Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Too Broke For A Red Dot? Here Are Some Alternatives

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By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

A lot of people want a red dot but the endeavor is darned expensive.

First you either have to buy an optics-ready pistol or have yours modified. Granted, there are adapter plates that allow you to bypass that part of the equation. This requires finding an adapter plate with the appropriate dovetail for your make and model of pistol, and possibly having the slide tapped for mounting screws. You lose co-witnessing using the rear sight, but the importance of co-witnessing is really up to you.

How much you’ll spend in that process varies. It could be less than $200, it could be a heck of a lot more than that.

Then you have to buy the optic itself. Depending on the make and model, expect anywhere from $200 to $500, if not more.

All told, equipping a pistol with an optic can end up doubling the purchase price of the pistol, and not everyone has the expendable cash for that sort of thing.

Is there a way to get something like a red dot sight for cheaper? A faster sighting method, easier on aging eyes or at least much simpler and just as accurate (or something like it) as iron sights?

After all, one of the reasons red dot sights are becoming so popular is that traditional sight alignment and all its problems is done away with. You don’t have to align your foresight with your rear sight; you get the dot on target and – presuming your optic is correctly zeroed – press the freedom switch and make pew.

Since the dot is projected onto the middle of the lens, and the lens is mounted parallel to the barrel, the dot is where the gun is pointing and therefore is on target. Dot on target, make gun go boom.

As it happens, there are a few. At least two sights I’m aware of duplicate or approximate the dynamics of a red dot/reflex sight without the need for extensive modification and with minimal expense, but be aware that neither are perfect (nor is a red dot sight!) and, like anything else, come with their own unique set of drawbacks.

Remember, there is no perfect solution to anything. Ultimately, you’re just trading for a different set of problems.

There are two distinct systems I’m aware of. If you know of something else like this, please sound off in the comments.

Over the years, a number of companies devised reflector sight optics (usually using a collimator to project the reticle image – basically bouncing the reticle image off a mirror onto the lens and creating the sight picture) but none caught on commercially, and few – if any – were suited for pistols, and none for concealed carry. Examples included Thompson/Center’s InstaSight and Weaver’s Qwik Point optics, neither of which were incredibly popular with paying customers.

One example is the Meprolight FT Bullseye sight, which can be had on at least one factory gun, the Sig Sauer P365SAS. I haven’t had the pleasure of shooting one yet, so I can’t comment as to how well it works.



The FT Bullseye – which stands for Fiber-Tritium – uses a fiber-optic housing to let in ambient light along with tritium for nighttime illumination. The center of the sight has a ring and dot reticle, which is illuminated by ambient light or by the luminescence of the tritium. Since the sight housing is mounted to the rear sight dovetail, the reticle is parallel to the barrel. Align the ring and dot – which looks like a bullseye, hench the name – on the target and fire.

Just as with a red dot sight, you get the fast sight acquisition and sight alignment. It’s a very compact package, and – since it’s a regular sight – mounts to the rear sight dovetail.

No batteries are needed, no machining is necessary and you’ll spend less than you would on an optic, but neither are they cheap. Prices are typically $175 and up.

However, what a number of long-term reviewers have noted is that while the FT Bullseye is fantastic at combat distances, and gives you much faster sighting a la an optic, it’s not the best at long-range shooting. Then again, it’s made for personal defense applications not target applications.

Another potential solution is the See All Open Sight, which is a little different.


The See All uses a two-piece optical arrangement, with a fiber optic reticle plane toward the front of the housing and a magnifying lens at the rear. The reticle is naturally parallel to the barrel, and the optic is adjustable for windage and elevation, so it can be zeroed.

The magnifying lens amplifies the size of the reticle, which can be had as either a T-style or a pyramid shape. The reticle lens is fiber optic, so it gets brighter with ambient light, but a tritium-illuminated version is available as well.

Use is simple, as you align the top of the reticle with the top of the magnifying lens. There’s no parallax, and the picture moves if you move your head around. Provided the gun stays still, the reticle is still on target.

A bit more alignment than a red dot optic, but the dynamics of use – get reticle on target, press the bang switch – are the same.

Most reviewers find there’s a learning curve, but once you get the knack the sight is quicker than irons and comparable in accuracy if not better. Cost of entry is also a bit steep, at $120 for the fiber optic only version and $200 for the tritium night sight version.

However, if you wanted to get into a simplified sighting system but didn’t want to splurge on a Trijicon RMR or Leupold DeltaPoint, these are two ways to do it.

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Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit