Assessment Of The Usefulness Of Pistol Red Dot Sights

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

KR Training:

Did shooters using the slide mounted red dots shoot better than those using irons or lasers? No.

Many, regardless of experience level, had a hard time finding the dot on initial presentation of the pistol from ready, with the most difficulty occurring when no backup iron sights were available.

Those using the green laser (in bright daylight, much of it during summer months in Texas) had no trouble using it to shoot scores very close to what they could with iron sights.

There was not time in the testing to give participants significant training time to learn the red dot or the laser. They were allowed 10 or less dry fire presentations before testing began. Red dot advocates insist that finding the dot on presentation improves with training, and I found that to be true during summer 2016, when I put in the time to earn a Grand Master ranking in USPSA’s Carry Optics division.

It would be interesting to see this study performed with more time to practice with the red dot sights.  But I’ve heard this about green light lasers and their usefulness.

With red dots you’re searching for the dot.  With the green light laser you’re looking down a line of light.  It just seems that it would be easier to sight.  It also seems like it might be a useful thing to have for folks like me who wear glasses and may not be able to find them in the middle of the night.

Readers with experience using pistol red dots and green light lasers are welcome to weigh in with their own experiences.


  1. On June 15, 2017 at 12:13 am, Sam said:

    I have a slide-mounted red dot sight—a DoctorIII on a Glock 26 with cowitnessed iron suppressor sights. I’ve used it as my primary carry weapon for about three and a half years now. There was definitely a large adjustment period—as I recall, 3-4 days of daily dry fire sessions and a couple hour long range sessions. However, once I got used to where the red dot would be and to a very different sight alignment concept, I found my shooting performance substantially improved. Groups tightened up and dry fire practices as a greater impact. The red dot provides unparalleleld feedback on dry fire trigger pull issues.

    I’m a fan. The device has held up to thousands of rounds, is always-on with 2+ years of battery life (on my carry gun I replace the battery annually), and has measurably and substantially improved my shooting accuracy.

    This study was fundamentally flawed and worthless for proving what it asserts.

  2. On June 15, 2017 at 9:53 am, Ned said:

    “It also seems like it might be a useful thing to have for folks like me who wear glasses and may not be able to find them in the middle of the night.”


    Thanks for the feedback, Sam.

  3. On June 15, 2017 at 10:21 am, davidtrexarms said:

    My brother owns and shoots a lot of red-dot pistols.
    I’ve shot them some.
    If you can’t present the pistol with your sights lined up already, the red dot is not going to help you speed up. You will just be searching for the dot. BUT if you CAN present with aligned sights, then the red dot lets you have confidence of POA/POI faster and and will also let you get finer precision.
    I can more easily get hits at range with a red dot. I haven’t shot a lot with them, but up close I find irons are as fast.

    So, red dotted pistols are not going to help novices, but they do help advanced shooters. Also, they are GOLD when paired with night vision. :)

  4. On June 15, 2017 at 11:48 am, revjen45 said:

    I’m glad to see something that doesn’t label those of us who don’t use optics or lasers as Luddites. I don’t carry the same piece every day and can’t afford to so outfit every one. Cataract surgery has made a BIG difference in what I can see.

  5. On June 15, 2017 at 12:26 pm, DAN III said:

    Mr. Smith,

    My everyday carry is a Glock 19 with the slide milled for a Trijicon RM06 with 3.5 MOA red dot. My experience has been that the red dot shooter must practice acquiring the red dot. Secondly, not only does initial acquisition of the pistol red dot takes practice, but one MUST live-fire practice also. Dry-fire is helpful. However, the effects of recoil from live-fire is a different ball game to reacquire one’s sight picture. You can dry-fire your red dot all you want. That is good. But, you must live-fire to practice red dot reacquisition upon recoil.

    As an aside, I recently purchased a CZ SP-01 9mm, that was “Cajunized” (Cajun Gun Works). The pistol had a front, tritium dot sight that I had no appreciation for. Doing some research (God Bless the Internet) I came upon Hi-Viz Sight Systems. They specialize in fiber optic sights. Needless to say, the CZ now wears a bright green Hi-Viz, front sight LightPipe. The Hi-Viz product is unique in several ways. The fiber optic LightPipes can be easily swapped out of the sight base(s) for color changing, cleaning or replacement. Extra fiber optic rods are stored in a key chain device that also doubles as the tool for removing/replacing one’s current fiber optic rod(s). The sights are relatively inexpensive. In addition, just this month, Hi-Viz is introducing their LightWave fiber optic rods that will light up at night upon receiving a 30 second charging from a light source. Unique indeed ! I find the Hi-Viz product to be a low-cost alternative to the cost of a red dot sight. Mind you, not a replacement for a red dot sight, as nothing will give you the sight visibility, waking up from a deep slumber to uninvited sounds in your home, as a RMR red dot will.

    In summation, the electronic red dot sight has great usage for a shooter inclined to use one and practice with it. As with many new things in one’s life it will take getting used to. I like mine. I can only suggest potential red dot buyers find a friend who has an RMR-equipped pistol and borrow it. Try it out before committing to spending $500-700 on an electronic sight.


  6. On June 15, 2017 at 1:56 pm, Old Bill said:

    My EDC gun is a glock G30. I have recently mounted a red dot (Leupold) on it, and am still training up with it. Prior to this I was (still am) an M1911 guy.
    The most useful input I can offer is to second the points already made about presentation, dry-firing, precision, and live fire practice.
    Beyond that, I’ll just mention my reasons for taking the plunge with an optic after many years with only irons. It boiled down to a combination of the opinions of people I respect who like them, and my own experience with red dot sights in combat. I might have held off had I appreciated the challenge of proper presentation to acquire the dot, but still see great advantage in them for low-light encounters (tritium irons notwithstanding).
    Finally, the red dot forces an otherwise somewhat sloppy shooter to get his act together in form & presentation. That not that bad a price to pay for great (ultimate) accuracy, and greater confidence in low light.
    My $0.02, and worth all you paid for it. YMMV

  7. On June 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm, Old Bill said:

    Pardon, I should have said: “red dots ON RIFLES in combat”

  8. On June 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm, June J said:

    I’ve been following a discussion on a forum about this study.

    Many seem to think the study is flawed because of the lack of familiarity shooting a red dot prior to the testing. Those who have practiced dry firing and live with red dot sights say vast improvement comes with practice.

  9. On June 17, 2017 at 1:59 am, Mark Dietzler said:

    The local training outfit by me (Insights Academy) likes RMRs on Glock 19s, but they tell people when the subject comes up that they are not forgiving of an inconsistent presentation. New shooters are advised to use irons (Heinie Straight 8s are what they recommend) until they can master a consistent presentation.

  10. On June 17, 2017 at 2:27 pm, Bill Robbins said:

    OK, I’m a Luddite. I prefer to use the lowest common denominator that works. KISS principle, and all that. Did I mention it also saves time and money?

  11. On June 18, 2017 at 9:07 pm, KR said:

    Those that actually read my entire article will discover that I address the training issue in detail, since I followed up the scientific work with a summer pursuing and obtaining a Grand Master rating in the Carry Optics division of USPSA. I also discussed the differences in the high hit factors between Production and Carry Optics being at most 10% higher for Carry Optics, indicating that the gains for skilled shooters are not that significant.

    I was an early adopter of the frame mounted red dot sight as an USPSA Open division competitor back in the early 90s, who shot Open for a decade. So I understand red dot sight shooting fairly well, as I was only a few percent from Grand Master in Open when I switched to Production and later Carry Optics, earning GM ratings in both of those divisions.

    I’ve trained extensively with Greg Hamilton and John Holschen of Insights, FWIW, including hosting their classes at my range. At the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference I talked to John at length about his experiences using an RMR equipped gun in live fire and force on force.

    You should quote my recommendations from the end of the post, to be fair, since in that section I encourage people to baseline their performance and then go figure out for themselves whether an RDS will help them or not. Sadly, almost all the critics of the study have no data from their own experiences actually showing a true performance gain beyond vague “I think” or “I feel”, making their complaints about the conclusions of little to no value.

  12. On June 19, 2017 at 10:39 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Thanks for your visit and clarification. Of course I read that far. It is always my intention NOT to lift quotes out enough that the reader doesn’t have to visit the original article, but to send traffic to those articles I deem important enough to write about. I recommend that readers visit your article and read the entire thing.

    You certainly have advanced beyond my own skill level and I wish I could say that even have the time to do what you’ve done.

  13. On June 28, 2017 at 9:29 am, Redell Walton said:

    I ran a Doctor III optic on a Gen3 G17 for a little over a year. My issues were more with the GEN3 than the optic. I can definitely say that my time with the red dot made me a better shooter: Shooting irons only seemed like I was using a tripod after some months of dry firing practice with the Doctor III. I no longer have that particular gun but I recently picked up a GEN4 G19 MOS at a price I couldn’t pass up. I won’t know until I have it completely set up if it’ll be an EDC gun. I know it will be used for dry fire practice and the benefits red dot bring to fundamentals.

    One observation I have on getting hits up close: There were several techniques using the RDS as a ghost ring/sighting device. For instance, canting the Trijicon so the corner was in the upper chest/ lower neck area to get hits in the thoracic cavity. For the Doctor, the “Gullitone Method”, framing the target by placing the upper part of the frame across the neck worked well for me. I was curious if the shooters in the study were aware of the alternative methods and, if so, were they used?

  14. On June 28, 2017 at 9:34 am, Herschel Smith said:


    I should have commented earlier that I mostly don’t work handguns to get aim just right. I work on aim, but from the ready position. So I always raise my gun from the ready position (for every shot) to work on getting presentation consistent and right so that the sights already line up from muscle memory).

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Assessment Of The Usefulness Of Pistol Red Dot Sights", entry #17265 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published June 14th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (704)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (40)
Air Power (10)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (22)
Ammunition (278)
Animals (292)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (373)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (87)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (29)
Australian Army (7)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (3)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (223)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (24)
Body Armor (23)
Books (3)
Border War (18)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (5)
Canada (17)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (16)
Christmas (16)
CIA (30)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (3)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (218)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (210)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (5)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (15)
Donald Trump (27)
Drone Campaign (4)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (39)
Featured (189)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,777)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (44)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,651)
Guns (2,317)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (5)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (3)
Horses (2)
Humor (72)
Hunting (34)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (108)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (4)
Infrastructure (4)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (171)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (98)
Israel (19)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (3)
Jihadists (81)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (7)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (6)
Lawfare (14)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (280)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (68)
Medical (146)
Memorial Day (6)
Mexican Cartels (41)
Mexico (61)
Michael Yon (6)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (5)
Military Equipment (25)
Militia (9)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (25)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (95)
NATO (15)
Navy (30)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (3)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (62)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (73)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (4)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (653)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (973)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (493)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (37)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (674)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (23)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (57)
Survival (186)
SWAT Raids (57)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (38)
Tactical Gear (14)
Taliban (168)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (21)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (96)
Thanksgiving (13)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (25)
TSA Ineptitude (14)
TTPs (4)
U.S. Border Patrol (6)
U.S. Border Security (19)
U.S. Sovereignty (24)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (10)
Uncategorized (98)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (413)
War & Warfare (41)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (79)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

June 2024
May 2024
April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2024 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.