The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Water is Wet, Red Dots Break

We knew that the Micro Red Dot Sight (MRDS) was finally becoming more normalized once Kimber began releasing factory options for them. This is a company that mostly makes its nut from a pistol designed over 100 years ago, and now you can get one red-dot-ready from the factory. It’s like your great grandfather joining Facebook and knowing who Lady Gaga is.

For decades, we’ve seen crossover from the competitive shooting world into the more practical/tactical/duty world. While military training has gotten better/faster/stronger since the first few years into the war on terror, the bleeding edge of performance often originates from the competition community.

Those on the bleeding edge of competitions are willing to accept narrower performance envelopes and more risk regarding the longevity and durability of their competition guns, which makes sense because while they may lose a match, someone on the other end of the equation may lose their life. Often, when something proves beneficial in competitions, a more ruggedized version is employed for use downrange. JP offset sights become Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Sights. A precision-tuned three-gun trigger becomes a Geissele SSF. An awkward offset C-More sight mounted on a free-floating tube becomes an Aimpoint Micro offset on a LaRue mount.

And so it goes with pistol-mounted red dots, with more military and LEO agency approvals happening every year.

Raceguns may look ridiculous to some, but they were the precursors to the practical.

Raceguns may look ridiculous to some, but they were the precursors to the practical.

The transition from gaming-to-tactical took a considerable amount of time. Doug Koenig was the first IPSC world champion to win using a pistol-mounted red dot rather than iron sights, and he did it in 1990. Our own Iain Harrison made extensive use of pistol-mounted red dots in competitions in the ’90s as well.

The Leap
One of the first people to publicly advocate for a pistol red dot for defensive or offensive use was Kelly McCann, a former Marine Corps officer, largely lauded for the standardization of tactics for counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and close quarters combat for the Department of Defense and Department of State. But he wasn’t alone. Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts was running a Tasco Optima 2000 on a Smith & Wesson 5906 in 1999.

It wasn’t until 2003 when McCann released a training DVD featuring a slide-mounted red dot on the cover that the idea began to gain weight. What started as a way to have the same sight picture on a pistol as a rifle turned into something else completely a decade later.

People were skeptical, to put it mildly. Fisher and McCann may have been early, but they were right. It would be more than a decade after these early efforts before slide-mounted red dots gained real momentum.

The RDS window doesn’t have to break, fly out, or anything dramatic like that to become obscured. There’s plenty of environmental fouling that can inadvertently occur.

The RDS window doesn’t have to break, fly out, or anything dramatic like that to become obscured. There’s plenty of environmental fouling that can inadvertently occur.

The name Gabe Suarez may be a dirty word in some circles, but he helped push the second wave of red dot adoption in 2008 to 2009. Specifically, Suarez popularized recessing the red dot sight into a pistol slide via milling, which allowed for a co-witness when used in conjunction with taller suppressor sights. This permanent modification makes for a larger commitment, but the training and shooting community’s unease about electronic failures were calmed somewhat with availability of usable backup iron sights.

And their concerns weren’t unfounded.

Thems the Breaks
Red dots on gaming guns would often break — Iain tells us he replaced Tasco PDP2s every couple thousand rounds, simply because the early red dot sights couldn’t handle the recoil. In the world of competitive shooting, this is partially why larger custom frame-mounted, non-reciprocating dots gained in popularity.
Physically mounting a red dot to a pistol slide is rough as hell on an optic. How rough? 10,000Gs with some setups. That kind of force can make a whole helluva lot fail, especially when an optic gets hammered for thousands of rounds.

Many of the red dots we use on pistols weren’t specifically designed for that use; they were for piggybacking on an ACOG or offset on a scope ring, or perhaps a lightweight primary rifle sight — in other words, general-use optics.

From the time it was released, the Trijicon RMR became the most popular option for pistols. In-line enhancements occurred over several years to address issues that came up. Initially glass would delaminate, or windows would fly out completely. Motherboards would break. Battery contacts would be hammered loose. Inconsistencies in body size meant that in order for the least stress to be put on the optic during firing, slides had to be custom-fit to the optic by people like Doug Holloway at ATEi.

Leupold Deltapoints suffered similar complications. Both companies addressed the challenges as they occurred, only to find a new hole in the dike later down the line. Ultimately this led to a generation of better and more durable sights, namely the Trijicon RMR 2.0 and the Leupold Deltapoint Pro.

red dot

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