Next Generation Pistol Sights
The debate between sighted fire and point shooting rages on. There's little compromise between the opposing sides as both have drawn a line in the sand and will not cross it. We've seen this lack of cooperation before. It's a bit like Republicans and Democrats in Congress getting little accomplished. It reminds me of the old joke "If pro is the opposite of con, is Congress the opposite of Progress?"
Like many things in life, the truth about point shooting or target-focused shooting and sighted fire is somewhere in the middle. I admit that I'm all about using the sights, but I will also state that a shooter must be enabled to do so in the pandemonium of a gunfight. This means the shooter must be trained to look for, find and use the sights in the same stress-filled conditions a real shooting encounter will bring. Few law enforcement officers train to this level.
The truth is that at best, police officers are moderately training, and (we) individual officers are partly to blame. I say this because few agencies get their officers to the range as often as they can really afford. Most administrators are interested in saving money, thus, they send their officers to firearms training the minimum amount possible. I've had several "progressive" police administrators tell me they believe if they restrict the amount of firearms training their officers receive, the officers will be less likely to use their guns! I wonder how many cops have fallen in the line of duty due to this "progressive" mentality?
There are administrators who care about their officers, and they schedule as much training time as they can logistically handle. Remember: When officers are not on the street, other officers must cover the shifts, resulting in either overtime or a manpower shortage. But even if you get officers to the range six times a year, is this enough to keep a perishable skill sharp? Individual officers must take an interest here and practice even if it's just dry fire. Few do, which is why I say individual officers are partly to blame.
Is it any wonder that an officer who only practices shooting a few times a year might be incapable of finding their sights in a fight? Many of the officers I've spoken with didn't even see the threat coming, and they panic fired they filled the threat area with lead with no attempt to aim. As noted-instructor and founder of the 21-foot drill, Dennis Tueller so eloquently stated, "If you don't have time to aim, you certainly don't have time to miss!" Missed shots are the same as shots never taken if they don't stop the threat, and officers must be enabled to do so under life-like conditions on both the square range and through interactive training. I don't
buy the argument that it's impossible to see your sights in a fight because I've done it, but I can see where fear and panic would restrict someone from doing so.
I've had the pleasure of speaking with many returning vets from the Global War on Terror. Many have been willing to talk about what they observed and experienced, and one question I always ask them is, "When you were involved in a gunfight, do you remember using your sights?" Keep in mind that these vets were using either an M-4 carbine or M-16 rifle most of the time and almost 100% of those I've spoken with definitely used their sights. Why? Because they were looking through an optical device that actually interrupted their line of vision to the target! They deployed with a Trijicon ACOG, an Aimpoint or an EO Tech sight that was used to search for and find their opponent. This was something they were taught to do from the beginning of their weaponstraining, thus they were enabled to do this.
When using the red dot or reflex sight, there's no "eye sprint" from the target to the front sight and back again to confirm alignment. The shooter sees what they want to hit and they super-impose the red dot on the target. It's a single sighting plane with the eyes focused on the threat throughout the engagement. For years, many authorities on armed combat resisted the use of these simple dot sights stating that they were not as reliable as iron sights iron sights would never run out of battery life, lose their zero, jar loose, break, wear out, crap out, explode, implode or fail to make Julian fries (i.e any excuse to slam the sight system).
The fact is these sights work and they work very, very well. They stand up not only to the rigors of combat, but also to the harsh environments in which combat takes place. Sure, they break, but iron sights are still mounted on the gun in case this happens. How often do they break? I have never spoken with a soldier or Marine who told me their optic broke in a fight and they needed to employ their irons. It was always when their rifle fell off the back of a truck or was dropped down a stairwell or some other mishap/accident. I'm sure it has happened; it's just that I've never met someone who could relate the story to me. Regardless, red dot sights are a huge success and they pretty much eliminate the whole sighted-fire versus target-focused shooting debate.
What if such a sight could be placed on a combative pistol? It's been done with great success on competition guns, but these units are large and a bit fragile. What's needed is a compact sight that will fit on a service size handgun and will stand up to the abuse of the street, while being concealable when needed. As it turns out, there are two companies currently working in this direction and what they are trying to perfect might just be the future of service handgun sights. JP Enterprises ( www.jprifles.com) and Trijicon ( www.trijicon.com) both manufacture compact red dot sights that might just be tough enough for fighting handguns. Both of these sights were originally developed as "supplemental sights" for magnified rifle optics and have proven to be quite tough in the field.
In the Global War on Terror, situations have arisen in which soldiers and Marines were equipped with long range optics but have suddenly found themselves in close quarter engagements that render their scopes useless. JP Enterprises first developed their compact J Point sight to be mounted on the top of high-powered scopes so that operators would have a close combat sight. As the sight became known, it found its way onto handguns and has served well in limited numbers. I know of one intelligence officer in Afghanistan who had a J Point mounted on his Glock pistol and fell into a ravine during an ambush. The pistol took a serious spill, but when the officer needed to shoot an insurgent who was standing above him, the J Point was intact and worked like a charm to save his life.
Trijicon manufactures the compact RedDot Sight. Trijicon Production Manager Myles Waterman told me that he feels the sight is tough enough for pistol use and that they offer mounting systems for Glock, SIG, H & K, 1911 pistols as well as S & W and Ruger revolvers.
Developed for quick target acquisition, the Trijicon RedDot Sight mounts atop the Trijicon ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gun sight).The sight features an innovative LED (light emitting diode) insert to sense the target's light level and control the light output of the LED. This technology ensures optimum visibility of the red dot against the target. A long-life lithium battery powers the light. Accuracy is enhanced with adjustments for windage and elevation, while performance is assured with a stronger-than-aluminum, polymer alloy body.
Tough, yet smaller and lighter than any similar optic, Trijicon feels their RedDot Sight is suitable for all military and law enforcement
applications, whether pistol, rifle or shotgun. Trijicon sent me a test unit that I placed on a Glock 19, 9mm pistol. Although it takes time to get used to the red dot and not looking for the front sight, after you grasp the concept, the red dot sight is fast and accurate even at distance, and it allows the shooter to look at the target and sight. I passed this gun around during a SWAT training day for a local team and all who shot it liked the idea that the pistol sight was the same as their rifle sight. Such continuity would be a real plus during both operations and training.
The only downside to the Trijicon RedDot Sight is that it sits high on the slide, eliminating the shooter's ability to use the pistol's fixed sights in the event the red dot fails. A slide is needed that is cut special for the RedDot Sight, lowering the unit into the slide so that the red dot can be co-witnessed with the pistol's sights. Caspian Arms, the famed manufacturer of gun parts and components, has agreed to cut such a Glock slide so that I can do more extensive testing with this sight.
Over the next year, it's my intention to work with this sight system side-by-side with a fixed-sight counterpart, using the sight in all weather conditions as well as in competitions and shooting courses to test just how durable it is. I will report back to our readers here in this column. We will see if this sight is the next generation of pistol sights.