Do You Need a Red Dot Sight on your Carry Pistol?

One of the more noticeable changes in the self-defense world in the last few years is the appearance of red dot sights (RDS) on carry guns. When RDS were new they were seen as something competitive shooters used and it took some time for that to change. From competitive shooting, they saw use among handgun hunters and now they’ve become common on everyday carry (EDC) guns.

The SwampFox Sentinel is a good red dot option for many shooters. (Photo Credit: SwampFox Optics)

In the video below, Lucky Gunner examines whether you really need a pistol red dot, and why.

Why do you want a pistol red dot sight?

There are a lot of reasons to put an RDS on your carry gun. In fact, there are more pros than cons which makes it difficult to make a solid pro/con list. Benefits of using an RDS:

  • Target acquisition
  • Accuracy
  • Field of View
  • Adjustable dots
  • Low-light use
  • Easier to see
  • Feedback during dryfire
  • Getting shots on target at longer distances

If you’re thinking it would take you too long to learn to use an RDS, you might be surprised to find out that it is a fairly simple process. Yes, it takes some time to get used to looking for a red — or green — dot instead of lining up iron sights, but it’s also easier than iron sights.

pistol red dot in handgun class
Not long ago, RDS in a handgun class were the exception rather than the rule. Today they’re common. (Photo Credit: Lucky Gunner)

Once you master visualizing the dot as you’re getting on target you can focus on speed, and that’s where a pistol red dot sight gets even more impressive: rapid target acquisition. Basically, if you have an RDS on your carry gun you’ll shave some time off how long it took you to draw your gun and get a shot on target with iron sights. Seconds definitely matter when it comes to self-defense.

Swampfox Sentinel Pistol red dot sight
The SwampFox Sentinel is one of the RDS Chris Baker mentions in this video. (Photo Credit: SwampFox Optics)

Chris Baker from Lucky Gunner goes over the details of why you might want a red dot sight on your carry gun in the video below.

Are there any downsides?

On the con side of the list, Chris Baker said, “I think a lot of the most common criticisms of pistol red dot sights are overblown. Things like durability or battery life are kind of minor issues at this point if you’re careful about hardware selection, but there are some challenges involved in transitioning from iron sights to a red dot that I think deserve some attention. …two of the biggest challenges…one is a hardware issue, simply figuring out which pistol to mount an optic to and what method to use to mount it — that seems like it should be easy but it’s often not — [and] the other big challenge is more of a software, or training, issue. …that is, learning how to find the dot when you are shooting.”

Can these challenges be fixed? Yes, but it takes some time and effort.

man participating in pistol red dot training class
It’s a good idea to take a red dot sight class to help you hone your RDS skills. (Photo Credit: Lucky Gunner)

In the video, Chris Baker suggests taking classes from experienced RDS instructors like Scott Jedlinski, which is a great idea. Being an informed shooter — and a well-trained one — is always a good thing. Watch the Lucky Gunner video to find out more about whether you want an RDS on your carry gun.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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