There is no denying it. I’m all about the red dot life. Especially, the red dot life comes to pistols. While adding a red dot to a pistol isn’t a silver bullet that will magically make anyone a master marksman, there are many benefits associated with doing so. Granted they all take a little work to capitalize on. One of those benefits comes along with the ability to maintain visual focus on a target while engaging it with a pistol.
The benefits of maintaining visual focus on a target are numerous. From a competitive shooting perspective, it allows a shooter to engage targets and transition between them faster because time isn’t wasted by shifting focus from the target to the front sight in order to get good hits on more difficult shots. From a self defense perspective, it allows a defender to continue to process behavioral queues from an attacker which can influence shoot versus no shoot decision making more effectively. These are just two examples of several more benefits. However, maintaining target focus with a pistol mounted red dot sight, like many pistol shooting skills, is a learned perishable skill that requires practice in order to develop and maintain.
Different shooters with varying pistol shooting skill levels will need to work at maintaining visual focus on the target when using a red dot sight. Experienced pistoleros will need to break the habit of shifting visual focus to the front sight, which will be replaced by a dot, in order to make more difficult shots. Less experienced shootings are likely to put work in order to avoid developing a habit of getting sucked into the dot. This will require copious amounts of dry fire and live fire practice. However, there is a shortcut, or cheat code, if you will.
The occluded red dot sight enters the post.
Today’s most advanced red dot sights have a fairly long history. Some of the red dot sights that predate modern ones had no front lens and were permanently occluded. These occluded red dot sights relied on the magic of binocular vision, which by maintaining both eyes open, one into the sight and another looking down range at a target, the brain would fill in the missing information from the eye that was looking into the occluded sight and make it seem like a dot was simply super imposed on the target. In other words, in order to use these red dot sights effectively one had to use both eyes and establish visual focus on the target in order to utilize the target to engage it. This skill, which is required to effectively use these sights, is the skill that pays dividends when using modern red dot sights.
This target focus skill is also essential in order to overcome front lens obstruction failures, which I’ve covered previously. However, that’s not the point of this post. The thing is that target focus pays many more dividends beyond dealing with one type of red dot failure and such is a critical skill to develop.
In fact, it’s so critical that companies, like Stonebridge Gun Works, have introduced a product to the market to aesthetically occlude popular pistol mounted red dot sights for use in practice. Stonebridge calls it a target focus trainer or sun shield. While this product is aesthetically nice and works well, there is no need to spend $25 to occlude a red dot sight when it can be accomplished by placing a couple strips of masking tape over the front of a red dot sight.
What’s this all mean? On the surface, it means that occluding a red dot sight and using it while it’s occluded can help establish a target focus habit which helps one capitalize on the benefit of using red dot sights. This holds true for both pistol and rifle mounted red dot sights. Assuming one has developed a target focus habit, the occlusion becomes something that can be completely ignored under pressure in a match or class setting because it rarely interferes with shooting. When it does interfere, it forces us to refocus on the target before continuing on which reinforces the beneficial habit.
In other words, put a little masking tape over the red dot, give it a go, and reap the rewards.