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Red dots vs. Steel sights

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Jack H
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Red dots vs. Steel sights Empty Red dots vs. Steel sights

Post by mikemyers Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:13 am

Hypothetical question, but for me it's real, not hypothetical....

If a person gets equally good with steel sights (let's say, sub-6-o'clock hold) and also with a red dot sight, all things being equal, is one preferable to the other?

To me, all the "advantages" go to the steel sights.  No batteries to run low, nothing changes with time, the gun is lighter, it saves potentially a large expense, and it seems to me that target acquisition might be faster.  In the past, shooters got wonderful scores with steel sights.  As a person's eyesight goes away due to age, maybe red dots represent an easy way to see well enough to shoot well again - but prescription glasses to show the front sight clearly accomplish the same thing.  Red dots should be "easier", but if so, all our shots should be in the 10-ring.

Everything else being equal, are there reasons to switch to red dots if you shoot the same either way?

(I watch Hickok45, and he seems to do both equally well....)
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Post by mikemyers Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:25 am

(It's not a reason to make one choice or another, but for me, most of my guns only have steel sights anyway, so I'm doing that rather than red dots.  As a test, I was able to get the same group with my Roddy Toyota Victor with steel sights, as with my newer High Standard X-Series with an Aimpoint H-2 dot on top.  If this continues, I wonder why I'm using a dot at all.....    ....but that's just me.  I posted this to find out what all of you think.  And for the Aimpoint H-2, I've noticed that I prefer the view from a one-inch Ultradot to the view from the Aimpoint.  It's hard to explain why, but the long tube is part of it....)
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Post by bruce martindale Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:27 am

Iron sights reduce trigger inhibition. Even though the motion is the same, the appearance of a jiggling dot causes hesitation in applying a good trigger pull. 

Someone recently said the Perry records stand because they were fired with irons. Dots let you get sloppy even if you don't think so.

It's good to train with both. A dot only shooter can be afraid of irons

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Post by mspingeld Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:04 am

One mans opinions:

Regarding Aimpoint vs. Ultradot: Many people add tubes to their Aimpoints. Adds that length you referred to plus keeps the glass cleaner, dryer and cuts glare.

Iron sights: More challenging to me as there's a lot to look at. Front sight centered? Front sight equidistant side to side? Approximate location on blurry target. I think most shooters would agree as iron sight scores are typically lower than dot scores.

Dot: Allows cheating i.e. if the dot wanders away from the center of the tube but you compensate with your shoulder, you can still get a ten. If you mis-align your iron sights like that, you're lucky to be on the repair center.

Jon Eulette pointed out to me that the red dot will more easily show you what's happening as the shot breaks but irons force more discipline. Definitely train with both. One helps the other.

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Post by mikemyers Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:40 pm

mspingeld wrote:........Dot: Allows cheating i.e. if the dot wanders away from the center of the tube but you compensate with your shoulder, you can still get a ten. ,.......
With an Aimpoint H-1 and H-2, and the long Ultradot sights (25mm and 30mm), it does not matter where the dot is within the sight.  Where the dot is, is where the bullet will hit.

From Aimpoint:
"THE TRUTH: Aimpoint sights are very, very nearly parallax free. The new Micro T-2 features groundbreaking new technology that takes already best-in-class performance in terms of parallax to a whole new level. This means that, unlike other optics, the Aimpoint red dot does not have to be perfectly centered in the tube to achieve relatively accurate hits. HOWEVER, we still recommend that shooters get a good, consistent cheek weld (which should result in the dot being centered in the tube) whenever they can. 'Parallax-free' is NOT a good reason to get sloppy on fundamentals."


https://telluric.us/three-common-myths-about-aimpoint-sights
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Post by mspingeld Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:43 pm

Mike, We agree that quality dots are nearly parallax free and that you can hit the middle even if the dot is not centered. My point is that it's not good form. It's the equivalent of mis-aligned iron sights. Iron sights force the shooter to adhere to the fundamental of keeping the sights aligned. (are we saying the same thing?)

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Post by mikemyers Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:52 pm

Close enough.  You see it as "fundamentals".  I see it as "math".  Both lead to similar conclusions.
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Post by hg401 Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:20 pm

bruce martindale wrote:Iron sights reduce trigger inhibition. Even though the motion is the same, the appearance of a jiggling dot causes hesitation in applying a good trigger pull. 

Someone recently said the Perry records stand because they were fired with irons. Dots let you get sloppy even if you don't think so.

It's good to train with both. A dot only shooter can be afraid of irons

Records at Perry are made by the best of the best.  Few, if any, of us here are in that category.  I'd suggest that if you want to use historical results at Perry to draw conclusions about iron vs. dot, you would have to assess median score over time.

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Post by BE Mike Fri Apr 23, 2021 8:01 am

To me, at an advanced age, prescription glasses either allow me to see the target clearly or the front sight clearly. A dot, although not appearing round to me any more, allows me to get more precision aiming in slow fire. Of course some very good shooters focus on the target at the long line with a dot and do very well, while others focus on the dot.
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Post by mikemyers Fri Apr 23, 2021 3:38 pm

Maybe I should have asked differently.  I wrote:
Everything else being equal, are there reasons to use red dots if you shoot the same with iron or dot sights.

So, maybe I should just compare the advantages of each.

Steel Sights:

  • no batteries to run low, 
  • much less weight on the gun
  • less "parallax"
  • probably much less expensive
  • possibly faster target acquisition as you see all around the target
  • less likely to come loose on the gun
  • less "fragile"
  • can provide long sight radius
  • no electronics = better reliability


Red Dots:

  • Easier to understand (especially for newcomers)
  • can shoot center hold, rather than sub-6-hold.
  • possibly faster aiming 
  • easier to see "well enough" for people with vision limitations.



What did I leave out?
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Post by Wobbley Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:18 pm

The 
mikemyers wrote:Maybe I should have asked differently.  I wrote:
Everything else being equal, are there reasons to use red dots if you shoot the same with iron or dot sights.

So, maybe I should just compare the advantages of each.

Steel Sights:

  • no batteries to run low, 
  • much less weight on the gun
  • less "parallax"
     But there is alignment issues that require good vision to discern.
  • probably much less expensive
  • possibly faster target acquisition as you see all around the target
    Actually it is slower to acquire the target with pistol irons.
  • less likely to come loose on the gun
  • less "fragile"
  • can provide long sight radius
    In theory, there is no “radius” to contend with.  The dot is “optically” on the same plane as the target and the bullet goes where the dot is.
  • no electronics = better reliability


Red Dots:

  • Easier to understand (especially for newcomers)
    Also it is easier to “see” bad trigger control, and wobble, and area aiming.
  • can shoot center hold, rather than sub-6-hold.
    You can shoot center hold with iron sights too, but it requires eye focus discipline and perhaps optical enhancement like apertures and eyeglasses.
  • possibly faster aiming 
  • easier to see "well enough" for people with vision limitations.
    you still need 20/20 distance vision or nearabouts.

    It is easier to learn with a dot at least on your 22.  You will see your hold improve and develop better trigger control easier. 




What did I leave out?
see above
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Post by Lightfoot Fri Apr 23, 2021 4:23 pm

On the most perfect day when the sun is right, the shadows are perfect, my eyes aren't irritated by pollen (like yesterday), my glasses are clean, my sights are black, the rear gap is perfect for the light conditions, etc. there's no difference to me.  With my eyesight, everything has to be perfect for me to do as well with irons.  Red dots are much more forgiving.
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Post by mikemyers Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:15 pm

Wobbley wrote:


  • less "parallax"
  •  But there is alignment issues that require good vision to discern.
  • possibly faster target acquisition as you see all around the target
  • Actually it is slower to acquire the target with pistol irons.
  • can provide long sight radius
  • In theory, there is no “radius” to contend with.  The dot is “optically” on the same plane as the target and the bullet goes where the dot is.

Red Dots:

  • Easier to understand (especially for newcomers)
    Also it is easier to “see” bad trigger control, and wobble, and area aiming.
  • can shoot center hold, rather than sub-6-hold.
    You can shoot center hold with iron sights too, but it requires eye focus discipline and perhaps optical enhancement like apertures and eyeglasses.
  • easier to see "well enough" for people with vision limitations.
  • you still need 20/20 distance vision or nearabouts.

    It is easier to learn with a dot at least on your 22.  You will see your hold improve and develop better trigger control easier. 



A few questions....
You wrote "but there is alignment issues that require good vision to discern".  Can you please elaborate?  I don't (yet) know what you are referring to.

For experts, I guess it's faster to acquire the target, but I remember when after my shot, the dot and target vanished until I could adjust the gun to see them both, after which I would adjust the sights.  With steel sight, I never lose track of the front sight or the target, because I'm seeing "everything".  I'm sure better shooters acquire the target again very quickly, but I wasted a lot of time just finding the dot again.

Having thought about it a bit, I agree with you about the sight radius, which is irrelevant with dots.  So, it's already "perfect".  I was wrong.

Vision limitations - I always thought that with iron sights, people who can't see the sights clearly are "lost".  If I have the wrong glasses on, and see a blurry dot in front of a blurry target, I think I would at least hit the target.


You wrote other reasons, that clearly show how red dot sight would be superior for the average person.  Put dot on target, fire gun without disturbing the aim.  I agree.
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Post by hg401 Fri Apr 23, 2021 5:47 pm

The objective of the sport is to poke a hole in the X.  If you shoot as well with iron vs a dot, then virtually by definition irons are better as:
no battery to deal with
irons are generally less expensive and are more durable
most (though not all) handguns already have irons

Most of the discussion above is inconsistent with the premise the OP starting with - shooting as well with irons as a dot (though, for most of us, that is hypothetical).

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Post by mikemyers Fri Apr 23, 2021 7:40 pm

Gee, I guess you've proved that I am inconsistent.  I can accept that.

By the way, why do you say the objective of the sport is to poke a hole in the X.

Dave Salyer convinced me long ago about "area aiming", and my "objective" is to get a good group.  That is currently "my objective", it seems to me to be easier to do with irons-and-sub-6 hold, then with all the distractions from the moving dot and seemingly moving target.  If the group is centered over the target, I consistently get a higher score than when I aim for the X.  In fact, if I aim for the X, I never hit the X.  I create a "donut" of holes surrounding the X.  Someone up above posted that as a good reason to use steel sights, and it seems (to me) to be true.  Good Group > Higher Score.

I learn a lot from all the responses here, things that I was wrong about, or just didn't understand correctly.  It's like when I thought Dave Salyer was nuts for using area aiming, and not aiming at the bullseye.  My targets and scores eventually proved him right.  

Maybe that was a prescription just for me, and if I ever get as good as some of you, I'll feel very differently about these things.....
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Post by SonOfAGun Fri Apr 23, 2021 7:55 pm

mikemyers wrote:...

By the way, why do you say the objective of the sport is to poke a hole in the X.

....

If one were to "poke a hole in the x" for any single shot, that would achieve the perfect score for that shot: 10-1x

If one were to "poke a hole in the x" on EVERY shot, that would achieve the perfect score for the match: 900-90x

If that's not the objective of the sport, what is?
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Post by mikemyers Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:37 pm

Yeah, it's a dream, absolute perfection.  
It's also darn near impossible, as it's never been done....  900 90X.

My objective is to try to continue to improve.  
I want to do better tomorrow than yesterday.

I've also learned that it doesn't matter who you "beat", because there is always someone better.


Still, I understand what you mean.  And I accept that there are people involved in Bullseye, who REALLY think they have a chance of doing that. For them, I certainly see it as an objective.  

(My current objective is to consistently get all my holes in the 10-ring of an NRA B-8 target at 25 yards.)  
(Not too long ago it was to get all my holes in the black, at the same target and distance.)

Then there are other objectives, such as accomplishing things Cecil suggests.  I'm slow, but some times I do.
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Post by john bickar Fri Apr 23, 2021 10:51 pm

"Steel" sights? Do you mean iron sights?
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Post by mikemyers Fri Apr 23, 2021 11:25 pm

john bickar wrote:"Steel" sights? Do you mean iron sights?
Yes.  Wrong word.   
Sometimes I get my mords wixed up.  Sorry.
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Post by john bickar Sat Apr 24, 2021 1:10 am

No problem.

Many of your posts read like they were written by AI; I figured I'd throw out a Turing test.

All else being equal, I'd say irons are superior to a dot.

And I say that even though my PB with irons is 2638 and my PB with the dot is 2663.
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Post by james r chapman Sat Apr 24, 2021 7:45 am

Really makes one appreciate Harmon and Hershel’s iron scores!
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Post by mikemyers Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:01 am

For better or worse, my "writing style" was shaped by writing technical articles for my first 30 years, and then magazine articles and race reports fo 25 or so years.  There was also the realization that anything posted into a computer forum would be taken incorrectly unless I was more "careful" with my chosen words.  Nowadays it's just part of me, or vice versa.  I also try to write what I think, which led to my writing "steel" and not "iron". 

Something I didn't even think of until now - dots are "easy" to use, compared to irons.  Just put the dot where you want it, and keep it there.  With ste... er, irons, I need to consciously think about how my sights are aligned.  And when the gun eventually fires, with a dot I more often know what the gun did as it fired.

Hey, if my posts read like they were written by AI, is that good, or bad?   Question
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Post by Texasref Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:21 am

Just look down the line. There will be more dots and scopes than iron.
Check out golf this week and check the woods (metals). No one plays persimmon anymore.
That doesn't mean they or you can't but if there is an advantage use it.

It's the technology and it will not/can not be ignored.

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Post by BE Mike Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:49 am

Sights don't replace fundamentals. Just because one can place the dot on a desired area on the target doesn't mean that it will remain there during the shot process. One must reach a certain level to really know which one is better or if one can shoot them equally. Eye sight is the defining factor. If one shoots a whole 2700 with each, but at the end of the match his/ her has a lot of eye strain with one or the other (iron/ dot) then even though the scores are nearly identical, which one to use might depend on that factor. To me, dots improved my slow fire scores, but not my rapid fire scores, which were always my downfall. That brings up another point, when saying that one's scores are equal, are we talking about the grand aggregate or, which is highly unlikely, the SF, TF and RF being the same? So going along with the fairy tale of everything being equal, iron sights would be much better, because of less apparent movement, simplicity of the sight, less weight and maybe less recovery time in sustained fire. That being said, top shooters just about exclusively use dots in a 2700, but seem to shoot extremely well with iron sights in shorter matches like EIC, President's 100, etc.
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Post by mhayford45 Sat Apr 24, 2021 12:16 pm

I really like iron sights when it is raining. There are no water drops in the way.

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