Since we have been playing with mini red dot sights (MRDS) on pistols we have learned a lot, tons of information. The bottom line is they are an excellent option, but not the best option for concealed carry.
Risk vs. Rewards
Like anything you need to temper the benefits with the costs, risk versus rewards. What we have discovered is a chink in the armor for MRDS on pistols. At close range and under time constraints picking up the red dot is more time consuming and challenging that originally perceived. Before we get into the subject of risks, let’s talk about the rewards of red dot sights in general. A big reward is anytime viewability. Low light or no light to even bright sunlight the dot is visible and contrasts quite nicely. Next would be the binocular vision one should apply when using a read dot sight. Keeping both eyes open on the battlefield is a huge bonus. Then there is the target focus versus sight focus component. By shifting your focus to the target and using your peripheral for the red dot you are better able to track the target and monitor your battle space. But really the big one is eliminating one variable from the equation. Since you only have to track two items (dot & target) versus three items (rear sight, front sight & target) you have some built in forgiveness.
Think it through to the end
So, with all these benefits why do we not recommend it for concealed carry? The answer has more to do with the situation versus the equipment. The presumption with concealed carry is for bad things to happen the suspect has to be within close proximity. As part of your justification for lethal force opportunity must be present and that is generally defined as distance. The further away the suspect is generally the less of an immediate threat and the more difficult to justify in a court of law. Now there are in extremis circumstances such as active shooter scenarios where distance may very well be present, but the vast majority will occur at close ranges.
At close range and we define that as seven yards and closer, the ability to quickly pick up the red dot sight diminishes as speed is increased. Time and distance are two variables you are constantly struggling with, you may have little distance in which case you will have little time or you may have a lot of distance in which case you will have slightly more time. This relationship works against the red dot sights and creates a “panic” in some shooters. By panic we mean the means to acquire the red dot, but when it is not there the struggle to locate it becomes overwhelming and exponentially deteriorates to the point the shooter literally just point shoots.
Bad things at bad times
The solution could be as simple as more training, lots more time on the red dot. However, I feel the juice isn’t worth the squeeze and the shooter would be better off going with “high vis” iron sights such as the Trijicon HD sights for the carry pistol. Last year, in the 14 Concealed Carry classes we did we generally saw one MRDS equipped pistol per class. Our observations were pretty consistent, they were slower or less accurate at the closer ranges when time was an issue. Of course, this is not to say a shooter with traditional iron sights wouldn’t miss, but add other variables such as strong hand only and movement you learn quickly how difficult it is to pick up the red dot compared to iron sights.
There are no free rides in life, nothing without some cost to you. Learn the gear, push your gear beyond the intended limits. If it is going to fail, you want it to fail in training and not combat.