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Travis’ Tip: Transitioning from Iron Sights to a Red-Dot Optic

The use of red-dot optics on pistols is a steadily growing phenomenon. As more shooters make the switch, the more students I see exhibiting issues in acquiring the dot during their draw, or presentation to the target. There are several factors at play and this month we’re going to take a close look at some steps you can take to improve the process.

First, for the shooter who’s struggling with the issue of acquiring their dot, I recommend that you spend time developing a consistent firing hand grip. Even minor errors in your grip can make for major deviations in the way the gun points. Driving your hand up high on the gun will not only reduce muzzle flip but also give you tactile reference points that contribute to consistent and repeatable hand placement.

From a visual perspective, it’s important to understand that you have a very narrow window, or “visual cone,” through which your dominant eye and the dot are aligned. If you can imagine a line being drawn from your eye out to the target, the dot needs to be brought up and “on” this visual axis. The more moving pieces you introduce to the process, the more difficult it is to coordinate their alignment. For this reason, I recommend that you keep your head static during your draws, mag changes, and presentations.

Next, you need to develop your draw (presentation) to the target, and the supporting neural pathways that contribute to an accurate index. An effective and efficient way to do this is by performing dry-fire draws in slow-motion and on a small target. Doing them slowly will allow you to correct and fine-tune each step of the draw in real-time. If the dot doesn’t appear in your visual cone, determine where it is and what correction needs to take place to align it.

Along these same lines, you can perform what amounts to a reverse repetition. Here you begin in your firing stance with the gun mounted, the dot acquired, and aimed at the target. Now, begin by re-holstering your pistol, using the exact same path as you did to draw it. Reverse repetitions add detail and awareness to your technique and ultimately can shorten the learning curve.

Once you start to realize a more consistent index, one that requires less correction to find the dot, then you can begin to speed the entire process up.

Until next time, train smart and train safe!