Competitive Shooting

Red Dot Sights: The Pros and Cons

Meopta MeoSight IV red dot sight

I may be older than most of you. However, I am not behind the curve and continue to train. Evolving combat and shooting tactics demand study and range work. I use current firearms, the best I can afford.

It would be ridiculous not to train and teach with the firearms most of my students deploy. For some writers, their strong point is nostalgia. That’s fine for their niche, but not for advice on training. I occasionally see a feature in which a single-action revolver is touted as adequate for defense. Some are pushing discredited notions such as point shooting.

Burris FastFire III red dot sight
The Burris FastFire III is an affordable and useful red dot.

Red dot sights stress combat accuracy, demand training, and are a counterpoint to many outdated notions. I am familiar with Jung’s collective unconscious theory and make the most of harnessing the flight or fight reflex in training. Innate reactions must be understood. One of these reactions is keeping both eyes open. I also attempt to negate, as far as possible, the effects of age on my ability.

I test and evaluate many firearms. This is motivated by profession and a great deal of natural curiosity. As a result, I have limited time to master my personal carry gun — not the ideal situation. I stay sharp. My eyesight remains good, so I do not need eyeglasses.

Arthritis in my hands is limited and terrible in both knees. I would like to rip the knees out and replace them with Dana Spicer Dana 44 drive axle U joints. However, so far, the doctor doesn’t agree. At a minimum, the joints could use a good greasing.

Some time ago, I made the financial and practical decision to obtain examples of the Beretta 92, Glock, and SIG P-series to use when training police or military students. I keep a couple of good quality revolvers on hand, and I am glad to have done so. It is good to train with the same firearm the student will deploy.

Transition to Red Dots

You must get into the congregation, and not preach from the pulpit. As a result of this experience, I have a good grasp of the +/- attributes of most service pistols. More recently, modern red dot sights have begged my attention. My associates and I were doing fine with iron sights — usually XS or TruGlo night sights — and I didn’t see a need. However, visual acuity degrades with age, and I quickly realized many benefits from red dot sights. As it turned out, so do many shooters with perfect vision.

Bob Campbell shooting a handgun with red dot sight
Red dot sights are brilliantly fast, but only if you practice.

I have increased speed and accuracy, while making a lot of brass and shredding reams of paper in the process. Learning the red dot has been healthy — mentally, physically, and professionally. The time spent during the transition has been a worthwhile investment. I did not go cheap on firearms or optics. Not the most expensive, but service-grade gear that included a Shadow Systems and Holosun 407 combination and SIG P365 XL and Romeo red dot.

The process goes beyond simply firing with both eyes open and looking through the sight. To perform an evaluation, you must understand where you come up short. In the beginning, although my iron sights were in co-witness, I was consistently coming up with the red dot high in the sight window.

A 2 MOA red dot is about seven times as large as the front sight we normally focus on. You cannot hold the dot perfectly steady. Get on target, get the dot on the center of mass, and retain slow-fire precision when engaging multiple targets and speed shooting. Firing with both eyes open is necessary. Red dots, which I found challenging at first, were providing real speed and accuracy — after acclimation.

CZ Shadow 9mm semi-automatic handgun with blue grip plates, topped with a Meopta red dot sight
A classic combination — CZ and Meopta.

Adopting the red dot and a red dot-equipped pistol alone will not enhance your accuracy potential. Work out the changes. 500 presentations from the holster with the dot ending up centered on the X is a beginning. It isn’t simply looking through the red dot with both eyes open. There is a modification to the grip inherent in mastering the red dot sight.

The underlying skills of ‘grip’ and ‘follow-through’ are maintained. Most of us will need to modify the firing grip to properly present the dot on the target. It’s beneficial to obtain training from an instructor who has trained extensively with the red dot sight. As you train, you will realize there are few drawbacks to the system.

When firing with the non-dominant hand, you may experience some parallax, but this is quickly adjusted for. Unlimited eye relief is a plus that helps at longer range. Get with the program, and discover the advantages of the red dot sight. But only if you are willing to train to the red dot’s capability.

Heritage Cowboy Tactical .22LR revolver topped with a red dot sight
The inexpensive Heritage Cowboy Tactical is a great learning aid.

A Few Words About Training

Training and practice are not interchangeable. Practice is simply repeating a known skill. Training is learning a new skill. A lot of people enjoy firing a drill they have mastered. We need a challenge. We must get away from known skills and learn to learn. Sure, learning to quickly get hits at known ranges is good, but you should extend the drill to unknown ranges.

Capabilities do not grow without effort. Acknowledge shortcomings. Limit weaknesses and improve on strengths to obtain a balance. Once you reach a certain level of proficiency, be certain to limit practicing known drills to perhaps half of your range time.

The presentation is important, so is being fast for close-range work. Let’s not forget weak side and barricade shooting as well. Learning the red dot was a humbling experience and resulted in my growth as a shooter.

Do you run a red dot sight on your defensive handgun or rifle? How do you train with it? What steps did you take to make the transition from irons to a red dot? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Man shooting a rifle equipped with a scope and red dot sight
  • Taurus GX4 outfitted with a Holosun red dot sight and Crossbreed holster
  • Taurus GX4 9mm semi-auto pistol with a Holosun red dot sight, right profile
  • Taurus GX4 9mm semi-auto handgun outfitted with a Holosun red dot sight
  • Heritage Cowboy Tactical .22LR revolver topped with a red dot sight
  • Meopta MeoSight IV red dot sight
  • Galco Corvus kydex holster for handguns with red dot optics
  • Masada 9mm handgun with a Burris FastFire II red dot sight and TruGlo weapon light
  • Meopta red dot sight atop a Glock pistol with custom grip stippling
  • Handgun in a IWB holster made for guns with red dot sights
  • Burris FastFire III red dot sight
  • Taurus GX4 9mm semi-auto pistol with a Holosun red dot sight
  • Bob campbell at an outdoor range practicing dry fire with a red dot equipped handgun
  • Man in the rain shooting a Springfield Echelon outfitted with a red dot sight
  • CZ Shadow 9mm semi-automatic handgun with blue grip plates, topped with a Meopta red dot sight
  • Bob Campbell shooting a handgun with red dot sight

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (18)

  1. Bob,
    Off gun subject.!
    I had my first knee replacement in “07” when I was 50 then my second in 2017.
    Have them both done at the same time if they are both bone on bone, reason I say that cause a good surgeon will wan’t you walking the next day after surgery.!
    The arthritis in my hands from 2 tours of construction and still at it is not good.!
    Good Luck Gary

  2. WD

    Thanks so much I will try that!!! / Always glad to try a new trick or proven remedy!

    Greg
    TY for reading and your comments on glasses are much appreciated and added to the notebook.

  3. For those using take-down, folding, or whatever type of Pistol or Revolver caliber carbines, moving the Red-dot from the receiver, to the barrel, thus eliminating any slop from the take-down method, greatly improves accuracy For example on a Ruger PCC, VISM NcSTAR makes a rear mount replacement that include the OEM style ramp and a short PIC rail for mounting the Red-dot, all for around $15. Best paired with a Quick Disconnect for the Red-dot, and I suggest A.R.M.S. as they will return to ZERO when removed and replaced.

  4. Bob:

    Thanks for the article. Since you mentioned you have arthritis I would like to share what I use for my joints. MSM supplement has made a big difference in my comfort from joint pain. It is naturally occurring sulphur bio-available compound that is no longer in the soil from factory farming. You can find it at big box stores or vitamin places. I highly recommend it. Only runs around 15 bucks a bottle.
    They give it to racehorses for joint pain and it has been around for a long time.
    MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

  5. Billy M
    Thanks for reading.

    First, are you shooting with both eyes open? That is a big advantage of the red dot, always both eyes open.
    Second, the draw to a firing stance is a little difference. Practice and be consistent.

  6. Good article. Thanks Bob, but I have some questions. I had my G27 slide cut for a Holosun 507K-X2. Then I originally sighted it in (bore laser) it was great, but when I tried it later, I couldn’t find the dot without really ‘torqueing’ my wrist around. I remembered that while I shoot right handed, I am left eye dominant. I set the sight up using the isosceles stance but I train using a Weaver or modified Weaver. I have since adjusted the sight using my training stance but wonder is that an issue with these sights? Did I do something wrong (haven’t had time to take it to the range and start training with it). Any thoughts about setting up the sights/

  7. Please show me a video of pointing shooting center mass at more than 7 yards, very interested

    Why not use your sights?

    OR be the training standing before a judge who taught a student not to use their sights? ta
    A fellow came to my town teaching a class on point shooting. He never fired a shot, walked around the classroom teaching ‘Tiger Moves.’ Years ago my friend Massad Ayoob challenged a well known point shooting advocate to run a combat course. The man never responded. Meat and paper and the Ap[plegate drill at 5 to 7 yards. Past that use your sights. But then what did Colonel Cooper, Jack Weaver, and Chuck Taylor know/

  8. I agree with Col. K. There are plenty of folks who are center mass accurate at 15 yards and more using point shooting with a handgun. It’s a very useful arrow to have in the quiver, and certainly not “discredited.”

  9. I have four pistols and four rifles with red dots, but most rifles have scopes. Once you have a red dot dialed in, they are fantastic for target work. The biggest challenge I’ve experienced has been acquiring the sight as I transition from holster to a firing position. I received some pointers from a local Sheriff’s Dept. range master, and it has helped. My daily carry is not yet equipped with a red dot because I’m not comfortable with my red dot skill level yet. I am very accurate close in with the iron sights so when I feel like I’m ready I may convert to a red dot on my daily carry pistol. My last few pistols are red dot compatible, so I do have the red dot idea in mind. Good article!

  10. Really good article! I am a RDS instructor and who also started wearing glasses for distance about 4 years ago. I found if I lose my glasses, I can still acquire the dot where the irons are a complete blur. While I can shoot well without iron, point shooting/flash sight whatever you want to call it, the red dot is definitely a game changer. Some would say but tech can fail, I say yep, but my glasses are also tech and they are more likely to be damaged or lost in the heat of battle, so the ted dot is just another level of redundancy. Never stop learning something new even if you decide it’s not for you afterwards.

  11. A gew years ago, I was at my LGS, and handled the newly released Glock G48. I loved the size and weight; and after a good friend whose opinion I highly respect endorsed the pistol, along with the Shield S15 magazines, I purchased one.

    I decided this was the time and the platform to bring my carry sidearm into the 21st Century, and soon had a lottle Holosun 407 red dot and a guide rod laser installed. Both of those electronic whiz-bang options were problematic; and eventually that pistol took up permanent residence in my desk drawer.

    I currently carry a state-of-the-art Walther PPK/s.

  12. I have a red dot on my SKS, zeroed in at 200 yards, which is that gun’s far limit for deer. The last few times I have used it, I’ve had no shots more than 100 yards. At that setting, the round will not rise more than 3 inches above line of sight. That setting has worked on deer multiple times. Very few have run more than 20 yards, if that. That sight works great.

  13. Good subject and article. I had to laugh when I saw the single action with a red dot, because about a year or so ago, I put one on a Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum, as it was the only way I could upgrade the sights, as the OEM front sight is welded on. Zeroed at 25 yards. Wow! So worth it!

    One thing that isn’t clear in the article, but I learned on the Blackhawk is: At first I just stuck it out there, and wiggled it around until the red-dot finally showed up. Then I realized through mimicking “dry fire”, that just presenting it like you would with open sights, well there it is, right there. Fortunately it is something that can be learned, and practiced, just like dry fire.

    I also learned when shooting at 4″ bullseyes, at 100 yards, using a 4 MOA Red-Dot, just wait for the eclipse, and fire. LOL

    Found at a gun show once, a 1 MOA rifle “scope” Red-Dot (and Green and Blue included in the dial) with an internal 1-4 magnification, for like $110, and you cannot even imagine what a PERFECT update that is when low mounted on a Ruger 10/22. Never saw another one like, and so glad I didn’t balk at buying, even though like most others in came from chi na.

  14. Who decreed point shooting has been discredited? There is a time and place for many shooting techniques. It is the same with optical sights, night sights, hi viz sights, lights, etc. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  15. I’m on my way to becoming 82 years old. Since buying a SCCY CPX-2 with a Riton red dot sight and practicing enough to be able to shoot accurately with its 12 pound double-action only trigger, I have found the red dot sight to be far better for me than iron sights — even though before this I was a sworn advocate of iron sights.

  16. It’s hit & miss with dot sights. I have expensive.ones not worth it & cheap ones that work great. One thing in common is they seem to be made in China. I bought the cz shadow & now I get to buy an expensive adaptor plate not furnished, This is called razor razorblade marketing.

  17. Great article, Bob. I’m close to you in age and experience and I’ve adapted red dot sights to several of my pistols. Like you, I evaluate new firearms regularly and part of that is carrying something other than my favorite carry gun many days. I go back and practice with my favorites from time to time and I’ve discovered something about red dots that’s a little troubling. You can have them perfectly sighted in, but after a few weeks in the safe, they drift off. Not all of them, but some do and it’s not just cheap ones. Am I the only one this happens to? Regardless, I find the need to tweak the alignment from time to time and my suggestion is you shoot your red dot mounted carry gun often enough to make sure the dot is still going to be on the target when you need it to be.

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