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Old June 1, 2012, 09:39 PM   #1
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Pistol optics- useful training aid or crutch?

I read a fairly convincing post that putting a red dot style optic on a handgun was a useful training aid. That made sense to me. The way I approach teaching anything is to break it down, and an optic would simplify some of the tasks that have to be executed correctly to get a shot off accurately. For example, I could give more of my attention to stance, grip, and trigger squeeze.

Make sense? I'm doing ok with irons, for a newb. And I'm not looking to "buy all the points (I) can". It's more that the instant feedback of the dot wobble and the simplification of sight picture/alignment would help me correct the other things. Then I can go back and work on iron sights.

Or would jumping to the optic just be a crutch, weakening capacities I need to develop? I think I can add elements as I improve with others. Really, at my level I should be shooting seated with a rest. Then add the stance. Build up to it.

While researching this notion I saw Kraigwy (or someone using the same username) come down forcefully against a noob learning with an optic.

I think really what I need to do is shoot both relays in my local league, one with an optic, one without. Oops, gotta buy the optic and the other gun. Sorry, dear, my hands are tied! (Or will be if I do this without laying some groundwork...)
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Old June 1, 2012, 10:10 PM   #2
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I wouldn't consider optics a learning tool. When you have achieved some reasonable level of mastery of the fundamentals using iron sights, you might consider optics if you want to compete in the rarefied worlds of USPSA Open Division, top level of NRA Bullseye, or Open Division Bianchi Cup (or for handgun hunting).

Otherwise, stick with iron sights. All you really need is a quality, reliable gun you can manage with sights you can see and a decent trigger. Once you have that, it's a matter of learning to use it.

Originally Posted by jimmythegeek
...Really, at my level I should be shooting seated with a rest. Then add the stance. Build up to it...
Probably not. What would do you much more good is some good instruction.
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Old June 2, 2012, 10:02 AM   #3
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I need more convincing about what a red dot sight will teach you over iron sights. That wobble feedback should be present with either system and you're not goin to get rid of that shooting freestyle. Your focal point will also be different. My own take is to avoid the equipment race, work with one platform, and master the fundamentals. This doesn't you'll have to break down each element as the OP suggested. I'd say it's more important to practice grip, stance, and iron sight picture at the same time so that these become natural when you're shooting.

Podcaster Ryan Rocquin has a good post about irons. It's more towards rifles but it's a great overview.
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Old June 2, 2012, 04:16 PM   #4
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There is one useful attribute of a red dot scope.
It's pretty easy to find iron sights even when the gun isn't pointed correctly at the target.
No so with a dot scope.
Get sloppy with the gun and the dot can disappear out of view completely.
No telling where it went, up or down or left or right or somewhere else.
Using one really helps get your form correct or you can't even find the danged thing.
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Old June 2, 2012, 04:34 PM   #5
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put a burris fastire3 on my ruger mark 3 target--not that i wanted to, it's just eyesite related situation--this is an indoor range gun.
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Old June 3, 2012, 09:24 AM   #6
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Unfortunately I am with Kimbershot. Had to go to a red dot (mine is green) for my Ruger MK III 22/45 indoor target gun. Actually, I prefer iron sights, but the eyes just aren't what they used to be.
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Old June 3, 2012, 12:13 PM   #7
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I agree with Frank, iron sights do not have batteries go dead. Most I am doing to help my 59 1/2 year old eyes is to put a few fiber optic front sights on. They are on my GP 100 and MK II and both are shot in competition. All my carry guns have factory sights.
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Old June 3, 2012, 01:36 PM   #8
Frank Ettin
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Originally Posted by Don P
...Most I am doing to help my 59 1/2 year old eyes is to put a few fiber optic front sights on...
And I've become partial to a pain black, wide notch rear sight with a gold bead on the front sight.
"It is long been a principle of ours that one is no more armed because he has possession of a firearm than he is a musician because he owns a piano. There is no point in having a gun if you are not capable of using it skillfully." -- Jeff Cooper
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Old June 4, 2012, 09:28 AM   #9
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I am an advocate of the Red Dot handgun sighting system, provided three things:

1. The shooter has proper and inalienable fundamentals.

2. The shooter regularly performs preventative maintenance on the sight system to avoid failure/damage.

3. The sight is co-witnessed with back up's in case of damage, malfunction.

It is the simplest thing in the world to teach someone that is new to shooting how to shoot with a red dot sight. The technology is remarkable. "Hold the weapon like I showed you. Put the dot where you want the bullet to go. If it doesn't go there, we'll work on your trigger-press." It truly is a superior sighting system in terms of simplicity, ease of use, and presentation.

Above all, the greatest success of any optical sighting system, in my oppinion, is that they allow the shooter to remain "Target-Focused". Properly lining up sights and taking a shot requires your focus on the Front Sight. We've all heard this a million times. Having a single-plane sight that does not pivot around the central axis of the weapon allows the shooter to line up their sight and fire without taking their focus off of the target. They are focusing THROUGH their weapon rather than ON their weapon. This, in my oppinion is one of the great victories of advanced optics and will be the future standard of sighting systems.

That is not to say that an RDS does not have it's drawbacks. Yes, it can fail. No they don't fail anymore than a properly-maintained handgun fails. Maintain your sight system on the same regimine you maintain your weapon. You will see instances of failure drop to 0. They are also bulky and proned to damage, (i.e. ejected shell contact). As the used materials become better, they become less bulky, the sighting technology becomes more efficient, and they become cheaper, we will see the gripes against them begin to fall away as they become more standard.

Just my two cents.

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Old June 4, 2012, 05:04 PM   #10
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I wouldn't use one. A beginner needs to learn the traditional way before they get the modern way. And the traditional way isn't all that much harder and is more enjoyable to me. I believe a beginner should a regular gun with no extras installed. My first handgun was a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum. Although the recoil isn't all that bad, it's not the easiest first gun to deal with. Well, I ended up later getting an RG .22lr and love it. I can make a water bottle dance at 25 yards with it. I don't have any special optics or any machine work, just alot of practice. Now when the money allows, I'll get started back with the Blackhawk.

The only way I'd own a scope on a handgun is for long distance shooting or possibly hunting. Many people aren't as good as they think they should be and blame it on the equipment and buy stuff to try to make it easier. Or get alot of expensive work done trying to get the gun to shoot better. But usually all they probably had to do was practice more.
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Old June 4, 2012, 06:44 PM   #11
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Traditional v. Modern

Now I'm usually all for traditional, but not always. Did you learn to drive with a horse and buggie or an automobile?
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Old June 4, 2012, 07:28 PM   #12
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If I had the opportunity I'd of done it with a horse and buggy. Been more fun than a '98 Jimmy.
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Old June 5, 2012, 06:52 AM   #13
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Yeah, but think of the pollution!

At least one target shooter was using optics on his handguns, mostly revolvers, over a hundred years ago. He also had a bolt action pistol. So a lot of things we think are the latest and greatest are neither. There was also a minor fad to put telescopes on revolvers back in the 1950s. I can imagine that it might be useful on a K-22 for rabbit hunting. But some experts would have none of it.

I think perhaps one reason there was such a fad in the 1950s was the availability of suitable surplus scopes. The Germans had a low magnification scope intended for use on "designated marksmen" rifles, which they utilized in 1944-1945, not to be confused with higher magnification scopes used on sniper rifles. I don't have any reference material here but the term "ZF," probably followed by numbers sticks in my mind. I also think they were originally mounted (on rifles) with a forward scout rifle style mounting. I wonder if that's where Cooper got his ideas about scope mounting?

On the other hand, adjustable handgun sights were also something that were considered appropriate only for target shooting, along with custom grips, target triggers, target hammers, and so on.
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Old June 5, 2012, 07:56 AM   #14
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As an old fart (76) I just can't see the iron sights anymore. So I have red dot type sight on my S&W629. I am comfortable taking a shot at a deer in a pinch up to 150 yards, but normally only to 100 -110 yard. (mid range trajectory is 3" high, 3" low at 120 yds). On my .357 S&W 686-8 I have a 1X-4X scope. With a rest I am comfortable shooting at deer at the same range. I usually only take neck shots. Successful so far.

The difficult part of the red dot is that the dot covers so much area it's difficult to accurately sight it in. The dot is bigger than the black on a 50 ft pistol target at 100 yds.

My two cents
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Old June 5, 2012, 01:04 PM   #15
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After 50+ years of competitive shooting and 25 years of CCW, I’ve settled (for now) on an SA XDm 3.8 9mm with a C-More sight. I have the bigger version on my STI SteelMaster and it works just as well on a carry gun.

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Old June 12, 2012, 11:11 PM   #16
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Traditional is just that traditional. Just because it's "traditional" doesn't make it better. It's utter nonsense that iron sights and fundamentals are often mentioned in the same sentence. Fundamentals do not change regardless of the sighting system!

That being said learn and practice with what you intend to be using or try them all out to see what you like. I perfer open irons on my pistols. I just don't like the battery thing or the extra bulk.
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Old June 13, 2012, 07:09 AM   #17
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I like them. IMO, the biggest advantage is going from sight focused shooing to target focused shooting. You're working with a single focal plane rather than three (rear sight, front sight, target). No more focusing on the front sight and having a blurry target, instead it's eyes on target, target in focus, dot in focus and superimposed on the target (the same as with the red dot optic on my patrol rifle). Being able to keep both eyes on my target at all times is a huge advantage. This is the main reason I switched duty guns from a 1911 to a FNP-45 Tactical equipped with a Trijicon RMR02.

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Old June 13, 2012, 08:17 AM   #18
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Agree with much of what you say, but what are "inalienable fundamentals?"
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Old June 19, 2012, 04:54 PM   #19
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Ten years from now, we'll all have them. Everybody squealed about red dots on rifles--now you're considered weird if you don't have one.
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Old June 19, 2012, 08:29 PM   #20
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New shooters should start with Iron sights. Once they have mastered the fundamentals then they should consider using optics and electronic aids.

Fixed Iron sights never fail. They don't get out of alignment. They do not fog or break and the batteries do not run down.

In the early days of the IMP. new recruits were issued bolt action rifles until they proved they could shoot effectively. Only then were they issued semi autos and later automatic weapons. The same goes for all new shooters.
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Old June 19, 2012, 08:35 PM   #21
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It's the same as with rifle optics; until recently they were so big and fragile as to be impractical for anything but hunting or target use.

As pistol optics shrink and become even sturdier, they will begin to take hold. At the present time, irons still have the edge for durability, ease of use and compactness.
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Old June 19, 2012, 10:09 PM   #22
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Take the money you would spend on optics.

Put it into a two-day weekend class at a professional firearms training school, with a reputable instructor.

After that class, save up for optics.

You'll come out far ahead in the long run -- saving both money and time -- if you start out with good instruction and build on that. And you can start that process with basic, functional gear.

It's not that the red dot sights can't be valuable. They can! It's just that, when you build a house, a solid foundation always comes before fancy curtains.

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Old June 20, 2012, 06:56 AM   #23
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For a training aid, I think lasers would be more useful, as well as cheaper and smaller.
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Old June 20, 2012, 09:45 AM   #24
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for me, it depends on the gun, target, and conditions. In a darkened house at night, a laser is superior on a small semi-auto pistol, even on some revolvers. The laser points instantly and shows up bright. For that, the laser is superior. Gave a S&W revolver with CrimsonTrace grips to my daughter for her home protection and she likes it.
Outside in bright sunlight, the laser is no good for me beyond about 10yds maximum. On a black target the laser dot is even harder to see.

For outside target or even hunting small game, a red dot scope is a big help. Popped a rabbit eating my garden with one shot with a red dot on my .22 pistol at 20yds. Doubt I could do that with with my 83 yr old eyes using open sights offhand.
For 50yd pistol competion, for me, an optical scope far exceeds a red dot. Same with a rifle. YMMV.

However, my most accurate handgun using iron sights is my Blackhawk .357mag. 6-1/2" for cowboy type shootouts that we sometimes have. No "scopes" of anykind permitted! At close range up to 10yds rapid fire I can thumb the hammer and stay in the 10ring. Wouldn't even consider a reddot for that.

So, it 'depends'!

og, who is an older 'fart' than Jim
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Old June 20, 2012, 10:28 AM   #25
Bartholomew Roberts
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Originally Posted by ltc444
Fixed Iron sights never fail.
O yes they do! I've sheared off two front sights in my pistol shooting (and lost the tritium vial in another set of sights). I am pleased to report that my eyes continued to track the front sight even as it sailed off into the range gravel.

I wouldn't argue against the statement that iron sights are more durable than the current generation of red dots for pistols; but they aren't infallible.

Red dots are an advantage on pistols for the same reason they are an advantage on rifles: better contrast and having the target and reticle in the same plane. However, unlike rifles, red dots on pistols are still relatively fragile and the advantages are minimized somewhat by the coarser accuracy requirements in most pistol use.

I still use irons myself; mostly because I have spent a lot of time training that way. However, I think red dots offer clear benefits and we are definitely less than 10 years and probably less than 5 years from having them as the primary sighting system on most defensive firearms.

Originally Posted by pax
Put it into a two-day weekend class at a professional firearms training school, with a reputable instructor.
Always good advice. Training will usually be a better investment than gear.
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