Carry Optic or Iron Sights: Another Opinion

Optics or Irons? Which is best for you and how to decide for yourself.

A popular discussion on many of today’s firearm/concealed carry forums and blogs is the debate over using an optic on your concealed carry pistol or sticking with iron sights. Like many of the “professional” reviews you may read or watch, the answer is usually the same – it depends. What does that mean? What does it depend on?

For those who generally are proponents of using a carry optic, their reasons are generally the same. A popular reason is faster sight acquisition. For those, they seem to be able to get right on target with the dot and make accurate shots time and again. Picking up the dot comes naturally to those shooters and they prefer the dot over irons. Another popular reason folks may prefer a carry optic is to combat poor or fading eyesight. A single red or green dot may be much easier to see and put on target than trying to line up a set of irons. These are two of the more popular reasons you may hear for someone running an optic on their carry pistol.

With any this or that topic, there are always going to be strong opinions coming from both sides. With the topic at hand, it seems the opposition makes more noise than the proponents. “What happens when the battery dies?” “That thing will never hold zero” and “Iron sights are virtually fail-safe” are just a few of the popular objections that you have probably heard.

My Experience: When I first became familiar with carry optics on a concealed carry pistol I was quick to dismiss the idea. I didn’t like the thought of adding something to my pistol that had the capability of failing me. After all, this is a “Concealed Carry” pistol that could be used in a life-or-death situation. With more time spent researching pistol optics, I became more open to the idea. Many of the common objections that I found seem to have a reasonable response. For example, the objection of batteries dying can be combatted through co-witnessing iron sights. In the event of a sight failure, backup iron sights can be seen through the lens of the optic allowing you to shoot accurately even with the sight broken or turned off. After some consideration, I decided to buy in. I purchased a Holosun 407K-GR to sit on top of my Smith& Wesson Shield Plus. After mounting and zeroing, I decided to put it through its paces. The first thing I noticed was that the dot was not as easy for me to acquire as I had hoped. I struggled to find the dot quickly through the first few magazines. This changed for me around the 100 round mark. Around 100-rounds, I was picking up on the dot much quicker and making more accurate hits on target. I found that I really like shooting with the dot, but I still understand the hesitation for some to jump on the carry optic bandwagon. If your budget allows, give an optic a try. You may be surprised with how much you like it. If you don’t like it, you now have an educated opinion to share on the subject and some extra time spent on the range. For me, that is always a welcomed exercise.

The iron sights co-witness on my Shield Plus giving me a backup to my dot sight.

The Bottom Line: The bottom line is that whichever route you decide to choose, nothing matters without practice. Choose whichever is best for you based on your carry preferences and carry position and practice with that setup. Practice often and push your skills. If you are ever forced into a situation that requires you to use your firearm for defense, you must have the foundation and fundamentals developed and tested so that in the high-stress moment, your training gives you the required advantage.