Red Dots on Carry Guns: Dumb Idea?

By Justin Opinion
Posted in #EDC #Gear
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Red Dots on Carry Guns: Dumb Idea?

December 3rd, 2020

6:58 runtime

Putting an electronic “red dot” optic on a concealed carry handgun makes no sense. The benefits are minimal and the liabilities are numerous. Adding extra height, weight and possibly width to your inside-the-waistband (IWB) pistol just doesn’t add up.

Is there really a good reason to put a red-dot on a concealed carry handgun, or do the costs outweigh the benefits?

And then you have the “where’s my dot?” issue to deal with if you ever need to draw the gun and use it to protect your life. That is, after you probably snag it on your clothing during the draw. I could go on and on with my reasons for naysaying when it comes to carry optics, but you get the idea. In a nutshell, putting a red dot on a carry gun is just dumb.

A New Take

Not too long ago, another part of my above argument would have mentioned how there are no guns or optics really suited to CCW anyway. But, Springfield Armory’s new optics-ready XD-S Mod.2 OSP and the Hellcat are examples of how recent advances are changing my mind.

Pistols like the XD-S Mod.2 OSP from Springfield Armory are offering shooters a new take on the topic.

In defense of that initial position, it was formulated when optics for handguns were large and clunky, had so-so reticles, and were basically an afterthought to the handgun. Like most things that catch on, the industry is catching up to the demand for the advantages a red-dot optic can offer, with few or none of the drawbacks.

Furthermore, red-dot sights have been — up until very recently — made only for full-sized duty pistols. Retro-fitting one onto a subcompact or micro-compact usually resulted in something that looked like a sports car bringing home a new king-sized mattress. But now there are a lot of options out there of micro red dots for very small pistols.

The optional CTS-1500 red dot offered with the XD-S Mod.2 OSP makes for a well-matched pair.

Consumer demand has resulted in a new breed of handgun electronic optics systems that are thin, light and low profile, while still retaining a respectable viewing window. Reticle technology has vastly improved as well. Clearly targeting the concealed carry market, these optics are purpose built for a new generation of discreetly carried handguns.

Sitting low on the slide is the key to co-witnessing and maintaining a low profile.

Head Turner

The newest entry into this recent, and extremely popular load-out for concealed carry is the Springfield Armory 9mm XD-S Mod.2 OSP, which comes equipped with a Crimson Trace CTS-1500 micro red dot. This is not retro-fit with conversion plates and varying widths and heights (one of the pet peeves that helped formulate my first opinion), but a purpose-built pairing of one of the industry’s most reliable and popular concealed carry 9mm pistols – the XD-S Mod.2 – with one of the top names in electronic sighting and aiming solutions, Crimson Trace.

The iron sights of the XD-S Mod.2 OSP are still fully usable with the CTS-1500 direct mounted on the slide.

The Crimson Trace optic is a nice fit onto the “barely an inch” width of the slide, and sits low into a cutout that requires no adapter plate, keeping the elevation to a minimum and allowing for a co-witness configuration with the stock iron sights. It is this last point that is, in my opinion, one of the most crucial elements — the lack of which helped form my early dismissals.

Design improvements and building the units smaller is important — but addressing the learning curve that I (and everyone I’ve met) have acquiring the dot as fast as I can with a traditional sight picture is probably the most critical.

This is almost completely a training issue, but early models of red-dots were not helpful because they did not allow you to see your iron sights at the same time as the red-dot — in other words, “co-witness.” The CTS-1500 optic pairs up very well with the XD-S Mod.2 OSP by directly mounting to the slide without an adapter plate, which situates it low enough for you to still see your sights.

During testing, the CTS-1500 held its zero and made keeping the XD-S Mod.2 OSP on target a breeze.


But the biggest reason I’m warming to the idea of a red dot on a self-defense gun is because it’s simply more intuitive for the user. In a life-threatening situation, one’s focus will be on the threat — and for years we’ve trained people to overpower their instincts and focus on the front sight. The red-dot is a target-centric aiming tool simply superimposed over the threat. This can ultimately mean faster and more accurate defensive shots.

The optic is compact and pairs nicely with the slide cut on the XD-S Mod.2 OSP pistol.

Training to become proficient with a red-dot optic is a subject all its own, perhaps one for another day — but that training time is vastly shortened by a well-designed system like the XD-S Mod.2 OSP 9mm and the Crimson Trace CTS-1500. Unfortunately, for grumpy old men, it might just take away the last excuse for not getting one.

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Justin Opinion

Justin Opinion

“Justin Opinion” is a lifelong firearms enthusiast and shooter. The son of a master gunsmith, he makes no claims to such skills but has a deep appreciation for the skillful work of the men and women who design and build great guns. A certified instructor and range safety officer who enjoys the shooting sports, he uses his experiences and those of his friends to apply a real-world perspective to reviews. The Justin Opinion Channel can be found on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and his reviews can also be found at GunsAmerica and American Handgunner.

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