Firearms

Modern Carry: Best Optics-Ready Pistols

FN 509 Compact handgun on FDE with Leupold DeltaPoint Pro red dot sight

It’s hard, if not impossible, to keep up with all the improvements manufacturers roll out with their firearms. While walking the floor at SHOT Show 2022, I realized how many I missed — especially when it came to optics-ready pistols. While the use of red dots and the like have been gaining popularity for quite some time, red dot sights are becoming the norm.

Do you need an optic?

Many shooters — neophytes and experienced primer poppers alike — are considering making the switch to a red dot optic and asking whether they really need an optical sight. The short answer is “No.” However, red dots have been shown to improve accuracy, target acquisition speed, and assist in low light situations.

Canik TP9 Elite pistol with optics ready slide cut
The Canik TP9 Elite accepts Shield SMS/RMS footprint optics directly to the slide, allowing for a true co-witness. It also comes with interchangeable backstraps and a 15-round magazine with extended baseplate, to increase the comfort for small and large hands alike.

I’m a firm believer that all shooters should learn to shoot a pistol without an optic. My reasoning? If you can shoot with iron sights, you’ll be fine when your optic breaks or the battery dies. Also, not every gun will have an optic, so you might as well learn without one. However, I always suggest buying optics-ready pistols. That way, if you decide to add a red dot later, you can.

Options, Options, Options…           

Once you decide to make the switch to a red dot, you’ll have to wade through dozens of optics ready pistols to find the one that appeals to you. Here are 10 examples of manufacturers with features to please the pickiest shopper.

Canik

When I hear Canik, I think of the TP9. The TP9 Elite (specifically), is the one I typically recommend to shooters who are looking for their first Canik. You’re going to get a match-grade barrel, a tungsten Cerakoted slide, an ambidextrous magazine release, and of course, the co-witness optics-ready slide. The TP9 Elite comes with a concealed carry holster and a magazine loader as extras.

CZ

CZ has a solid reputation in both the hammer-fired and striker-fired arenas. The sub-compact P-10 comes with a light and clean 4.5-pound trigger pull, reversible magazine release, and accessory rail. I haven’t shot one, but after handling and dry-firing the P-10, I can say it has a comfortable grip — even for XL hands. A tritium front sight comes standard and will pair nicely with your chosen optic for quick target acquisition.

CZ P-10 handgun left profile with optics cut and dust cover rail
The CZ P-10 features a reversible magazine release and accessory rail. While the author hasn’t shot one yet, he has handled one, and thought the grip texture and shape felt great.

FN

The 509 Compact MRD from FN has many of the features I look for in a compact carry gun. In addition to the optics-ready slide, the 509 Compact MRD comes with interchangeable backstraps, an ambidextrous slide stop, and an ambidextrous magazine release. Even though it only comes standard with a 12- and 15-round magazine, it’s compatible with the 17- and 24-round FN magazines as well. This compact can easily feel and shoot like a full-size, once you add the larger capacity magazine and backstrap.

Heckler & Koch

The VP9 Tactical O.R. (optics-ready) built upon the already impressive VP9, features a threaded barrel, optics-ready slide, and suppressor-height tritium sights. HK ships the VP9 Tactical O.R. with three 17-round magazines, so capacity is not a concern. I’ve enjoyed shooting the VP9 and found it to be accurate. Even though the VP9 Tactical O.R. is a tad pricey, I can say you get what you pay for with this gun.

HK VP9 Tactical O.R. handgun left profile
The HK VP9 Tactical O.R. was built upon the classic VP9 and is both optics and suppressor-ready. The tritium iron sights are suppressor-height and provide a lower 1/3 co-witness with a red dot.

Kel-Tec

The Kel-Tec P15 was recently revealed and is scheduled to start shipping Q2 of 2022. It’s going to be offered in polymer- and steel-framed models, both featuring a 15+1 capacity. The polymer version is light at 14 ounces and is only 0.875-inch wide.

I was able to handle the steel version at SHOT Show, which comes with an optics-ready slide and what looks to be replaceable side grip plates. This version is not on Kel-Tec’s website at the time of this writing, but I am very excited to learn more about it. Keep your eyes peeled.

Kel-Tec P15 handgun with metal frame and optics ready slide
The Kel-Tec P15 will be available in a polymer or metal frame. The metal frame model will feature an optics-ready slide and a tritium front sight.

SCCY

SCCY is known for its ultra-affordable and concealable firearms which come in almost a dozen different colors. The DVG-1 is one of SCCY’s newest offerings. I must say, “I’m impressed.” Having shot SCCY’s original CPX-1, the DVG is a massive improvement. The DVG-1 features a new flat-face trigger with a lighter pull that is advertised at 5.5 pounds. SCCY also listened to its customers and removed the manual safety. The DVG-1 comes standard with or without a red dot from the factory. Either way, you will have a concealable and lightweight setup.

SCCY DVG-1 RD pistol with Crimson Trace red dot sight right profile
The SCCY DVG-1 RD improves upon the flagship CPX-2 by switching to a flat face trigger and lighter trigger pull. It’s also available in almost a dozen different color frames.

SIG Sauer

The SIG Sauer P365X ROMEOZero builds upon the already-great P365x by shipping straight from the factory with SIG’s ROMEOZero 3 MOA red dot. The red dot is motion-activated, parallax-free, and has 8 illumination settings. The gun features the XSERIES flat trigger and XSERIES 365 grip module, which makes for one of my favorite combinations in a carry gun.

SIG Sauer P365X pistol with ROMEOZero red dot sight attached
SIG Sauer’s P365X ROMEOZero comes from the factory with the 3 MOA red dot installed, paired with X-RAY3 day and night tritium sights. It features a flat trigger and comes standard with two 12-round magazines.

Smith and Wesson

S&W has been rolling out optics-ready pistols left and right, but one specific model is receiving a ton of attention in the industry. The Shield Plus is now available in Federal’s new .30 Super Carry caliber. The .30 Super Carry round is said to be between .380 ACP and 9mm in terms of penetration and velocity.

The Shield Plus is smaller in diameter than a 9mm. In other words, you get a 15+1 capacity (two extra rounds over its 9mm counterpart). You’re also going to get S&W’s new flat face trigger and an optics-ready slide to complete your setup. As soon as the ammo becomes more readily available, I believe we will see a huge spike in sales, with me possibly contributing to it.

Smith and Wesson Shield Plus handgun left profile chambered for .30 Super carry
The Shield Plus chambered in .30 Super Carry gives you 15+1 capacity, two more than the 9mm version, due to the .30 Super Carry round being smaller in diameter. While additional capacity is one of the largest selling features, it also comes with S&W’s new flat face trigger which has a clean and crisp trigger pull.

Springfield Armory

One of the most popular micro-compact pistols on the market over the last couple of years has been Springfield’s Hellcat. It hit the market in 2019, with a 13+1 capacity. For a micro-compact 9mm, that was a huge deal. I love the fact that left-handed shooters aren’t forgotten, thanks to the Hellcat’s reversible magazine release. Available in optics-ready configurations, with a red-dot from the factory, I think it’s a great option to add to your list for an all-inclusive setup.

Springfield Hellcat FDE left, quartering, with red dot sight attached to the optics ready slide
The Hellcat is extremely versatile thanks to a reversible mag release and a non-proprietary rail. It also has nice top slide serrations for easy racking, in the event you don’t have your optic mounted.

Taurus

Taurus recently released the G3 T.O.R.O. (Taurus Optic Ready Option). One of the nicest features about the G3 T.O.R.O is that it comes with several optic mounting plates. The plates allow the user to mount a wide array of optics such as the Trijicon RMR or Vortex Venom to name a few.

The G3 T.O.R.O.  features an integrated picatinny rail to attach your favorite light/laser. I’ve only dry-fired the gun to date, but the trigger felt lighter than the stated 6 lbs. and felt smooth. Being one of the more affordable optics-ready pistols on this list, it’s worth checking out — especially if you’re already a Taurus fan.

Taurus G3 T.O.R.O with Trijicon RMR red dot sight and Hornady Critical Duty ammunition
The Taurus G3 T.O.R.O (Taurus Optic Ready Option) full-frame configuration allows for a 17+1-round capacity. It also comes standard with four mounting plates to cover many popular optics such as the Trijicon RMR and Vortex Venom.

Final Thoughts: Optics-Ready Pistols

The above-mentioned firearms make up a fraction of the optics-ready pistols on the market today. Whatever your preference or intended purpose, there should not be a problem finding an optics-ready pistol to meet your needs. One last tip for those looking to buy an optics-ready pistol for carry, buy a holster with an optic cut. That way, you can use the holster with or without the optic.

Do you prefer iron sights or optics on your carry handguns? Share your favorite setups and optics-ready pistols in the comment section.

  • Taurus G3 T.O.R.O with Trijicon RMR red dot sight and Hornady Critical Duty ammunition
  • FN 509 Compact handgun on FDE with Leupold DeltaPoint Pro red dot sight
  • Kel-Tec P15 handgun with metal frame and optics ready slide
  • CZ P-10 handgun left profile with optics cut and dust cover rail
  • Smith and Wesson Shield Plus handgun left profile chambered for .30 Super carry
  • SIG Sauer P365X pistol with ROMEOZero red dot sight attached
  • Springfield Hellcat FDE left, quartering, with red dot sight attached to the optics ready slide
  • HK VP9 Tactical O.R. handgun left profile
  • Canik TP9 Elite pistol with optics ready slide cut
  • SCCY DVG-1 RD pistol with Crimson Trace red dot sight right profile

Bio: Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer, and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. 

When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project. If you’d like to check out some of his other content, you can find him on Instagram at (@TheGuyGearReview).

About the Author:

Ryan Domke

Ryan Domke is a freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant with a passion for guns and tactical gear. He works with some of the largest manufacturers in the firearms industry, allowing him the opportunity to continuously learn from and knowledge share with the 2A community. When he’s not spending time with his family, you’ll likely find him at the range or starting a new DIY project. If you’d like to check out some of his other content, you can find him on Instagram at (@TheGuyGearReview).
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. A red dot sight (and even a green dot laser/light) is essential for older shooters whose eyes have lost the ability to accommodate so focusing on the sights is difficult, especially with glasses/bifocals. A RMR and green laser/light (for rapid acquisition and finding the red dot) allowed me to aim and shoot much quicker. Without them, I found I was trying to focus on the sights by tilting my head back to see through the bottom of the lens and tilting my head down to see the target through the top of the glasses. The red dot stays focused, even when focusing on the target.

  2. I’ve relaxed a little on the whole debate and picked up Springfield’s single stack XD in .45 which came optics ready (osp). After a bit of research, mounted a sig RomeoZero elite. I was initially concerned about the height and if I’d need to change out the iron sights. Not the case at all! They co witness very well and provide the sight in I’m used to at first. Since, I’ve come to pick up the dot quicker and after the learning curve, can definitely see why this is becoming so popular. To the purists! Give one a week. If nothing else, for a range toy. My EDC remains a bone stock G20 10mm fail safe. Range days on the other hand, lend time to my experimental nature

  3. Thanks for the information. Great advice. I am am looking to install an optic red dot on my ar15. I still have the carrying handle on it. What’s your advice. Thanks.

  4. I can see the advantage of lights and optics for a house or car gun, or for police work, but my understanding is most gunfights involving personal discreet carry occur at extremely close range where precise aiming is less needed than a quick shot to center mass. For this reason and because of the extra bulk, weight, expense, training, and danger of battery failure, I have refrained from seriously considering an optic or light in a discreet carry pistol.

  5. I THINK A CRIMSON TRACE GRIP TYPE LASER IS FASTER, LIGHTER, LESS LIKELY TO HANG UP ON THE DRAW, CAN BE FIRED FROM THE HIP OR ANYWHERE ELSE WITH ACCURATE CENTER MASS ABILITY AND IS MORE CONCEALABLE THAN ANY RED DOT OUT THERE FOR USE IN A DESPERATE RAPID DEFENSIVE SITUATION.

  6. I currently am very happy with a laser mounted on the grip if my 1911 Springfield Operator. While heavy, it gets the job done. With a KingTuck holster, it disappears into whatever pants I have on. Of course I need suspenders to keep my pants up since I lost my gut. But, this still works for me.

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