A White Paper on the RDS Equipped Handgun | Sage Dynamics

Aaron Cowan - a study on red dot sights for pistols
| September 23, 2018
Categories: Guns

Unlike some of the articles we’ve revisited, this one is only a few months old. The topic of Red Dot Sights, specifically Red Dot Sights for Pistol, remains an active one, so here it is again.

This article was originally published Thursday, August 17th, 2017

As some of you may already have seen, COWAN! recently published a study on the use of an RDS-equipped pistol. Says Aaron,

“RDS use on handguns is a relatively new technology and because of that, often a point of debate regarding its purpose, effectiveness or reliability. There isnt a great deal of centralized information on the subject, so I decided to create a White Paper on the subject. What started out as a simple study became an attempt to make the most comprehensive document possible addressing the technology; its advantages, disadvantages, and purpose. While it isnt perfect, this document will provide interested parties with an in-depth look at RDS use for handguns to allow a more informed decision.”

In addition to a comparative analysis of over a dozen different MRDS types from multiple manufacturers, it covers a number of topics: technology, construction, equipment concerns, external mounts, optic durability, use of force findings, training, optic selection, and several other issues.

Here’s an excerpt:

Accuracy Improvement With the MRDS


The general fundamentals of iron sight use require sight alignment, which is to place the front sight of the handgun into the rear notch and center it as accurately as possible while ensuring the height of the front sight post is equal to the height of the rear sight notch, also referred to as equal light, equal height. The textbook sight alignment is something that all officers, from academy to retirement will be familiar with from firearms training. They will also be familiar with the commonly repeated phrase of, it’s not going to be perfect. Exact sight alignment is difficult, sometimes impossible to achieve because of natural hand tremor, focal issues and the possibility of stress making both of the previous issues worse.

Red dot sights for pistols: Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics recently released an a RDS Handgun Study (MRDS white paper).


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Once sight alignment is established, accuracy is further complicated by sight picture. The requirement to maintain alignment and place the front sight on the desired point of impact. Lighting issues, sight type, distance and movement of the target can complicate this greatly.

Under static range conditions, many officers display great accuracy because they understand the process and they have invested the time to master the use of sights. Outside of static conditions, even the best veteran marksman suffer a significant drop in accuracy. This has as much to do with physiology and the more complicated nature of an unpredictable situation as it does with the method of aiming itself.

Many red dots on pistols - Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics recently released an a RDS Handgun Study (MRDS white paper).

The largest hurdles to proper MRDS use at the instructional level are; getting officers used to remaining threat focused upon presentation of the firearm, and aligning the MRDS with their dominant eye. The second common issue is solved by the correct training of the first. Eye/hand coordination is important to proper firearms training in general, often taken for granted with
rifle RDS because the rifle provides four points of contact; shoulder, primary hand, support hand, and the cheekweld, which indexes the optic in an optimum location for the eye to acquire the dot.

With the handgun, only two points of contact aid in alignment of the optic body to the dominant eye. The best method for working through this potential hurdle, as it will not happen to all officers, is to instruct officers to drive the firearm to their eyes while looking exactly where they wish to hit the target. If the dot does not appear upon presentation, the officer should move their head until they see the dot while holding the firearm perfectly still. If they find the dot and it is aligned with their desired point of impact, the issue is with their alignment of the firearm to the eye and not with the MRDS to the target.

It is normal for eye/hand coordination to place the firearm in the correct location while not necessarily aligning it perfectly with the eye; much in the same way we are able to throw a ball to a specific point without conscious thought as to alignment, these functions occur naturally whether it’s a baseball or the alignment of a handgun to a target. This generally isn’t an issue with iron sights due to the open nature of their radius and the small, unconscious corrections that are made as the firearm presents.

Introducing the human eye to the equation requires practice, but the time needed for an officer to learn proper use of the MRDS is much shorter, generally speaking than the time invested in proper iron sight use. Methods that allow for larger points of aim to smaller points of aim as proficiency develops, is the best method to acclimate officers to the MRDS. This process can be accomplished in minutes or hours, reinforced by practice, an officer will become MRDS proficient in a short period of time.

Because the MRDS does not rely on traditional iron sight methods for acquisition or aiming, an officer’s experience with iron sights does not directly affect their ability to become proficient with the MRDS. If other fundamentals are sound, efficiency is a matter of proper repetition with a shorter learning curve than that of iron sights. This can be seen in the Norwich University study, with the level of experience compared to the level of performance, and in the Sage Dynamics Force on Force study with the same lens.

Other issues experienced with the MRDS versus iron sights is that the optical dot has a constant movement because of the natural movement of the hands. This movement appears worse than it is. This natural movement is present with iron sights as well, but the size and method of use for the front and rear sights prevents it from being as evident.

The size of the chosen dot for an MRDS can also lead to this natural movement appearing worse than it is. As already mentioned, dot size can further exaggerate this issue, but this movement is relative and does not affect accuracy with the application of proper fundamental techniques.

Under recoil, the dot in the reticle window may disappear as the slide reciprocates and the firearm rises;this is no different than losing focus on the front sight as it moves rearward and up. The return of the dot to the proper position for additional shots is dependent upon eye/hand coordination, the input of visual information and a responding muscular reaction to complete a task, which in this case is the firearm returning to as-close-to-as-possible, the position it was in when the first or sequential shot was made


Sage Dynamics Apparel Warrior Culture Gear - plus that pistol has a red dot sight on it.


You should read the study in its entirety here online.



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