Pistol shooting, like most shooting disciplines has benefitted greatly from technological advancements. Incredible improvements have made todays handguns lighter, faster, more accurate, and reliable. One of these many improvement is in the sight market, pistols have long relied on the simple task of lining up a front and rear sight as you press the trigger. But today we will discuss the hot and competitive red dot sight options that are frequently replacing traditional iron sights. We’ll also look at it from the perspective of home defense use.
The three sights we will specifically look at today are the Vortex Viper Red Dot, the US Optics DRS 2.0 Enhanced, and the Riton Optics X3 Tactix PRD. To give the three sights all a fair rattling, I ran all three of them on the same pistol. The Canik TP9 EC is a poly framed pistol featuring a SAI barrel and trigger, its very accurate and its cut slide makes a perfect host for this trio of optics. To read more about the pistol click here.
The Vortex Viper MSRP $349.99
With a well known name like Vortex, I was sure I was going to like this optic. It was the first of the three in this article that I got my hands on, it wasn’t long at all before I had it mounted up and ready to shoot. The tools provided made zeroing the optic a snap, I was blown away at how quick I went from adjusting the zero, to stacking a whole magazine into a small hole.
I was quickly in love with my Canik and the red dot sight combination, I kept stacking shots and giggling. Shooting the pistol at distances much further than I was used to became quite easy, and the accuracy of the pistol coupled with the precise and tiny dot made hitting my aim point was as simple as breaking the trigger cleanly.
The Viper utilizes a 6 Minute Of Angle (MOA) dot, and uses one MOA adjustment graduations. It has rubber armored control buttons, to adjust the brightness of the reticle, as well as to turn it on and off.
The US Optics DRS 2.0 Enhanced MSRP $349.00
US Optics has long been part of the optics game, though they are a relative newcomer to the electronic sight realm. As soon as I opened the box, I was as impressed as ever with USO’s quality and presentation. But more importantly was the impression on the range.
I was a bit confused at first, because the DRS 2.0 didn’t appear to have a button or control to adjust the brightness as did the Viper and the Tactix X3. But in perhaps my favorite discovery of the whole project, I read the owners manual to find that the DRS 2.0 is always on, and has a built in photo-eye to automatically adjust to ambient light. Another beneficial feature I was happy to see, was the side-loaded battery compartment, which doesn’t require the user to remove the sight to change the battery as the Viper required.
As with the Vortex, the USO was easily and quickly zeroed, and in no time I was back to banging targets.
The Riton Optics X3 Tactix PRD MSRP $299.99
Riton is a relatively new company, but persistently bringing out more products. The X3 came to me before the USO and after the Vortex, it did require changing the Viper type baseplate to the RMR type, as it doesn’t share the same plate as the other two.
Similar to the Vortex, the X3 has armored up/down rubber buttons to adjust the six level brightness settings of the reticle. It also has a four hour auto shutoff. It features a 3 MOA dot for some very precise shooting, at least for red dot shooting.
It wasn’t until after I had it mounted that I noticed the X3 features a rear sight cut, something you can use in the event your reticle goes out. This is something the other two lacked, and while not likely to be used often, it is still handy. The X3 features a top loaded battery, so you wont need to remove the sight for battery changes.
All three red dots took a bit of getting used to, as the reticle appeared higher than expected as compared to the iron sights. But once I grew accustomed to the hold and sight picture, I was addicted to it. One of the many pros of using red dot pistol sights that is often mentioned is the shooter’s point of focus. When using iron sights you have to focus to some degree or another on the sights that are at arms length. Shooting with a red dot sight gives a great advantage because you never have to take your eyes off the target.
For example, if there is a threat approaching you, simply bring the pistol into the plane between you and the threat. The glowing reticle is naturally brought into place without ever having to change focus from the target. Obviously after much practice and training, it becomes second nature. That is one thing less you’ll need to focus on in a defensive situation.
And even if its not a dangerous target, shots can be made faster as can target transitions because you never have to take your eyes off the target[s].
As it pertains to home and/or self defense, I think a red dot sight could be a valuable asset. The bright red reticle makes a very easy focal point when tension is high, and the precise nature of its aim is very useful in a life or death situation. The aforementioned point about keeping your eyes on the threat is also a strong reason, especially in a low light or no light scenario.
I was surprised by this experience, it wasn’t that I liked the USO the most, it was actually that the Vortex was at the bottom for me. After much shooting with the Viper, I found the Riton X3 to be a preferred fit for my eyes. And perhaps the finer reticle also helped. The sight picture of all three was more than satisfactory, they all got dirty and dusty just the same. But what really won this comparison for me was the reticle on the DRS 2.0, I never had to turn it on, or up or down. Every time I jerked my pistol from the holster, regardless of time of day, indoor or out, the reticle was lit, and nearly perfect brightness. I only say near perfect because it occasionally might have been a smidge dimmer than I would have set it, but surely not enough to be a concern. All three of these red dots are great pistol sights, I would feel very confident shooting any one of them in a competitive situation.
I have shot pistols without red dots for many years, so I was a bit apprehensive about trading my iron sights for a red dot. But I’m happy to say that after some practice I feel just as if not more confident with one of these three sights than the iron sights I always used before. Give one of these three a try, you will very likely be surprised how much you like it.