If aliens from space were attacking, what kind of pistol would you want? Of course you'd would want lasers and red dot sights, or at least something that shot really big bullets that tracked their targets down. Well the alien-smoking lasers are not quite available to the public, but the red dot sights are, so we will have to take what we can get.
In past years we have watched the world's fastest shooters transition to the use of red dots on their chrome plated and fully illuminated large dot pistols. It was many moons ago when the greats of the game with names like Doug Koenig and Jerry Barnhart strapped optics onto their pistols and started to crush everyone in their path. No one really remembers the exact date this transition happened, but needless to say it was a spectacle that caused many to laugh and some to talk about how it was simply a fad. This really isn’t important other than to make a point that if this red dotted pistol didn’t work these top shooters would have moved on to something different.
The actual year was 1990, Jerry Barnhart won the National USPSA Competition using a red dot equipped pistol, later that year Doug Koenig would win the World shoot using a similar set up. These were the first two serious shooters that stepped out of modern pistol craft into the future. So with that being said, I think it just might not be a fad in the competition world, you do the math, 26 years ago according to my calculations.
Lately the rage is strapping a micro red dot onto a tactical pistol and trotting out into the real world to see what happens. Some have even started to carry this type of pistol for daily use, be it tactical or concealment work. So what are the positives and negatives of these sights that we should consider before making the move?
I must admit that if you have an open mind the positives are many. Immediately upon mounting this mini red dot to your pistol you will notice an improvement in your accuracy. This I believe is accredited to being able to simply place the dot on the target and engage. No need to align sights or figure hold offs with mis-aligned sights. Put the dot where it needs to be and squeeze the trigger. Holding slightly high at distances out to 100 yards is made easy with a red dot sight. 15 yards and beyond I have seen shooters abilities amplified. Harder shots are made easier with the red dot on the pistol.
If you are at the age when reading glasses become an almost must have, you will be able to easily engage with the red dot on the pistol when iron sights have become difficult to use. This is even more exaggerated during hours of limited visibility, night and early morning. In the dark the red dot pops out and you can simply place the dot and shoot.
Having a red dot also allows most shooters at any skill level to shoot with both eyes open. Shooting with both eyes open isn’t really about being able to shoot better it is about maintaining good peripheral vision. Having both eyes open allows you to take in more of the tactical scenario playing itself out in front of you. If you are conducting team movements such as CQB (Close Quarter Battle), having both eyes open is crucial to success. If not fellow team members can step in your direction while you are squinting your non-shooting eye, this can have serious side effects with regard to safety.
Using these mini red dots has allowed tactical shooters who use Night Vision Goggles an easier way to engage when kitted up. You can now raise the pistol and easily see the glowing dot and simply align. Now not many of us have the luxury of running around the battlefield with NVG’s but for those that do, shooting a pistol has been simplified.
Now on to what I would call negatives. Take this with a grain of salt, I really believe there will come a day when most pistols will have an optic in place. Smaller, faster, better battery life, these are all coming to fruition as we speak.
One of the major issues I have had while shooting a tactical pistol with the red dot is the fact that I have issues finding the dot when in an obscure shooting position, such as under a vehicle. This is exacerbated when you have to shoot with one hand, or worse yet when you have to shoot with the right hand and left eye, or vice versa. The reason for this shortcoming has nothing to do with the red dot sight, if has everything to do with not having iron sights available to help direct you where to move the front or the rear of the pistol. What I mean by this is if we have iron sights we can use them as a reference point to get us quickly aligned and on target. If you simply have a red dot you lose this capability.
This also seems to be why most shooters are slower 15 yards and closer with the red dot than iron sights. I really don’t have any science to prove this is the magical yard line, but most shooters shoot better 20 yards and farther with a red dot on their pistols. Speed doesn’t seem to suffer at the extended distances either.
Another negative is battery life and replacement. Most red dots require you to remove the red dot to change the battery and in turn re-mount the sight and re zero the firearm. You also want the sight on when you need it so the battery is constantly draining when you have this pistol in your holster or on the night stand.
Lastly, set screws that need to be loosened for zeroing and not having a precise click adjustment on many of these sights will make you angry when you are attempting to dial them in.
So positives and negatives need to be addressed. The negatives are simply opinions formed from my own beliefs. Most of these opinions have been formulated from what I have seen with this type of sight on a regular basis across a broad selection of shooters with varying levels of proficiency.
With popularity comes focus on the fixes that have been needed for years. These fixes are because of the strong influence of operators in the military stepping up and asking for exactly the features they want and need. With the introduction of the Leupold Delta Point Pro most of the negatives have been addressed and some of the positives have been enhanced.
With the Delta Point Pro you can access the battery without removing the sight. There is a spring loaded and magnetized battery compartment cover that flips open once the latch is released. No tools required. As far as zeroing you can use a standard flat tip or coin to adjust with 1 MOA click windage and elevation adjustments. As I said previously a serious weakness was encountered when your battery went dead or was replaced due to the need to re-zero. Not the case with this innovative design.
One of the greatest features of this sight is the built in rear sight. Leupold’s DP Pro has a slotted rear section that allows you to install the rear sight and zero it as well. So now all you need on your pistol is a taller front sight and you are in business. This helps when driving the gun to a target, you can see the iron sights and align as you go, this culminates with the dot becoming visible and you squeezing the trigger. The only other fix available is to mount a higher set of sights behind or in front of your mini red dot sight.
Another great feature is the auto shut down and auto turn on capability of the Delta Point Pro. If you lay the pistol down the sights goes dormant after a certain amount of time. At this point there isn’t any battery draw so no worries there. As soon as you pick up the pistol the sight comes to life and is ready for action immediately. This is a cool feature, this will also eliminate the glowing in your bedroom when you are trying to sleep, some find it romantic, I just find it distracting when I make my midnight cookie and milk forays.
So the future is really now. These new sights are unbelievable and will cause other companies to step it up to get back in the game.
Personally I don’t carry a red dot sighted pistol for concealed carry but I know several people that do. They love these sights and like the fact that they instantly have red dot capability. I haven’t warmed up to this all the way yet, and I usually am carrying a pistol that is too small for most red dots. Hint, hint, how about some really small red dot sights for pistols? Anybody listening? I bet they are, let’s see what the next year or two brings.
About Kyle Lamb
Sergeant Major (retired) Kyle Lamb spent over 21 years in the United States Army, with over 15 of that in 1st SFOD-D Delta Force. He has participated in many conflicts, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Iraq, as well as in the battle made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu, Somalia. SGM Lamb has received numerous valorous awards and decorations. SGM Lamb is the Founder and President of Viking Tactics, a tactical training and tactical gear business. SGM Lamb also appears on several Sportsman Channel TV Shows and has written a carbine instructional book, Green Eyes and Black Rifles, a Pistol Book, Stay in the Fight, and his latest book Leadership in the Shadows, which highlights his time in the military as well as numerous events from the Law Enforcement world.