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Too Much Red Dot? A Quick Reminder


Every year more and better red dot pistols hit the market and our holsters. Though they aren't new to shooting, they're relatively new to the realm of general acceptance.

With more and more red-dot ready pistols like the Sig P320RX, Glock MOS, S&W CORE, and even the inexpensive Canik TP9SFX, this trend will no doubt continue (not to mention all of the aftermarket parts available). For several years now I've been exclusively running a red dot. Training, carrying, and the occasional competition.

Though the learning curve can be steep for some, and certain configurations can be finicky, many find the juice of a RDS absolutely worth the squeeze. Count me among them.


But there can be problems, even if you never run into mechanical error or other issues. Namely, if you're like me and haven't picked up an iron sighted pistol in a while. Last fall due to some TSA shenanigans I found myself at a competition without a pistol.

Thankfully I had friends in the area and I was able to borrow a plain jane Glock 17 for the occasion. And I sucked. This isn't to say I'm amazing with a pistol; far from it. But usually, usually I can hit things I'm aiming at. Like any idiot, I chalked this up to “not my pistol, not my fault” when it was anything but.

And life continued happily ever after. Until last week at the Glock Operator Course. I ran a pistol without a red dot sight, and it took the better part of the first half of the day to knock the dust and rust off of the irons. This was my fault, because I hadn't seriously practiced under pressure with irons in a long, long time.



In some ways it's like riding a bicycle, but at a competitive level. While you never quite forget how to ride, you aren't going to be moving as fast unless you put in the work. Part of the issue is that where and what you focus on is different between the two sight configurations. To make solid hits with irons, you focus your eyes on the front sight. Equal height and equal light with the rear. With a red dot, you focus on the target itself.


If you're shooting with irons and target-focus, generally you'll be hitting around the bull instead of inside. This is what I was doing.



Once the issue was identified, I slowed down and began redoubling my efforts on that front sight. To be clear, the same can and will happen with an AR or other modern rifle as well–it's just that we haven't yet reached the point where a pistol with just irons looks incomplete. After some iterations, the speed of acquisition came back and accuracy increased. I didn't end up as fast as a doped-up Lance Armstrong, but it was a marked improvement from the first half of the day.

If you're always going to be running a dot–great. But if you think you'll ever possibly end up in a situation where you're going to have to run irons, give your irons training a shakedown every once in a while. Lesson learned.


For a Primer on Reflex Sights, go here.

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