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Optics vs Iron Sights on Defensive Pistols Login/Join 
Just because you can,
doesn't mean you should
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So hard to predict how you might be shooting in a self defense situation.
As somebody that is not a competitive shooter, LEO, military or in a similar occupation, I have to evaluate my most likely needs.
I've decided my most likely scenario is a sudden event, close up in public from a random criminal action like a convenience store or bank robbery.
In second place is someone making their way to my front door as a burglar/ robber (not likely due to where I live but always possible) and forcing entry while we're home.
In both situations a quick presentation with good enough accuracy would be best. I have high contrast night sights that my older eyes seem to still pick up on quickly and can reliably hit close enough within 10-15 yards distance. The optics I've seen look like they could snag or otherwise interfere with a quick presentation.
After that it's such a crap shoot as to what could or would happen and so improbable that I feel like there are other things to think about.


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Posts: 6623 | Location: NE GA | Registered: August 22, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Irksome Whirling Dervish
Picture of Flashlightboy
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I've done the big night sight companies - Mep, Heinie, Trij - and while they have a rightful place, they aren't MY most useful sighting option.

For older eyes consider putting a florescent green fiber optic up front and solid black sight in the rear. Your eye picks up on green faster than any other color and it really pops.

You can look at Dawson Precision for some very good solutions.

I've done FO in yellow, red and green and green by far is the easiest to quickly see and put to target acquiring use.
 
Posts: 3451 | Location: "You can't just go to Walmart with a gift card and get a new brother." Janice Serrano | Registered: May 03, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I like my red-dot pistols at the range. I can now hit a 2 1/2 inch at 25 yards. I am not convinced of its utility and speed in a self defense encounter where speed and relative accuracy is a live or die issue. I enjoy the range accuracy, but I relish the comfort of my iron sights in concealed carry -self defence seen.
 
Posts: 616 | Location: San Antonio, TX | Registered: October 10, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Imagination and focus
become reality
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For shooting paper at distances of 7 to 10 yards or more, optics are king. At under 7 yards, under most lighting conditions and under stress, I'll take my S&W 642. It may as well have no sights, but the Crimson Trace LG-350G on it works very well. No hunting for the dot in a stressful situation. Of course that could be mitigated with lots of training if you have the time and money.
 
Posts: 5840 | Location: Northwest Indiana | Registered: August 15, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Diablo Blanco
Picture of dking271
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I haven’t responded to the poll because I didn’t fall nicely into any of the choices. I personally haven’t moved my carry or my HD gun to an optic gun. I have RMR’d versions of both my carry gun and my HD gun and have been training almost exclusively with them. It has cleaned up my draw and presentation to the point that I am faster with the dot from 2 yards to 25 yards proven with my timer. My cleaned up draw and presentation has also has benefited my times with iron sights. If there is any amount of dot hunting with an optic even at 2 yards then there is a training issue. I believe the optic is reliable enough to be on a serious defensive pistol. Is it needed? Nope. It has made me a better all around shooter without question.


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Posts: 1838 | Location: Middle-TN | Registered: November 05, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Diablo Blanco
Picture of dking271
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quote:
If the dot isn’t for you, way cool. But, we went through a lot of this when optics hit the market for rifles. In a decade or so, I suspect this won’t even be a topic.


Jerry, I suspect you are dead right regarding optics. I also believe my 19 & 17 MOS guns will become my primary carry and HD guns and their iron sighted brothers will back them up within the next few months. I want some more trouble free rounds through the 19MOS to ensure the gun itself is up to the task. I plan on running either or both through the Applied Fundamentals class in July. The “soggy sh$t sandwich” will hopefully be there with me with his new to him RMR’d G45.


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"You can't fix stupid" - Ron White
 
Posts: 1838 | Location: Middle-TN | Registered: November 05, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of 2Malamutes
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I just bought a P365XL w/Romeo, my first defensive pistol with an optic, so I will be interested to see how it feels in carry and at the range. I have other optics on rifles and target handguns, so I have history with them, and in concept it does feel like target acquisition in a defensive scenario could be faster with the optic. I am also interested in how the pairing feels in carry, I am not small at 6'3", 200#, but with a 34" waist, I do find that printing is more of an issue and I have to pay closer attention to just where around my waist I position the holster, so the optic may impact that negatively. We'll see.
 
Posts: 159 | Location: SW Lower Michigan | Registered: March 01, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Junior Member
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I voted maybe...
It really depends on the situation but optics seem to be the future IMHO...
 
Posts: 1 | Registered: February 17, 2021Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I've been shooting an optics pistol in competition since 2006. At the time it was a bit awkward in mounting sometimes like having to machine and lower the ejection port and other accommodations to rack the slide, but it was definitely faster and more accurate for me. The whole setup has been getting better and better and when the RMR slide mounted choices arrived I jumped in completely as my capabilities with irons was definitely on a down hill slide due to aging eyes. I've carried an RMR slide mounted gun for years now. I have shot tens and tens of thousands of rounds competitively. For me I am faster and more accurate in almost all conditions with the dot. The few conditions where that is not true I have backup tritium irons and I am generally no worse off (full disclosure I have learned there are some conditions where I would be worse off having done this in mud, snow, freezing rain, after swimming with the gun etc, but on balance they are manageable and foreseeable) I have personally dozens of RMR's mounted on pistols and I have had to send one type 1 back to Trijicon and never a type 2. The single biggest issue of carrying an RMR gun...LINT... you will learn to hate and then manage your lint. In the competitions I shoot I have never seen an iron gun win over an optic gun. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but I've never seen it. Like all things we are going to end up like rifles, the few love irons and good for them and the rest of us shoot optics.


“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”
 
Posts: 9398 | Registered: October 14, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
For real?
Picture of Chowser
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I just ordered four the of the RMR with adjustable levels to field test. Does anyone know where the light sensor is on the nonadjustable models? I want my RMR to always thing it's night time.



Not minority enough!
 
Posts: 6951 | Location: Cleveland, OH | Registered: August 09, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Do---or do not.
There is no try.
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My issue with a red dot on a self-defense/duty weapon is this (strictly from my experience and training in law enforcement, and I respect everybody's own experiences and opinions):

In a self-defense situation, there are going to be a lot of things involved. It's not just you and a static target, where you can concentrate solely on putting the little red dot on a specific place on a piece of paper or cardboard.

Along with other variables, the primary issues are:

1) The person presenting you with a deadly threat;
2) The background behind that threat (remember that you might hit innocent bystanders);
3) Things to the side of you that are also imminent threats (such as additional suspects off to the side of your primary threat), or that might affect your decision to shoot (solid cover out of the corner of your eye that you can quickly get to for protection rather than risk an out-in-the-open shootout).

My concern is that with a red-dot on a pistol, one is so focused on that little red dot and the target that the frame of the RMR might block your view of either 2) or 3) at some point during the encounter.

There's no doubt that an RMR can be very useful in a pistol. I've seen people go from being mediocre shooters with no hope of putting five rounds in five seconds on a six-inch target at 10 yards into very good shooters who can place all five rounds in there in three and a half seconds by combining an RMR and good instruction.
I'm just not sure it's the magic answer that some make it out to be for self-defense.
 
Posts: 4027 | Registered: January 01, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I voted maybe. My eyes changed to the point that irons aren’t in focus anymore. Tried the SAS slide on my 365 and found it worked for me at defensive distances (<25 yards).
It took a couple hundred rounds to accustom myself to stay focused on the target and not look for the front sight, but the more I practice, the better I get.
Liked it so much I put those sights on my Glock 30 and Kahr 380. That way I’m using the same sight picture no matter what gun I may be carrying.
What works for you is your best option
 
Posts: 175 | Location: Pa | Registered: September 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Jupiter
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You have a pretty knowledgeable group of folks here. Most of the iron sight crowd here already know shootouts don't always happen at very close distances. They have made a conscious decision to carry what they feel is the best balance of shootability, capacity, cost, comfort and convenience for the most likely scenarios they might face. Many like to keep it simple. Most people who carry a gun for self defense are busy just living their lives and will never have the time to really train hard and MAINTAIN those skills even if they do acquire them. This is why I believe most people will be better off learning the basics and keeping it simple.


I have a few questions for the OPTICS ARE A MUST folks.

01. Do you feel the average optics user with limited training will be able to consistently find a dot (as fast or faster) than iron sights if they had a poor grip, transition to the weak hand, shooting from an awkward position, etc.?

02. If you draw your pistol and the dot is not there for any reason, do you loose any time at all transitioning to iron sights? How much time does it take for your brain to process and react? I'm talking about cases where it's totally unexpected. I'm not talking about very close targets of course. It's always interesting to see how people react to situations that take them totally off guard. I've seen people fall apart over the years running stages like this.

03. Do your Iron Sights co-witness with the dot?


04. Do you keep the intensity setting the same or do you change it regularly depending on the time of day/night or weather conditions?


Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas


"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
-- George Orwell




 
Posts: 3564 | Location: Mississippi | Registered: August 09, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
If it chambers, fire it
Picture of dave7378
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I am a fan of red dots. For 30 yrs I just shot irons but my eyesight compelled me to try them out. I put a trijicon SRO on my 9mm and was surprised how easy it was for me to adjust. Much more accurate and faster. I have a lot of work to do with it but am optimistic this will be the norm for me.


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ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ
 
Posts: 5440 | Location: Hampton Bays, NY | Registered: October 14, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Jupiter
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quote:
Originally posted by Flashlightboy:

For older eyes consider putting a florescent green fiber optic up front and solid black sight in the rear. Your eye picks up on green faster than any other color and it really pops.

You can look at Dawson Precision for some very good solutions.



I've had Dawson Precision adjustable fiber optic sights on a couple of Glock 34s for a number of years and prefer the green inserts as well. During daylight hours they really pop.


Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas


"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
-- George Orwell




 
Posts: 3564 | Location: Mississippi | Registered: August 09, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Jupiter:


I have a few questions for the OPTICS ARE A MUST folks.

01. Do you feel the average optics user with limited training will be able to consistently find a dot (as fast or faster) than iron sights if they had a poor grip, transition to the weak hand, shooting from an awkward position, etc.?

02. If you draw your pistol and the dot is not there for any reason, do you loose any time at all transitioning to iron sights? How much time does it take for your brain to process and react? I'm talking about cases where it's totally unexpected. I'm not talking about very close targets of course. It's always interesting to see how people react to situations that take them totally off guard. I've seen people fall apart over the years running stages like this.

03. Do your Iron Sights co-witness with the dot?


04. Do you keep the intensity setting the same or do you change it regularly depending on the time of day/night or weather conditions?


I am not exactly the group of must-have-optic. I strongly prefer optic but also carry irons only if my concealment needs dictate that, and that's not infrequent, but I'll give my 2 cents:

01. Absolutely not. Not just average optic shooters with limited training; Master class level shooters loose the dot not infrequently. Last Area match a buddy who is a much stronger shooter than I am (91% vs 80% in that match) lost the dot on a large screen optic almost completely on WHO stage. Dot finding depends on kinesthetic indexing of the gun. People generally invest into 2 handed regular grip/stance index and less so for everything else.

02. Definitely you lose time transitioning to back up irons but there is a caveat. Dot shooting is target focused. For most people irons shooting is front sight focused. If you train shooting irons with a target focus, which is hard but rewarding, you lose less time. There are also trainable contingencies what to do when you don't see the dot.

03. Absolutely. My dots sit right on top of my irons, and zero both independently. If the relationship is not that, I work on figuring out why and until I fix it. Gives me absolute confidence in my sighting system, and also serves as a very quick and easy check to make sure that the dot has not lost its position.

04. Manually adjusted to fairly high intensity. High intensity is often required in sunny outdoors conditions and is actually required at night if you use a white light. It is actually surprising how easily the dot washes out with current bright handhelds. A little factoid: famed RMR battery life is reduced to 5 months if you keep at a fixed bright intensity, which one of the reasons I am working on replacing my RMRs with something else.
 
Posts: 372 | Registered: April 03, 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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So what red dot has significantly more battery life than an rmr when kept continually on a high setting?

While jerry has forgotten more than I’ve ever learned on this subject I think the rifle to pistol dot analogy is flawed. Rifles benefit substantially from optics at the ranges they are likely to be used. Handguns are shot more accurately with dots, no doubt, but the ranges are still fairly short overall. Dots are here to stay but I don’t believe that will become as ubiquitous as they are on rifles.

I basically put an optic, dot or otherwise, on nearly every rifle I consider real use. I don’t do the same with pistols. Nor do I expect I will in the future. And I like dots on handguns. But becoming the norm? I don’t think so.

Edited to add: part of the issue is that I believe you can literally find the “perfect” red dot optic for a rifle. They have certainly hit the mature stage where any improvements will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Handgun dots, not so much. I have most of the big names and that each have their strengths and weaknesses. On another thread I surmised that if Trijicon could make an SRO duty tough they would own the market. I still think that. Other than toughness it’s the best out there. But saying other than toughness is kind of a big deal. RMR is tough, but small window, not particularly clear a window either. DPP has the dumbest buttonology imaginable for a sight marketed for real use. The SRO, just don’t drop it. All the others are getting better but still none of them do it all. If there is ever the mostly “perfect” choice maybe I change my mind. For instance, in rifles I find the T1/T2 series from Aimpoint about the perfect reddot. I couldn’t significantly complain about that sight at all which is why I own multiples. Hell, on the other hand I can’t even decide my favorite RMR. Lol
 
Posts: 3619 | Registered: June 18, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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RDSs for pistols are still in their infancy relatively speaking. They will continue to get better as in more robust and with better battery life.

I think they will continue to proliferate and will be the norm in 10 years.

That being said, there will still be a place for irons. I expect RDSs will be the norm in duty holsters, but lowly iron-sighted j-frames will still make their way into pockets or on ankles.

In that five yards and in zone, the RDS offers little.
 
Posts: 164 | Location: Illinois | Registered: June 13, 2020Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
Picture of sigfreund
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I have changed my mind about a lot of things relating to guns and shooting in the 60+ years I’ve been at it. It’s likewise possible if I live long enough, remain competent long enough, and, most important, the illuminated reticle sights suitable for use on handguns develop and advance enough, that I’ll become a convert to them as well.

My thoughts, however, about the increasingly-common argument of, “They resisted optical sights on patrol carbines too,” as a counter to the observations about the drawbacks of their use on carry handguns:

Handguns and rifles are both guns and they therefore share some similar operating features at the basic level, but after that, the ways they’re stored, carried, and used, and their common intended purposes diverge very rapidly.

The most significant difference, IMO, is in how easy it is to adopt from iron sights to the illuminated reticle nonmagnifying sights most commonly used on the two types of guns these days. All one has to do to learn how shooters who aren’t accustomed to optical sights on handguns fare with them is watch: In my own experience and in watching others, it’s clear that even experienced and accomplished shooters very often have a difficult time using optical handgun sights because they are not proficient at even finding the reticle when attempting to engage the target. And when this problem is mentioned, optical sight fans will blithely respond, “Just learn how to use them.” But then that learning process is often described in terms of literally thousands of target engagement repetitions, or other ridiculous training regimens such as practicing 30 minutes every day for long periods.

On the other hand, what’s involved in becoming proficient with a nonmagnifying optical sight on a rifle? I teach a new shooter or someone who otherwise has no experience with such a sight how to turn it on and off, how to adjust the brightness of the reticle, changing the battery, and—critically—to put the reticle dot where they want to hit on the target. That’s all that’s required for someone to use such a sight on a rifle, and involves maybe 10 minutes of instruction if they’re less intelligent than normal. If they mount the rifle as they would without such a sight, the reticle is right there in view every time, all the time. If the gun has enough recoil to lose sight of the reticle briefly after a shot, it’s right there in view as soon as we bring the rifle back down. There are a lot of things for a new shooter to learn about using a carbine/patrol rifle, but they don’t require thousands, or hundreds, or scores, or even dozens of “presentations” just to be able to find the sight reticle every time when engaging a target.

There are several other differences between handgun and rifle sights that I could discuss at even greater length, but I believe the ease of becoming proficient with the sights is the most significant demonstration of how handguns and rifles aren’t the same. That doesn’t mean optical sights won’t become as ubiquitous on pistols as they are on rifles today, but success on one platform doesn’t guarantee success on a completely different one. Our arguments should recognize that fact.




“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”
— Thomas Paine
 
Posts: 43675 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Jupiter
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quote:
Originally posted by YVK:
I am not exactly the group of must-have-optic. I strongly prefer optic but also carry irons only if my concealment needs dictate that, and that's not infrequent, but I'll give my 2 cents:


Thanks YVK.

Your observations pretty much match my experiences.

Optics on rifles are a slam dunk. No one can really argue that. On defensive pistols, it's not quite as clear cut. Plenty of good arguments on both sides. One thing is certain, they keep getting better and better and have helped many with aging eyes.

We owe most of the innovations over the years to the Competition world. Red Dot sights are one of them. These folks push their equipment like few others. While Competition might not teach you tactics, you'll damn well learn to shoot if you play the game long enough.


Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas


"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
-- George Orwell




 
Posts: 3564 | Location: Mississippi | Registered: August 09, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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