Learning to shoot a handgun red dot

My stories tend to go on and on. TLDR = How does a competent irons shooter make the transition? :pleading_face:
A few of my observations about the Leupold DeltaPoint Micro down at the bottom.

My uncorrected vision is terrible — like 20/200 x 20/400 with significant astigmatism. Corrected to 20/20 with a hard line bifocal. I can get a soft focus on target and sights, or hard target focus with a vague blur for sights. But I can’t focus on front sights without cocking my head way back to bring the reading lens up. I can’t get glasses made with a little “reading” chip at the top corner, and I can’t wear special range/competition glasses to stumble around town all day.

By whatever means, my brain plays tricks with my vision when the target is small enough to be partly or fully obscured by the sights: At speed, I can make a 3” group at 5yd on a IPSC silhouette, but I can’t make a 5” group on a 5” circle. Same issue with larger targets at longer ranges — center of mass works pretty good, small aiming points fail. In a few runs without glasses to simulate their loss in a fight, I don’t lose much in speed or accuracy shooting at a silhouette, at least out to 10yd or so.

But could a MRDS overcome some of my visual perception issues?
My results so far — “Kinda, but not really.”

I knew of no place within radius of a day trip to rent or borrow a familiar gun with a “big screen” red dot — especially not enough to learn an unfamiliar device. So, I bought a Leupold DeltaPoint Micro — it will fit my EDC, it is readily set up on a second-string M&P, and I read generally favorable reviews. Kind of an expensive experiment, but way cheaper and more reversible than buying a new gun + quality MRDS + and maybe another holster — only to learn that it would not solve any problem for me.

At this point, I have something like 1000-1500 dry shots split between laser and MantisX, and 150 live rounds. For slow fire accuracy, it has been instantly more precise than anything I can do over open sights. But slow fire is not defensive shooting. I’m kind of not finding the path to build speed. :confounded:

At longer ranges (15yd live, out to 25yd laser) I get better first shot accuracy/precision than over irons, with times as good or slightly better than irons. That’s good — should gain with practice. Except when I don’t make a near-perfect presentation — then the clock ticks along while I search around for the dot, get mentally absorbed troubleshooting my sight picture instead of seeing the target or my imaginary scenario. Then I rush a bad shot while my back-brain hollers about the passing seconds. Expecting me to consistently produce a perfect presentation under stress 100% of the time seems silly.

At closest ranges (3yd live, out to 5yd laser) I’m not really using the sights per se, and performance is unaffected compared to irons. Precision actually seems a bit better, but — if I never see the dot — I suppose that might be the longer slide on the "bedroom gun” compared to the compact EDC.

At “middle range” is where it’s really not working. At 5-10yd, my normal presentation time is half of what I need to get a sight picture at 15yd — at that pace the dot is lost 2-3x out of 5 instead of 1-2x out of 5. Which makes time to first shot at 5-7yd about the same as at 15yd. Accuracy is mediocre to terrible until I drop to slow fire pace and search around for lost dots when necessary. Recovery of the dot on recoil is even less likely to go well than on the first shot — and recoil is something I can’t practice dry (and can’t practice much live until they start making primers again).

Break it down, and go slower — right? That doesn’t seem to be helping much, except to confirm that my presentation is often not perfect. Making 3 out of 5 imperfect presentations slowly does not seem more educational than making imperfect presentations quickly. Irons are more or less visible once you marry up grip, and are being refined throughout presentation. But the “tube” is more or less nothing until the last instant of presentation — at which point the dot is either there or it’s not. If I make a direct presentation, the dot could be anywhere — expanding search circles is not a path to speed. If I “cast” my presentation, I will have some idea which direction the dot is hiding — but that’s another hard way to build speed.

My reaction time to put the dot on target and get a shot off seems much quicker and more consistent than the three-point alignment of iron sights — but first I need to locate the damn dot! :scream:

Also, nothing about dry fire or first shot presentation teaches much about “perfect" recovery from recoil. With irons it’s easy pick up and follow them to the next shot, but when the “tube” pops back in view the dot is either present or absent.

So, has anybody seen this process from start to success? What path did you see work?
Thanks for any tips.

A couple loose observations on the DeltaPoint Micro:

  • Seems sturdy and easy to work with. Nice to not require a new or modified gun (if you have one of the few it works with).
  • Brightness does not adjust automatically. Outside bright will flare in dim light or inside; inside bright is lost in full daylight.
  • Not sure it will be concealable in a high riding holster. Might stand in for night sights on a house/bedside gun.
  • “ghost ring” = bit of a stretch — centering the front iron in the “ghost ring” at 5yd lands 3.5” high and a 10yd shot hits 7.5” high. :woozy_face: Maybe that’s good enough in a pinch. If you don’t really use the sight, it is small enough to not obstruct orientation of a closer shot.
  • Using the little dimples on the rear of the sight to form a 3-dot “combat” hold with the stock front sight hits right on PoA (laser at 10yd), but they are wide and hard to see without paint, sit very low in the window, and will require old-school pushing around to adjust windage.
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Have you considered trifocals? My vision at arms-length distance is correctable with a different lens than either my near-sightedness or my far-sightedness.

I wear trifocals and can clearly see the front sight of my handguns. I don’t have to tilt my head.

Even if you don’t need a correcting middle distance lens, a non-correcting lens can be ground for your middle lens. My middle lens has far less correction than either my near or far lenses.

Your eye doctor may have other suggestions.

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I had a red dot laser on my PT 709 and ended up taking it off after two years, it just didn’t seem worth it. :man_shrugging:

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@techs - Thank you for sharing your observations and thoughts.

I’m hoping to read more from other members… so far I’m not convinced to red dot and found it completely unusable for me.
I got used to iron sights and mostly my natural POA is equal to POI. With red dot I’m swaying the pistol for 3 - 5 seconds to find the dot… :grimacing:
But it may be just lack of practice… :thinking:

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I don’t feel like I can give up more useful lens real estate to close vision. I work outside on rough ground a lot and spend a lot of time with my chin on my chest in order to see what used to be my lower peripheral field. I am way more likely to fall off a roof or into a badger hole than I am to get in a gunfight :nerd_face: — gotta play the percentages.

My optometrist and optician are both shooters, and they had nothing useful for everyday wear. Specialty glasses — left eye/right eye different, and so forth. Good solutions for competition or maybe hunting, but not for real life. I had hoped to give up just a centimeter or two at the top inner corner of my dominant lens to a front sight correction, but they couldn’t make that.

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I’ve experimented with CT laser sights — good if you’re mostly indoors or out at night. Shootin’ like John Wick at dusk. :star_struck: But in full daylight the dot is lost once you’re out far enough to need sights. :sleeping: Maybe worthwhile as a secondary sight, but with laser grip, I would rather have the G10 grip scales. With a rail mount, I haven’t found a holster.

So lasers are also in my box of experiments that didn’t work out. The past ten years probably has as much invested in sights as guns, and I’m still shooting over a set of tritium dots with dayglo paint. :partying_face:

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Yup, me to, now I just use it to drive the dog and grandbaby nuts. Lets play chase the dot. :rofl:

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I use a laser on my carry; I like it. I use red dots on my target weapon(s); I like them. I converted from open sights or iron sights (tritium on my Walther) due to the fuzzy or difficult to see front sight thanks to age’s affects on my eyes. It did take a little getting used to acquiring fast target with the red dot, wavering it around until it made its appearance in the window. However, that was an issue with me not being used to drawing with the red dot. I found that with enough draw practice, it becomes more of a point and shoot memory muscle event. I find the dot is always in the window when I bring it up now. One thing, though, I also practice no sight shooting, as in point and shoot for accuracy and speed without using iron sights or red dots, just to try to attain the muscle memory of where to hold the weapon, etc., to hit where I want to hit. It takes a lot more practice than the amount needed to have the red dot appear, but is also worthwhile.

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The key for me, being right-handed and left-eye dominant, was to learn to bring the pistol up in front of my dominant eye and not my nose, while keeping both eyes open and on the target. And dry fire A LOT.

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@SkippySanchez - Another trick would be to draw normally, then just turn your head to either 1:00 (for right handed, left eye dominant shooters), or 11:00 (for left handed, right eye dominant shooters). Keep both eyes open. You don’t want to shut one eye and leave half the world blind to you during a gunfight.

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I switched to a red dot about 3 years ago. Would not go back. My three pieces of advice?
Practice.
Practice.
Practice…

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Aaron Cowan over at Sage Dynamics reviewed this optic. He called it a “gateway drug to red dots”, lol, although he said he wouldn’t personally use it. His major complaints were losing the dot during recoil, and the zero’ing process.

Watching his review (and looking at pics), I dont think this was meant to be used as a replacement for red dots, or even really an analogue to a red dot since it behaves more like iron sights… but with a dot. Unfortunately, I don’t think the presentations with the DeltaPoint Micro are going to help you if you eventually move to an actual pistol red dot since it is such a unique solution to the red dot problem.

I have not done it myself yet, but in preparation for a move in that direction I’ve done a fair bit of research and seeing “how other people did it”. Your complaint on not seeing the dot on presentation is probably the biggest and most common complaint among new pistol red dot users. The solution is more presentation practice, I think the number is something like 1000 presentations to get used to it.

Sage Dynamics channel has a LOT of videos on working to get better with red dots, and Aaron Cowan literally has written papers on the subject. Search for RDS on his channel if this link doesn’t take you straight to it.

A solution that might help if you really have a lot of trouble finding the dot is ACSS Vulcan Reticle, I think it’s only available on the Holosun. It is a circle-dot similar to an Eotech. If when you present the pistol your dot is missing, you should be able to see a portion of the circle and that will help you know which way to adjust to bring the dot into view.

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@Harvey They won’t let me give your post 2 thumbs up, but that’s a good note — thanks a lot. :+1: :+1:

Kind of sounds from everybody’s input that the consensus road map is just keep grinding on… Sort of a bummer, because I’ve been working with it exclusively for just a few weeks and ignoring my EDC — hoping to quickly get to 80% or so. That would convince me of ultimate success, and I could shift to splitting my time between skill maintenance and skill acquisition over coming months — or convince me it would never be worth the time. Now, I’m sort of fuddled. I suppose keep chasing the perfect presentation and automatic recoil recovery — shooting over irons will never be hurt by improvement there. :partying_face:

If I take the nugget of encouragement from Cowan’s video (what Leupold gets in return for him grinding up their review sight), it’s at 19:30 — “I highly recommend this optic for anyone who is not shooting a red dot already.” Ok, so maybe this is what I work with until I’m ready to shop into a new gun/slide with a “big screen” RDS.

There were a couple points which didn’t make sense to me in Cowan’s DeltaPoint Micro review:

  1. I found zeroing the sight about as simple as could be for lacking tactile increment ticks. Dropping the dot onto the front sight post was just to put me on paper. A few minutes with a laser cartridge at 10yd put my bore on the dot. Four groups of 5 at 15yd walked bullets as close as I can hold to PoA with a couple 1/4 turn & 1/8 turn adjustments (because I was too lazy to math out MoA/turn). 25yd would take a scope or more walking, and maybe a few more rounds — but I’m missing the basic nature of a “problem” worth any concern.
  2. Maybe a Glock person could say whether his pistol has a tall front sight? A factory M&P front does not block the optic window — I would say it sits in the lower 10% where the curve doesn’t really allow much visibility anyway. Using the Leupold as a rear notch sight is a very low picture, and really calls for a different presentation height than the red dot.

One thing I’m thinking to try is to paint the rear sight dot depressions on the DeltaPoint Micro, and try using the irons in presentation and recoil recovery to get the gun where it needs to get before the optical window is visible — and see if the dot isn’t waiting there for me to place an 0.2 reaction shot. Maybe; maybe not… I’ll see what else I can dig out of the Sage Dynamics material.

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Have you tried XS sights.larger dot good for defense shooting easier to see at night &. day. Hmmm also green laser.

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His front sight doesn’t seem like its extra tall. You can see tall sights in the vulcan video I linked, and those are notable taller.

I’m inferring a bit from the video, as I’m pretty sure he didn’t mention it specifically, but it sounds like the Glock sight takes up something equivalent to a lower 1/3rd. I think thats why (around 7min+) during zero’ing he’s referring to “slaving the dot to the post” and it sounds like he is putting the dot on top of the post and the fine dot on a post that is almost 5x wider (if I understood his math right) is a coarser start than he’s used to or would like. If your M&P sight is notably shorter than that, that would not only explain his annoyances but kinda makes it a better “buy” for M&P than for Glock. I don’t have any M&Ps to compare the sight height.

James Yeager (who gets a lot of love/hate on the intertubes) is a HUGE proponent of XS sights. On CCW pistols he prefers them over red dots. Folks will say you can’t be accurate at distance with that huge lollipop, but there’s video of Yeager ringing steel at 100yards with XS big dots.

There’s a good option for everyone, its about finding what works for you.

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I have TruGlo Tritium Pro sights on my primary M&P.
https://www.truglo.com/tritium-pro/
Pretty similar to XS R3D — plain U-notch rear with orange front circle, 3-dot tritium capsules. Very attention-grabbing in favorable conditions, and at least as good as plain black in unfavorable conditions.

I like them pretty well. I use orange paint or tape with good results when aftermarket sights aren’t available. Very helpful at high-speed/close-range. They don’t help my issue of two focal planes and binocular confusion, especially with some types of target/situation.

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In Aaron Cowan’s video review…

[delete alternative reality hypothesis] :roll_eyes:
The instructions do tell you to co-witness or “slave” the dot to your front sight.

It was hard to get everything lined up exactly for photos, but hopefully they’re close enough to make the point. Thinking about the backup 3-dot utility of the DeltaPoint Micro puts the OEM white dot front post 'way down in the cellar in order to align with the divots on either side of the DeltaPoint base:


The backup 3-dot sight picture is classic horizontal dot alignment, with top of the front post level with horizontal shoulders of the DeltaPoint rear sight — all down in the bottom 10-15% of the sighting window. Combat hold goes right to PoA at 10-15yd, but being so low it’s kind of fussy to get in a real hurry.

Anyway, then I use the DeltaPoint adjustments to move the red dot to cover the white dot — still in the horizontal 3-dot alignment basement:

Then — for actual shooting — I intend the red dot to be more or less centered in the window:


I see now that the front sight post actually does move up maybe 25-30% into the window, and the red dot sits in a lollipop alignment atop the sight blade. I have not been aware of the front sight (except when searching for a lost dot) while shooting — the red dot is on top of everything in front of my dominant eye, and with both eyes focused downrange my other eye has no trouble assembling a good sight picture. It’s all about locating the dot. :astonished:

Now consider if Cowan sets his sight up differently:
– Put the front post up in the center of the “ghost ring”
[delete alternative reality hypothesis] :roll_eyes:

No, never mind. I don’t know what I was thinking. :crazy_face: I can’t change the relationship between the front sight post, the rear sight ring, and the bore axis by wishful thinking and moving the red dot around. I can only move the red dot around. I’m fully awake now, and have no idea what the “front post in the way” problem might be — except the sight window is pretty small. I’ll leave the photos up for folks trying to visualize a product they haven’t seen, and get back to practicing my perfect presentation.

Still don’t know about the reported difficulty in obtaining a zero — except that:

  • The dot is only very big if you make it very bright;
  • I don’t use a rest to zero a handgun; and
  • I cannot hold an X-ring group at 25 yards. :clown_face:
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@Harvey I don’t know what I was thinking. :crazy_face: I can’t change the relationship between the front sight post, the rear sight ring, and the bore axis by wishful thinking and moving the red dot around.

My bogus thesis is edited to more closely reflect reality, I hope.

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I think maybe I’ve figured this out — with some friendly tips here, followed by a bit of solitary puzzling and experimentation. At least for me and the DeltaPoint Micro, the secret sauce seems to be:

  • I know how to present quickly and with certainty to the irons.
  • So, just do that. :blush:

And, presto!, the dot is sitting right there. My brain — instantly and without conscious thought — forgets all about the final bits of lining up a sight picture with the irons, and just runs the trigger for me as soon as the dot is where I need it to be. :heavy_check_mark:

Well, that makes sense. Leupold could have said that in the installation leaflet without wasting much ink, and save confused customers considerable frustration. The conventional sight picture is very low in the DeltaPoint Micro optic window, so it does take some getting used to. But after just a couple runs, I felt subjectively that I could easily go at 80% normal speed, make draw to first shot 100% accurate, and spend no time searching for dots.
4.5" @ 7yd scale 15yd @ 5yd
4.5" circle shot at 7yd and a scaled 15yd silhouette shot at 5yd (both at 80% speed)

I have little worry about picking up to full speed with a bit of work. Looking forward to a live fire trial where I can measure both time and target — and see how recoil recovery goes using the same technique.

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Sounds like you are working it out. With enough practice you can probably build enough muscle memory to get the sights pretty well lined up with your eyes closed.

But for a potential technological fix you could try something like this:

Holosun HS507C-X2 Pistol Red Dot Sight - ACSS® Vulcan® Reticle

I haven’t tried it, or any other optical sight on a pistol. But this reticle has a very large circle that you will only see if the center aim point is not centered so you know which way to shift the sight. Would probably still take a fair amount of training to use quickly.

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