Pistol mounted red dots have become exceedingly popular over the past years. Previously if you wanted a red dot on your pistol you were stuck with a tube style red dot and you had to mount it directly to your firearm. They were bulky, heavy, and oftentimes unreliable. Despite all that, you couldn’t go to an IPSC match without seeing them all over the place. The advantages were obvious to shooters. Bulkiness and lack of reliability was a price they were willing to pay.
Fast forward to a few years ago and you’re greeted with the Trijicon RMR. The RMR changed everything. Weighing in at only 1.2 oz. 1.8” long, and 1.1” wide, we now had an optic that could be placed directly on the pistol slide.
It wasn’t long before competitors caught on and started producing their own miniaturized red dot systems. There are many on the market and you’ll quickly find that some are fantastic and others are lackluster.
What’s out there
Your options for a quality MRDS (miniaturized red dot sight) are pretty wide, but be careful. When it comes to optics, you get what you pay for. The first thing you need to consider is your application. Buying an optic for a range toy is a lot different than buying something for your personal defense. For your .22 plinker that you let your kid shoot, go wild. Pick whatever optic you want and enjoy yourself. For your personal defense firearm, I would shy away from cheap optics.
The lowest I’d go for a personal defense optic is something like the Vortex Venom or a Shield RMS. Those optics are adequate in many ways but what they lack is protection from drops. With slim bezels, you need to be careful about your handling as they will not put up with being dropped or racking the slide with the optic on hard surfaces. For a casual concealed carry gun, you might be alright. Just use your best judgement on what your uses may be.
The real cream of the crop currently rests with a few optics out there. One of them being the Holosun 507c, which kind of caught a lot of people off guard. Turning out to be a super robust optic, the 507c has impressed with its 100,000 hour battery life and its solar failsafe. While not as tough as the Trijicon RMR due to its rounded bezels, the 507c can withstand some serious abuse. Something that sets the 507c apart from the rest is its reticle. Holosun is known for their 32 MOA ring and 2 MOA dot. While some may find that overwhelming, I’ve found that it’s much easier to acquire the dot during presentation. The 32 MOA ring allows you to guide the rest of the dot quickly to the center. It’s a fantastic sighting solution for those who are just starting out with pistol mounted optics.
Another option from a reliable optic manufacturer is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro. The biggest advantage with this optic is it’s massive window. The dot is incredibly easy to pick up because you have so much glass for the emitter to reflect off of. The downside to the huge window is that you’re left with a big chunk of glass that is exposed due to the thin bezels. Unlike the Holosun and the Trijicon that have a +/- button for brightness adjustment, the Deltapoint Pro only has one button. It’s a bit awkward to figure out, and would certainly be an issue if you had to adjust it on the fly.
Despite its downsides the window makes it hard to dismiss. It’s just so easy to acquire your target with this optic. Leupold also has a lineage of incredibly high quality optics that are made in the USA which is a big selling point.
Lastly, the king that just can’t be dethroned. It’s really this simple. The Trijicon RMR is the best pistol mounted optic that you can get. With its distinct “owl ear” shape, the RMR features two points that divert force of impacts away from the lens. It’s smart and patented. That’s why every other optic has a round top. On top of all that, the RMR battery can last over a year without ever shutting off. The Deltapoint Pro and the 507c turn on when they feel movement. That’s great for saving battery life, but gives one more opportunity for failure. Having an optic able to stay on all the time is a big benefit.
There are a ton of Trijicon models to choose from and it becomes a bit confusing to choose which one. WIthout boring you, I’ll just go ahead and say that the RMO6 is the most common RMR that people run with. It offers manually adjustable brightness and a 3.25 MOA dot. Those two things make for a winning combination. Some prefer the 6 MOA dot because they believe it makes finding the dot easier. While that may be true, it does hinder your ability to make shots at a longer distance. Training is really the only thing that makes picking up that dot and hitting your target quicker.
Mounting your optic
There are a few ways to mount an optic to a pistol however the best way is to buy a premilled firearm or send your slide out to a reputable machine shop (I personally recommend Jagerwerks) to have the slide milled for your particular optic. Both of these options give you some distinct advantages. With a milled slide you’re able to install suppressor height iron sights that will allow you to co-witness with your optic, allowing you to still have an aiming method if your optic were to ever go down. You’re also going to have your optic sit lower on your firearm. The lower your optic sits the better. Following the optic is easier when mounted low due to having to follow a reciprocating slide.
If you don’t wish to have your slide modified on your existing firearm, a good solution is the Dueck Defense RBU. Fitting right into the rear dovetail, the plate on the RBU has back up iron sights built in. Due to the irons being so close together, your sight radius is greatly diminished however they work as a single focal plane when they are placed close together.
Training is always important regardless of the sighting system you run on your firearm. Being proficient with your firearm makes you and everyone around you safer. This becomes even more important if you’re new to red dots on pistols. You’ll immediately notice that you have a tough time finding the dot when you go to present your pistol. Red dots are incredibly unforgiving when it comes to your presentation. If you aren’t spot on, you’ll be fishing for the dot. Luckily with a bit of practice dry firing at home, as well as range time, the dot will become easier and easier to find.
If you dive into pistol mounted optics make sure that you have a holster that is compatible with optics. Your holster has to have clearance along the top of the slide. Luckily our holsters like the Klipt and our Signature are ready for pistol mounted optics (along with many of our other holsters.) Running one of these optics IWB (inside the waistband) is easy, and won't have any noticeable change in comfort.
The Wrap Up
Pistol Optics have been a hotspot of contention due to their reliability versus traditional iron sights. However as new innovations happen, more and more consumers are running an MRDS on their handgun. Companies like Trijicon make such reliable optics that it makes you second guess even running co-witnessing iron sights. Firearms manufacturers have caught on as well by providing optic ready firearms right from the factory. So pistol mounted optics are here to stay.