Survey: How are pistol RDS performing so far?

The sample size is small, but trends are developing


By Jason Wuestenberg        

In March 2019, the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (NLEFIA) launched a national survey for officer-involved shootings (OIS) involving pistol-mounted red dot sights (RDS).

While pistol-mounted RDS are still relatively new to the law enforcement community, there have already been several officer-involved shootings with pistol RDS.

The biggest trend is the lack of training hours and practice rounds fired before the officer’s incident. (Photo/NLEFIA)
The biggest trend is the lack of training hours and practice rounds fired before the officer’s incident. (Photo/NLEFIA)

As of this writing of this article, the survey has received 11 submissions dating back to 2017, which may have been the first pistol RDS shooting in law enforcement history. Most of the submitted incidents are indeed the first pistol RDS shooting in their respective state.

Pistol RDS trends

The sample size is small, but the survey shows trends are developing. 

The biggest trend is the lack of training hours and practice rounds fired before the officer’s incident. Some agencies did not even require transition training. Of those agencies that did, many only required one day (8-10 hours) of training. 

NLEFIA recommends two days (16-20 hours) minimum for transition training. It is difficult for an agency to conduct transition training if their firearms instructors do not know how to teach pistol RDS. Although the benefits of RDS are the same on pistols as they are on rifles, the training methodology is not the same. Firearms instructors need formal training on how to teach RDS for pistols.

The hit ratio is another trend NLEFIA is watching closely. To date, there have been 75 rounds fired with only 39 hits, which is a 52% hit ratio. This is higher than the national average (typically well below 40% depending on the source). However, one incident had a high miss count – 23 rounds fired and only 3 hits from 11-15 yards away. Without this incident, the hit ratio jumps to 69%. There was also another incident that involved one shot/one hit from over 25 yards, which could be a testament to the red dot sight and its accuracy potential at distance. Obviously the officer applied proper shooting fundamentals to get the hit, but the red dot sight likely made the sight picture easier to acquire.

Another interesting data point was that with the shooting incidents that occurred at five yards or less, most of the officers commented in the survey that they did not see or use the red dot sight at that distance as it was not needed. So, with that, instructors that conduct transition training should avoid using drills inside of 10 yards, as shooters who are struggling to find the red dot in training may utilize point shooting methods to complete the drill and circumvent the learning process intended by transition training.

Here is some of the data that has been collected so far in the survey:

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How are pistol RDS performing on the street so far? As long as RDS manufacturers continue to provide duty-grade products, firearms instructors get formal training on how to teach pistol RDS and agencies commit to providing 16+ hours of transitional training, the future of pistol RDS in law enforcement looks good. But we need more data. The NLEFIA survey is still open and can be accessed at nlefia.org.

NLEFIA provides a 2-day RDS for duty pistols instructor development course for law enforcement agencies looking to host the training or for law enforcement firearms instructors looking to attend the training to gain the knowledge and experience. Several classes are scheduled for this fall. For more information, go to nlefia.org.

NEXT: What I learned from attending a red dot sights train-the-trainer course


About the author

Jason Wuestenberg is the executive director for the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (NLEFIA). Jason retired from the Phoenix Police Department as a sergeant/rangemaster after 22 years of service. Jason leads a staff of 15 instructors/national trainers from across the nation to provide the most current and relevant training possible to law enforcement firearms instructors in the U.S. and internationally.

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