Skip to main content

Why Shooters Are Turning to Mini Red Dot Sights for Pistols

Why Shooters Are Turning to Mini Red Dot Sights for Pistols
Mini red dot sights such as the Trijicon RMR are rugged optics that place a sighting dot on the same plane as the target, eliminating the need for aligning front and rear sights with the target.

Mini red dot sights such as the Trijicon RMR are rugged optics that place a sighting dot on the same plane as the target, eliminating the need for aligning front and rear sights with the target.

Thanks to modern technology, I have been able to talk about several weapon lights (such as the Crimson Trace Lightguard) that are small enough that they can fit on concealed-carry handguns. The same thing can be said about red dot sights.

Mini red dot sights have been around for well over a decade, and there are now so many of them out there it's hard to keep track. Just off the top of my head I can think of the Burris FastFire, the Docter, Bushnell First Strike, JP Rifles' JPoint, Insight Technologies' MRDS, Leupold DeltaPoint and the Trijicon RMR.

Competitive shooters have been using red dot sights on handguns for 20 years, and it was in part the competitive abuses of larger red dot sighs such as the Aimpoint and EOTech that resulted in them getting tough enough to get approved for military use. Mini red dot sights are a more recent phenomenon, but they are not delicate little toys anymore.


Mini red dot sights are popular with the current 3-Gun crowd as secondary sighting systems for their AR-15s, faster to use than traditional iron sights—especially in close-range engagements. Trijicon has been selling its popular 4X ACOG riflescope with a mini red dot perched atop it for years for just this sort of situation.


As durable as they were, however, it has only been the past few years that the idea of putting mini red dots on carry guns has taken off. In large part this has to do with the introduction of the Trijicon RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex). Trijicon is not known for making delicate, maintenance-intensive products, and when it not just introduced a mini red dot but recommended mounting them on pistols, many tactical types sat up and finally took notice.

Gabe Suarez, a well-known tactical trainer who has taught at Gunsite, is now advocating (and selling) Glocks, SIGs and Smith & Wesson M&Ps with slide-mounted Trijicon RMRs. I've tested a lot of these mini red dots, and while most of them are very well made and durable, I haven't seen one that can compete with the "pound a nail into wood" durability of the Trijicon RMR.

The fact that Smith & Wesson is introducing a series of pistols that have removable plates on their slides for built-in mounting of mini red dots should tell you these optics are here to stay. The technology will only improve. I predict we'll see true holographic (screen- and tube-less) red dot sights within 20 years.

There are two advantages to a red dot sight. The first is that they are easier to see if you have less than youthful eyes. I know plenty of shooters who just can't see the front sight anymore beyond a blur. A red dot is on the same focal plane as the target, and as long as you can see the target, the dot will be in focus as well.


The second advantage is perhaps the least important: They are faster to use. Instead of lining up the front sight with the rear sight with the target, a shooter has only to place the dot on the target and pull the trigger.

How could speed be less important than visibility? Several reasons. First, while red dot sights are inherently quicker to use than iron sights, that speed difference will only really be noticed in the competition world where you're firing dozens of shots at multiple targets.

An experienced competition shooter will be hundredths of a second faster from shot to shot using a red dot, and that time can add up over the length of a match. In an actual self-defense shooting situation, it really is a non-factor.


Second, if you haven't practiced enough with your red dot-sighted pistol, it may actually be slower to use than one with traditional iron sights. Grab about any pistol and look down the slide. Sights or not, you've got a pretty good idea where it's pointed.

The body of a red dot sight tends to obscure the slide, and I've seen plenty of shooters new to their red-dots wiggling them around in their hands, trying to find the dot in the little window.

When you fire that little dot jumps up and you completely lose it in the window. Finding it again as the pistol comes down out of recoil can take some time if you're not used to doing it.

The best solution is a red dot-sighted pistol equipped with iron sights tall enough to be used through the window of the red dot. The eye sees the iron sights as you bring the pistol up on target, and as they more or less line up the red dot is right there. They tend to draw the eyes to the dot, giving you the best of both worlds.

That is exactly the reason the iron sights supplied on the FNX-45 Tactical are so tall. These tall sights were originally designed to be used with suppressors, but they work great with mini red dots as well.

If you're having a hard time seeing the sights, or want to try something completely new, look into a slide-mounted mini  red dot sight for your pistol.

Mini red dot sights such as the Trijicon RMR are rugged optics that place a sighting dot on the same plane as the target, eliminating the need for aligning front and rear sights with the target.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Dealing with Subcompacts

Dealing with Subcompacts

Jim and Rich cover the benefits and the challenges presented by very small pistols.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Handguns editor Scott Rupp fires some Federal Punch .380 defensive handgun ammo into ballistics gel the range for a performance test run.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

A look at eight optics-ready pistols for just about any application or budget, including offerings from CZ-USA, Springfield, Smith & Wesson and more.8 Great Red-Dot-Ready Pistols Sights

8 Great Red-Dot-Ready Pistols

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 01, 2020

A look at eight optics-ready pistols for just about any application or budget, including...

The defensive handgun market is ripe with affordable, accurate and dependable choices, but these six compact high-capacity 9mm pistols stand out from the rest of the field.6 Best Compact High-Capacity 9mm Handguns Compact

6 Best Compact High-Capacity 9mm Handguns

Jeff John - July 08, 2020

The defensive handgun market is ripe with affordable, accurate and dependable choices, but...

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a terrific balance of weight, power and shootability.Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander 9mm Review 1911

Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander 9mm Review

J. Scott Rupp - May 08, 2019

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a...

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols.10 Cheap Guns Under $250 Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

See More Trending Articles

More Accessories

The new Streamlight TLR-8 G is a rail-mounted green-laser/light version of the popular compact TLR-8 red-laser/light.Streamlight TLR-8 G Laser Sight Review Sights

Streamlight TLR-8 G Laser Sight Review

James Tarr - July 24, 2019

The new Streamlight TLR-8 G is a rail-mounted green-laser/light version of the popular compact...

This new, .22 long rifle integrally suppressed upper is designed to fit the Ruger Mark I, Mark II, Mark III and the 22/45 series pistols.Tactical Solutions Introduces the All-New Pac-Lite TSS at SHOT 2019 Accessories

Tactical Solutions Introduces the All-New Pac-Lite TSS at SHOT 2019

Handguns Online Editors - January 23, 2019

This new, .22 long rifle integrally suppressed upper is designed to fit the Ruger Mark I, Mark...

The new Streamlight TLR-6 light/laser is specifically designed for the SIG P365.Streamlight TLR-6 for SIG P365 Accessories

Streamlight TLR-6 for SIG P365

J. Scott Rupp - August 28, 2019

The new Streamlight TLR-6 light/laser is specifically designed for the SIG P365.

Champion's new Vanquish muffs are comfortable, effective and reasonably priced hearing protection.Champion Vanquish Muffs Accessories

Champion Vanquish Muffs

J. Scott Rupp - November 27, 2019

Champion's new Vanquish muffs are comfortable, effective and reasonably priced hearing...

See More Accessories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now