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.
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.
Pistol slide optic mounts are for concealed carry and duty carry.
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.
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:
Pistol frame optic mounts are for competitive shooters, home defense, and duty carry.
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.
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):
Other pistols don't force that choice on you by keeping the slot and rear sight separate:
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:
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.
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An optics slot can be cut shallow or deep into the slide. Go deep. Why?
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!
A low-mounted optic shows you obstructions that cover your pistol's barrel:
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.