In Gunfighter Cast episode 106, Daniel talks with Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts about red dots on handguns. Steve has more knowledge and experience in this area than anyone I know and many national-level trainers and companies look to Steve for advice in this area.
Steve worked for 15 years in a Sheriff’s office in Michigan until 2006. He had his own training company going back to about 2000, and he sold the company when he went to Magpul late in 2009. He stayed with Magpul through 2014, and he is currently a reserve deputy for an agency. Really, he has his fingers in a little bit of everything. He does a lot of firearms industry consulting with a lot of different companies that cover everything from sights to pistols to carbines to… you name it, he’s probably got his fingers in it. It’s always evolving.
Steve just wrapped up a class in Alliance, Ohio on home defense in a real structure outside of the city—one of the homes they have for training. It’s a full residential structure in the middle of a neighborhood complete with furniture, power, upstairs/downstairs – no BS, an actual residential structure that they use for training.
Daniel says that Steve is something like a mentor to him. If he’s got an industry-related question on training or hardware/software products, nobody knows the industry like Steve does.
Listen in to the conversation and learn why you should put a red dot sight on your handgun.
Host: Daniel Shaw
Co-Host: Steve Fisher
Introduction/Timeline: Stephanie Kimmell
Should you put a red dot sight on a handgun?
4:58 When Daniel was trying to decide what red dot to put on a Glock 19, he asked Steve his opinion. He finally settled on an RMR, based on input from Steve and the opinions of other experts. Although he knows what he has found, he observes that most of the people who have spent a lot of time with red dots have come to similar conclusions and opinions. He wants Steve to discuss it, so he asks:
5:59 Do I want to put a red dot on my handgun?
Absolutely 100%, yes you do. We put ’em on a carbine, we put ’em on a shotgun, we put ’em on long guns. Why wouldn’t we put ’em on a pistol?
If we trace the history of red dots on defensive handguns outside of the competitive world, we start looking back to the old Tasco Optima 2000 that were really hitting the streets in the late 90s. Steve actually had one on his Simth 5906 back then, so this is nothing new. It keeps flowing back and forth, but the red dot is a force multiplier on a handgun.
Red Dot Advantages
7:00 When you say a force multiplier, what are the advantages of a red dot over typical standard iron sights?
With a red dot on a pistol, you have one reference to go with. It allows you to look through the optic to the problem, focus on the problem, and then superimpose the dot on it. You don’t have to line up the bumpy things, (the sights).
Another advantage is that red dot sights address assist individuals who need corrective glasses.
For example, Daniel mentions that he has students with transition lenses, bifocals, and trifocals, and for them, he uses a target-focused technique. He instructs them to align the blurry front sight and blurry rear sight the best they can. So, they’re aligning three blurry points while focusing on the target, and that’s how he gets them shooting accurately.
Steve says you don’t have to do that. You can just pull up that pistol and have that red dot assist. Why wouldn’t you?
Steve’s seen this with departments and agencies that have been looking at it. He tries to get them to understand that red dots reduce liability concerns. He takes them to the range and says, “Give me your most problematic shooter that has the hardest time qualifying.”
With a brief instructional block period, he sees leaps and bounds in improvement with timing, accuracy, and hit percentage ratios, making life so much easier for them.
How is using a red dot sight different from iron sights?
10:40 Daniel mentions that the presentation is slightly different, and there’s a bit of a learning curve when you first start using a red dot sight. He’s never been one to complain about grip angle, because you make the gun go bang when the sights are aligned, the bullet strikes, and you’ve just got to be faster about aligning the front and rear sights.
So when he started using a red dot, he thought his target acquisition was going to be a lot faster. As it turned out, though, it was slower going early on until he figured out the presentation that he needed. As he practiced more, he developed the mechanics for a faster presentation with the red dot on the pistol.
Something that he wasn’t really expecting was the ability to track the dot without having to reference the rear sight, drop in the front sight, and reference the target. With the red dot sight, all he has to do is focus on the target and track the super-imposed dot, getting back where he needs to be. He can press the shot whether it’s a single shot with rapid successive rounds or transitioning from target to target. So, the improvement in tracking ability was something that he saw right away.
Steve agrees, saying, “If you’ve got good recoil mechanics, there’s nothing as fast..that dot just sits there and lays flat.”
Red Dot Mounting Sytems
12:19 What red dot mounting systems do Steve has experience with and which ones does he prefer?
Steve is currently a sponsored consultant with Trijicon, but over the years, he has used many red dot sights, so he’s seen the popular gamut of optics.
As far as mounting solutions go, that is a very touchy subject. Doug at ATI has probably the most precise mounting setup that Steve’s ever seen milled into a slide—to the point that if you had to swap RMR’s around, you’d have to have a bit of an adjustment done to the optic because they have minuscule differences.
There are a few different options out there though. One of the things that’s kind of popular is the Glock MOS. Daniel says he personally tries to steer people away from that because to him, it seems like a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
Steve says, “It’s a headache. It’s horrible. I’m not going to lie.” He has seen some shifts in point of aim/point of impact and any time you start mounting plates—plate to plate to plate to plate to plate—there are issues. It’s not good.
Steve had a hand in testing the Balor Mount from Raven Concealment extensively with the RMR as well as the T1 and T2 series. He says its a fantastic setup and a great solution for folks who don’t want to cut up their slides or cannot do so due to agency or department requirements.
Which red dot sights are the good ones?
16:06 Daniel says he rarely sees RMRs come off of guns, but he does see some of the other optics out there get too loosse or come off of guns in classes. For example, he does see TLR-1s coming off guns or even getting stuck in holsters. But he notices that he doesn’t see SureFire X300s coming off.
He uses that kind of data when he chooses his own products or when recommending products to students. But, he cautions, this isn’t hard, scientific data because he can’t know if they’re putting the lights on or installing the red dots properly. All he knows is, they’re not staying on his student’s guns the way he expects them to stay on his guns. When he sees RMR’s and SureFire X300s being more successful on things, he puts his SureFire X300 and an RMR on his gun.
Steve sees similar things, saying that right now, no red dot is going to be perfect. There are plenty of stories about the RDS sights having issues. Electronically they weren’t perfectly set or ready for prime time three years ago. When they hit the slide stops, the amount of G force they’re taking on is absolutely brutal. But now the technology is catching up on things. As far as a durability and readiness standpoint, in the next year, you’re going to see a better breed of miniature red dots for handguns that are prime time ready.
18:07 People who use the RDS in a completely operational capacity understand realistically today’s current red dots on pistols. You can expect approximately a 5000 round lifecycle out of them until the batteries need to be replaced or the optic needs a tune-up. It’s not bad, really, and worth taking the risk. Steve has some units with upwards of 10,000 rounds on them, that are still going strong with no issues. And then he’s had some units that he only got 250 rounds through them and it shut off.
What specific models of Trijicon RMR’s and dot sizes does Steve recommend, and why?
18:56 That can be a trick question, depending on the gun and the shooter.
If the shooter has good recoil mechanics, as in, they’re able to track the gun really flat with their iron sights, they should be able to deal with the smaller RMR dot size such as the RM06. That model has adjustable intensity and an auto-adjust feature that you can set and program for different lighting conditions. It’s got a 3.25 MOA dot.
Steve’s personal favorites are the RM07, which is the adjustable 6 MOA dot, and the RM02 which is the non-adjustable, auto-sensing 6 MOA dot. He likes the 6 MOA dot because it fills in just enough space on the target. He can always super-impose it over the middle, and start pressing the trigger. He finds that even if he gets sloppy behind the gun or if he’s one-handed on the pistol, down to the worst of the worst-case, the larger dot is easier for him to track, pick up, and resettle under the recoil impulse.
20:26 Daniel says that’s not something that everybody considers. He had the same thing. He did a little video once about thumb-over-bore with a rifle. If the conditions are right and everything is absolutely perfect, he finds that that position keeps his muzzle down the best and lets him shoot faster for rapid precision. It’s great.
When he’s upside down on his shoulder and he’s got his knees near his chest, wearing body armor and a helmet and everything else, and he’s trying to get up underneath the vehicle and smoke the target, he finds that he doesn’t need that because the recoil is different. He discovers those things in unorthodox awkward shooting positions.
If we’re only testing our red dots holding two hands right in front of us standing on the range, then we’re not really testing our red dots.
When it comes time to getting in the dirt, off access, running the gun with one hand and controlling people with the other, wanting a ballistic shield on an entry, vehicle stopped — having that bigger dot is an advantage.
22:15 Daniel went with the RM07 with a 6.5 MOA dot. He has an RM06 with the 3.25 MOA dot but he hasn’t decided which gun to put it on yet.
Steve says those things really shine on the weird guns. He has an Sig MPX 9mm carbine. He has some super lightweight M4s that he’d like to have lightweight optics on. Some of his Midwest Industries rifles are super light. The oddball collection of guns—he’ll slap an RMR on there.
Daniel was thinking about doing the SBR Scorpion Evo 3S1, taking the sights off and putting on an RMR. It’s a perfect little optic for that little gun or similar guns like the MPX.
Where do you put your rear sight? In front or behind?
24:18 Steve says, “To each his own.”
He has both setups. Some people say that if the rear sight is in front of the optic you can’t track the rear sight of the gun to help you get the dot on the target. He says that’s a total BS line.
Even so, he prefers to have the sights in the traditional position and Daniel kept his that way as well. If the optic happens to go down, Steve likes having the immediate reference of the sights at the back of the gun. Otherwise, he may find himself in a position that is not directly in line behind the optic. He may be off-center or he could be moving one direction or the other.
Is there anything else that people need to know about a red dot on a handgun?
27:54 Optics maintenance, like anything else, is important. Practice normal preventive maintenance. It’s great to have a lens pen and brush handy, as well as a lens cloth and Q-Tips in your kit, especially if you’re constantly working in and out of dusty, dirty, sandy environments.
In some areas, temperature conditions may be an issue. For instance, in Arizona, you may step out of your air-conditioned car into 125° heat, which could cause fogging issues. Get some Cat Crap Anti-fog Lens Cleaner Paste for the lenses. Rain-X anti-fog wipes can be useful too. These are little things that can make life easier.
For a while, Steve experimented with using cell phone lens covers. He traced the shape of the optic lens onto the cover, cut them, and covered the front lens of the optic. He made sure to cut a tab to the side of it that stuck out far enough that he could rip it off and remove it if it became occluded with mud, snow, or rain. Just like old dirt bike tear-offs.
Just remember that whenever the red dot sight gets wet and there is water on the lens, there’s still a dot. Shoot it and stop worrying about it.
How can you find more information about Steve Fisher and all the work he does?
29:54 Go to sentinelconcepts.com and see the full class descriptions and schedules.
You can also find Sentinel Concepts on Facebook and Instagram.
Steve will make you a better shooter, better fighter. Look him up and jump in a class somewhere. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Tune in to the next episode as Daniel taps into Steve’s knowledge of the industry.
Buy your magazines at GunMag Warehouse! Be sure to watch GunMag TV too.
If you enjoy podcasts, you should try audio books. To get two free audio books, start a trial at Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks“>Audible.com today.