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How to Master Shooting a Red-Dot Sight on Your Handgun
A shooter in Arizona prepares to ring steel with an RDS-equipped pistol. (Yamil Sued/)
As we begin a new decade, handgunners are realizing a new normal: Miniature red-dot sights are quickly becoming the primary sighting system on virtually all pistols, whether for hunting, sport shooting, concealed carry, or service. Don’t be left behind. Getting up to speed with the latest technology always comes with a learning curve, but these tips and drills will smooth your journey to red-dot mastery and improve your handgunning skills.
A red-dot sight increases accuracy at all ranges but is especially effective beyond 10 yards. This tech also makes shooting on the move and shooting at moving targets significantly easier. The RDS is also a blessing for shooters with aging eyes who have trouble keeping the front sight sharply in focus.
Beyond target shooting, the RDS-equipped pistol enhances situational awareness, allowing the user to observe a threat while maintaining the ability to deliver surgical shots on demand.
One of the first things I noticed when I began firing a red-dot-equipped pistol was my trigger control and grip were not as refined as I thought they were. I noticed the dot would ever-so-slightly dip or slide to the left during my trigger press, ultimately resulting in some 9-ring hits instead of 10- or X-ring impacts on an NRA B8 bull’s-eye at 25 yards. Feedback from the sight allowed me to focus on these shortcomings and make adjustments to my technique.
Shooting a handgun well requires consistency. Support-hand placement and grip strength are key to locating the dot during the press-out and keeping it in view throughout the recoil cycle. The more control you exert over the pistol during recoil, the easier it will be to track the dot and reacquire it quickly. Grab a grip strengthener; it will pay dividends.
Irons still have a place on your handgun, they just have a new role. Think of them first as training wheels, and second as a fail-safe backup. Irons should be tall, suppressor-height, visible within the sight’s window, and co-witnessed with your red dot.
Learning to pick up the dot is as simple as aligning your iron sights, just as you always have. Once aligned, the dot will be sitting on top of your front sight post every single time. With practice, your eye will begin to ignore the presence of the iron sights and instead focus on the glowing red orb and your intended target.
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Dry-fire is the best way to shorten the learning curve, all in the comfort of your home. With the sight turned off (and the pistol empty, of course), practice framing your target within the window of your red-dot sight. On press-out, level the pistol as soon as possible, pick up the target through the glass, and ride it out to extension. Next, try this from the low-ready position, and then from the holster. Once this feels comfortable, activate the sight, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you pick up the dot upon presentation. Speed and efficiency will come with practice.
Don’t worry that using a red-dot sight will decrease your proficiency with iron sights. Just the opposite is true. Your traditional iron-sight shooting ability will increase exponentially because any variation in your presentation, grip, or trigger press will be made apparent, bringing your attention to any movement of the dot (and your sights) prior to—and immediately after—the shot breaking. Use this feedback, and make necessary tweaks to your form until the dot no longer moves when the trigger breaks. By embracing the red dot, you’ll quickly gain the ability to accurately call shots and correct any deficiencies in real time, making you a better shooter across the board.