Red dot or laser?

Bill Siegle

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Looking for opinions from folks who have used both red dot sights and lasers on pistols. What were your findings in regard to speed to target and also accuracy?
 
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Looking for opinions from folks who have used both red dot sights and lasers on pistols. What were your findings in regard to speed to target and also accuracy?
I use both and like both a LOT. Bottom line though only you are going to be able to decide what works for you. Any time this comes up many will say neither is worth having while others love one or the other. As my eyes have gotten older open sights just don't work nearly as well for me as optics. On my defensive guns I VERY much like a laser as does Wife. I have these on a couple pistols that optics would not work on. Like the very small .22, .32. & .380 we have them on. For me using either one gets me on target and actually hitting what I shoot at much faster than trying to use open sights. May have something to do with being able to use both eyes open? Don't know. Nice thing is they are often cheap to try out on many guns. So you can see how they work for your taste without spending a lot of cash first.
 
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Ultimately, I think they fill different roles and this is just my opinion obviously so your results may vary.

Red dot sights are used in the same role as your iron sights and provide a faster means of aiming with both eyes open than your iron sights however they still requires you to have the pistol up and in your line of sight. Ultimately I think you will always have faster split times and more precision shots utilizing your red dot or iron sights.

Lasers however shine for 'non standard' firing positions what is sometimes called firing from the hip or other unsighted firing in which a proper sight alignment/picture is unable to be achieved. There is also something to be said for the Hollywood effect of a laser which is often discussed as having a deterrent effect as due to movies/tv everyone knows that where the dot is a bullet could soon be. Lasers also have an application when firing utilizing night vision but I am guessing that is out of the scope of your intended uses. I have noticed people who rely upon a laser often times have slower split times between shots and slower initial shots as it is harder to get the laser alone to align on a target than it is to align your sights this can be alleviated by ensuring you maintain a front sight focus and don't hunt for the laser but its an issue to consider.

In the end they're both great tools but at least in my opinion fit into different niches when it comes to sighting. Personally, I currently only run a laser on my long gun and that is there for firing with NODs. If and when I get a laser for a pistol it will also be IR for NV shooting only. I do however run an RMR on one pistol already and it is on the build list for the G19 I will be picking up in the next few months for EDC.
 
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Bill Siegle

Bill Siegle

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Well as luck would have it, I have ended up with samples of both :) I went to the range today with a Ruger 9mm 1911 wearing CT laser grips and a Sig Sauer 320RX. Both guns ran really well and there are differences in the red dots obviously but my groups with both were very similar. While today was my first real session with the optic on the gun(320RX), both systems seemed equally fast and easy to pick up. The Crimson Trace may take an edge due to their ease of use with unconventional shooting positions where you cannot bring the gun up to a nice sighting plane. I think my takeaway is that for the individual firearm, if you want a red dot sighting system, go with the one that is lower cost to install :D
 
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Ideally if you can run some IDPA style drills you'll definitely start to notice difference between the two. If you have a range that will allow it something like an El Pres drill on a shot timer should really help you figure out which is better for you.
 
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I've got both, one is a 'sight' the other is an aiming aid. For traditionalists the red dot will always rule. A laser will allow anyone the ability to put shots on target w/out any of the discipline that comes with drawing and firing.

The way I see it, people who are not into training, shooting, the discipline that comes with controlling a firearm and haven't developed any 'instincts' benefit from a laser. That would include my wife, for now. A red dot still requires you to align a sight picture to a target and get your body and head into a shooting position. A laser requires nothing more than squeezing the pressure switch and putting the laser on target. I don't shoot a laser, I spent a little time with one and didn't like how it made me shoot. My focus shifted from what I'm used to to just putting the laser on the paper. You don't have to aim, your grip changes, I started not even bringing the gun into position. I can instinctively draw, grip and point pretty much where I intend through lots of dry fire practice. I see the target and sights, not the laser. With a laser, that's what you're looking for, where's the dot? They don't work in daylight or bright lights so you'll still need to use the irons though now you haven't practiced with them.

One plus with both is not having to focus on the front sight only, you can see everything with both eyes. Like mentioned above, my eyes are getting older, I have an astigmatism and am slightly near sighted. I have to use the lower portion of my progressives to see the front sight which puts my head in a position that will fatigue my neck after a while. I'm slowly switching to reflex sights on a few of my guns, I love them and see them as the sight of the future for a lot of us. I've tightened up my groups a lot and I completely agree with the above comment that they are fast, once you're used to them acquiring the target is very similar to iron sights.

Lasers have their use, my wife, while she does shoot is not a gun person and anything that gives her the confidence to hit something is good with me. But it's a double edge sword. As someone that's not that used to guns it's one more thing she has to make sure she's doing right. Getting the switch to engage every time takes some practice and if you have good trigger finger discipline your finger is right in the way of the laser when not inside the trigger guard. That's my wife's biggest issue right now.
 
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The ideal solution I personally took over a laser / dot debate that I had a while ago is a good gold bead front sight and train myself until relying on it is hardwired in my body.

However, if I choose only one of those, I will get a dot without hesitation. In my humble opinion, laser is harder to use if target distance is bigger and is good for close combat situations. Also, with myself, I found that I keep tracking the laser point rather than target and natuarally trying to compensate my aim closer to the target even in a situation that I didn't want to. It's just an inefficient process for me.
 
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I tried a laser and just couldn't get along with it very well. Since I train at roughly 7 yards, offhand, point and shoot works pretty well for me. Manage to hit the paper plates no problem. Though I understand the "non standard" firing position rationale.

I opted for tritium night sights so I could see my sights in low light to no light situations, and it doesn't give away my position if I am taking a defensive position. Also, no batteries or mechanical switches to be concerned about.

But it really comes down to what works for you, not you using what works for me or vice versa.

Best of luck.
 
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I like a laser for a defense pistol. If you are inside, at close range, it is faster and more versatile. If you are outside and shooting at longer distance, the dot is more accurate, and possibly quicker if it is bright outside or hard to see the laser.
 

CHLChris

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When I first started in this thing I had a bunch of lasers, which also meant harder-to-find holsters for each gun. Over time I have transitioned to red dots. With experience I've discovered that red dots on pistols are really fast and red dots on rifles/shotguns are imperative over a laser.

However, for people who don't practice, or are new, or don't have much experience, I think a laser could be superior to a red dot. My wife's guns all have a laser since she likes that. And she never shoots them. All my guns (at least all my working guns) have red dots because I shoot all the time.

If one were going to go with a laser, for any of a number of valid reasons, don't cheap out on a $80 red laser. Go with a reputable company and go green!
 

albin25

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Red Dot if you're able or planning on taking shots with the gun at "sight height" up to maybe 50 yards. Laser for hip/one handed/awkward stance/off-hand/ shots under 15 yards in low light and indoors.
You can buy combo units
I have a red/green dot, red laser combo unit on a Henry Mare's leg house-gun that my wife really likes. Cutdown stock on her hip/elbow left hand steadying on the front stock... she can hit the balls on mosquito using the laser at in-house distances and a squirrel using the red-dot outside.
 
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CHLChris

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Let's address accuracy on a laser. There is none. You must "zero" the laser for a chosen distance. For everything shorter than that distance you are off (granted, not by more than the bore-to-laser distance). For everything greater than that distance you are off and worse as the distance moves out. The benefits of the laser have nothing to do with accuracy, but with speed and effectiveness in, as @albin25 notes, awkward positions.
 

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