Home Buyer Guides Pistol Optics Buyer’s Guide: Analyzing Lasers & Mini Red-Dots

Pistol Optics Buyer’s Guide: Analyzing Lasers & Mini Red-Dots

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two handguns firing at targets with equipeed red-dot sights

We Recommend:

Leupold Delta Point Pro ( Read 7+ Amazon customer reviews)

Trijicon RMR Dual Illuminated ( Read 58+ Amazon customer reviews)

Burris Fastfire 3 ( Read 325+ Amazon customer reviews)

Pistol and revolver standard iron sights haven’t changed much since their inception. They have barely changed in the last few hundred years, going from a trench and front sight to a post and notch style. Of course, sights have evolved within themselves, especially post and notch sights. The addition of chemicals to create a glowing night sight, the user of fiber optics for daylight, and companies like Big Dot who produce their own style of iron sights are all a step forward, but not a revolution.

 

While the standard iron sight isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, we are witnessing a movement toward electronic sight options on a variety of different weapons. The two most popular for defensive shooting being laser sights, which have grown smaller and more effective, and the newly popularized miniature red dots. These two options are growing rapidly in popularity in the pistol realm.

 

I want to dig into the pros and cons of these sighting options and what they can do for shooters and what they actually offer.

leupold delta point pro reflex sight
Leupold Delta Point Pro
Trijicon RMR dual illuminated 12.9MOA sight
Trijicon RMR Dual Illuminated
burris fastfire III
Burris Fastfire 3
Magnification: 1x1x1x
Housing Material: AluminumForged AluminumSteel
Length: 1.82 inches1.7 inches1.9 inches
Weight: 1.95 oz1.2 oz0.9 oz or 1.5 oz
Product Page:Click HereClick HereClick Here

Laser Sights and Grips

on left terminator movie laser sight, on right crison modern laser sight
Back In Terminator VS Modern Laser Sight

Lasers have seen a huge shift from what they originally were. For example look back to a few films from the 80s, mainly the first Terminator, or Tango and Cash. The laser sights here were massive, flashlight sized scopes that were mounted on top of the weapons. Lasers have shrunk to a point where they are easy to carry, and add almost nothing in terms of bulk or weight to the weapon. These sights also last for years on a single battery.

 

Style differences

Lasers these days come in several different styles, but most are divided into two styles:

  1. under mounted lasers
  2. grip based lasers.

There is an option for nearly every weapon out there, and with the power of the internet, you can most certainly find a design that suits your weapon perfectly

 

Under mounted vary from lasers like the Laserlyte Sight Center Mass, which attaches to undermounted red laser examplerail systems in front of the trigger guard, to the models from Laser Max that attach to the trigger guard of small weapons that lack an accessory rail. On most full sized weapons these lasers are integrated into a flashlight like some models of the Streamlight TLR series. Under mounted lasers are typically a better choice if you want to run a flashlight on your weapon, or your weapon lacks interchangeable grips.

 

Laser grips are most famously produced by Crimson Trace and is an excellent addition to laser grips red beamany weapon. These grips are not a novelty that just contain a laser, but are actually very comfortable grips, and they are very well made. The laser activates as you grip the weapon, making it impossible to fail to activate the laser. These grips are made for nearly any weapon you can easily change grips on, and they even produce a line of lasers for Glock and S&W M&P pistols, which do not have interchangeable grips.

 

In the ‘other’ category we have lasers that can mount in the guide rod of the trigger, and lasers that attach to the rear sight. They are a little rarer, but might be the right option for some people.

 

Uses Of Lasers

Lasers are obviously used as an aiming device, but I prefer to think of them as an aiming aid. I do believe that iron sights still rule, and lasers should only be used to compliment iron sights. People who tend to use lasers as their only aiming device are often slower on the range because they are trying to find the ‘dot’. Lasers can also be used when shooting at nontraditional angles, at this angles, you cannot move the weapon for whatever reason to use iron sights. At these extreme angles, the laser can be used in place of iron sights.

 

Lasers can be used as a device when you cannot use your iron sights because of light conditions. If you cannot see your iron sights then the laser can be used exclusively to aim at your target. In any situation in which you can use iron sights, I suggest using them. A laser is a tool in the box, but not something that should depend on.

 

Pros of a Laser

+ Easier to see in Low Light Situations

+ Small and easy to use

+ Useful aid for those with diminished vision

+ Allows user to shoot at odd angles

+ Can be used as an effective training tool for trigger control

 

Cons of a Laser

– Expensive, a good laser can cost around 200 dollars

– Batteries are always a con

– Worthless in bright light situations

– Dependence on the laser can reduce traditional shooting skills.

 

Training With A Laser Sight

Training with the laser is the most important factor in using a laser, or really any firearm tool. Users should train to use the laser in coordination with the iron sights. The user should not be searching for the dot, but searching for the front sight. Low light training is a major consideration for using these sights, and should be done on a semi-regular basis. Also, it’s important to remember like any sight a laser needs to be zeroed to the weapon.

 

Miniature Red Dot Sights

Trijicon RM06 RMR on a handgun

Miniature red dot sights are quickly growing in popularity for both competition shooters and those who utilize weapons for self-defense. These optics are typically very small and use a very simple reticle. Like lasers, optics have shrunk and shrunk, going to red dot sights as small as 1.2 ounces in weight. These sights add some bulk, but little weight to the weapons they are equipped on.

We are only on the eve of red dots becoming popular for handguns, so we haven’t seen any police or military forces adopting red dot optics on handguns, but the trend is growing. Several prominent firearms competitors and instructors keep these optics in high regard.

 

How To Choose One

The two big dogs in the pistol miniature red dot sight is the Leupold Delta Point and the Trijicon RMR ( we reviewed it here ). The optics are quite similar, but the Trijicon offers a wider variety of dot sizes and colors or a triangle reticle while the Delta point offers only a 2.5 MOA red dot or a red triangle reticle. There is also optics made by companies like Burris, Bushnell, Insight, Eotech, Aimpoint, and probably dozens more lesser known companies.

1. The first step is to identify what you are going to use your optic and weapon for. Concealed carry and competition are two different things. Losing at a competition is losing your pride, lose in a defensive situation and you can lose your life.

a) For a defensive pistol, you should look to an optic and mounting solution that is rock solid, it just has to be, and you also want the option of retaining your iron sights. The optic and mount should be stout enough that it can be used to rack the slide off of a belt, table, or anything else. A weapon designed for combat needs an optic that you can trust your life too. This is where choosing a reputable company, like Trijicon or Leupold, is important. Above goes for all the home defense optics you may have.

b) A competition weapon has more leeway. You don’t NEED back up irons or a rock solid mount. Those things are nice, but not necessary in the strictest sense. You have a little extra slack. You may not have the money to drop five hundred or more on an optic, and another hundred to mill and ship the slide back and forth. So maybe a Burris Fastfire and a mount that replaces your rear sights are good enough for your competition gun.

 

2. Next identify how big of a reticle you want to use. Larger reticles are better for up close shooting and are very rapid to get on target. A smaller dot allows for longer range precision shooting. A triangle reticle is another personal preference some may have for their weapon. I see larger or medium sized dots being better for concealed carry, and smaller dots being more versatile for competitors.

 

3. The last consideration is a big one for concealed carry, battery or no battery? Trijicon offers a battery free miniature red dot sight that essentially absorbs light and turns it into a reticle. Trijicon is the only company I know of that offers this. For concealed carry this is a really good option, but if you use a battery model all it takes is some minor attention to your optic and knowing it’s battery life. Regardless of if you use a battery powered model or not you use should have backup iron sights.

 

Concealed Carry

Red dot sights like the C-More systems, which we also have a review on, have been used pistol with a red dot sight in a holsterin competition for a long time, often on tricked out 1911 race guns. These older optics and their mounts are too large for concealed carry, but modern optics are so much smaller that concealed carry is actually a possibility. The advantages of using a miniature red dot on a concealed carry handgun are numerous. Most holsters can accommodate a red dot sight, including most purpose built concealed carry holsters.

 

  1. A red dot offer shooters with a faster target acquisition and makes shooting at longer ranges easier. Long range shooting with a concealed carry firearm is around 25 yards and even with a larger red dot reticle, hitting a man sized target is much easier.

 

  1. When it comes to low light shooting a miniature red dot is much easier to see, even easier to see than handgun night sight. Also, unlike a laser sight, a miniature red dot can still work in a bright, high light situation. Miniature red dots with light sensors can adjust the brightness automatically, which is a huge advantage when transitioning from low light to bright areas.

 

  1. A miniature red dot is also easier to use for those with poor eyesight. These red dots are easier to pick than iron sights and allow those who use glasses to still be very effective with a handgun.

 

The cons of such a system include price, some models reliance on batteries, extra bulk on a concealed weapon, and the training necessary to effectively use the dot. Someone raised on iron sights will take some time to use a dot effectively.

 

 

Wrapping It Up

Miniature red dots and laser sights offer numerous advantages to the shooter. They allow rapid acquisition, make shooting at longer distances easier, and make it possible to aim a weapon at any angle. They can certainly compliment any handgun, and any owner, but they can never replace skill or talent.

 

Both laser sights and miniature red dots offer numerous advantages over standard iron sights they often come at a high price. Unless eyesight is a factor, if you are having trouble hitting the target with iron sights I don’t suggest running out and spending several hundred dollars on either tool. Spend that money on ammo and training, conquer long range shooting with iron sights before you move on to any laser aiming devices, or miniature red dots.

 

 

4 Best Pistol Sights Picked By Rifle Optics World

Leupold Delta Point Proleupold delta point pro reflex sight

The Leupold Delta Point upholds the tradition of Leupold quality in its first miniature red dot optic. The Delta Point is a tough, crystal clear optic that works perfectly with a pistol. The Delta point actually has the option to combine a rear iron sight to the optic to act as a backup in case the optic itself fails. Often one has to remove their rear sights when milling their slide to accommodate a miniature red dot sight. This addition makes it cheaper than paying to install iron sight in front of the optic.

 

The Delta Point uses a Pro Pistol mount that includes mounting plates for firearms by Beretta, Taurus, Standard 1911s, Glocks, Sig Sauers, Springfield XDs, the CZ 75 and H&K USP, as well as the S&W M&P series and a revolver mount. This gives users a wide variety of options, and the ability to use the optic over multiple firearms. The Delta Point does utilize a battery, a single CR 2032. The Delta Point is waterproof up to 33 feet and rated up to powerful rifle rounds.

 

The Delta Point has motion sensing technology that senses when the weapon is moved and activates the sight. This means the reticle flips on as soon as the weapon is drawn, and after a period of nonmovement turns off. The preserves battery while keeping the optic ready to go at a moment’s notice. The only con of this optic is you have to remove the optic from the weapon to change the battery.

Click Here For Best Price!

Specifications:

Weight: 1.95 oz

Length: 1.82 inches

Housing Material: Aluminum

MSRP: $748.99

 

 

Trijicon RMR Dual Illuminated

Trijicon RMR dual illuminated 12.9MOA sight

If you are looking for a miniature red dot for concealed carry I’d choose the Trijicon RMR Dual Illuminated model for my weapon. The Trijicon Dual illuminated sight uses fiber optics and tritium to absorb light and power the reticle on the optic. You have a lot of different options for reticles with dots ranging from 7 MOA to 13 MOA amber and green dots. There is also the option of a 12.9 MOA green or amber triangle reticle. Large dots are not an issue for a concealed carry firearm since the large dot is better suited for close range fighting. The same can be said for the large triangle reticle.

 

The Trijicon RMR is also extremely strong and very durable, something necessary for any concealed carry accessory. RMR stands for ruggedized miniature reflex sight. The RMR features tactile and audible windage and elevation adjustments. The RMR can fit a wide variety of weapons, and this includes weapons that are not extremely common, including adapters for large and medium frame revolvers. These adapters and mounts are Trijicon manufactured and are extremely durable.

 

The Trijicon RMR provides a simple semi-squared lens and the fiber optic and tritium device is mounted to the top of the lens. The RMR is very easy to use and the dot auto adjusts to the brightness level on the outside of the optic, which makes the dot easy to use regardless of the situation. The RMR is an excellent choice for competition as well, its major con is its 500 dollar price point.

Click Here For Best Price!

Specifications:

Magnification: 1x

Length: 1.7 inches

Weigh: 1.2 oz

Reticle: 7-13 MOA, amber or green dot

Housing Material: Forged Aluminum

Power Source: Fiber Optics, Tritium

MSRP: $577

 

Crimson Trace Grips

crimson laser sight grips

Choosing a particular model of Crimson Trace grips is foolhardy. The reason being is that all of the grips are high quality, and their lasers are basically the same. The differences reside in how the weapon’s grip is designed. Crimson Trace makes a laser for nearly every handgun that is used for self-defense and concealed carry on a common basis and has even designed systems for weapons that do not have interchangeable grips. Crimson trace grips, when combined with a good set of iron sights, give users options regardless of the light conditions.

 

Crimson Trace grips come in both red and green options, with red being better for low light situations and green being used for brighter conditions. These lasers are the brightest allowed by law, and Crimson Trace laser grips work with nearly every holster on the market. Crimson Trace options require no permanent modification to your firearm and can be installed without any special tools or skills.

 

Crimson Trace uses instinctive activation, which means the laser turns on when you naturally grip the weapon. The laser turns on when you use a natural grip, but most grips have a master on and off key if you choose not to use the laser. The lasers are not only more effective for defensive use but can be used in a training environment. When dry firing your weapon you can use the laser to see if you flinch or have an unsteady trigger pull.

Click Here For Best Price!

Specifications:

Sighting: Factory Sighted at 50′

Battery Type: 4 Lithium Batteries

Laser Batter Life: Approximately 2 hours

Laser Visibility: .5 inch diameter at 50 Feet

Activation Mode: Pressure

Attachment: Grip Replacement

MSRP: $399.00

 

 

Burris Fastfire 3

burris fastfire III

The Burris Fastfire 3 makes the list because the Fastfire is an affordable option for mounting a red dot sight onto your firearm. The Fastfire 2 and 3 are quite similar and feature a lot of the same specs. The major difference is The Fastfire 2 has an automatic brightness adjusting, and the Fast Fire 3 has a manual adjustment and automatic. The Fast Fire optic typically retails for around two hundred dollars and it can be mounted without milling your slide. Milling can cost over a hundred dollars, plus shipping the slide, and the potential slow turn around time.

 

Burris makes mounts that replace your rear sight and doesn’t require milling your slide. You are limited to using Glocks, 1911s, S&W M&Ps, and the Springfield XD. This mount costs around fifty dollars, meaning for under 300 you can equip your pistol with a miniature red dot. The Fast Fire 3 can weigh as little as .9 of an ounce without a Picatinny rail mount. There are two options for reticles, a 3 or 8 MOA red dot. The Fastfire 3 is well built with attention made to its construction and quality.

 

The Fastfire 3 has a 10,000 hours battery life, as well as an auto off function if you happen to forget to turn it off. The Fast fires automatic function works well and the addition of simple manual settings keep things easy for personal preferences. The Burris is the perfect option for those looking to equip their pistol with a RDS without spending more than the pistol cost.

Click Here For Best Price!

Specifications:

Magnification: 1x

Length: 1.9 inches

Weight:  0.9 oz or 1.5 oz

Illumination: 3 manual brightness settings

Battery: CR1632

Battery Life: 10,000 hours

MSRP: $287-299

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Are there any mini red dot optics for sided mount that you would recommend for less than $100.00.
    Otherwise red dot is out of my price range.

    • Hey Micah,
      I feel like anything under $100 is mostly junk and there is nothing reliable or appropriate in that price range. Of course, it depends on your intentions too, but definitely do not trust under $100 mini red dot for self defense or concealed carry. Just go with iron.

      However, when self defense is not your primary goal then there is a decent mini red-dot around $100. It is called Bushnell Trophy Red Dot First Strike. It has 5 MOA red dot, operates on CR2032 battery and is also quite durable at that price. It is usually bit higher than $100, but on a lucky discount day I have seen it go for $90 something too.

      Almo

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