I did a lot of practice with a red dot equipped pistol this past year, and it was my first true emersion into pistol optics. Setting up the awesome Walther Q5 Match gun with a Holosun 507c optic (which I prefer over the industry standard Trijicon RMR) I put in the time and repetitions to become proficient in the skillset. To be honest, I started out in this endeavor not intending to move entirely to red dots on my pistols, but to become intimately familiar with the shooting nuances of the optic, since I do teach others to shoot handgun and optics are now absolutely common. Coming out of this dedicated effort, I will admit that I am not planning to put a dot on my carry guns, nor do I even intend to focus mainly on shooting dot guns. I do think, however, that any instructor today should be well versed in shooting and teaching both iron sights and optics. The truth is, shooting is shooting, but there are some particulars involved in shooting well with the dot.
The main advantage offered by the dot remains accuracy at distance, as it offers a finer aiming point and it negates the need to align front and rear sights. So, simplicity versus some advantage at distant accuracy: that is the primary decision to be made. I don’t buy into the “target focused shooting” argument for the dot as I have shot target focused with iron sights for many years, and many high-end competition shooters do just that. With that said, eyesight issues should be a major motivator for some to embrace the dot if you can’t see iron sights clearly. However, having severe astigmatism, I struggle to see anything other than a starburst blob when looking at the dot, yet I can see iron sights clearly. Therefore, while many speak to the dot being the answer for vision issues, the opposite might also be true for those with astigmatism, though that never gets mentioned.
So, in closing, I still prefer iron sights on a carry gun, or a home defense gun. I see no serious downsides to the dot, as I think the technology is reliable enough, and if your eyesight dictates a significant advantage with a dot, it is a no-brainer. For myself, being able to see iron sights clearly, and being capable of consistently making 50, and even 100 yard shots, on a man-sized target with iron sights (though I can do better with a dot) I still prefer the simplicity of the irons over the added complexity of the red dot optic for a fighting pistol. Your mileage may vary, but you need to put in the time to know for sure. Again, though, I think being competent with both, just as you should be competent with both a dot and irons on a rifle, is now paramount.
I also submit that working with a red dot will actually make you better with irons, because you really need to focus on a perfect presentation with the dot, and this translates to a more consistent presentation with iron sights as well. I find that my presentation is that much better with my iron sighted guns now after having spent a lot of time with a red dot. While I don’t plan to put red dots on my carry guns, I may continue to train with the dot gun and maybe shoot some matches with it. I think spending time with a red dot equipped pistol is beneficial for any handgunner, regardless of whether you decide to go entirely with red dots or stick primarily with irons. Spend some time with it, then decide what works best for you.
Watch an overview of my findings: