How to Use A Red Dot on Your Handgun?

Iron sights have become a thing of the past, and both law enforcement officers and civilians now use red dot sights on their handgun.

The technology has become small enough to enable concealed carry, so the handgun red dot sight has become nearly ubiquitous.

However, if you’ve not used the sight before, you don’t have to worry. Getting up to speed with the technology is easier than you would think.

In this post, I will discuss the right way to orient the handgun, set up the RDS, and some drills to improve aim with the handgun scope.

The Handgun Red Dot Sight Orientation Problem (And Solution)

Regardless of whether you’ve been using iron sights for years or are a complete newbie to weapons, the biggest challenge you will face using the red dot sight is properly orienting the handgun.

You will need to hold it in a way that you can maintain the red dot in your field of view.

This is easier with iron sights since you perceive how the sight is oriented as soon as the weapon appears in your periphery.

However, it’s not that simple with red dot sights. These optics have small windows, and to wield the RDS well, you will need to position the firearm so that your eye is directly behind the handgun red dot sight.

Only then will you be able to see the dot.

You also cannot rely on the hood of the optic to make corrections as you present the weapon, since it provides minimal feedback, especially compared to iron sights.

The area behind the sight where the dot becomes visible is called the “eye box.” If you want to rely on your handgun, practicing the right way to present it and ensuring that your grip is proper and consistent is critical.

I’m sure you’ve seen a new shooter at the range with a handgun equipped with an RDS at least once. You will have noticed that the shooter would fish for the dot by moving the weapon is small circles.

You don’t want to be doing this when there’s an intruder.

The Solution

Here’s how you deal with this issue:

You must orient the support hand’s thumb parallel to the bore axis. When you point it at the target, it will help you find the dot immediately as you present it.

Holding the weapon this way and practicing it will help you consistently align the handgun properly as soon as you draw it.

You must also remember to use the tactile index points on the weapon, which are the spots on the handgun that enable you to identify your grip orientation.

Here are some more pointers for accurate shooting with the RDS right from the get-go:

  • Be careful not to have your support thumb pointing upward, since the dot will disappear from view. 
  • Pointing the firearm upward also makes a gap at the base of the gun’s grip. The weapon will begin to shift orientation as you attempt to regain control.
  • Keeping your thumb parallel to the bore axis as you present the gun will ensure that you’re pointing it straight. This also guarantees that the RDS window is square to your vision and that the dot is always in view.
  • Always aim for a high-quality build, such as the vortex red dot sights

Recoil Management with Handgun Red Dot Sights

The way you must deal with recoil when using a red dot sight is a lot different than how you’d deal with it when using an iron sight.

Identifying the bore’s orientation is easier using an iron sight since you only need to observe the sights at opposite ends of the slide.

But with an RDS equipped, this is no longer possible. A minor slip up in your grip, and you will lose sight of the dot completely.

The best way to deal with the issue is to maintain better grip tension. 

Now, you don’t need to crush the gun with your strength; however, you must work to grip more tightly, especially with your bottom two fingers on both your hands.

Appropriately gripping the gun will help you maximize control by exerting the right amount of energy on the weapon.

You don’t need to hold the gun much tighter than you usually do.

However, a better grip with your bottom fingers will allow you a lower margin for error.

Setting Up the Handgun Red Dot Sight the Right Way

Don’t crank up the brightness of the sight too high. It draws your vision away from what you should be looking at – the target.

You don’t want to be staring at the dot like you would stare at the front sight of an iron sight.

You want to be looking through the RDS and superimpose the dot with the target.

While you must be mindful of the brightness in well-lit conditions, it is more critical that the dot’s brightness is lower in low-light conditions.

A brighter dot will obscure the target, making aiming a lot harder than it should be.

Handgun Red Dot Sight Drills 

#1 Draw and Presentation

The first thing you need to do is unload your weapon

Practice your draw and your presentation. Remember to use the tactile index points on your weapon to identify orientation, as mentioned earlier.

Once you’re confident of your draw in broad daylight, go into a pitch-dark room and draw the handgun. Check if the dot is visible right after you draw it to validate your technique.

#2 Live-Fire Exercises

After you’re confident of your draw with an unloaded handgun, practice coming in and out of the eye box by doing some target practice.

Ensure you reload during practice since it will help you test your grip and comfort level with the RDS.

#3 Marksmanship Drills

Understanding that every shot you take causes wobble and feedback takes time. Understanding in what way you must reorient yourself takes practice.

Practicing slow fire at shorter distances will help you get used to the wobble and learn the kind of feedback you must expect from your handgun.

This is me, Steve Coffman. I'm the Chief Editor of IGFA. I'm retired military personnel who is now into shooting and hunting. As an outdoor expert, I have experience in dealing with all kinds of guns, from light to heavy firearms. Currently, I'm spending my time hunting, shooting and writing on my blog.