Pistol Optic Mounts Explained Home / Pistol Anatomy / Optic Mount

Pistol Optic Mounts Explained

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / August 12 2021

Pistol Optic Mount Diagram
Looking into pistol red dots? First look at pistol optic mounts. We'll cover the types of pistol optic mounts, how pistol optic mounts affect red dot performance, how to tell a good pistol optic mount from a bad one, and which pistol has the best built-in optic mount.

On This Page:

  1. Slide-mounted vs. Frame-mounted Pistol Optic Mounts
  2. What Makes a Good Pistol Slide Optic Mount?
  3. Which Pistol Has the Best Slide Optic Mount?
  4. 2 Best Frame Mounts for 1911 / 2011 Pistols
  5. Are Red Dots Worth It?

Slide-mounted vs. Frame-mounted Pistol Optic Mounts

Slide-Mounted Pistol Optic Mounts

This is a plate or slot on top of the slide, for mounting a red dot sight. A slide mount for a pistol red dot.
Pistol slide optic mounts are for concealed carry and duty carry.

Pros

  • Sleek. Sticking a red dot right on top of the pistol is the least bulky way to mount a pistol red dot, and it's the only viable way to conceal carry a pistol with a red dot.
  • Lightweight. By removing a pistol's optic plate and putting a red dot in its place, you don't change the pistol's total weight that much. Again, this is better for concealed carry.

Cons

  • Rough on red dots. When you mount a red dot to a pistol slide, it gets whipped around every time you shoot the pistol. Only the most rugged red dots won't break under that kind of abuse.
  • Can cause jams. By mounting a red dot to a pistol slide, you're adding weight to the slide. This changes how fast it can cycle. If a slide gets too heavy, it will jam. You may to experiment with different recoil springs, have a gunsmith lighten the slide, or get a lighter red dot.

Frame-Mounted Pistol Optic Mounts

This is a metal piece that attaches directly to the frame,either via screws or a rail mount: A rail mount for a pistol red dot.
Pistol frame optic mounts are for competitive shooters, home defense, and duty carry.

Pros

  • Easy on red dots. A frame-mounted pistol red dot doesn't get slammed around with the slide's movement each time you fire, so they don't have to be as rugged to keep working.
  • Easier to track the dot. Since the red dot doesn't move with the slide every time you shoot, it's easier for your eye to stay focused on it.
  • Faster shooting. The frame mount itself adds some weight to the pistol's frame, and the red dot adds even more. A heavier frame means less recoil and faster follow-up shots.

Cons

  • Too bulky for concealed carry. It's tough to find a concealed carry holster and appropriate clothing for a pistol with a frame-mounted red dot. Some frame mounts can also snag on clothing as you draw the pistol.
  • Limited aftermarket support. Unless you're a competitive shooter, there aren't many viable pistols or holsters for frame-mounted red dots. If you want to duty carry a pistol with a frame-mounted optic, you'll probably need a custom duty retention holster.
Overall, a frame mount for pistol red dots offers the most performance, but is the least practical for concealed carry.

What Makes a Good Pistol Slide Optic Mount?

  • Compatible with iron sights
  • Mounts the optic low in the slide
  • Adapter plates are quality steel
  • Compatible with your chosen optic

Compatible with Iron Sights

Our recommended red dots are as reliable or moreso than iron sights, but you don't have choose between them. Pick optics mounts that make room for both.

The Sig p320 X-series attaches the rear sight to its mounting slot. This forces you to choose between an optic or your rear sight (or paying a gunsmith $200+ to mill it for both, and then install an aftermarket rear sight):
Sig p320's optic mount is attached to its rear sight, limiting its effective red dot options.

Other pistols don't force that choice on you by keeping the slot and rear sight separate:
CZ p10's optic mount is separate from its rear sight. Great design.

If you must get a pistol like the Sig p320 X5 for defense, use a tough, reliable optic. Or, get a red dot with a rear sight attachment, like the Leupold Deltapoint PRO: Leupold Deltapoint Pro has an attachment for a rear iron sight, sold separately.

Updated hourly

Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
$498.99
$399.99
@ GrabAGun
Compare Prices
Window Deltapoint Pro Window
0.68 x 1.01 in.
2.5 MOA dot
1.95 oz
3-6 months
Lifetime, second-hand or not.
Fits CZ P-10c, Glock 19 Gen5 MOS, Glock 34 Gen5 MOS, Sig P320 XCompact, Canik TP9SFx, Canik TP9 Elite Combat, Sig p320 X-Five, Sig p320 X-Five Legion
  • Biggest window size, for the easiest learning curve.
  • Compatible with the most pistols.
  • Battery can be changed without needing to unmount the optic.
  • Can install a rear iron sight on the optic itself. Recommended for Sig p320 & Canik TP9 series.
  • Sits so high that most suppressor-height iron sights don't work.
  • Worst battery life.
Disclaimer: I get a small commission on purchases through the price links above, at no extra cost to you. Pistol Wizard LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Mounts Low

An optics slot can be cut shallow or deep into the slide. Go deep. Why?

  • Reduces recoil. More weight at the back of the slide adds recoil. Adding an optic adds weight there. A deeper mount takes more weight out.
  • Easier to carry/conceal. The higher an optic sits on the slide, the more height it adds to the pistol. Bulkier pistols are harder to conceal.
  • Can see iron sights easier. Seeing your iron sights helps you see the dot faster, as the irons tell you what to do when you can't see the dot. Standard iron sights don't work with a red dot, but suppressor-height sights do. Still, a red dot mounted too high will hide even the tallest iron sights.
  • Easier to use with cover. The higher an optic is on the slide, the more distance there is between the sight and the muzzle of the pistol. If you're hiding behind cover and peek out just enough to shoot a target, you may shoot the cover instead of the target!
    Pistol optics mounted high can make you think you have a clear shot, when you really don't.

    A low-mounted optic shows you obstructions that cover your pistol's barrel:
    Pistol optics mounted low give a better view of what's in the way of your shots.

Adapter Plates are Quality Steel

Why steel? They can be thinner than aluminium and still be strong. A thinner plate mounts your sight lower. The steel must be high quality to be thin and strong. Cheap plates will break and send your sight flying.

Compatible with Your Optic

The mount works with your chosen optic. Otherwise, you'll need a gunsmith to mill your slide ($125-200).

For example, the Sig p320 X5 is not compatible with a Trijicon RMR optic. Gunsmiths charge $125 or more to mill it for the RMR.

Which Pistol Has the Best Slide Optic Mount?

The Laugo Alien pistol's unique design combines all the benefits of the slide and frame-mounted red dot together: It mounts right on top of the pistol, like a slide-mount, but the top isn't part of the slide. Only the sides of the pistol move.

To make this fair in competitive shooting leagues, it had to be made with a separate version that mounts the red dot to the moving side pieces.

Sadly, the Laugo Alien costs $5,000. Not something for most people.

The next best choice is the CZ P-10 C, and it costs around $550. It has the deepest optics mount that's also compatible with its rear sight. It would be even better if its sights were suppressor-height (which also means red dot height), but pistol manufacturers haven't caught onto that yet.

Updated hourly

CZ P-10 C Optics Ready
Compare Prices
15+1
1.6 lb
7.3"L x 1.3"W x 5.2"H
Holosun 507C, Holosun 508T, Trijicon RMR, Deltapoint Pro
  • Great trigger
  • Upgraded sights
  • Deep optics slot
  • Fits in most Glock 19 holsters (with an optics cut)
  • Adapter plates not included; sold separately for $40-60

2 Best Frame Mounts for 1911 / 2011 Pistols

These mounts fit most 1911 or 2011 pistols, and are compatible with most if not all optics rather than just one.

Weigand WEIG-A-TINNY

Weigand WEIG-A-TINNY frame optic mount for 1911 / 2011 pistols

The Weigand WEIG-A-TINNY is double-sided for more stiffness, and it's a picatinny mount, so it's as versatile as you can get.

Only downside is that you'll need a picatinny adapter for any optic you mount to it, and those add height to your optic.

Have a gunsmith do the install, and contact Weigand if you have any questions.


Boss Components Multi Red Dot Scope Mount

Boss Components Multi Red Dot Scope Mount frame optic mount for 1911 / 2011 pistols

The Boss Components Multi Red Dot Scope Mount is advertised as a 2011 mount, but also works for 1911s. It's single-sided, so not as stiff or durable as a two-sided mount, but optics ride lower on it.

It fits the following optics:

  • Vortex Razor/Venom
  • Burris FastFire 2 & 3
  • C-More STS/RTS II/STS II
  • Delta Point Pro
  • Sig Romeo 1 & 3
  • Trijicon RMR
  • Docter
That covers nearly every pistol optic on the market, but if you want to mount something else, get the WEIG-A-TINNY instead.

Have a gunsmith do the install, and contact Boss Components if you have any questions.

Regardless of which you choose, this video will help your gunsmith (or you) with the install:


Are Red Dots Worth It?

Red dot sights can be better than iron sights, if you pick the right one. Find out more:






TOP