Gun Digest

Study Suggests Red-Dot Optics Improve Pistol Accuracy

Trijicon RMR OpticsHours spend honing a sight picture. Countless dry fires developing the proper trigger pull. Weekends planted at the shooting range making it all come together.

There are few things shooters obsess over more than accuracy. Unfortunately, there are few shortcuts in developing tack-driving precision when behind the trigger. Or is there?

A recent study by James E. Ryan and Robin Adler suggests there might be one accessory that will tighten up a handgun shooter’s groups in a hurry – a red dot sight. The criminology professors at Vermont's Norwich University came to this conclusion after running a comparative study between the optic and iron sights.

Ryan and Adler had 27 students shoot a four-stage pistol course (go to the study via for a more detailed explanation of each stage) using a Glock 19 9mm on IDPA cardboard targets. The academics divided the targets into three zones: Zone 1 center mass, Zone 2 an octagon just outside center mass and Zone 3 the periphery of the target.

When everything was said and done, the students shooting with a red dot optic –  a Trijicon Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sight – proved much more accurate.

While there was little overall difference in the two groups connecting with the target, those outfitted with the red dot had a higher percentage of shots drill Zone 1. From Ryan and Adler's numbers, red dot shooters connect on center mass 58 percent of the time over the course, compared to 42 percent for iron sights.

Shooters connecting with the eight-inch center circle more often with a red dot won't come as a surprise in certain corners of the shooting world. Gabe Suarez, tactical instructor for Gunsite Academy, for instance, has become an advocate of the optic. And anybody that follows 3-Gun knows the accessory has been commonplace in the competitive circuits for some times now.

The reasons why red dots outperform their traditional counterparts are no mystery. As Ryan and Adler detail, the optics promote a slew of habits that make shots more efficient and accurate:

[A]n illuminated red dot might make shooting with both eyes open easier. This kind of aiming aids situational awareness and reduces ‘tunnel vision.’ Furthermore, a red dot can eliminate ‘eye sprint,’ the constant focusing and refocusing on the front sight, rear sight and target to get a properly aligned sight picture. A red dot allows the shooter to simply place the red dot on the target.

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