Overcoming Sight Failure: Strategies for Staying On-Target

Overcoming Sight Failure: Strategies for Staying On-Target

When it comes to firearms and their optics, reliability is paramount. Red dot sights are pivotal in revolutionizing firearms optics, but the possibility of sight failure on your pistol is a reality. Whether you're a responsible civilian carrying for self-defense or even a seasoned professional, sight failure is always a factor. This discussion isn't just about preferences; it's about ensuring that your firearm remains functional when it matters most. Using backup iron sights, alongside red dot optics mounted with an Athena Precision steel adapter plate, has become integral for shooters aiming for precision and versatility with a reliable backup if the red dot fails.


Understanding Sight Failure

It's essential to acknowledge that while red-dot failures are rare, they're not impossible. While red-dot optics and iron sights can fail, the key lies in redundancy. Equipping your firearm with both sighting systems can increase the likelihood of maintaining target acquisition even if one system malfunctions. Despite their advantages, red dot sights introduce considerations such as battery dependency, highlighting the importance of backup sights and regular training with iron sights for reliable performance. Shooters can maintain proficiency and readiness for any scenario with a blend of RDO shooting and foundational iron sights training, including the integration with daily carry.


Understanding sight failure is pivotal for maintaining accuracy and reliability in your shooting. Here is a breakdown of common issues with red dot sights and how to address them:


Complete RDO Failure: 

Complete failure can result from a few scenarios, including a dead battery, electronic component failure, or direct physical damage. Regular battery changes are a simple yet effective mitigation strategy. However, for electronic or physical failures, having backup sights is the best solution for continued accuracy if you need to shoot fast. 



    • Front Side Obstruction: This can occur when the front side of the RDO is blocked, yet the dot remains visible due to reflection. The corrective action involves refocusing on the target and allowing your brain to fill in the missing information. 
    • Rear Side Obstruction: This obstruction blocks the back side of the RDO, making the dot invisible. Backup sights can also become compromised in this scenario. Techniques to overcome this include: 

-The guillotine method – where we focus on the top side of the RDS as a point of reference and align with the top of the target.

-The ghost ring method – where the frame of the RDS lens is used as a point of reference and held over the target.

-The backplate method – where the backplate of the pistol is used as a point of reference and aligned just under the center of the target.


The Importance of Backup Sights

Carrying a red-dot-equipped pistol with standard sighting systems, such as backup iron sights, is not just an added precaution; it is a strategy to ensure you remain effective in any scenario, especially when facing a failure of your primary optic. Backup iron sights serve as an essential fallback, offering reliability when optics might fail due to battery issues, damage, or other problems. Their importance escalates in professional settings like the military or law enforcement, where the stakes are high, and the equipment must perform without fail. However, even recreational shooters find value in backup sights.


Benefits of Backup Sights:

    • Reliability and Versatility
    • Essential for Quick Target Acquisition
    • Cost-Effective and Lightweight


Training with Iron Sights

Regular practice with these backup sights is crucial. Not only does it familiarize you with their use, but it also ensures proficiency, so you are ready to switch seamlessly should your primary sight fail. Here is how to refine your iron sights proficiency:

Basic Drills and Processes: 

  • Battery-Failure Simulation
  • Sight Alignment and Picture
  • Zeroing Iron Sights

Advanced Practice:

  • Co-Witnessing
  • Dry Fire Drills

Aiming Techniques:

  • Combat Sight Picture vs. Six O'clock Hold
  • Focus on the Front Sight

Transition Techniques from Optics to Iron Sights:

Transitioning from red dot iron sights to backup iron sights or vice versa is a skill that can significantly enhance your shooting proficiency. Here are strategies and techniques to make this transition smoother:

  • Practical Transition Techniques
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Consistent Presentation
  • Accept the Dot's Movement
  • Transition Drills and Maintenance

Consistent practice with iron sights will hone your shooting skills and prepare you for any scenario in which irons may be your only option to rely on.


Maintenance to Prevent Sight Failure

Here are some tips for ensuring the long-term reliability of your pistol's red-dot optics:

Proper Installation and Regular Inspection

  • Adapter Plates: Use high-quality hardened steel adapter plates to avoid mounting failures due to stress from recoil. At Athena Precision, our steel red dot mounting plates provide the sturdiest foundation for your RDO, ensuring optimal performance in demanding situations.
  • Clean Surfaces: Begin installation on clean, dry, smooth surfaces.
  • Torque Specifications: Apply the correct torque to screws using a torque wrench.
  • Regular Checks: Schedule routine maintenance checks to inspect your red-dot optic for any signs of wear or damage. Clean the lens and battery contacts regularly to prevent debris from building up.

Battery and Cleaning

  • Battery Replacement: Replace the battery every 1-2 years to maintain a proper charge, keeping the sight operational. Keep spare batteries on hand and replace them according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Dust and Debris: Use compressed air to remove dust and larger particles. For thorough cleaning, use a lens cleaner designed for optics.
  • Anti-Fog Treatment: To prevent build-up, especially on the front side, apply an anti-fog cleaner.
  • Protection and Storage: When not in use, cover the optics to protect them from dust and damage.

General Maintenance and Care

  • Dry and Condition-Free: Keep your red dot sight dry and avoid exposure to harsh conditions.
  • Zeroing Checks: Regularly check and adjust the zeroing of your red dot sight to ensure accuracy.
  • Professional Service: Consider having your red dot sight professionally serviced every few years to maintain optimal performance.
  • Handling: Always handle your red dot sight carefully to prevent accidental damage.


Athena Precision


Shooters can enhance their precision, adaptability, and readiness for any scenario by integrating advanced red dot technologies with foundational training in iron sights. Familiarity with transition techniques between optics and iron sights further equips shooters with the skills necessary to maintain accuracy and reliability in their shooting, regardless of the conditions or potential equipment failures.

In embracing both sighting methods, individuals ensure a balanced approach to shooting, prepared for eventualities where technology may falter. Incorporating backup or co-witnessing iron sights into your setup is advisable, enabling a seamless transition and continued effectiveness. For those interested in optimizing their shooting experience with reliable backup options, check out Athena Precision backup/co-witness iron sights. The reliability of your equipment can mean the difference between life and death. Ultimately, consistent practice, proper maintenance, and a strategic approach to utilizing red dot and iron sights will ensure shooters remain on target, making the most of their equipment and skills.

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