Taking the fight to presbyopia through the use of red dot optics.
Presbyopia sucks. I’ve written about presbyopia in these pages before, and how I had the prescription for my shooting glasses custom tailored to allow me to see the handgun’s sights and the target with near equal focus. In case you don’t know, presbyopia is the loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. It’s a natural and annoying part of aging and usually becomes noticeable in your early 40s. For shooters, the first sign of presbyopia is the inability to focus on handgun sights.
Prescription shooting glasses are an obvious and common solution to presbyopia. The problem is, at least from a self-defense standpoint, that for glasses to help you see your sights you must have them on. If you must hastily respond to a bump in the night, will you have time to get your glasses—the ones you only use for reading and shooting—on in time?
If you’re out and about in the real world, will you always be wearing them or even have them with you when you might need to shoot an attacker? Maybe, maybe not. Unless you wear glasses all the time, it’s not such a good idea to trust your survival to a situation where you’ll need them.
Saved by the Dot
For that reason, reflex handgun sights have become very popular. Sure, they have a heritage rooted in competition and have proven to be faster than conventional handgun sights. But for those of us who need glasses to see conventional handgun sights precisely, reflex sights offer an eyewear-free solution to old eyes that might need to deal with bad guys.
I can swiftly and effortlessly aim a handgun outfitted with a reflex sight and obtain quality hits without the aid of my shooting glasses or any corrective eyewear. No, a reflex sight doesn’t allow me to shoot with the same eyes I had when I was 30, but it allows me to shoot with precision without having to wear something on my head.
Now I’m not suggesting a reflex sight is the ultimate answer to a defensive handgun. In fact, I’m somewhat hesitant to make the wholesale conversion because there are a lot of unknowns. It’s unknown exactly how durable these sights are. We tested some at Gunsite Academy not too long ago and the lens fell out of about 20 percent of them.
It’s also questionable how these sights might deal with light shining toward them or bright reflections. I’ve constructed some situations where light, combined with smudges or dust on the lens, made them unusable. On the other hand, for a handgun that’s specifically used for home defense, I think a reflex sight makes a lot of sense, especially if there’s a redundant set of conventional sights there, just in case.
For example, a handgun kept for home defense can be stored away from where dust or inadvertent finger contact can create lens aberrations. The safe storage also keeps the handgun from banging on things during normal daily wear, creating impacts that make the sight inoperable. Also, if you must quickly grab your handgun after being roused from a deep sleep, you won’t have your shooting glasses on or maybe even within reach. And, finally, nothing simplifies both eyes open shooting like a red dot can.
The Home-Defense Handgun
For all these reasons, I recently set up a handgun specifically for home defense that’s outfitted with a reflex sight. After talking at length with Dave Fink of Fink’s Custom Gunsmithing—they serve as the gunsmithy at Gunsite Academy—Fink convinced me to give the concept a try and suggested I give it start with the Holosun HS507K X2.
Fink suggested this sight because he said it holds up well, is offered with either a green or red dot, comes with three reticle options and has an integrated rear sight. Of course, durability is important and so is being able to choose a reticle/dot you like. But the integrated rear sight means this sight simplifies mounting and the need to work around or with a higher conventional sight setup.
I’ve been shooting a SDS Imports Bantam Carry a good deal and have been very impressed with what it offers for the money. So, I sent an extra slide for that pistol to Fink’s for the Holosun HS507K X2 installation. The milling job they performed on the slide was impeccable and, given the slides unique contour, they managed to make the Holosun look like it belonged there.
Just as importantly, they reduced the height of the front sight to provide point of aim/point of impact match with the integral rear sight on the Holosun. I dabbed a bit of white paint on the face of the front sight to make it a bit easier to see, you know, just in case.
In a few short months, I’ve become very fond of this pistol and its modern sighting system. I can shoot it with the red dot, without corrected vision, just as well and a bit faster than I can shoot it with the conventional sights on the original slide. That gives me some peace of mind when it comes to a late-night gunfight that I hope I never have to have.
I’m still not ready to go to the reflex sight for everyday carry … but I’m continuing to investigate that possibility. One thing is for sure: My eyes—and yours—aren’t going to get any better.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
More On Pistol Red Dots
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