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Preview – Little Guns, Red-Dots

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Photos by Jerry Sarkody

Mini Red-Dot Sights Are Becoming More Popular on Carry Guns. But Do They Make Sense?

Most of the time my job sucks. Sometimes it’s even excruciating. It has to be done, though — thousands depend on me, or so my mom says. RECOIL Editor-in-Chief Iain Harrison recently called and told me to get a couple of handguns, some pistol optics, a few thousand rounds of ammunition, and get my ass to the range. “Very well,” said I, and heaved a sigh. “If I must.”

Commander’s intent was first to see how a pistol optic like the RMR or MRDS works on compact and sub-compact handguns with a short sight radius. Second, determine if it negatively impacts sighting from a position of concealment, or compromises the “carryability” of the handgun. After all, we’re used to seeing glass on longslide competition guns, and they’re becoming more accepted on fullsize service pistols. Compacts? Not so much.

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A half-score of shooters, many pistols and optics (predominantly Trijicon RMRs), a couple cases of War Sport 9mm, and one Yeti later, we had our answers. Those are: yes, very well indeed and no, not at all.

The Short Answer
Every advantage a red-dot provides to a large-frame pistol — and there are many — is present when shooting the smaller ones. In point of fact, a pistol optic is more useful on a compact because it eliminates the disadvantages of a short sight radius. With repetition and familiarity, it’s actually easier to shoot an optic-equipped short sight radius gun than a “fullsize” pistol with irons. As for making it more difficult to conceal, it doesn’t. That remains almost completely dependent on clothing, holster, and wear/location choice. The butt of the weapon and your mag will remain the likeliest thing to “print” unless you’re an anorexic gunslinger wearing skinny jeans and Lycra tops every day — in which case you have bigger problems.

Well, duh, you might say, but you’d be surprised by just by how many people turn up their nose at the idea of a pistol-mounted optic, yet how many of them have never actually handled one. Most of those negative opinions are based on misinformation, the performance of earlier generations of optics, or just anecdotal information provided by KESMEs (Keyboard Educated Subject Matter Experts). There are some disadvantages to an RMR or its cousins, but few are directly related to the practical application of the weapon and optic in its intended purpose.

“A red-dot gives you just one combo to deal with,” says Steve Fisher, our instructor of choice for this endeavor. “The problem and the dot. We focus on the problem, we see what we want to hit, we superimpose the dot over it, we press the trigger, and we do work until the problem goes away. It really is that simple.”

Fisher is the owner and lead instructor of Sentinel Concepts, and a long proponent of pistol-mounted optics. Though he types like a blind kid beating a keyboard with two bunches of plantains, he’s extraordinarily knowledgeable and surprisingly articulate — and he’s shot tens of thousands of rounds using just about every conceivable breed and style of optic.

Red-dots, reflex sights, holographic sights, etc., are collimating optics; they’re a weapon sight that provides a single aiming point with little or no parallax (and they might not be red-dots at all — one of ours sported a green triangle). The whole premise behind such an optic on a pistol is precisely the same as it is with a rifle. It makes shooting the weapon accurately, under stress, easier. For some people, particularly those with older or “failing” eyes there are additional advantages.


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