After receiving a lot of great feedback regarding my first offering, I decided to write a follow up article based on the questions I received. Again, I want to reiterate that I am by no means a subject matter expert. I am sharing this as a regular guy that trains a lot (400 to 600 rounds a week) and carries my gun all the time. The info I am sharing is my personal experience influenced/learned/inspired by the instructors I have trained with, the research I have done, and the product of the drills and exercises I have done ad nauseum to test them.
“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” – Cam at F3 Tactical when asked what he thinks you need to change in regards to draw stroke, concealment, and weight difference with RDS on pistols.
With modern miniature red dot weight is a non-issue. A Trijicon RMR is 1.2 oz. A Leupold Deltapoint is .6 oz, and the huge “impractical” (according to the interwebz) Aimpoint H1/T1 is a whopping 3 oz.
After you subtract the material removed from milling your slide and add back a mounting plate, the RMR and Deltapoint are at a net weight gain of zero and the Aimpoint with a Unity Tactical mount is +2 oz. If the above numbers are still an issue with you, I suggest you get to a gym quickly!
Ease of Concealment
Since most RDS are the same width at the pistol’s slide, printing is not complicated by a RDS. Even the H1/T1 is not any more difficult to conceal than a regular pistol. Now if you wear skinny jeans and tight shirts, well….
Is it comfortable? That depends on how you carry, but no different than how comfortable a non-RDS pistol will be based on the holster you use. The burning question is if IWB is more uncomfortable? I do not think so. One person asked if the frame of the RDS causes welts or impresses into your skin. I never really checked but I think it depends on your body type. If you have a belly it may, but so will a regular pistol. OWB is a non-event.
I believe one of the main concerns is if you have to buy a holster to accommodate the RDS. This answer is – Maybe. If you have a Raven Concealment Phantom then the answer is no. Their holsters accommodate you whether or not you have a RDS. My OWB Raven Phantom is made for a Glock 17 and Surefire X300U. It fits my Glock 17 with a H1 and my Glock 19 with a RMR without issue. The Raven Eidolon also does not need modification. I do have a local maker, Blackbeard Tactical, which makes custom holsters for me for my RDS equipped 1911s. Finally my IWB solution is an Armadillo Concealment Xfer. This holster affixes to the Surefire light so I can use it with any pistol that has the light is on….regardless if it has a RDS on it or not.
The top RDS mentioned have a 2 to 5 year battery life if constantly kept on. If you change them once a year on your birthday or on New Year’s, you won’t even come close to reaching the batteries service life. This is important because if you wish to use this as your EDC or home defense weapon, time to the first responsible shot is critical. You do not have time to fiddle with on and off buttons in a fire fight.
The RDS will go through some serious Gs on a pistol. In the beginning RDS have had an issue with the battery contacts losing contact during recoil. All of the top RDS manufacturers mentioned have fixed this issue, however as a precaution I always slightly bend up the battery contacts on my RDS. Probably unnecessary these days, but it doesn’t hurt. I do this on all my RDS except for the Aimpoint. Its basket type contacts have not suffered from this issue.
Again, I cannot stress training with your backup irons if you make a switch. All things fail, better have a backup plan. On the other hand, I have seen front sights sheer off and fiber optic tubes fall out too.
Draw stroke: RDS vs Iron Sights
“Draw your pistol as you normally do and the f’ing dot appears by magic” – Robb Jensen, 3 gun champ, Armorer at Virginia Arms Company
OK so it may not be as easy as Robb says it is but it is also not as different as some people make it out to be. To elaborate Robb says,” It’s the press. Locate the front sight and press it to the target the dot will appear. Which is the way everyone’s presentation should be”.
I feel the most important thing is to drill and drill and drill some more. What is the difference? In my opinion, a proper draw will always have the front sight post in the shooter’s peripheral vision. It stays there until the front sight is aligned with the rear sight and you begin to press shots. The dot on an RDS is not in your peripheral because it is encased. So until the dot is aligned with your eyes, you will not see it. One technique I learned, I believe from Matt Jacques of Victory First, is to track the top of the red dot frame until the dot “magically’ appears. This did wonders for my first shot speed with a RDS.
Others say that the initial pull from the holster needs to be higher than with iron sights to more quickly align the red dot and your eyes. I think this is great for people new to red dots. But as you drill more, you will be able to, as Paul Van Dunk of Pace Performance Consulting says, round out the edges. This is evidenced at the highest level of speed with World Champs like Max Michel and KC Eusebio.
Video for this “higher” draw stroke is HERE
I recently went through an 8 hour course with Matt Jacques of Victory First at Echo Valley in November of 2014. It was raining, cold, foggy…pretty much miserable. I ran my M&P CORE with a Trijicon RMR RM06 on it. I never had any problems with the dot getting wet or obstructed. Now we were running from concealment for the whole class. So if you open carry or are LEO this may be an issue since your RDS will be exposed to the elements for a longer period of time. If this is a large consideration for you then you should consider the H1/T1. Since the dot emitter is enclosed, it is less likely to be obstructed as opposed to the RMR or Deltapoint which have open emitters.
My suggestion is to get an adjustable RDS if you can afford with a RED dot. The Deltapoint and RMR RM01 are self-adjusting and generally work well unless you are in complete darkness. Then they tend to fade until gone. A weapon mounted light tends to wash them out when they are at this low setting. An adjustable RDS like the RMR RM06 or the H1/T1 do not have these issues at all, but they are more expensive than their self-adjusting counterparts.
Unless you are certain you will always be in a bright setting (note sarcasm), I do not recommend the amber colored dots. Although they do work in dark settings because of their tritium content, they completely wash out when used with a bright weapon mounted light. You don’t use a WML or a handheld in conjunction with your self-defense gun? Hmmm…please refer to this podcast with Steve “Yeti” Fisher on the importance of lumens.CLICK HERE
2, 3.25, 4, 7, 8 etc…All these dot sizes are available. The bigger the dot, the easier it is acquired. The smaller it is, the more precise your accuracy. Up to you, my choice is 3.25 MOA.
RDS vs Lasers
In reference to lasers, I am just not a fan. Because the laser’s dot is projected, shooters often play a cat and mouse game chasing the dot during recoil. On a red dot, the disruption of the site picture is much less volatile due to the closer proximity of the dot to the eye. In addition, people’s form gets sloppy with lasers. They hold the gun too low so transition to the irons in case of laser failure takes longer. In contrast, with RDS the iron sights are right there if the dot fails. However, my experience with lasers is limited because all of my mentors/trainers have generally disliked them.
Gunsmith vs Pre-milled Slides
So now you have decided to put a red dot on your pistol….but how? There are three ways to go: Custom Milling or pre-milled or pre-milled full guns from the factory. Here are my recommendations.
Smiths – ATEi, Agency Arms, L&M Precision Gunworks, Bore Sight Solutions, Mod 1
Pre-Milled – Unity Tactical, Zev
Pre-Milled guns from factory – M&P CORE, FNX 45 Tactical, Glock of various models. Note: I have not had good luck with M&P accuracy. Others have had better luck. The Glock models are new and availability may be scarce at this point.
Is it worth it?
Only you can decide. The variable of cost vs improved accuracy is a non-issue with me. It may not be with you. I will say that if you are in your 40s and your sight picture is starting to be more of a guess then you need to seriously investigate RDS on your pistol.
On the other hand, if your eyesight is good but you want to start touching targets at distance more easily or to go faster on multiple targets. Give RDS a try.
Finally, I am going to leave you with how I really feel about RDS vs Iron sights less the political correctness.
“Iron sights are to RDS like a typewriter is to a computer”
Be Good. Stay Safe. Get Training.
Scott “Jedi” Jedlinski
NRA Instructor #202820597