There was a time in our development when we thought that all pistols needed high visibility sights. "You must use the sights, always, and at all distances" we were told by the gun gurus of a prior age, and like faithful followers, we shipped our guns to the smith to have them suitably arranged.
And yes, sights that were easier to see made those 1 1/2 second head shots at 3 yards very easy to make, and right inside the "credit card" too. "Bravo!", we thought, as we holstered our 45s into our pricey handmade Milt Sparks rigs (just like the instructor had) and walked up to examine the group with a jaunty swagger.
But then...something changed.
Some crazy guy thought to have students shoot each other with Airsoft BB guns. Shooters would replicate exactly the drills that formed the Modern Technique, and that Gusmoke's Matt Dillon tried to emulate in his show. Insane! Outlandish! Heresy! Yes, they called it all of those things...but the first time guys stepped up to do it, everything changed.
Gone were the Weaver Stances. Hell, those lasted one evolution as guys realized that standing and shooting it out, in an equal initiative fight, or a reactive fight, was a guarantee of getting shot. The need for movement made the need for a proper stationary position obsolete in this type of fight. And keeping two hands on the gun was a luxury few got a chance to enjoy.
I recall after our first session of this several years ago I asked, "What sort of sight picture did you see"? Silence was the reply. "Well, what did you see?". I got varying replies from "the bad guy running at me", to "nothing", to "meat and metal". What we didn't hear, and have not heard, is that anyone has used a proper sight picture inside of five yards.
I base my view of the pistol fight on what we see in force on force sessions, as that parallels most, what I have seen personally on the streets. What a competitive pistol champion may use is interesting from a technical perspective, but that is all, as the two worlds of range shooting and gunfighting only bear a passing resemblance. And the world of force on force, paralleling the gunfight more closely than anything else, tells us that using traditional sighting methods for close range shooting on a moving adversary is simply not done. Guys point and shoot.
At recent classes I have been using Airsoft guns with no sights at all...just to be sure. You know what? It has not changed the hitting percentages at all at the close range intervals of reactive gunfighting. It has made guys somewhat faster since they are not slowing down to try and find the sights.
Maybe, but also the truth. So what do we need sights for? We need them for two things.
We need sights for precision shooting at close range as might be illustrated by an adversary's exposed elbow, foot, or eye behind cover. Or as may be needed for a shot past an innocent or hostage to hit a bad guy.
We also need sights for long range shooting as might be seen in an Active Shooter event where you have a long shot available. We have taken pistol shooters out to 220 yards at one point so it can be done. Do you need high visibility sights for shots inside 7 yards? Nope. In fact, you could literally take the sights off the gun and be able to, statistically speaking, handle most CCW gunfights easily.
So if we need sights for precise shots, but not for general reactive close range shooting, which sights will work best for this? If we are looking at iron sights, then we need sharp, clearly discernible sights that can be indexed on target easily. The ability to index them on target is where most sights are lacking. Many sights can be said to be “high visibility” but few can also be easily indexed on target.
To index on target, the sight must have clearly discernible edges, and more importantly, must be smaller or narrower than the intended target. If we only need sights for distance shots and for precise shots up close, and not for general CQB, why not install sights that optimize the distance shots and not worry about them so much for CQB? Of all the sights we have worked with, none of them exceed the capability offered by the red dot system.
USING THE RED DOT SIGHTS ON PISTOLS
With our adoption of the red dot concept for the CCW pistol, we have received lots of inquiries about its use and methodology. Here is some of what we have discovered. CCW people have always followed the traditional sighting concepts with its required front sight focus. With the red dot system, the application is a little different.
I want to remind everyone that at the intervals where one would normally be focused on the threat and not looking at, or for, the sights nothing has changed. We are not suggesting that you will now be looking for a red dot at 3 yards or anything of the sort. Rather you operate as usual, physically indexing the pistol on threat and firing the necessary shots, looking only for the visual input needed to make it work. Sometimes that input may be minimal and you will simply be using the hand-eye coordination to get the hits. At other times, with iron sights, you are noticing various “indexes”, commonly called “meat and metal”. Again, nothing has changed. In the case of the red dot sights, you are still using the silhouette of the pistol when needed without seeking the dot, and you are still looking through the tube that is “filled with target”, without seeking the dot for those fast and dynamic close range shots.
It is when the distance interval increases or when you need that precise shot that we see a difference. Traditionally, shooters have been taught to look hard at the front edge (specifically the very top edge), but that, although it can be learned, is counter intuitive. When using the RDS (Red Dot System), you look to the center of the target and notice the dot as it reaches that spot. You look precisely where you want the bullet to go, and not at the dot itself. Of course you notice it, but never look specifically "at it" as you would with a front sight.
With the RDS, you must learn the visual input from the dot. Conceptually it is the same as the use of the iron sights, but it looks a little different, and is executed differently. With the RDS, the input is peripheral. Always look at the targets—exactly where you want each shot to go, and then wait until you have enough feedback from the dot for the shot to fire. Those of you who have done the point shooting training courses already know how to do this.
One drill that we suggest, and this one to teach both keeping both eyes open, as well as looking at the target, is to simply tape over the objective lens of the optic…the side facing the target. Now if you look at the dot, you cannot see the target. But if you keep both eyes open and look at the target, you will see the target with the dot superimposed upon it.
I recall back in the 1990s the 1911 crowd darn near gave birth when they saw the Glock take off. You could hear all manner of "tupperware" this and "hefty bag" that. But today, when you go to class, the majority of pistols are all polymer and have a Glock style design (the M&P and the XD are basically Glocks), and 1911s are in the minority.
There will be many naysayers, but watch, in ten years - every EDC gun will have red dot sights.