side by side comparison view of an iron sight and a pistol mounted optic

Transitioning from Iron Sights to Pistol-Mounted Optics

Adding high-performance pistol optics to your gun can speed up target acquisition and increase the accuracy of your shooting.  There can be a learning curve when making the change, however. Iron sights vs. optics are a lot more familiar to most shooters since they’re the aiming mechanisms most commonly sold with or milled into your pistol. With a little preparation and practice, however, you can shorten the learning curve with your new optics and reap the full benefits faster at the range or in real-world defense scenarios.

Benefits of Quality Pistol Optics

Various Gideon Optics mounted on handguns

Modern red dot sights deliver several benefits for gun owners who want to improve their shooting by offering a better way to acquire their target, aim, and re-aim their pistol for repeated shots.

  • Shooting Accuracy – Aiming with iron sights requires carefully lining up three distinct planes: the rear sight, the front sight, and the target. Pistol optics allow you to focus on the target and simply cover it with a bright red dot.
  • Shooting Precision – Likewise, red dot sights give you a consistent threshold for accuracy based on your reticle, making precision, or the closeness of one shot to another, more consistent.
  • Target Acquisition – With only a single plane to focus on, a practiced draw and presentation will get you on target lightning fast. Line up your optic’s window with the target and place the dot.
  • Speed of Follow-Up Shots – Just as with initial target acquisition, resetting your aiming point between rounds is smooth and effortless.
  • Visibility of Aiming Point – With an adjustable brightness red dot sight, the dot is visibly superimposed on the target. With iron sights, especially unmodified metal ones, you may be hunting for the blade or notch against a similarly colored or shadowed backdrop.

Why You’re Hesitant to Try Pistol Optics

 When it comes to the iron sights vs optics discussion, plenty of pistol owners are hesitant despite the benefits that come with installing premium pistol optics. These range from a hesitancy to push beyond an established comfort zone, to worries about reliability. 

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! – If all you’ve used is iron sights and there hasn’t been a problem, that doesn’t mean optics can’t still improve your shooting experience. In a tactical situation where every advantage should be used to protect life and limb, shouldn’t you have as many advantages as possible?
  • I have an established draw and presentation. – Your drawing, presenting, and aiming motions are all learned behaviors based on the weapon you’re carrying. If you customize your pistol, you will have to adapt to new parts and accessories, but if they help you shoot better, isn’t it worth it?
  • Iron sights don’t run on batteries. – Modern red dot sights are powered by state-of-the-art batteries and equipped with power-saving features that extend battery life to span several years. Annual or bi-annual battery changes will effectively ensure that you always have a fresh battery to keep your sights ready for action. 
  • It changes how my gun feels or adds bulk. – As with any modification, your pistol optics selection is a careful balance of cost vs. benefit. Today’s red dot sights are compact but fully featured, packing a lot of power into small, lightweight, rugged packages that are discreet when carried and invaluable when called on to perform.
  • I’m slower with pistol optics. – There is a learning curve with optics, but once they’re mastered, you’ll likely be faster than ever. Remember, you used to be slower with iron sights than you are now, but you put in the time, practiced, and honed your skill with discipline. You can do so again with a higher top-end potential on speed and accuracy.

Making the Switch

There are some great ways to make sure your transition to pistol optics goes smoothly, sets you up for success, and shortens the learning curve so you’re better able to take advantage of the benefits offered by optics vs. iron sights. 

Choose the Right Optic for Your Needs

The first step toward being happy with your transition to modern optics is choosing the right red dot for you. This includes knowing the footprint pre-milled into your receiver and choosing an appropriate-sized optic. For example, the OMEGA, with its large window, will fit any RMR pattern slide and give you plenty of real estate to work with for the range, but the smaller ROCK offers an RMR-patterned optic that gives you less bulk for concealed carry.

Understand the Limitations of ANY Sight 

Sights help you see and aim better, but they don’t make up for your shooting fundamentals. You’ll still need the discipline that comes from working on your draw, presentation, aiming, and firing. In fact, the red dot of your optics, which may seem to move almost continuously as you breathe, will help reinforce these fundamentals as you work on your weapon skills.

Work Dark to Light

To help train your eye to locate the red dot automatically, begin in a darker room with low light. Even if it’s so dark you can’t effectively make out an aiming point on the far wall, it will still get your eye used to finding the dot first without trying to juggle the multiple planes of your iron sights. It’s also a great way to begin working on your presentation.

Build Your Presentation Fundamentals with Repetition 

A shooter practices using a red dot sight

You’ve trained your muscles to draw and present your weapon in the general area of the target, and then your eye searches out the planes of your iron sights. With pistol optics for those new to them, there’s a tendency to present, then fish, moving the gun around to locate the dot in the window. The truth is you weren’t nearly as good at getting your barrel in the general area as you thought you were. Start by working on your presentation until your muscles naturally raise the gun to a position where the red dot is in the window, focusing on making that natural presentation point closer and closer to centering the dot.

Use Dry-Fire Training 

Once your presentation is on-point, add in dry-fire training to help you control the movements of your trigger pull. You will likely find that the red dot highlights a lot more motion than you thought you were working with. This dry-fire training will help you work on the fundamentals of your trigger pull, whether you’re using a gun with pistol optics or shooting with another gun from your collection that still has iron sights. 

Once you have your presentation down and your dry fire training is helping you create a more stable shooting platform, it’s time to hit the range for some live-fire rounds. Focus on your fundamentals, and you’ll see just how short the learning curve is now that you’ve put in the preparation.

Modern Optics for a Better Experience

We’re proud to offer pistol optics that give you the improved aiming experience you’re looking for without breaking the bank. Sign up for our latest deals delivered directly to your inbox. Make the transition to optics vs. iron sights with a new red dot from Gideon Optics today.

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