Reflex pistol optics are the future of DGU and law enforcement

Competition shooters have used reflex optics for several years; when mounted on handguns, they allow shooters quicker sight and target acquisition. As I’ve said before, those using firearms for defensive operations can learn a lot of things from those in the competition shooting arena.  Well, I believe that these optics on pistols are a wave of the future for defensive gun use, as well as for law enforcement, and I’ll tell you why.

Under stress—and even without stress—there is a natural instinct to watch the target. In order to be good with a handgun however, the focus (without optics) must be on the front sight.  Reflexive optics allow the shooter to focus on the target, place the reticle over the target/threat and make accurate shots.

Teaching beginners and even intermediate shooters to focus on the front sight can be difficult because, as I mentioned, it feels unnatural to focus on something you are not trying to hit. Regardless of shooting experience though, when the body’s alarm reaction kicks into gear and the sympathetic nervous system goes into combat/survival mode, the eyes go concave in shape. This physiological response makes focusing on something close to the body, like a front sight, extremely difficult, which is why it just makes sense to me to have a reflexive optic.

Reflex pistol optics allow shooters with poorer eyesight or any shooters under stress to focus on the target rather than the front sight.  That alone makes reflex optics superior to regular iron sights, but they also facilitate quicker target acquisition which is something that should interest all pistol shooters.

Accordingly, I think there are only a few things to consider when it comes to the future adoption of these optics in defensive shooting and law enforcement circles:

First and foremost, which optic to purchase? There are plenty of choices for brand, style and operational interests, so it follows that there are definitely better optics and optics to avoid.  I don’t trust my life to inferior gear and you shouldn’t either. Do your homework.  Don’t go the cheapest route for the sake of going the cheapest route.

Guns can be purchased with an optic attached or with milled holes already in the top of the slide, like the S&W M&P Core. Moreover, firearms manufactures, like Glock, now sell MOS slides that allow a variety of optics. Also, optic companies, like Trijicon, are making it easier to mount an optic by selling mounting plates that will fit on almost any Glocks.


Three Glocks with the Modular Optic System on display during range day at SHOT Show 2015. (Photo: Daniel Terrill)

Some optics have different features, like an adjustable brightness. You will also need to consider which MOA dot (or triangle) to purchase. Most shoot outs are up close, so a bigger reticle makes sense, but for precision shooting (mostly on the range), I’d go with a smaller MOA reticle.

The second question, and one that takes on a different dimension for LEOs, is who’s going to pay for optics? Law enforcement agencies don’t make money and optics are expensive.  Budget models start at around $80, while more sophisticated equipment can easily fetch $500 or more.  While I doubt many police forces will be willing to part with that kind of money for something that is not a necessity, perhaps policies could be made that allow officers to purchase and carry their own optics. (Sadly, they’ll also have to buy a new holster.)

As with all aspects of shooting, training with new equipment is a requirement. With an optic on your pistol, you may need to use the slingshot method to manipulate the slide. Or, if you go overhand, you may need to be sure not to block the ejection port.  That could jam you up with a malfunction and you definitely don’t need that during a gunfight.

On a final note, I want to formally state something I suggested above: Putting a reflexive optic on your pistol is not necessary.  These optics can however offer significant tactical benefits to your defensive shooting, enough in my opinion to outweigh the cost of buying one. Plus, it might be cool to show your friends.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time self-defense professional and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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