Though far from a traditionalist, I learned to safely shoot guns with—and still usually prefer—iron sights. I began shooting at summer camp with BB guns, moved on to a Marlin .22 when my big brother came of age and even after graduating to the big girl guns—big bore revolvers, 1911s and MIL-SURP rifles, I never shot with anything but irons. At the time, who I was learning from and training with weren’t into anything high-tech (this was before the AR-15 became so popular) and we used most of our money on ammo. The fanciest I ever got when I first started shooting firearms regularly were Meprolight tritium/fiber optic night sights. It was only when I began working in the firearms industry did I get a chance to start experimenting with all sorts of different optics.
Sent to me for T&E or borrowed from a friend for the same reason, from Chinese EOTech knock-offs to high-end thermal imagers, I’ve had the opportunity to try it all! However, it took me years to take the leap and spend my own dollars buying optics. My first was a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38 Special revolver with integrated laser—yes, it was 2010 when I made my first optics purchase by own choice. (Like mentioned above, I’m a late adopter.)
The more I got into gun culture, the newer products and the latest technology I was interested in testing. I’m willing to give anything that makes me a better, more accurate shooter a chance. Smoother triggers, adjustable stocks and red dot sights are my favorite accessories that make shooting more pleasurable and make me more confident.
Reflex and red dot sights are a very common accessory to put on your AR-15 but not so much on handguns unless you compete. Yet, in the last few years, most optic manufacturers have been making smaller and lighter weight red dot sights for pistols. A red dot sight on your concealed carry or home defense gun is a considerable alternative to the laser sight.
The Benefits of Pistol Reflex Sights
- Faster target acquisition
- Forces you to focus on your target, not your sights
- Shoot with both eyes open, keeping you more situationally aware with a wider field of view
- Increased accuracy, better groups
The latest red dot I’ve worked with is the Sightmark Mini Shot M-Spec FMS.
Specifications and features:
- 3 MOA dot
- 1-10 brightness adjustments
- Unlimited eye relief
- 110 MOA windage and elevation adjustment range
- 25 yards parallax setting
- 6061-T6 aluminum housing
- Up to .375 H&H recoilproof
- IP67-rated, waterproof up to 3’ for 1 hour
- Nitrogen-filled and fogproof
- AR red anti-scratch lens coating
- Weaver/Picatinny quick-detach mount
- CR1632 batteries with 300 to 30,000-hours battery life
- -22 to 122 F operating temperature
- 73” long
- 14” wide
- 34” tall
- 2” tall with riser mount
- Weighs 3 ounces
The Mini Shot came pre-sighted and mounted on a full-sized Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 9mm. It mounts to Picatinny or Weaver rails with a low-profile locking, quick-detach mount. Also included is an AR-15 riser mount. The reflex sight’s ultra-compact size and lightweight made no difference in the balance and feel of the gun. The 3 MOA dot is perfect for close (CQB) ranges typical of self-defense. As someone with astigmatism, this dot size is easy for me to acquire, especially with the brightness turned up. The brightness does not change the size of the dot, yet makes it appear to cover more of the target and is quicker and easier to acquire for follow-up shots.
I shot at an indoor range from two different distances—5 feet and 8 yards, shooting about 125 rounds.
Operation and Controls
The Mini Shot is activated by digital controls located on either side of the sight for ambidextrous use. Up and down arrow buttons indicate which way to adjust for brightness. There are 10 brightness levels which seamlessly switch one-handed. To turn the Mini reflex sight off, you must press the down arrow for five seconds. If you accidentally leave the unit on, it automatically shuts off at 12 hours.
For such a compact optic, the display window is wide and offers plenty of field of view. I started with a low brightness setting better for low-light environments at eight yards. I was shooting low left. Turning up the brightness to the mid 7-8 level increased my accuracy. The mid ranges are best for indoor lighting and outside on a cloudy day. I suspect because my poor eyesight on top of my astigmatism, the brighter dot is best for me no matter the circumstances.
After a bit of a shaky start and getting used to how to manipulate the M&P 2.0’s clicky trigger, I was rockin’ and rollin.’ Bringing in my target to a true self-defense five-foot distance, I shot from the low ready, firing as quick as the range allowed and as fast as I could reacquire my dot after firing—a couple of seconds between shots at most. This casual self-defense drill proved my groups excellent—less than 1 MOA, punching holes in holes.
I know I say this repeatedly but anything that empowers you to make you a better and more confident shooter, I encourage and though nothing replaces competently using your iron sights when electronics fail, optics like lasers and red dots truly do help you shoot where you aim…and that’s pretty important when forced to stop a bad guy.