More and more gun owners are discovering the benefits, effectiveness and convenience of using pistol-mounted optics. I’ve written about red dots before, and I have trained with them, but I am still somewhat reluctant — or maybe just undecided — when it comes to utilizing them for everyday carry. Nonetheless, it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of a red-dot sight (RDS) and, if you decide to use one, get some good training on how to do so properly and efficiently.

Speaking of using a red dot properly and efficiently, many people who are used to traditional sights may end up feeling that shooting an RDS somehow feels “wrong.” Rather than aligning the sights and focusing on the front sight while smoothly manipulating the trigger, the user will be looking “through” the red dot at the target and smoothly manipulating the trigger when the dot hovers where he or she intends to hit. To a new shooter, this process seems fairly simple and intuitive. However, for someone with a few decades of experience on iron sights, it will likely take some practice to get used to the feedback and information that an RDS provides.

Often referred to as “the wobble zone,” every movement (and possibly every imperfection) that you may have noticed with iron sights may seem even more exaggerated when you’re using a red dot. Of course, as you know, it’s impossible to keep perfectly still while shooting, so this wobbly movement often leads to a shooter jerking the trigger in an attempt to send a shot when the dot is perfectly on the bullseye. And because this wobble is more easily noticeable with a bright, illuminated dot (which could also be green or amber, by the way), sometimes a shooter will spend more time than necessary attempting to hold the dot completely still. Again, this almost universally leads to a shooter who is new to pistol optics snatching the trigger as the sights wander over the point of aim. This whole process can also cause visual overstimulation, resulting in a shooter possibly overcorrecting in his or her attempts to stabilize the dot.

For this reason, it is imperative that a shooter, regardless of skill level or discipline — pistol or rifle — learn to overcome the wobble zone and put his or her focus on manipulating the trigger smoothly. This basically means just accepting the wobble, allowing the sights to float into the desired target area and pressing the trigger. Remember: The muzzle of the firearm isn’t wobbling any more than it normally does. You’re just looking at a more dramatic representation of that wobble.

Training to Use a Red-Dot Sight

While this is not a specific drill, per se, using some dry-fire practice in and out of the holster and then shooting targets at various distances will help you learn to manage visual overstimulation and avoid overcorrection. To set up, you can select a target of your choosing. Practice presentation from the holster first, dry-fire. Remember to properly move your handgun to acquire a sight picture by bringing the RDS up to your eyes, not the other way around. In other words, your head should not move as you bring the gun up to aim, so don’t be tempted to move your head downward as you are looking at the target and begin to see the top of the RDS window. Once your holster work is consistently correct, focus on getting smoother and more fluid with the motions.

Next, add in some live-fire shooting. Starting from the holster (if it’s allowed at your range), access the firearm, find the dot and fire one round at the target. Remember that the dot doesn’t have to be completely still.

When the dot is floating or hovering over your aim point, execute a smooth trigger press. As you improve, work on shooting from various distances and add in more rounds (up to five). When you get to a controlled cadence of fire, you should observe the movement of the dot as if it’s on a clock face. If it is dashing upward, out of view, you may need to adjust your grip (firm and high on the backstrap) or stance (leaning forward slightly, with your weight on the balls of your feet) for better recoil management. If the dot is moving downward, you may be overdriving the gun or anticipating recoil. If this is the case, focus on moving only the trigger finger to smoothly press the trigger without introducing any additional movement.