Why aren’t slide mounted optics more popular?

10-8 Performance S&W M&P 9mm with a thumb safety and Trijicon RMR

10-8 Performance S&W M&P 9mm with a thumb safety and Trijicon RMR (Image used with permission)

Intellectually I am becoming very interested in the idea of a self-defense pistol with a slide mounted optic like the Trijicon RMR, Leopold Delta Point or Burris Fast fire.

  • As sight hunters humans natural focus on the prey (or threat) and these optics allow that single focal plane.
  • They move the focus past that just longer than my arm distance that many older people need to read.
  • Like traditional notch and post sights, they are a one-way system and don’t give away your position like lasers can and give you that “Red dot point of aim”
  • They are small enough that they shouldn’t affect conceal ability dramatically.

So why aren’t they more popular?

I think it comes down to 3 things…

  • Cost. At $400-600 dollars + the Gunsmith Machining required to mount them they are a significant cost in relationship to the cost of the gun.
  • Awareness. They aren’t popular, because they aren’t popular. It sounds like circular logic, but people tend to do the same things they see other people do and slide mounted optics haven’t hit that tipping point yet.
  • Competition. This needs more than one line so keep reading…

Competition has traditionally been the breeding ground for innovation.

Auto racing has provided us things like radial tires, disc brakes, direct shift transmissions, overhead camshafts, aerodynamics, new materials and increases in safety.  Most of these items were to improve performance on the track.

This kind of innovation is expensive like Europe’s F1.

But since the sport is fun, other people want to play so other series are formed and rules are established to limited costs.  NASCAR for example has rules like all cars have to have pushrod V-8s with no turbos or superchargers, wheels have to be made from steel, everyone has to use the same tires, etc.

One of my favorites was a series that attempted to control costs buy allowing anyone to buy the winner vehicle for $XXXXX at the end of the race.  The rules permitted you to spend whatever you liked but you knew you could lose it.

Practical Pistol Shooting has the same systems… Open divisions allow for optics and compensators and magwells.  Production divisions have strict limits on how what modification can be done or how big the gun can be or what sights can be used.

This puts the slide mounted optic in an odd position.

The frame mounted optics don’t reciprocate with the cycling of the slide so they are easier to track.  This is a huge advantage on a competition gun and makes them a much better choice if they are permitted, so no one would choose a slide mounted unit if the frame mounted one was an option.

The frame mounted units are too big though, so that doesn’t work for concealed carry.

Production/Limited or IDPA doesn’t allow non-notch and post sights though, to keep cost down, so slide mounted optics aren’t even an option.

I think that in the next 5-10 years slide mounted optics are going to become much more common in CCW (likely after the adoption by large police or military organizations).  I also believe strongly in competing with what you carry, so where does that leave early adopters that carry a gun with a slide mounted optic?

Would you be interested in shooting an IDPA or USPSA division that allowed otherwise SSP/ESP/Production style guns with slide mounted reflex sights?


  1. Bob says

    It seems to me the shooting world is ready for a gun made with a red dot sight from the manufacturer. The frame and slide could be designed from the beginning to mount a red dot thus could meld into the gun better.

    • says

      Bob, if it were done I think it would have to be from a small manufacturer like Caracal.

      FN’s FNX-45 already is available with the slide cut for an slide mounted optic and it has suppressor sights from the factory, but it has a number of things going against it including it being huge, in .45 and designed for a tactical market instead of a consumer.

      Caracal is small enough that they could do a design that has a single vision and build around 1 sight.

      I just hope it doesn’t get implemented like the Bodyguard series of pistols.

  2. says

    It was interesting to see this at Suarez site awhile back, then get “picked up” by Seeklander and some others. Maybe in another few iterations of publicity it will become more popular. Or not. The cost really makes it prohibitive for the run-of-the-mill CCW holder. And while I would like to see a division of such in IDPA, I know that as much as I want one, the cost holds me back as well.

  3. Alan Simon says

    If it takes a battery, it has electronics and is prone to failure, especially mounted a on a reciprocating slide battering it back and forth. Would you chance that with your carry gun? At least with a laser, you have your iron sights for backup.

  4. says

    Ron…I have a Glock 19 coming from L&M Machining in Prescott, AZ, fitted with a Trijicon RMR. I’m also going to “dot” my Sig 226 and try to get a feel for slide-mounted dots. Both Chris Edwards from Glock and Bill Rogers from the Rogers Shooting School are big proponents of the slide mounted dots, and they are both masters I hugely respect. I plan on doing a SHOOTING GALLERY segment on the guns for Season 13.

    This is an interesting example of where practical competition went down a dead-end (I think) path…a division that focused on slide-mounted dots would have been interesting.

    Michael Bane

  5. Dwight P says

    As someone who regularly competes in Steel Challenge matches with an EOTech equipped rimfire AR, my personal opinion is that red dot & holographic sights are faster and more intuitive than iron sights when engaging a series of targets. I would love to be able to run a pistol with a red dot in IDPA.

    That said, cost is a big hurdle. That’s a fair bit of practice ammo and a class with a local instructor.

  6. KCsmith says

    For a concealed carry weapon, I don’t see the point. Risk of failure, increased size of the weapon, cost, and very little gain over traditional sights in a defensive situation will keep these as a gamers or tacticools toy. For competition, yes, I could easily imagine the usefulness but as a everyday carry weapon modification, the cons far outweigh the pros.

    • Mark Are Reynolds Ⓥ says

      For CC it would suck because they don’t come on automatically with a mercury switch and if you keep them on you have to change the battery all the time.

  7. says

    I’m actually playing with this now. Cost is totally a factor, but one that needs to be gotten over. Like any optic, buy it once, buy a good one, and be done with it. That said, I bought a cheap nockoff of the burris fastfire II to play with (and did destroy, but that’s a longer story). Anyway, the next hurdle is reliance on a gadget. Some don’t want to for pride (I shouldn’t need an optic) others for the very good reason that they don’t have confidence in them. Cheapies will break. The good ones shouldn’t, but there’s still the online commentary (like the gen 4 glock issues, I would say). And, stuff breaks, gadgets fail. For best reliability, iron sights rarely break or fail.

    That said, I have multiple overlapping vision issues that make a red dot the only real way I’m going to see the quality of shooting I’m after (no matter how good everything else is, if I can’t frickin’ see the sights and the target, I can’t hit it). I’m confident I can conceal this addition, I can modify or use the right holster for it, the batteries last, the optic will work…and right now the added weight is changing how it cycles and causing issues.

    So, my final point: getting the whole thing to work well enough to trust my life to, at this point, takes a good amount of time, money, and work on my part. Lack any one of those and I could see someone just not bothering. I’m motivated because I know I’ll see the benefit, but until it becomes (or is perceived as) far more easy, cheap, and/or reliable, it just won’t go far. Which is a shame.

  8. Mark Are Reynolds Ⓥ says

    I put a Burris Fastfire III on a Glock 22 using the dovetail adapter and I think the sight is a bit too high which would make sense. The cut slide on a Glock 17 that I have with a Burris Fastfire II is easy to get on target where the 22 is not. I am most likely going to send the 22 slide out to get it cut and refinished.

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