This is a discussion on A caution about red dot reflex sights for handguns... within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; It always seemed to me that the advantage of RD sights was no sight alignment to deal with ... guess that ain't so. Think I'd ...
It always seemed to me that the advantage of RD sights was no sight alignment to deal with ... guess that ain't so. Think I'd go with a laser instead.
BTW, there's an illuminated sight, I think it's the Eotech, that you can't see with polarized glasses - unless you look thru it sideways. Just something to think about with all the high tech toys.
"The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper
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Crap, I said that backwards - should've been "you can't see it with polarized glasses if you look thru it sideways" - like if you turn the gun sideways. Sorry. Granted, not a big issue, but it's there. Here's a link to a another forum where Aimpoints and a common "perceived problem" were being discussed by a guy who really knows his stuff; the Eotech issue was brought up as a BTW thing.
Good read Tangle. I agree with you and for me, I'll take the time-tested method and stick with my trusty iron sights.
"He who does not punish evil commands it to be done." - Leonardo da Vinci
I'm too young to be this old!
Getting old isn't good for you!
Gentlemen, I'm sitting here reading this thread with great interest. It's quite obvious to me that many of you are more well-schooled and well-practiced than me.
My thought on the concept of red dot, laser, night sight usage is this.
At close range in an active attack upon me and/or my loved ones, reactive shooting would rule. No sights necessary.
In low-light circumstances either in my home, a dark street, etc., when the attack is extended, I need to be able to pick up my front sight instantly so I advocate no maintenance/no batteries/no bump-it-and-it-fails tritium night sites.
Other than that, I know that no matter how I may try to kid myself, there is a chance I may have taken the necessary time to ensure that the batteries/function of my laser or red dot are completely operational at ALL times.
I practice proper technique often with my defensive weapons, keep them clean and well maintained and no without a doubt that my firearm and the iron sights are there just as they have always been and they will be MY very best chance for survival for MY style and capability.
I became a believer in the night sights when my nephew the police officer and gun afficiando took me into mock situations with our weapons and showed numerous situations where glowing sights would be an advantage/necessity. In addition to that, there is no way I could afford to put 2 or $300 sighting aids on all of my defensive guns because if you don't have the same sighting system on each and every weapon you may use in a self-defense/active shooter scenario your odds of fumbling/failing greatly increase.
All of your points are valid, this is just MHO. Thank you
Ruger MkII, Kel Tek P3AT, Hi Point JH45, SA XDm9, SA XD9sc, SA 1911 MilSpec Loaded, SA 1911 MilSpec Loaded Micro
Life is fragile and is what we make it. Keep dear to your heart that of your loved ones and fellow man and by God don't try to take it from me or my loved one's.
Tritium night sights can (and do) fail. They get old and dim. The gas can leak out of them, and they go out. There was even a QC issue a few years ago that resulted in contamination turning some sights pink.
I even had a few friends lose the front sights off their handgun slides while shooting.
I guess what I'm saying is that you should have more than one sighting system, just in case one fails.
It is possible for anything to fail. The incidents of catastrophic failure of night sights, other than a QC issue, are very few. I have heard of standard sights falling off and breaking too. I hear of failures, i.e. falling off, of the plastic Glock front sight, but again, on a whole it is rare.
My one issue with night sights is they do dim with time. I don't know if some interpret that 10-12 year lifetime spec as meaning at the end of the period the sights just suddenly go out, but that's not what it means. It means that by that 10-12 years they will have dimmed to the point they are ineffective. They dim with time to the point they are ineffective. So you're looking at a dimmer sight every year they're on your gun. They may work out to 10 years for some with really good eyes and really good night vision (eyes), but for older eyes, we may need a brighter light than we'll get from night sights after only about 7-8 years. I know that's tough, but that's pretty much the way it is getting old.
The thing that simply can't be grasped about the pistol mounted red dots is the time required to re-acquire the dot if you loose it. I know it sounds far fetched, but before you fork out your $300-$400 for the ultimate sight solution, you might want to be really sure you'll never have a problem re-acquiring, or acquiring for the first time, the dot under a life and death situation. It's not easy, at least for me, in training situations; I can only imagine what it would be like under stress.
Let's consider this too. Many people, as caught on videos of actual gunfights, don't have the gun up to eye level. Even well trained persons are caught shooting with the gun below eye level. Just think abut that and apply it to a life and death 'rush' while trying to locate your 'dot' in that little rectangle.
I'm too young to be this old!
Getting old isn't good for you!
I appreciate your post, Tangle.
My formal training is Computer Science. You'd think I'd be a technophile. Instead, I made a career out of focusing on, and solving the business problem, not pushing technology. This describes my philosophy of preferring solutions with fewer moving parts, or more specifically, less things that can fail.
I love iron sights. Tritium sights are are about as fancy as I get.
'Clinging to my guns and religion
Truth be told, for most reactive gunfight problems you need no sights at all on the pistol as the contacts are close and fast and the shooters actions are either reactive, or too slow. Yet there are times when a sight picture is essential to success. If the threat is outside of the “close range” envelope and exceeds 7 yards, the shooter will need a good visual reference to make sure his pistol is pointed correctly, something not necessary at 3 yards. Moreover if the threat exposes only a partial area…such as an eye and gun muzzle peeking from behind cover, or worse, they are hiding behind an innocent, an accurate and verifiable sight index is essential to make sure the shot goes where intended. So while point shooting skills are important, not all your shots will be shot without sights.
The sights are used to refine the physical alignment of the pistol. You do not need sights to point a gun as is evidenced by how easily a child picks up a toy gun and points it. That point action is relatively sufficient for close distances and large targets. When either of those changes; the target gets farther away and appears smaller, or is actually small to begin with, pointing is generally not sufficient. A refinement of that is needed. The more those sights lend themselves to a finite alignment (such as we would have with a precision rifle scope) the closer one can align the weapon on target. Iron sights on pistols work on the same principle. Relatively narrow front sights and squared off rear sights lend themselves very well to this alignment. If your eyes are good, this may work fine.
The issues come up when the shooter has older eyes or eyes that have problems with the quickly change of focus that is needed to use these sights well. When using iron sights, one does not simply gaze at the front sight and all else in the world disappears, no matter what the range schools would have you believe. The shooter first sees the threat. Thus his focus begins down range. Then his pistol comes up and is aligned on target. Remember at close range that is all you need. If more is needed, the shooter’s visual focus must come back from the threat to the front sight to use them correctly. Not only is this counter-intuitive under combat stress, but it is exceedingly more and more difficult to do well as we age. Now I am not saying that these two things are impossible to do, simply that they are difficult.
And they are difficult from the shooters’ perspective as well as from that of the trainer that must convince students of the need for these visual gymnastics.
Now, what if there was a sighting system that allowed you to keep your visual focus on the threat as nature and God intended you to do? What if that sighting system also gave you the most precise index possible with a pistol, and was useable in all lighting conditions? And in addition, was small enough that you could add it to the carry weapon, and holster it, and carry it every day? That is where the red dot comes in.
So let me be clear. If you plan on only using your pistol for the minimum - "average civilian CCW stuff", (a watered down standard with low expectations of your own skills) you really don't need any sights on the gun at all and can make do just fine with a bare slide. But if you want to optimize what you and your weapon can do, read on.
What you do need sights for is when things are taking place at a longer distance interval, or any close range event requiring greater precision than can be expected from point shooting.
A pistolero should be able to hit with his CCW out to at least 50 yards. We prefer to be able to hit out to 100 yards minimum, as far as for our staff instructor standards. Again, don't judge the world by the so-called "average standards" used by lazy instructors to foist substandard training upon you. I want to put the sights on my gun that will allow me to do get hits at any distance from arm's length to down the street.
For a distant target here are some possible scenarios:
You can see the target but cannot see the sights or index them on the target = you will miss
You can see the target, and you can see the sights, but you cannot index them with any degree of accuracy on the target because they cover up the entire target = you will miss.
You can see the target, and you can see sights, as well as index those sights on the target with the necessary degree of accuracy = you will hit.
Miss one of the three points:
Indexing sights on the target,
………………………………..and you will miss.
If you cannot see the front sight well, you can add Big Dot sight, but if you can't index that Big Lollypop sight well on a distant target, you still won't be able to hit it. I know it is perhaps a poor analogy, but how many Big Dot sights do you see at the national level action shooting events?
Now, I can still see pretty good, but many of my students cannot, so I sought out a “best answer” for them. The best answer, given our modern technology, is this. If you simply cannot see the front sight at all, or have issues indexing what you can see on the target, adding a red dot optic to the pistol is the best solution. That coupled with regular glasses (not your special reading shooting glasses) that you can see the target with will solve the hitting problem discussed above.
Red dot sights allow you to see the target, plus see the dot in the same focal plane. As well, it is relatively easy to index that red dot (between 4 MOA – 13 MOA) onto the target. Moreover, you immediately eliminate the need to move the visual focus back and forth between target-rear sight – target – front sight. All of that makes shooting very easy and hitting very easy.
To those who disdain technology I will say that our troops are almost exclusively using Red Dots of one sort or another (Aimpoints and Trijicons almost exclusively) for nearly a decade with no issues. Sure its nice to be able to use your iron sights, but if you cannot visually do that, then your only viable option, if your goal is to use the rifle to its utmost utility, is to use a red dot sight. They are not for everyone now, nor do I expect they will ever be for everyone. But those who have the resources and want optimal performance across any distance intervals or difficuly of shots have opted for them. Most of my personal rifles have red dot sights on them, and my carry pistols have them as well. Why? Because, in the realm where sights are needed, they allow you to do those things that are needed in order to hit the other guy before he hits you.
Red dots on pistols seem to be all the rage these days. I recently read an article about a customized Hk .45 and the article discussed red dot sight more than it did the gun. And Gabe, I've heard and read all that about red dots before, that still doesn't change my experience with these things. As an older person with less than optimum eyes, with experience with red dots, I stand by every single word I said about them. And yes, if you have to make a 50 yard shot, perhaps one could do it better with a red dot, depending on how much one is willing to train with the red dot at 50 yards. Most of us don't and won't. Also, there's the sight fixation problem I didn't mention in the OP. I find that when I was working wiht the red dot, I had the same issue many have with scopes - you can see the dot moving very distinctly on the target and there is a tendancy to try to reduce the dot movement just like there is with a person using a scope - the motion, even on a 1:1, on non-magnification red dot sight, the dot appears to be moving much more than iron sights. Plus it's quite difficult for us to claim self-defense against somebody 50 yards away. Plus we have better options - like run.
If you intend to justify red dots on handguns based on making 50 yard self-defense shot, then we'll just have to disagree, because I'm not aware of any civilian SD encounters where a 50 yard shot with a handgun was required and/or justified.
After much determination to love and utilize a red dot sight on my G19, I have experienced difficulty finding the red dot at times. In a perfect world, we'd bring up our ideal sight, in the ideal position, press the trigger without disturbing the sight picture, and recapture the red dot effortlessly after recoil, and I can say recovering the dot from recoil from a stationary position with a two-handed grip, on a stationary target that isn't shooting back, isn't that hard to accomplish. But a SD situation is anything but static or ideal.
If it can happen in practice, it can happen in a life or death situation. I have repeatedly, not a high percentage of the time, but a lot nonetheless often enough to be 'rattling', lost the dot and was absolutely amazed at how much time it took to re-acquire. I'm not talking about seconds, but I'm sure I have spent at least a second trying to re-acquire the dot. The dimmer the light, the more difficult it is to find the dot because you don't have a good picture of the gun's orientation to know how to adjust.
While I'm just one person trying to make a red dot work on his pistol, if I experience these problems, others can too. If it happens once, it can happen again. If it can happen to one, it can happen to another.
And lastlly none of our troops use red dots on their pistols and I've already said I am a huge fan of red dots on carbines and expecially on shotguns, maybe you missed where I posted that earlier in the thread?
The smaller red dots, more suitable for SD applications also have dot intensity problems and again, I experienced them without realizing it could happen. I described this problem already so I won't again here, but the dot can and will intensify under bright lighting and flood out a target in much dimmer light. And the reverse is true also.
That brings us to practice. It would seem intuitive that practice with a red dot would be fun and productive. Well, it is except that we are displacing a lot of basic iron sight practice with red dot practice so our iron sight skills start to suffer. I wonder, is that an advantage or disadvantage?
And, again, I've read/heard it all before, the red dot is backed up with the iron sights, we can co-witness and all the other catchy phrase-ology, but what all this overlooks is the time factor. How long does it take to transistion from the dot we for some reason can't see, or didn't pick up immediately, to the iron backups that we have had to sacrifice practice with in order to practice more with the 'dot'.
I'm too young to be this old!
Getting old isn't good for you!
I've been toying with this concept for a bit over a year, since I had Bowie build me one of his Signature Special G19s with a Trijicon clone of a Docter.
Both Suarez and Tangle are correct; the RDS fixes 'old man eyes', but finding the dot quickly (and uniformly) is apparently an acquired skill... one I have yet to acquire.
I have tried it in normal range sessions and two USPSA matches. Accuracy is exceptional... speed, not so hot.
I have decided to give it a try in a basic shooting school. Tom Givens offers a basic synopsis that is challenging but not too involved; he is having a class here in two weeks that I will shoot the Bowie in. I feel this will be a more realistic "test" than what I have done so far.
Tangle, the only reason i'm still messing with this is due to the remote possibility of having to take a long shot. I am retired, I have NO intention of getting involved in anything that isn't a direct threat to me or mine... but you just never know. And my vision has deteriorated to the point that, anything past about 20 yards, I have NO hope of getting even a fuzzy sight picture.
The fact that you dismiss the long shot as not relevant means you haven't thought this through quite as thoroughly as you believe.
BTW, I practice regularly on torso size dingers at 63 yards and a 15" round dinger at 63 yds with my semis and snub nose revolvers in DA. If I don't get a hit five out of five trys at no more than a shot every two seconds on the torso size dingers, I practice more.
I'm not seeing the logic of carrying a handgun with a red dot sight in case you need to make a SD shot 50 yards away, and yet it's a compromise in other, more likely situations.
I've noticed in myself, under stress, I tend to look over the sights a bit. I'm using the front sight but I elevate it where I can see it clearer and quicker. I do have to compensate for elevation a bit, but at 7 yards and under the change in impact is insignificant.
Now, if one does that with a red dot, the red dot will not be in the field of view - now what? I think you're experiencing the very thing I'm talking about - it's more difficult than it sounds to get that dot on the target/threat in a hurry. Add near panic movement to that picture and we'll likely lose the RD and have to start looking for it.
But in any event, what we're discussing are the niches that the red dot works in, be it a 50 yard SD shot (???) or aging eyes, etc. Do we really want to compromise more likely SD scenarios because of a remote possibility that we might need a red dot to make a 50 yard shot?
I'm not saying we should or should not use a red dot sight. I'm simply pointing out issues to watch out for. They sound so right, they're used on long guns, etc. but on handguns, without the rigid structure of a long gun that almost guarantees quick alignment, the handgun mounted RD is not so sure. And you've discovered that yourself.
The only reason I started this thread was to make people aware of some characteristics about RDS that I've discovered over my 10 years of using them. Again, I'm not saying they would never be appropriate, I'm just saying it's not as simple as we might think.
There's nothing wrong with knowing the issues with a SD system.
I'm too young to be this old!
Getting old isn't good for you!
Here is a perfect example of a reason for a good Internet firearm/self-defense forum to exist.
Two qualified individuals presenting points and counter-points, (positives and negatives) in a polite and respectful manner - members can read, learn, participate, & make some of their own determinations.....and then reach some informed educated decisions/conclusions based on the personal experiences of two other respected forum members.
I am not here to pick a fight with anyone. My only focus is to spread information. That is in fact my business. The Optima sight is a piece of crap. I am sorry but that is what it is. It is nowehere near the standard of modern quality sights. Making a decision based on the Optima is like basing seaworthiness based on a Papyrus raft.
I got into the red dot system because I had so many older shooters tell me they simply could not see their sights. They had tried all manner of things and still were poor at anything ouside point shoot range. Initially, I added a red dot to the Glock and saw it had its problems. Namely that the eye had to hunt for the dot. On rifles its not a big deal since you have additional points of contact. But on the handgun you do not.
That brought me to the idea of adding the dot IN BETWEEN the existing sights. This uses the paradigm of the existing sights...and your years of picking them up, to guide the eyes during the learning curve. Moreover, in the unlikely experience of the dot going out, you have iron sights in immediate coincidence. You lose nothing and gain a great deal. In Virginia, I had an elderly female student shoot far better with them, making hits out to 75 yards. If one takes the attitude, "Oh...I'll never need to do that", fine...then don't self-select for that. But plenty of others will disagree with self-limiting philosophies like that.
On the "civilian self defense" issue. Look...I will be the first to say that this system is not for everyone. But if one simply doesn't want to spend the coin, then don't spend the coin. But there are also plenty of people that are unmotivated to train, or spend money of modern gear, and sadly lazy as well, and use the reasoning that a "civilian self defense shooting" will not require more than (fill in whatever they currently have).
There is the other side of the fence where those that want to be the best they can be live. Those are the guys that train regularly, buy top shelf gear, and are not limited by "all the civilian will need" mindsets. They also train in tactics, and own AKs and train with those and so on. They train in hand to hand and spend time in physical fitness, and so on. They are in essence self-selecting as warriors and fighters. Some of these guys are older, some are younger and some are even not guys at all but ladies.
The self selecters wil opt to be the best pistol shots possible and they will seek the best solutions. I don't see how the Red dot will limit anything up close, but it gives you extreme accuracy capabilities at close and mid range, and beter than irons capabilitty at long range.
Last edited by Gabe Suarez; February 6th, 2011 at 02:11 PM. Reason: spelling issues from typing while eating a burrito