range Match twice—once with a SIG P320 Carry pistol equipped with an MDS and once with a SIG P320 Carry pistol equipped with iron sights. The match consisted of five stages with an average of nine target engagements per stage and movement between shooting positions, etc. Distance to the targets ranged from arm’s length to 20 yards and non-threats or hard cover rendered many targets only partially visible.
My match total raw time with the MDS was 78.94 seconds and my raw time with the iron sights was 78.00 seconds. A difference of .94 seconds in favor of the iron sights. Another IDPA Master, Steve also shot the match with substantially identical Springfield XD-M pistols, one with iron sights and one with an MDS. His times were 69.60 with the MDS and 71.66 with the iron sights.
I have become a firm believer in the miniature dot sight on carry pistols and with the variety on the market today the shooter has a wide range of choices. I will discuss some of these choices in a future article.
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*One minute of angle or MOA equals one inch at 100 yards. Therefore, a six MOA dot would cover 6-inches at 100 yards.