There is always a great temptation to minimize everything. This is usually followed by a rationalization of what you need. You will hear the pundits drone, “All you need is this,” or “all you need is that.”
Truly, the only things you need are food, water and shelter. And even shelter is sometimes arguable. But who the heck wants to settle for that. Nope … the America I know was not formed on needs, but rather on wants. Once our needs are seen to, we begin to focus on wants. That is what makes us a great capitalist nation.
In the world of weapons and tactics, where I live, we see those two sides. We are a strange community for whom there is no middle ground. You either love something, or you hate it. Such silly thinking causes people to go to extremes. Specifically, never upgrading a weapons platform or conversely, upgrading it every week with a new accessory. Neither path is correct, but rather a middle ground that accomplishes the mission at the highest level of efficiency possible is preferable. I think all weapons platforms … even a rock … will do fine. But even the hairiest and smelliest caveman put an edge on that rock and eventually tied it to a stick to form an axe.
With concealed carry pistols, there are a number of things that can optimize their performance. Again, if all you want to have is “good enough,” never mind. But if you want the best tools to match the high level of skill you’ve developed, then there are some things to consider.
One area where the pistol can benefit most is in the area of sights. Truly, for close range gunfighting inside of five yards, you do not need any sights at all. So what do you need sights for? To hit close precise targets such as the eye of an adversary who has peeked out from behind cover to shoot you, or to hit his foot or his elbow because that is what he has offered. Or, to shoot past a loved one whom they are hiding behind. Or, of course, for a distant shot out past 10 yards, careful sight selection may mean the difference between hitting and missing.
The greatest advancement in this area is in the development of miniature red dot sights. If a red dot sight will benefit your rifle shooting, then it will do the same for your pistol shooting. I have studied these sights carefully and the two that I consider best are the JPoint Red Dot Sight, and the Trijicon RMR series in either electronic or tritium fiber optic. These types of sights have been seen on rifles for a very long time, and thanks to advancements in their design, they are now small enough to be used on concealed carry pistols. I know that there will be naysayers about this concept, but please remember that the same thing was said about the use of airsoft for training, point shooting, the idea of dynamic movement, and our preference for the Kalashnikov system. Try it before you dismiss it as unworkable. Me, I am convinced it is the future in pistol sights.
What these sights offer that no iron sights do, is that they will allow a shooter with aging eyes to still hit small targets, and at distances that are no longer possible for him with traditional sights. Moreover, the concerns over shooting in reduced light are gone. The need of some shooters to close one eye to obtain a greater degree of sight refinement is no longer there. Those with extreme eye-dominance differences can still keep both eyes open. The pistol mounted red dot gives you the ability to focus on the target, and still see the sight indexed perfectly. The red dot is not actually placed on the target as is required with a laser, but is on the same visual plane as the target so it seems like it is. You can focus on the target and still see the dot. There is no visual bounce of focus as you have with steel sights (target – sights – target – front sight –and on and on).
Having said all of this, these sights are not for the economically challenged. A red dot of quality will run you about $300 with the best ones reaching $600. A melted low mount will be at least another $100. But in a world where guys will buy $400 free floated handguards for their AR, maybe it’s not so bad.
These are some of the sights we are studying for this application:
JPoint. These are also the original Trijicon Red Dots. They are polymer construction (not a big deal, as at the SHOT Show I saw the JPoint sales guy hammer it into a table repeatedly with no issues). Friend and TDI instructor David Bowie has been running one on his SWAT rig for years with no problems at all. They give a good clear dot and have a battery life of about two years. The one issue is that it is not waterproof. A little water won’t hurt but if you swim with your gun, the dot will short.
Trijicon RMR – Tritium, Fiber Optic. This thing was on an FNP 45 USG and looks hard as nails. It reminded me of the old ACOG I used in SWAT. The tritium is supposed to last 12 years.
Trijicon RMR – Red Dot. This is the same as above, but with a battery-powered red dot. Two year battery life, and a very crisp and distinct red dot. This was also on an FNP 45. I liked this one so much I bought one to work with. This may be the best high end optic for this application.
Invariably there will be questions about the size or Minute of Angle (MOA) of the dot. I think for a pistol application you will need something like 7 MOA or greater. There will be a temptation to get a smaller dot such as 2 or 4 MOA in the hope of greater accuracy, like most people do with a rifle. That would be a mistake. A long gun has four points of contact so your face will always be in the same position to pick up the dot. The rifle will be used out to 300 meters so a 4 MOA dot is roughly 12 inches in diameter at 300 meters … still good enough. An 8 MOA dot would be twice that and would not give good enough index on target. Index, by the way, is what I mean when you see a sight picture. If your dot or front sight cover the entire target, hits will be more difficult than if you saw your dot or front sight surrounded by the target.
On the pistol, your two hands are the only points of contact and thus you need a larger dot like the 7-9 MOA that is easier to pick up. The RMR comes in 8 MOA. At 100 yards 8 MOA is 8 inches in diameter. How many guys can hit on demand at a hundred with a pistol? How about 200? That is 16 inches in diameter at 200 yards. My 8 MOA dot is slightly smaller than my Warren front sight, and virtually jumps out and hits me in the eyes. Incidentally, I found an interesting phenomenon today when dry training. The front sight–the regular front sight–might still be used in a ghost ring sort of mode even if the battery is off for some reason.
Another concern is that an adversary might be able to see the LED from your sight in a dark environment. To test this, two of our staff instructors and I stepped out into our parking lot at about 10 o’clock on a moonless night. We brought the unloaded pistol and some Generation 3 night vision goggles (NVG). After triple-checking the pistol, we each took turns standing downrange from 20 feet and looking at the pistol operator with his pistol in the Sul, Low Ready, and Point positions to see if we could see any evidence of the LED powering the light. We scanned with the NVG and then with the naked eye. We made note of what we saw and then walked forward a few steps. We continued with this until we saw something. The only point at which we could discern the faintest hint of an LED was about three feet away from the weapon. This is negligible, in my opinion, and certainly less than a set of tritium night sights.
If all you desire for yourself is to be barely “good enough,” all I can say is: enjoy your mediocrity. On the other hand, if your goal is to be the best fighter you can be, in this case with your handgun, and you are reaching the limits of your performance with basic equipment, a little effort and upgrading will not only potentially make you a better and more accurate shooter, but also give you tactical flexibility that was impossible for you with entry level equipment.
Thanks to the United States Concealed Carry Association for this article. To get USCCA tactical emails free just click here and sign up.
To visit the author’s tactical gear store One Source Tactical click here.