03 Mar Red Dot Handgun Sights – The Basics
Despite the times were in Bellevue Gun Club is still living up to the motto that we created. “Set the standards for others to follow.” Considering high ammo costs, scant firearm availability and the monster we all know that is coming in the form of gun control proposals, we are still running as many classes as possible. One of the classes were most excited to introduce is our Red Dot class (handgun optics). You will learn not only the theory and concept of the red dot system on handguns, but you will experience firsthand the improved shooting ability and speed. It is my hope to show the value of having this on your platform and create desire for more shooters to at least consider the option.
Learning to shoot red dot on handguns is a steep learning curve, but after pushing past the initial fight, it is an invaluable tool. We must first break down the idea about handguns, and their role, to set the foundation. Handguns are secondary tools; there is a reason it is called a side-arm. Whether its your primary “tool” or not does not change this fact. Almost any rifle or shotgun with the appropriate ammunition would be a better option for home defense specifically due to barrel length and sight radius. Meaning, rifles and shotguns are inherently more accurate. Accuracy is the machine; precision is the shooter. It is totally possible to ‘out-shoot the gun,’ within context. Handguns are not made for this sort of accuracy. Do not misunderstand me; shooters have been known to make 500-800 yd shots with handguns, but handguns simply aren’t made for this sort of accuracy demand; any incredible, long distance shots made with them are testaments to the precision of the shooter. To those unfamiliar, a standard rifle’s barrel is somewhere between 16 to 26 inches long with the rear sight being as far back as possible and vice versa for the front sight post; by contrast, standard pistol barrels are generally 3 to 7.5 inches or so, in length. Therefore, we simply cannot demand the same level of performance out of these platforms. With all of this said, the addition of red dot to your pistol, helps bridge the gap of accuracy and precision to a particularly useful degree. You are effectively making the machine itself more accurate which gives you the ability to be more precise. A red dot will not make you a better shooter, nothing outside of proper training will, but it will enhance your shooting if you have trained properly in the fundamentals.
One of the main parts of the learning curve will be mastering hold over. Just like with any optic it must be zeroed to the platform. There is an angular relationship between your eye, the optic system, and the target. Zeroing the optic is making sure these angles line up at a distance of your choosing, making the gun achieve what we call point of aim/point of impact. You are basically making the dot line up with the barrel. Let us say your optic is zeroed at 25 yds: in this example, just put the dot directly on the intended impact area, and shoot. Point of aim, equals point of impact! If you wanted to shoot a bullseye at seven yards with this same gun you’d zeroed for 25 yards, and just put the dot in the middle of the bull, the bullet would now hit noticeably lower than where you held the dot. The optic was zeroed at 25, but with the target at just seven yards, that angular relationship has now changed. In conclusion, you’ll be aiming around an inch to an inch and a half higher than the center. If this is still confusing just take my word that it’s not as simple as putting the dot where you want to shoot on the target; rather, it’s more a process of deciding what you expect of the system, and correspondingly aligning the dot at the appropriate distance considering where the bullet will land.
This is a challenging concept to all who are beginning to shoot with red dots. It takes time to make this second nature, but it is paramount, nonetheless. Again, just because the dot is where you want to shoot, does not mean that is where the bullet will land. To show significance contextually, I always say the worst-case scenario is not someone coming into your home to do you harm. Even the least trained individual can point a gun and shoot. The worst-case scenario is someone coming into your house and getting a loved one in a headlock using them as cover. This has just changed your roughly humanoid size target into possibly a few inches, changing the entire scenario. A 3-5 yd shooting program simply no longer applies in light of what Chuck Pressburg (Presscheck Consulting) would call a ‘no fail shot’. If you do not know where or how to aim with your red dot this can introduce immediate and irreversible tragedy into your life. The dot itself might have to be off target, believe it or not, to get the results required.
These are concepts we will be going over with students in our new red dot class. My advice to new red dot shooters is, “don’t give up!” It will take time, and you will ask yourself what the point is when you have irons. I implore you to hold the line, and fight through it.
By: Josh Sandoval – RSO and Firearms Instructor at Bellevue Gun Club