After installing the first red dot sight on my M&P Performance Center CORE, I headed to my local range to check out the performance.
The first thing I encountered from all of my friends who shoot competition with me on the weekends are comments like "you must be really getting old if you need that thing to see your sights" and "you know you can't use that on your carry weapon" and " what do you do if the battery goes dead in the middle of a gun fight?"
Quick answer: A red dot sight serves the same purpose on a pistol as it serves on a rifle. Quicker sight acquisition, more accurate sight picture resulting in tighter groups, and extended range of accuracy. A 100 yard shot with a red dot equipped rimfire pistol on an 8 inch target is not that difficult to accomplish.
Myths of a red dot on a pistol?
It is much harder to find the red dot than to find your front sight. If you are accustomed to presenting your pistol for a shot from the low ready position and you have to wiggle your pistol around to find the front sight, you will have trouble finding the red dot.
This is not a problem with the red dot sight, it is a problem with your presentation of the pistol. Bringing the pistol up to chest level then pushing it straight out toward the target is the proper technique for pistol presentation. When executed correctly finding the red dot is not an issue.
Since installing the red dot discussed above, I have shot thousands of rounds with it and can easily go back and forth between irons and the dot. I have also shaved almost a half second from my Bill Drill.
The design is not strong enough yet to withstand the action of the slide. Since installing my red dot I have put thousands of round through the pistol for both practice and competition. It is a standard 9mm caliber and I can honestly say, not one problem with the red dot. I am using the Vortex Viper because it seemed to have the lowest profile to allow co witnessing with the suppressor sights that were already installed on the pistol from the factory an because the price is way below it's next competitor. Check it out here on Amazon. I know this is the best one for the money.
The battery is an opportunity for failure especially if the sight is to be used for self defense. The battery in the Viper is touted to last for 2 years on a mid setting. I change mine every year just to make sure. I leave the setting right in the middle of the range and have never drawn the pistol when the dot wasn't clearly visible. In some unlikely event if that were to happen and you iron sights are set up to co witness, you are still in business.
A red dot sight restricts your field of view around the target and therefore slows your reaction time moving for one target to the next. The proper way to aim a pistol is with both eyes open and the front sight, or red dot in this case, in front of your dominant eye. Using that technique I have found there is no restriction whatsoever in my field of view and the dot is much easier to see than the front sight.
Benefits of using the red dot
Accuracy A red dot on any weapon can do more for accuracy, in comparison to iron sights, than anything else you can add or focus your training on. With irons, to hit your target you must align the front and rear sight then align those with the target, keeping all 3 in perfect alignment simultaneously.
A red dot removes one of those requirements. Only the target and the red dot need to be aligned to hit. The dot doesn't have to be centered in the window. The bullet will hit where the dot is when the shot is activated.
You will still see sight wobble but learning to minimize it comes quickly. At normal pistol ranges like 7 to 10 yards, an average shooter can punch a 2 inch hole in the target all day long using a red dot. It makes shooting a pistol easier and a lot more fun.
Increase in effective distance. If you have ever tried to shoot a pistol at 100 yards plus with iron sights, you probably quickly realized that a pistol is designed for much shorter ranges than that. Your iron sight probably covered most or all of the target and centering the target in that big front sight perfectly was requirement to hit.
In addition, holdover was not easy with irons because you had to hold the front sight higher than the rear sight exactly the right amount, then center the target in the front sight. The 20 percent of the time you managed to get all of this right, you made hits.
A red dot sight makes this much easier as hold over is your main focus. Hold over is easier to manage primarily because you can see it better and focused on doing fewer things to get a good result.
I am an average pistol shooter. I, and others in the same category at my local range, have actually hit 12 inch targets at 200 yards much more consistently than we ever could have with irons. The pistols being produced today are capable of this. The red dot enhances the capability of the shooter at longer ranges.
Best shooting instructor you can get Before installing the red dot on my pistol, I had reached somewhat of a plateau in my improvement curve in pistol shooting. My performance wasn't bad at all but week after week I would see basically the same results. I was shooting defensive pistol competitions and firing a lot of live rounds weekly to try and improve my scores.
After installing the red dot on one of my pistols, I noticed immediately how much sight wobble I really had. You can't really see it with iron sights but boy, that red dot really brings it out. Just being aware of how much I was moving the front of my pistol forced me to learn to hold steadier. It took work, but this quickly translated into smaller more accurate groups.
The red dot also allowed me to see flaws in my trigger press. When I would torque the pistol while pressing the trigger, the red dot would let me see that. People pay a lot of money for this kind of instruction and feedback. Try a red dot that will analyze and provide feedback on every shot you make and watch how fast you improve.
Effectiveness in dark or low light It goes without saying that you can see a red dot much better in low light or dark situations than an iron sight. Once issue though in the dark, a bright red dot an quickly overcome your sight picture. It is easy and quick to lower the intensity of the dot to correct this situation but this is something I just want to make you aware of.
Shoot faster If you have ever done a Bill Drill or just tried to put mulitple shots on target as fast as possible you know how important front sight visibility is. Your shots can only be as fast as you can verify your sights are on target. Grip has a lot to do with it but we won't get into that here. Read this article for more info on that subject. It is much easier to see the red dot even when compared to high visibility front sights when shooting fast. Your eye will pick up the red dot much faster which translates into faster shots.
Another benefit I noticed immediately in competition is that it's easier to shoot with both eyes open and to acquire a new target . With both eyes open, the dot is just floating in the air and you can quickly get it on target and activate the shot.
If you haven't yet tried a red dot sight on your pistol, I urge you to do so. These little devices make average shooters into great shooters. I believe they are the wave of the future and over the next 5 years or so will be come standard equipment on all pistols.
Realize that in most pistol competition formats, the installation of a red dot on your pistol immediately puts you in the unlimited class. There is a reason for this. They make you shoot at a higher level.
Have fun shooting!