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‘Perfectly timed critiques and praise': A review of Erick Gelhaus’ pistol red dot sight occlusion class

This four-hour session focused on what to do when these electronic items – regardless of their quality – inevitably fail, or are adversely affected by water, mud or breakage


Most students were surprised at the results they could achieve with an occluded optic.

Warren Wilson

“Yessssss, Captain.”

That’s the response I usually get when I interrupt my friend, Erick Gelhaus, on a podcast or any other public setting. It doesn’t dissuade my harassment of him, though.

The most recent opportunity to do so was at the 2023 Rangemaster Tactical Conference held at the excellent Dallas Pistol Club. If you’re unfamiliar, “Tac Con” is an annual training event presented by dozens of top-shelf instructors for 250-300 students. Class attendees range from relatively new shooters to experienced law enforcement officers. Tac Con is a one-of-a-kind melting pot of people and learning opportunities. Gelhaus taught several blocks including one on pistol red dot sight occlusion.


I’ve researched miniature red dot sights (MRDS) for years and attended many classes on the topic. My first article on the MRDS published in 2013 in Police Marksman when I thought I had a pretty good handle on topic. As is usually the case when one feels confident, Dunning-Kruger puts us in our place.

Gelhaus, a former California lawman, presented a four-hour block titled “Broken and Occluded Optics.” Its focus was what to do when these electronic items – regardless of their quality – inevitably fail, or are adversely affected by water, mud or breakage.


Water is one of the most common optic occlusions via rain or humidity.

Warren Wilson

The class

Most of the class participants were what Gelhaus calls, “nice, normal human beings.” However, many of us in the class were current/past law enforcement and mutual friends of Erick. That put him in an awkward position; not just because of the eclectic student base, but mostly because cops who survive in this business for decades know when it is time be professional and when it’s time to tap our inner adolescent around friends. The serious part is, of course, safety and learning. The latter is pretty much every other moment. It was one of the most enjoyable learning events in recent memory. That said, classes must not only be fun, but also orderly.


Gelhaus is one of the few MRDS instructors the author recommends.

Warren Wilson

The professional

Unsurprisingly, Gelhaus handled us brilliantly. A well-heeled, true teacher like Erick knows exactly how to roll with the ribbing and still control the class. Leadership is the most difficult – and most important – element of firearms instruction. Humility and perfectly timed critiques and praise made certain every student got their money’s worth out of the training, regardless of their relationship with him or their background.


Legendary podcaster Lee Weems was in attendance.

Warren Wilson

Alternate sighting techniques

The crux of the class is alternate sighting solutions when various environmental or electronic issues occlude one’s pistol optic. I don’t want to give everything away, but I had no idea how many options there were to sight a pistol without sights at all. Some of the techniques would be applied in a close-up situation where only a gross sight picture would be required. Another was incredibly accurate when a slower, more precise shot was required.

Instructor class

There is no shortage of MRDS instructors out there. It is advisable to take an instructor-level class from a vetted instructor. Gelhaus offers what I consider to be one of the best. His class isn’t just a user class with higher standards. Erick actually teaches the student to teach the material. Even if you have no inclination to teach this topic, seek out Erick Gelhaus at The Tactical Conference for MRDS knowledge. You won’t regret it.


The author’s target using alternate sighting techniques learned in the class from 5-15 yards.

Warren Wilson

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with the Enid Police Department in Oklahoma. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.