Sunday, December 30, 2012

Red Dot or Not ...

Glock 34, InSight MRDS (Red Dot), InSight WX-150 Weapon Light

More and more I am seeing handguns with "Red Dot" sights placed on the slide. Both in magazines, where they are portrayed as the "next big thing" for home defense or with some select Law
Enforcement/ Military groups, where they are using them in operations. So I have experimented with a Glock 34 setup with a red dot (as seen above) to see if they give an advantage for the tactical operator in the field. From the tests I have done, I'm not so convinced ...

For years, competitive shooters have used red dot sights, muzzle brakes, enhanced magazine wells, and extended magazines on their handguns to increase speed and accuracy. These shooters compete in a specific divisions that allow for these enhancements. I have spoke to several competitors that use these guns and each component increases their speed to a degree. With specific focus on the red dot, they find that it is faster to only have to align a dot to the target, instead of having to align a front and rear sight with the target. Therefore, this allows for faster shots on target from the draw, splits (shot to shot) and target transitions. The other big advantage to having the red dot, are the long shots. Being able to align the dot on the target at 25m or greater, becomes faster with having the dot. 

There are a couple of different types of mounts, on the market, you can use to add a red dot to your handgun. You can purchase a mount that will attach to the frame of the gun and mount the red dot on top of that, as seen in this picture.

You can also purchase a mount that takes the place of your rear sight on your slide. This is seen in the Glock 34 picture at the top of the page. 

Now there are gun manufactures that are producing handguns with the slide cut to fit a mini red dot sight. This allows for the sight to sit lower so you can use "suppressor" sights if something happens with the red dot. For example, the Smith and Wesson CORE and FNP-45.

From the test I have done, having the red dot take the place of your rear sight or mounting it over the slide, can cause you to rely to heavy on your electronic device. Having the red dot mounted on the slide where your iron sights could still be used, would be the best configuration to have. Although, I'm still not sold on it.

For operations in the field, you have to account for worst case scenario. So if you ever had to use your weapon, that dot had better be on. That's not the time for it not to be there. The equipment, the environment and you all effect your performance. With the respect to the equipment, the biggest factor would be the battery. Of course taking out the factor that it is an electronic device that could have a malfunction when you need it most. Hopefully the guy that assembled your equipment was having a good day. I also looked at doing one hand reloads and malfunctions with the red dot on the gun. It did make it easier to rack the slide, however I did not rack the slide at "full speed" in fear that I may break the device or rip it off. Secondly, now you have a piece of glass between your front and rear sight. This could potentially become a problem if you crack the glass or it fogs up. Say you respond to a "man with a gun" call. Upon your arrival, he runs in the house and holds his family hostage. It's cold and raining and you are now in a stand off for hours in the weather. You finally get the green light to make entry in the house and you find that your red dot has malfunctioned because you have been standing outside for the last 4 hours in the rain. So then you proceed to use the back up irons, however you can't see the front sight because the glass in between has fogged up. Good luck with the hostage rescue shot! The last factor in all this, is you. I have used iron sights all my life when it comes to handguns. So this was a new experience for me. I will say after a little practice, I was able to "find the dot." It was hard to find the sweet spot that the gun had to be in, so the dot became visible. At distances of 15m and in, my draw time was consistent with a pistol with iron sights. Where I saw a difference, was in the accuracy at distance. It was much easier to call my shots from the dot at 30m and greater. 

When looking at the FBI report on law enforcement officers who were killed or assaulted, they found that most engagements occurred inside 20 feet. That's just inside 7 yards. So I'm not sold on these for "road officers." For military application, a pistol is commonly used to fight the operatorcback to his long gun. However, every situation is different and could call for different kinds of weapons to be used. 

So do I think red dot sights have a purpose on a handgun, YES !! However, I don't see it for every day carry or use. I believe they could be utilized for specific missions.

The biggest tactical advantage I see for a red dot is under the use of Night Vision Goggles (NVG's) and/or the use of a suppressor. Before we could not use a handgun under NVG's because you could only focus up close or out at distance. If you were focused up close, everything beyond your focal point was blurry and the exact opposite happens when focus is at distance, you can't see up close. The red dot however, allows for you to keep your focus at distance and still be able to see the dot. Below is a picture of a red dot being used looking through a PVS-14. (The picture is not as clear as actually looking through the NVG.) However you can still see the illuminated dot.

So in conclusion, I found that red dot's on handguns could have a place in tactical operations. However, my opinion is that they have limitations. I am glad to see that equipment like this is becoming available to operators for use. I just don't see the big deal with this yet. If you have comments to share, please post them. In my 9 years of law enforcement, we did not get the chance to use these in operations. I'm basing all my findings and opinions on the use of these devices in a training environment.


  1. One of the best ways to make shooting easier, especially for a novice shooter, is the use of red dot sight. Well, I have never used a Glock with a red dot, but I think this is an improvement in gun technology worth trying. Thanks for sharing this informative content. See amazing red dot sights here: