Red-dot and reflex sights allow for very rapid target acquisition, even in low light. It is one of the reasons that the military has widely used them for decades. But many of the most popular red-dot and reflex sights designed for carbines are too big and clumsy for use on a handgun, let alone as optics for your concealed carry gun. No longer.
Micro Red-Dot Optics for Handguns
Today, most major manufacturers of optics offer extremely compact reflex sights that are ideal for handgun use (Burris, Leupold, Vortex, Holosun, Trijicon and Nikon to name a few). They vary in features, ruggedness, field of view and, of course, price. Pew Pew Tactical has in-depth reviews of some of the top-selling micro red dots for pistols.
I have personal experience with the Burris Fastfire 3, which I purchased for my Benelli M1 Tactical shotgun. Besides being one of the least expensive choices, the Burris can be ordered with an eye-catching 8 MOA dot (something I really like about this particular choice). This works great on the shotgun and is also ideal for the kind of close-quarters work typical of defensive handgun scenarios.
It also has customizable light intensity. You can set it on “high” or “low” but also on “adaptive” mode. Adaptive modulates the dot’s brightness to match the ambient light. It also has an automatic shut-off — a nice feature that extends the already long battery life.
But it was after discovering how fast and accurate I could be with them on my shotgun that I realized that such downright tiny sights could be right at home on a handgun, even one that was going to be carried in a holster.
Speaking of holsters, note that many concealed carry holsters will already accommodate a handgun with one of these micro red dots installed. Additionally, major holster manufacturers are taking the use of optics under consideration in designing their new offerings, just as they did for guns equipped with lasers and weapons lights.
Mounting Red-Dot Optics on a Firearm
I should point out that not every handgun is going to be a candidate for a micro red dot. However, depending on your budget, there are several mounting options for the more popular defensive handguns. You can get custom slides for Glocks and others. Aftermarket manufacturers also offer various adapter plates.
The good news is that many major firearms manufacturers are offering optics-ready models. Check out “Reflex Ready Handguns” for options.
Technology Is Never a Substitute for Shooting Practice
Warning: Technology dependence can be fatal. Experts have determined that many airline crashes in recent years were the result of pilots and crew relying too much on their high-tech equipment. They forgot the No. 1 rule of aviation: “First, fly the airplane.”
Remember that when lasers first came out, they caused many people to become lax about training. (“I don’t need to practice; all I have to do is put the laser on the bad guy.”) Likewise, seeing how that red dot (or chevron, etc.) shows up against a target can have the same effect.
But be smart. Practice as much or more with your optic-equipped gun as you would with iron sights. And be sure to include some practice with the red dot turned off … just in case. Being prepared for the unexpected is always a good thing.
About John Caile
John Caile is an NRA Firearms Instructor Certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm Safety and Personal Protection in the Home. He has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. John was Communications Director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John is a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine and has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television. He has been frequently published in the press. John lives in Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights.