The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Why a Mini Red Dot Sight on a Pistol?

Why a mini red dot sight on a pistol?

This question is posed quite often by many shooters of various ability levels.  One transcending responsibility of all citizens is that life needs and requirements tend to force us the sacrifice of things we might really enjoy.  Thus training takes a backseat to family, work, and paying bills.  When I took up the concept of pistol mounted MRDS (Mini Red Dot System), I understood that there are vast improvements achieved by the implementation of the RDS within the firearms world as a whole, and that these improvements must transcend to pistols.  I just had to wrap my head around the concept.

As an instructor I preach shooting fundamentals that the students need to rely on in order to be effective.  There has to be a methodology hardwired into the shooter so that they are able to compress those fundamentals under time and distance, in order to achieve any sort of advanced standard.  Knowing and believing that myself, I faced this question – “How could I put an MRDS on one pistol and not screw myself with all other handguns I have to use?

The answer was found in dry and presentation practice; which we should be doing anyways.  It was fully realized in live fire practice.  By getting the choreography correct, I hardwired the techniques so that I could perform as needed, while minimizing the required mental resources for the task.

The human eye can only focus on one focal plane.  With iron sights our best hope for accuracy is to place our focus on the front sight.  The strengths of the MRDS over iron sights is that the number focal planes involved are reduced from three to two and through the nature of the dot we can focus on the target (for  positive ID) while keeping a relatively clear dot on the target.MRDS - why a red dot on a pistol 1

The dot exhibits peculiar characteristics when compared to the legacy sighting systems.  It floats and tends to magnify movement with its orbit within the window.  This can be frustrating when a shooter is used to irons, where innate movements are hidden within fuzzy sight bodies on out-of-focus sight planes. All these innate movements perceived in the MRDS are constant, yet they are largely unperceived with irons at close range.  The movement, or wobble zone, is a constant regardless of the sighting system used.

MRDS - exaggerated rendering of wobble zone

Author's exaggerated rendering of the “wobble zone”.

Although I believed in the theory, it took practice before it clicked.  I noticed that if I snatched the trigger, the dot moved accordingly.  The more I practiced, the more I noticed.  I learned that the dot doesn’t give us instant feedback, it gives us continual feedback.   It is constantly moving; therefore it is constantly telling us something.  This meant that the dot is telling us we are screwing up as we do it.  Not after the round is fired and the bullet hits whatever we didn’t intend to destroy.  This enables us to fix a shot before it breaks, if we are paying attention.

MRDS - stacking grip pressure

Stacking grip pressure' the dot increases movement as grip pressure increases, i.e. going from 80% to 100% grip pressure at trigger break. This commonly results from snatching the trigger or convulsive grip.

MRDS - snatched trigger means sympathetic movement

Snatched trigger means a sympathetic and momentary increase of grip pressure during the trigger press.  This occurs right before the moment of firing.  This dot/impact will move accordingly.

MRDS- Trigger Finger PlacementTrigger finger placement (excessive or insufficient) greatly affects the input put into the gun.  Improper placement or length of pull can lead to pushed or pulled shots.

We need four things to be consistent when shooting a pistol.  Grip, Sight Picture, Trigger Press, and Follow Through.  The MRDS enables us to visually perceive inconsistencies in our fundamentals, because that dot does not lie.  By focusing on the dots movement, we can throttle back and clean up the shot. What we need to understand is what the dot is telling us through its movement. Once we understand what grip pressure and trigger manipulation does to the dot’s movement, we can then find and identify those physical precursors, so that we know them by feel.  The dot merely pointed them out to us during our practice.  By using that information, we free up our mental resources for the sight and trigger.  What dry-fire with the MRDS has shown me is that dry-fire returned pennies per trigger press before with iron sights, and now yields dollars in return with the mini-red dot sight.

When I say “separate our grip and trigger”, I mean isolating the trigger manipulation.  We need to apply knowns and constants.  With a consistent grip and sight picture, we can then initiate the trigger press without disturbing the sight picture.  By doing this, we give ourselves time to aim and time to press cleanly. Continual feedback is invaluable in a world that continually tries to degrade our senses and performance.   Amazingly, what I have learned with that MRDS still applies to any other pistol I use.  My personal Eureka! moment was while shooting my work Sig P229R at the end of a long day.  I had not even fired my RMR equipped G19 yet; I had only been dry firing it for weeks.

MRDS- 40 rounds later

Forty rounds later, I’d fired a fist sized group into the A-zone from 25yds to 3yds. This included combat reloads, 6 and 7 round rapid strings, and ‘2 in 2 sec’ repetitions from concealment. The only flyer was 1.5” low a mover string due to the IPSC leaning toward me as it moved.  Pistol was an issued Sig P229R with factory iron sights.

The net gain has transcended all pistols for me.  The fear of screwing up all other pistols never panned out.  In fact, it strengthened all my pistol [shooting] across the board.   It’s about consistently pressing that trigger without disturbing the sight picture. The MRDS has helped me break through a ceiling that I had struggled with for years, costing much frustration and thousands of rounds.  Before the MRDS, my threshold was hand sized groups within 25yds, called flyers still in the torso.  Post-MRDS my threshold is fist sized groups, and called flyers are within a hand.  That’s the difference between area and point target within 25yds.  If used properly, the Mini-Red Dot Sight becomes a force multiplier in both personal investment time and possibly the gunfight of your life.

For further study, I highly encourage you to read the “Comparative Pistol Project Report” by James Ryan and Robin Adler of Norwich University.

About the author: Chad Mercer is the owner of Z3ro Solutions LLC (that's pronounced zero-three as in the Marine corps MOS for infantry. A former Marine whose career as a professional stuntman necessitated a change in career, Mercer became a gunsmith and eventually worked for the US Dept. of State. There, at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, he was a Defensive Equipment and Armored Vehicle Branch Senior Armorer and then Senior Instructor at the DSS Training Center Firearms Training Unit. Z3ro Solutions had its genesis when LWRCI approached Mercer to being teaching their armorer courses. Its instructors now teach a “holistic approach” to training. They advise the shooter will “… no longer believe in magic inside the weapon.” Rather the shooter will have the opportunity to better understand the firearms science, designer’s intent, theory, and where the three diverge or meet. For further information contact Z3ro Solutions at info(at)

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