Red Dots and EDC – Is a Red Dot necessary for everyday carry?

Do I need a red dot on my everyday carry (EDC) gun? This question comes up from time to time in our CCW classes. The short answer is no, the more accurate answer is it depends.

Regarding the short answer, if you can shoot well using iron sights then there is no “need” to use a red (or green) dot optic on your EDC gun. If for some reason you cannot focus on your front sight, then an optic might be the answer for you.

One of the unfortunate statistics you’ll hear people (including some instructors) in the CCW world quote is that most defensive shootings happen at a distance of 3 yards, involve 3 rounds, and are over in 3 seconds. If that’s the case, then iron sights are fine whether you can focus on the front sight or not. Where there may be a problem is if your self-defense incident doesn’t fit into that group.

What if your attacker decides to start shooting at you from 15 yards? Can you consistently hit your target at 15 yards? How about 20 or more? While statistically self-defense incidents happen at relatively short ranges, do you want to bet your life that yours will? Can you reliably make a precision shot at 10 or 15 yards with your current carry configuration?

Aside from the ability to make a precision shot, remember as an armed citizen if you’re forced to use your firearm you cannot miss. You are responsible for every round that leaves your gun, so each round needs to go where you intended. Can you guarantee that with your current sighting system?

I installed a HOLOSUN HE407K optic on my EDC gun about a year ago. I found that as I get older, it’s becoming more difficult to focus on my front sight unless I’m wearing glasses. Since I don’t normally wear glasses when I’m out I felt it was time for me to switch over to an optic.

My concern about my ability to accurately place my shots stems from knowing that if I have to defend myself in public, I have to account for every round fired. In addition, because I’m involved in security at my church the ability to accurately place shots becomes even more critical.

There are some considerations when deciding to add optics to your EDC gun:

  • Will the red dot increase draw to first shot time? – Probably not. A new holster to accommodate the optic will likely be needed but the optic itself won’t increase your draw time.
  • Will it add time or make target acquisition faster? – Training (i.e., practice) is required to ensure the draw stroke brings the gun to the proper position so the dot appears on the target and the shooter isn’t left “searching” for the dot. Once that level of proficiency is achieved target acquisition time and time to first shot will actually decrease.
  • Will a red dot make the gun harder to conceal? – Proper concealment is a function of the gun carried, holster used, carry location, and clothing worn. With the right combination concealment is not a problem.
  • Should the optic be co-witnessed with iron sights? – This is an option but not a necessity. Should the optic fail, co-witnessed iron sights allow accurate shot placement provided inability to focus on the front sight was not the reason for using the optic in the first place.
  • What about environmental conditions? – I’ve had glare from the sun at certain angles render my optic and the co-witnessed iron sights completely unusable. This occurred under very specific conditions so it’s not a huge concern, but it is something of which to be aware. I’ve used my gun in heavy rain and the optic was completely unaffected and worked just fine.

There is definitely a learning curve when transitioning to a red dot (or green dot which for me seems easier to see). There is also the added cost of going with an optic and the additional potential point of failure to be considered.

Whether to add a red dot to your EDC gun or not depends on you and your circumstances. To quote shootist J.B. Books: “if your gut tells you to load six, then load six”.

©2023 Joseph T Drammissi

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