Let me know if this sounds familiar.  “Sir, I have a great idea. I think we should put optics on our pistols.”  They are rugged and valuable pieces of equipment, and many places are going to them.   Administrator response: I don’t know.  If you want to do that, it is something you are going to have to explore on your own, and then we will decide.   


Quisner shooting a duty pistol with Trijicon’s improved RMR-HD – at Gunsite.

Step One

Now, what if you’re like many other departments, where resources are stretched thin, and you don’t know who to ask?  You do the only thing you know to do and head down to your local gun shop and tell them, “I want to put a red dot on my gun.” The salesmen tells you brand X is the latest and greatest, is a great value, and has so many features. It will do almost anything – except shoot the gun. 

You are impressed with the guy because – to quote Alan from The Hangover he is “a real straight shooter.”   You then get the optic mounted to your gun by Joe, the gunsmith, who came well recommended by a friend of a friend, and boom, you are in the world of pistol-mounted optics. 


Since we know just having a piece of gear doesn’t make you a master of the gear, you spend the rest of your hard-earned money on a red dot training class. 

Have options, one size will not fit all.

Burned At The Counter

Then you quickly realize that your optic seems much smaller than everyone else’s, but the salesperson assured you this could do all of what the large optics could do with none of the bulk, so you struggle on. As the week goes on, you begin to struggle with your newly purchased gear, and suddenly, you realize this might not have been the gear for you.


These are problems I see all the time, especially while spending time as a full-time academy instructor.  Ask any gear or gun person you know, and they will show you the box of crap they bought, tried, and tossed in the box of gear, which was sold as the latest and greatest.  When it came right down to it, it just could not hold up to police work and all it demands. 

Plainclothes officers have different needs than those in uniform.


There is some good news.  With online marketplaces, you might be able to unload this optic at a discount to help offset the burden of the new gear you are about to invest in… AGAIN.  Before you try this whole process again, let’s give you some tools so that the same mistake doesn’t happen twice.


Step 2

If your agency has limited resources, find a large agency close to you that already has a program set up.  Places like that have spent years developing a program, testing optics, and implementing them in this arena.  Speaking as one of those people, we love nothing more than giving this information away and stopping you from falling into the pitfalls we ran into when looking at these programs.  We fell into the same ones you will at the start of this; we were just lucky enough to have someone footing the bill.  They are also a huge asset when helping to write policy and data, which your command staff is going to require. 


Step 3

Another option they looked at, this time from Holosun.

Next, look at multiple options and be careful of absolutists.  What you’re looking to hear from people you’re talking to is, “During our testing, we found these problems, which we were able to replicate,” and “We found brand X really did most of what we wanted with little trade-off.”  Be careful of people who say, “That’s junk,” “This one is faster,” “This one cost less,” or the high school rumor of “My sister’s cousin’s friend had one, and it never worked.”  Those are all indicative of laziness and people who have not put in the true work to find the best option and recommend what they wanted out of personal biases or a web search. 

Duty Grade

Your product evaluation and demonstration sessions should include a number of options.

Know the difference between hobby gear for weekend warriors and duty gear. The latter is manufactured by reputable companies whose products are used all over the world and have a history of working every time. Also, be careful of the latest and greatest being pushed by the salesman. His job is to sell, and the latest and greatest might be great, but it needs some time to be proven that it truly is an improvement.


Reaching Out

Once you have some solid recommendations of brands you want to try, pick up the phone.  Many manufacturers have test and evaluation models you can try at no cost to you.  These save you all the up-front costs and allow you to see more than one option on the market while sparing you the personal purchase.      

The author working with one of several optics – a C&H Precision design.

If you do those steps, you should find the best optic for your agency. And, you won’t have to foot the bill all on your own.  Now, sometimes, the hardest part is asking for help.  Like many of us, asking for help and getting direction is equal to getting a root canal without novocaine.  As much of a pain as that is, so it buying an optic that doesn’t fit your needs. Even worse, buying multiple optics multiple times is even more painful. 

Final Thought

Good luck, and welcome to the world of pistol-mounted optics.