Dovetail pistol red dot

Dovetail pistol red dot DEFAULT

Making the switch to a pistol red dot instantly and effortlessly

Red dot sights on pistols, also called micro red dots or micro red dot sights (MDRS), are all the rage right now for defensive use after proving their effectiveness in the shooting sports for the last several years.

They are almost as big of a game-changer on pistols as they were on long guns.

On most targets, you can keep your focus on your target, put the red dot where you want your bullet to go, and the bullet will go there (instead of lining up the front and rear sight and having to shift your focus to the front sight).

They negate many of the aiming advantages of a longer slide, make shooting easier for shooters with visual confusion (seeing ghost images when aiming with both eyes open) and they can be easier to track in recoil than iron sights.

When you just look at accuracy (and not speed), red dots make a huge difference. As long as you can press the trigger without disturbing the muzzle, it’s just ridiculously simple to shoot tight groups with a red dot and to shoot accurately at much longer distances.

But, when you add speed to the equation, the game changes… Red dots reward precise irons technique and add a severe time penalty for deviations from precise technique.

Red dots tend to help solid shooters shoot 10 to 20% better (speed/accuracy) but actually cause most novice to intermediate shooters to shoot slower. (I’m going to tell you how to fix that.)

I have used red dots on pistols for 5-6 years, but until recently it was primarily for plinking with fun guns with my boys and with brand new shooters who are touching a gun for the first time.

The first time that someone is shooting a gun, my priorities are that they are safe and have fun.

The sensory experience is so overwhelming that they’re not really going to create or retain any skills…I just want them to create a positive association with shooting and we’ll build skills later. I’ll get into why this is important in a minute.

Until recently, a red dot just didn’t have a place for me on a serious gun because of a few unique…almost prima donna…requirements that I had.

1. Red dots on pistols are notorious for having a steep learning curve. I wanted zero learning curve and to be able to take advantage of the highly refined draw stroke and presentation that I already had.

2. I didn’t want to lose any of my ability to do sighted shooting. In fact, this is a bigger deal than many people realize, and significant practice should be done with iron sights even if/after you switch to a red dot.

3. I wanted to be able to blindly draw any Glock, use the exact same presentation, and have the sights or dot come up into automatic alignment between my dominant eye and the target without any lag.

This can be a big deal if you have multiple pistols in the same family but don’t want to (or can’t afford) to get red dots for all of them at once. Switching to a red dot may mean that some of your holsters no longer work. Also, if you happen to carry muzzle down in a shoulder holster as a deep concealment method (as I do), the bump of a red dot is very visible from behind.

4. I wanted a red dot on my carry gun but couldn’t justify getting one on my SIRTs, airsoft trainers, paintball trainers, and CO2 trainers…so I needed a setup that would allow me to do the majority of my practice with irons and get 100% of the benefit when I shot my pistol with the red dot.

So, basically, I wanted all of the advantages of a red dot with zero learning curve and none of the drawbacks that are typical of switching from irons to a red dot.

When I see a skill where most people are failing/struggling and a few have no issues, my default is to reverse engineer the process, identify the critical factors, test hypotheses, and then roll stuff out that makes things easy/easier for “most.”

In this case, I identified the factors, stacked the odds in my favor, and went from not shooting a red dot to putting one on my carry gun on a Saturday, making sure I could hit steel with it for a few rounds, purposely NOT doing rapid fire or dry fire reps, and shooting a match the next day.

I was able to draw and engage quickly and shoot -0 body and head shots with .2-.25 splits on the move and around cover with my Glock 26.

Absolutely zero learning curve…but that’s because of what I did ahead of the switch and how I set up my optic.

For some people, this is going to be old news…for most, it will be very helpful and save a TON of wasted time and frustration.

The two key factors are:

  1. Co-witnessing
  2. Up + out presentation

Let’s start with co-witnessing.

Co-witnessing is simply having both your iron sights and your red dot visible and usable at the same time without needing to move your dominant eye or the gun.

With red dot sights on a pistol you’d carry, you can mount the red dot to the slide using the rear dovetail, or have a notch cut out of the slide that the red dot base goes into. These notches can be shallow or deep, depending on your preference.

You can also mount the red dot to the frame for sport shooting, but that’s another conversation.

Here I’ve got a Glock 19 with a dovetail mount on top (not co-witnessed) and a Glock 26 with a Lone Wolf slide cut on the bottom (co-witnessed).

With the dovetail mount, the dot ends up much higher than factory height sights…enough that you won’t be able to see the dot at all with a presentation that brings your sights into alignment. That means two different presentation methods depending on whether you’re using a pistol with irons or a red dot.

Again, if you can keep your presentation exactly the same, regardless of whether you’re using a red dot or irons, you’re going to build skill quicker and easier AND you’re going to have a more seamless transition from irons to red dot.

With a cut (or melted) slide and a dot that sits low, you can see and use either your factory height sights or the red dot at the exact same time.

A lot of people put suppressor height sights on their pistols so they can use both their red dot and irons…I have done that on my Sig P220, but won’t do it on my Glock.


Again, it’s because I want consistency in my presentation, regardless of which of my Glocks I’m drawing or whether I’m drawing one of my non-gun trainers. That means that I either switch the sights on every single one or I keep them all at factory sight height.

The second big factor has to do with the fact that a red dot rewards a presentation that automatically places the sights or dot between your dominant eye and the target and penalizes a non-perfect presentation.

With iron sights, when your sights are off, you can look at the front and rear sights and figure out which direction you need to move the gun to get them into alignment.

With a red dot, if you can’t see the red dot, you may have no idea which way you need to move the gun to make the red dot visible without switching to looking at the sights. Furthermore, you may not know whether your alignment is off or whether your red dot is turned off or not working.

Let’s look at a few types of presentations from the holster…

First, two bad ones…don’t do either of these:

  1. “Bowling,” which is swooping the gun out and up from the holster, like a pendulum on a grandfather clock.
  2. “Fishing/casting,” which is bringing the muzzle way above horizontal and then back down to our target.

Next are the more common ones:

  1. Diagonal, straight from the holster to the final shooting position. This is faster when it works, and slower when it’s not perfect. It takes a lot more practice to be consistently accurate with this technique, but several pro shooters use it because it can buy them .05-.10 seconds on their first hit times after they’ve maxed out every other factor. If you’re not one of the top 100 shooters in the world, there are easier, better, and more resilient ways to shave off .05-.10 seconds from your draw.
  2. Diagonal, straight from high compressed ready to the final shooting position…often called, “pushing it out or punching it out.” This is more forgiving than going diagonal out from the holster, but can leave you clueless if the red dot isn’t visible.
  3. From high compressed ready, move the gun up + out at a 45(ish)-degree angle until the sights are between your dominant eye and the target and then push out. Larry, Dusty, and Beau from Sealed Mindset termed this the “hockey stick” or upside-down hockey stick. You can also call it an “up + out.”

The hockey stick presentation gets the sights into your cone of vision (shown here) sooner and allows you to make fine adjustments as you’re pushing out to your final shooting position.

Most importantly, it’s MUCH more forgiving than going straight from the holster or punching out from high compressed ready…especially at off-angles.

What this means is that if you do your practice with iron sights in a way that AUTOMATICALLY puts your sights into alignment between your dominant eye and the target, and you use a co-witnessed red-dot, you’re going to have an effortless transition back and forth between irons and red dots.

How do you get a co-witnessed red dot with factory height sights?

It’s harder than you might think.

There are a ton of red dot systems available right now. The two gold standards are the Trijicon RMR 2 and the Leupold DeltaPoint…with Holosun picking up steam incredibly fast. It’s relatively easy to get these to co-witness with suppressor height sights, but incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get them to co-witness with factory height sights.

As a result, I went with the JP/Shield JPoint 4 on a slide that I had cut by Lone Wolf Distributors.


The JPoint 4 sits INCREDIBLY low and the Lone Wolf slide cut is pretty deep. The combination of the two let me have a red dot that co-witnesses with my factory height iron sights.

It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that other micro red dots have…there’s no switches (it’s always on and you replace the battery every 6 months) and it’s not as resilient to being dunked in water, but it’s ridiculously easy to use and tough when mounted to the slide.

Regardless of what pistol red dot and mounting option you decide on, the big question is, what’s the best way to get your draw stroke dialed in so you can make a seamless transition from irons to a red dot?

Using traditional training methods, systems, and tools, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition that takes a lot more time, effort, and money than it should.

As you may have figured out, we are scratching the surface on red dots here. If you’re thinking about making the switch, what questions do you have? If you’ve already made the switch, what was your experience with transitioning from irons to red dots?

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About the Author

Mike Ox

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards. His team is made up of current and former law enforcement and military special operations instructors with an emphasis on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at


Pistol red dots are a significant innovation in the combat pistol game. They are in no way new, and you can find numerous examples going back decades. What’s changed is that the latest trend is focusing on concealed carry and duty guns. Prior to that, the pistol red dot was regulated mostly to ‘Open’ series competition guns. In the last few decades, we found a way to mount smaller red dots in less intrusive methods.

Today, we are talking all about mounting pistol red dots and which systems work best. 

The ‘Worst’ Way – Dovetail Mount 

The Dovetail mount is a plate or even section of rail that replaces your rear sight with a base to mount optics. Most of these dovetail mounts suck. If it’s on Amazon and costs 19 bucks, you can assume it sucks.

There are a few inherent issues with using a dovetail to mount a pistol red dot. The first is the height. The dot will be taller and the gun taller. 

Second dovetail mounts replace your rear sight and eliminate your ability to use a rear sight. The cheaper designs are prone to bend and break when pressure is applied in nearly any direction. This throws the dot off. 

There are only two no-mill dovetail pistol red dot mounts I’d trust, and that’s the Dueck Defense model and the Raven Concealment Balor mount. Both of these are sturdy and incorporate a rear and front sight for backups. The two issues with these mounts are the height and the cost. The Dueck is around 130 bucks, and the Balor is around 200. For that cost, you could have your slide milled. But if you don’t want to mill, they work.

The Better Way – Plate System 

The Glock MOS system introduced a factory means to allow shooters to accommodate a wide variety of pistol red dot optics. The idea is that a shooter can purchase a Glock MOS and use a dozen different types of red dots by swapping mounting plates. The mounting plates allow the Glock to accommodate various optic footprints. The base slide has a universal footprint to attach the various plates to. S&W has something similar with the CORE series. 

This is probably the best quasi-universal option on the market. If you were on the fence or just wanted to try a red dot enhanced handgun, then the CORE or MOS might be the best option to experiment with. The CORE and MOS systems work but do have a few small issues. The slide + plate + optic means the sight is higher. 

Second, there is a set of screws that attach the plate to the gun then a set that attaches the optic to the plate. That’s four potential failure points. The Glock plates have also been known to bend and warp, but luckily the aftermarket is producing better plates that are less likely to warp. A small but very annoying issue is screw length. A screw too long will bend the plate, and a screw too short will not hold the optic to the gun.  

The Weird Way – Frame Mounted 

Frame-mounted pistol red dot optics are nothing new. This was the competitive solution way back in the day when C-More sights were as small as it got. Companies like ALG made solutions like the 6-second mount that attaches to the rail and then to the frame and allows you to mount an Aimpoint Micro to your Gen 3 Glock. This was a purpose-built solution for a Counter-Terrorism unit according to ALG and proved to be a very stable and reliable platform for mounting a red dot. 

Other frame mounted system allow various optic’s options for SIG, 1911, CZ type pistols, and beyond. These systems do not reciprocate with the slide so tracking the dot is exceptionally easy to do. The lack of riding on the reciprocating slide may even extend the optic’s life. 

These systems have been used extensively by pro-competitive shooters, and while they work, they also have a few issues. 

First, they are massive and semi-complicated to install. They tend to also be expensive and often require a professional touch to install. These systems eliminate concealment options and leave you with minimal holster choices. Oh, and of course, the optic tends to be quite high. 

The Best Way – Milled Slides

The very best way to attach a pistol red dot to your gun is the purchase a milled slide or have your own slide milled. There are tons of good companies out there these days that are doing some outstanding work in the world of red dot milling. As long as you choose a quality custom shop, you’ll experience the best pistol red dot fit possible. 

Slide mounted options sink the optic low and reduce failure points. Attachment is easier, and this has become the industry standard for a good reason. Milled slides provide you the most stable, lowest profile, and least complicated system for mounting pistol red dots. Even price-wise, this can be an affordable option. Brownells own RMR cut Glock slide can be had for under 200 bucks. 

If you are looking for good companies, then you can’t go wrong with Jaegerworks, ATEi, or Primary Machine are all well respected for their slide milling capabilities if you choose to take that route. 

Pistol Red Dot Optics Options 

Pistol red dots are most certainly becoming mainstream, and these days optic’s compatibility is quickly becoming the standard. SIG, FN, Glock, S&W, Walther, CZ, and more are making their newest guns optic’s ready off the bat. The Pistol red dot is here to stay, and if it’s a route you want to take, make sure you approach it with a little bit of know-how to make your choice. Your choices and experiences may vary, but after numerous bits of experimentation, the above is what I’ve found to be true. 

Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.

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The New Nosler Model 21 Lightweight Hunting Rifle Features Custom Feel

The Leupold DeltaPoint Micro is sure to shake up the red dot scene in 2021. But before we get there, how did the new red dot sight come to life?

The phenomenon of red dot sights on pistols has gone from a trickle to a roaring river over the last 20 years. Even big Army demanded that its replacement for the M9 pistol would have to be capable of taking a red dot sight. As police agency after agency authorize red dot sights with stunning success, the writing is on the wall that they are here to stay.

However, agencies as large and respected as the FBI have completely missed the boat. The FBI put out a list of requirements for its new duty pistol in 2015 and awarded it to Glock in 2016. But the FBI never asked for it to be compatible with an electronic sight, so it isn’t.

As agencies and individuals realize the benefits of a sidearm with a red dot, they are often stuck in a conundrum: Should they sell their old gun(s) and buy new ones that are red dot compatible, or void the warranty of their guns and have them milled to accept a RDS, potentially weakening the slide? A few companies have made plates that attach to the rear sight dovetail mount, but they have not become widely popular.

Enter the Leupold DeltaPoint Micro

Leupold produces the DeltaPoint Pro, one of the most widely used and respected red dot sights on pistols today. It’s been around for years. I can tell you from experience that it holds up well to the abuse of daily carry, offers an excellent sight picture, and makes shooting the gun easier.

But Leupold wanted to make an RDS specifically designed for concealed carry. More importantly, Leupold wanted one that is compatible with non-optics ready handguns. Well, Leupold just introduced the DeltaPoint Micro and it looks and works differently than any other red dot out there.

Leupold DeltaPoint Micro red dot sight review, Glock

First run of the DeltaPoint Micro is compatible with non-MOS Glocks and the Smith & Wesson M&P line. Unlike any other red dot sight, the DeltaPoint Micro fastens directly to the Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P rear sight dovetail. Simply remove the rear sight, slide in the dovetail bar, and screw the DeltaPoint Micro to it with two screws.

Leupold’s new red dot provides the same height as factory iron sights and aligns the red dot with the front sight, giving shooters faster target acquisition and improved accuracy. The DeltaPoint Micro measures 2.25 inches in length and 1.25 inches in height, while weighing in at just 1.1 ounces. It also features eight levels of illumination so shooters can easily adjust the brightness of their red dot to match conditions.

Other Features

The power button hangs off the back of the gun and also encapsulates the battery, a CR1632. This button also adjusts the brightness setting. Each time you tap it, it goes up or down one power setting until you reach the one you want. Hold the button for three seconds to turn it off. When you turn it back on, it comes on to whatever power setting it was on last. If you leave it on, it has a Motion Sensor Technology to power down until moved to save battery life.

You have to unscrew the button and take it off to disassemble your pistol for normal cleaning. However, this doesn’t affect the point of aim point of impact.

Windage and elevation are adjusted with a small, provided Allen wrench. The aluminum housing looks tough enough to stand up to repeated hits from a ball peen hammer. The only reason I didn’t try it is because the sight Leupold sent me was on temporary loan. The lenses are DiamondCoat 2 scratch resistant.

My Experience With the Leupold DeltaPoint Micro

Worried about not having a rear sight on your gun? Don’t be. Leupold designed the tube you look down to act as a ghost ring rear sight if your battery has gone dead. Leupold also machined two dots in the rear of the housing that align with the dot on the factory front sight; this provides a 3-dot aiming system.

Leupold DeltaPoint Micro red dot sight review, tube

My first thought was the screen or, more accurately, the “tube” you look down is simply too small. But it was surprisingly easy and intuitive to use, even when transitioning from one target to the next. This is definitely a sight where it pays to keep both eyes open. One eye picks up the red dot and the other takes in the target as a whole. I still wish the tube was a little bigger, but I can see why they made it this way.

With its Jan. 4 introduction, the DeltaPoint Micro is a very nice start to 2021. I predict this sight will make believers out of a lot of people about putting an electronic sight on their pistol. I also predict a lot of companies will be trying to copy this design. It’s going to be a game changer for a lot of people. MSRP comes in at $519.99. For even more info, please visit starting Jan. 4.

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Dot red dovetail pistol

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Add a Red Dot Sight to Almost Any Pistol? Leupold Delta Point Pro on Glock 19!

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