March 31, 2022
By Jeff John
Our modern age has brought alternative sighting via reliable electronics to handguns in a big way in the form of laser sights and now small, electronic red-dot sights fitted atop the slide. The downside of electronics is the use of batteries, but battery life is surprisingly long today. Besides, just like rotating out the ammo in your magazines, changing out the battery on a routine basis will keep your sight running like a top. Even though most batteries will last for years of modest use, it is a good idea to have planned intervals for changing them.
Today’s sights are very durable and take the repeated abuse of the side cycling. Look for ones that have housings tough enough to take a tumble onto the ground, too. There are a lot of variables when selecting a reflex sight for today’s handguns, and these are best experienced at your dealer for size and compatibility.
Here are some sights I feel are best suitable for self-defense. Just remember not all sights fit all pistols. Be sure there is a plate/base available for your gun before laying down the money. The sights are presented least expensive to most expensive.
1. Holosun HS407C X2
The surprising feature of the 407C X2 is Holosun’s dual-power Solar Fail Safe. In the 2-way power mode the sight switches between a solar power cell atop the sight and the side-tray-mounted CR1632 battery that only powers up when there is not enough light for the cell to do so. Should the battery die, the sight will operate on the solar cell alone as long as sufficient ambient light is available. The reticle blinks slowly when the battery voltage reaches a low 2.2 Vdc.
Coming with a red or green dot 2 m.o.a. in size, there are 10 daylight and two night-vision settings as well as a selectable automatic reticle intensity adjustment. Shake Awake lights the sight to the last used setting. The sight automatically goes to sleep after 10 minutes of zero movement, but there are four sleep settings: 10 minutes, 1 hour, 12 hours and Sleep Disabled as well as a manual on/off.
The housing is machined from 7075 aluminum, the unit is dust/waterproof. Waterproof rating is IP67, meaning it’s submersible to 3.3 ft. for 30 minutes, and the housing has drain holes for excess water to run off. Elevation and windage have 1 m.o.a. clicks adjusted by the provided small screwdriver, which also has the Torx bit for tightening the screws. $282, Holosun.com
2. Crimson Trace CT RAD Micro Pro Green
Long known for their excellent grip lasers, Crimson Trace has entered the reflex sight market in a big way with the CT Rapid Aiming Dot Micro Pro for compact and subcompact pistols. The one I chose to feature here offers a 5 m.o.a. green dot instead of the more common red, and this setup is one of the better compromises for speed and accuracy. The housing is stronger 7075 aluminum and the casing is designed to deflect the force of being dropped. The housing is machined to co-witness with the front sight. The CR1632 battery is bottom access, and windage/elevation accomplished with the provided tool.
The sight automatically adjusts the aiming dot’s brightness to the surrounding lighting conditions to one of eight daylight settings, and there are two night-vision settings as well. A motion sensor detects movement of the firearm and automatically turns the reflex sight on, and the sight powers off after 2 minutes of zero movement. The sight is water-resistant with an IPX4 rating (water splashed at any angle). $299, CrimsonTrace.com
3. Burris Fast Fire III
Burris offers reflex sights for rifles, pistols and shotguns. The Fast Fire III won’t bust your budget, but does require you turn it on. If you forget, it will auto turn off to preserve battery life. The battery can be changed from the top, a nice touch. A choice of 3 or 8 m.o.a. dot sizes have three manual brightness settings and four on auto-brightness adjust. Constructed from stainless steel, bronze and aluminum, the tare weight with battery before mount is a mere 0.9 oz., and is powered by a single CR1632 battery. Windage/elevation adjustments require no special tool, and the unit is waterproof. The Fast Fire III comes with a Picatinny mount but you can order sleeker mounts for a variety of popular pistols already machined for one of the mounting plates. $299, BurrisOptics.com
4. Sig Sauer Romeo 1 Pro
The Romeo 1 is one of the better values in the field, and it fits many other pistols—not just SIG Sauer. If it’s not for a SIG, be sure to order it with the handgun adapter pack to fit other pistols. The premium feature is the 3 or 6 m.o.a. dot is turned on by motion, and turns off at rest, maintaining whichever one of 10 brightness settings was used last. The housing is machined magnesium rather than aluminum and powered by a single top-loading CR1632 battery. Windage/elevation adjustments require no special tool. The Romeo 1 Pro has a IPX7 waterproof rating, meaning it is submersible to 3.3 ft. Weight of the Romeo 1 is 0.8 oz. starting at $440, SIGSauer.com
5. Vortex Viper
Offering a very low profile, the Vortex Viper will co-witness with suppressor-height iron sights. The small package doesn’t offer all the automatic features of some of the others listed here, and it must be manually turned on and off. Simply pressing either intensity button powers up the sight, and may be done with the right thumb by a right-hander depending on the pistol. Power down by pressing and holding the down arrow.
The intensity is manually adjustable on the 6 m.o.a. red dot, and windage and elevation adjustable in 1 m.o.a. increments using a provided small, flathead screwdriver. Better, the adjustments have locking screws to hold them in place. The single CR2032 battery is bottom-mounted requiring the sight be removed for replacement. The sight weighs 1.03 oz., is O-ring sealed for water and dirt resistance and is shockproof for impact and recoil. $349, VortexOptics.com
6. Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
The Leupold Delta Point Pro is an automatic on/off reflex sight with a 2.5 or 6 m.o.a. dot that turns on to the last brightness setting when motion is detected. The sight goes into sleep mode to conserve battery life after 5 minutes at rest and is powered by a single CR2032 battery in an aluminum housing. The manual power button adjusts the brightness to one of eight settings and can be used to turn off the sight. The auto-on will not work if the sight is turned off completely. Mounting bases for 15 popular firearms are available separately.
The battery is accessible from the top. Windage/elevation is in 1 m.o.a. clicks and the adjustments have a coin slot. The sight flashes the aiming point 10 times to indicate a low battery, and it will still operate for several more hours. The DeltaPoint Pro is waterproof to 33 feet. An accessory rear iron sight can be added to co-witness the iron sights through the DeltaPoint’s window, making this sight the best of all worlds category for reflex sights—although it is one of the heavier ones at 1.9 ounces. starting at $450, Leupold.com
7. Trijicon RMR
One of the most innovative is the Ruggedized Miniature Reflex (RMR) sight by Trijicon. The company’s original sight uses dual tritium/fiber illumination with a 7, 9 or 13 m.o.a. dot or 12.9 m.o.a. triangle all lit by tritium for night/low light and fiber optic for daylight. Such a sight needs no batteries and is ever ready for a long time, since tritium is a radioactive element with a half-life of 12.5 years—meaning the triangle will be half as bright then as when new.
Trijicon has since added battery-powered Type 2 versions offering auto-brightness with eight manual settings for use in any light. It features 4-year battery life, forged aluminum housing, multi-coated lens to provide true color, easy-to-use coin slot elevation and windage adjustments with 1 m.o.a. clicks and a choice of 1, 3.25 or 6.5 m.o.a. dot sizes powered by a single CR2032 battery. The sight must be removed to change the battery. The RMR adds only 1.2 ounces to the weight of the pistol, and is waterproof to 66 feet. There’s also the new RMRcc version with a smaller footprint for today’s micro pistols. starting at $577 (original); $699 (type 2 and RMRcc), Trijicon.com