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October 23 : 2012  
Editor's Notebook: Duty Pistol Optics?
By Rich Grassi

Advantage of single point of focus, disadvantage everything else? Perhaps it's time to re-examine pistol optics for duty.
A table of Glock 19 pistols along with a pair of SIG-SAUER P229 pistols awaited us at the Trijicon range on the property at the Crucible in Virginia. A group of firearms instructors from IALEFI - International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors - faced this table the day before. We weren't the first to be exposed to the particular shooting exercises we'd be doing. Federal American Eagle ammunition was available as well as loaded magazines.

After a briefing, this media group was faced with the chore of having to shoot these guns. A pair of them had the Trijicon HD sights - a beefy rear sight wonderfully fabricated with glare-breaking cross lines engraved across the rear face of the sight, the aperature a deep "U" notch. The front sights had an orange ring around the lens atop the tritium vial.

Those sights were on the last two lightly customized guns to come into my stable - one a Smith & Wesson SD9 with APEX Tactical trigger parts, discussed in this newswire before. The other was a gun worked over by a respected shop and done for a print publication. I went with the Trijicon HDs because I like them. We don't really need a pair of tritium vials aft - something I didn't address with Trijicon because everything else was so right.

The remainder of the guns on the table were fitted with various versions of the Trijicon RMR - Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sights. An example of the Dual Illuminated version that is battery-free: Trijicon fiber optics and tritium are used in the reticle - with the remainder being battery powered.

I tried the Dual Illuminated RMR first. It was a bright, sunny day and the dot reflected that. It was large and bright to the point of not having a sharp edge. An alternative, the adjustable LED model, is battery powered and uses the CR2032 cell. At setting "4," the battery lasts a staggering four years. The top setting will give 25 days of constant "on." Being able to adjust intensity of the dot, you can keep it sharp for precision shooting.

With the standard LED version, the power's on all the time unless in dark storage (sight cap onboard). With typical use, you can expect two years out of a cell. In cold conditions, expect less. With the cap on and no use, you can expect it to run anytime within a five-year window.

What do you use on the street? Shaun Rategan, Trijicon Domestic Programs Manager and U.S. Marine with overseas service and a former cop, prefers the bottom of the line.

It's the most simple, the one he's used longest, it's always on as long as the power lasts. Like the battery powered optic on your rifle, if you have one, and like the smoke detectors in your home, the RMR battery gets changed out annually with all the other batteries.

Shooters got to try the RMR on pistols by SIG and Glock.
He's put one on the oldest Glock he owns and it's run for a long time. It took a short learning curve.

"I drive out to the target," he said, "and dip the muzzle at the end, putting the dot right on the target. It's easy to find the dot now."

I tried his technique. It requires a bit of learning. Is it worth it?

We shot the RMR out to 100 yards.

That's not a typo. We shot at 75 and 100 yards. We were shooting on steel targets. These are, using a Marine term, "balls to beanie" targets - you simply have to hit them somewhere, with any hit being as good as any other hit. It's not like we had to make "A" zone hits at 75 and 100 yards.

With irons, I was hitting steel at 75 yards, about twice in five rounds. With the RMR, I went 5 for 5 on the big steel target and hit the smaller steel silhouette twice out of two fired at it at 100 yards.

Hate the learning curve to find the dot? I was on it in about 30 rounds; I'm a slow learner. Have you gotten anyone to hit consistently with a handgun using the "front sight - rear sight - target - squeeze" technique in only 30 rounds? Put that shooter into the Gifted Program.

Concerned about durability? These are tough as ACOGs and ACOGs have been beaten up around the world on battlefields. Holsters? Safariland, likely the biggest provider of duty holsters extant, is making security holsters to hold RMR-equipped handguns. Hate the expense? The sights cost as much as some duty sidearms and more than others. If you are struggling with vision due to age, save your pennies. What real pros use dots on duty pistols? Well, Kelly McCann for one and he has considerable credibility amongst pros of my acquaintance.

Now, how well do they work in adverse light environments; Indoors or when you're running a weaponlight for target ID? I have no idea. Does the reticle shine back enough to prevent target ID in that last moment? Not sure. No one said we're jumping ship today, but it's time more of us got a look. Dave Spaulding tried a mini-red dot on a pistol. I notice his current gun has metal sights.

That said, it's far easier driving the dot to the target and controlling the trigger than learning to use metal sights. It's the wave of the future - whatever problems we can identify in the simulators.

We can climb aboard now or get dragged aboard later.

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