If you’re a new gun owner, chances are you have already gotten the itch to buy some accessories. There is no better place to start than with a red dot sight. However, many shooters wonder if they even need iron sights if they run a red dot. The answer is no, they don’t “need” the iron sights. Read on to learn if removing your front sight post is the right choice for you.
Are Iron Sights Mandatory With A Red Dot?
I recommend iron sights with a red dot, but you don’t need them. Using iron sights with your red dot is important for several reasons.
- Provide a backup aiming point in case your red dot fails.
- Co-witnessing can help you to line up your shot more accurately.
- Iron sights give you a reference point in case you need to make a quick adjustment to your dot or sighting system.
However, there are some people who feel that iron sights are unnecessary with a red dot. They argue that the dot is so easy to use that you don’t need backup sights.
Takeaway: Chances are your red dot sight or reflex sight never has any issues…but if it does you’ll want a backup iron sight.
Using Only A Red Dot
As I mentioned, there will always be some shooters that think using a red dot alone as a rear sight is good enough. They will argue that the red dot alone is best for a few reasons:
- Better sight picture without the iron sights
- Red dots are reliable – No need to keep the extra weight
- Iron sights can even be distracting for some people
- Finding the proper co-witness sight alignment can be tricky
Personal preference is always a factor when it comes to choosing the best gun accessories. When shooters get stuck choosing between red dot vs iron sights…I always recommend to use both! For example, Ak47 Red dot sights work well with backup iron sights for emergency situations.
Co-Witness Set Up
Most shooters will choose to use their iron sights with a new red dot sight. When a shooter takes aim, they will see both the iron sights and red dot in their sight picture.
You can choose between lower 1/3 and absolute co-witness red dot set ups. Again, it will come down to personal preference to determine which sight height is best for you.
Lower 1/3 Co-Witness
If you choose a lower 1/3 co-witness, this means the iron sight will appear in the bottom 1/3 of the sight picture. Most shooters elect to use this front and rear sight setup. In fact, most of the best AR-15 red dot sights are made for this setup. This co-witness setup minimizes obstruction while still providing backup sights.
With an absolute co-witness setup, the iron sight and red dot have the same exact aiming point. When you aim through your reflex sights, you will see the red dot and tip of the iron sight overlap. Many shooters find this set up to be distracting as the front sight takes up too much of the sight picture.
However, if your red dot does malfunction then you will have an aiming point that you are already used to. As we say with our analysis of the Crossfire problems, red dot sights do have issues!
Do You Need To Center Your Red Dot?
Most hunters are accustomed to thinking that a red dot needs to be exactly centered within a sight. This is actually a myth that most hunters carry because they are used to rifle scopes for elk hunting!
Some Red Dots Don’t Need To Be Zeroed
Many sight manufacturers make claims that their sights come “pre-zeroed”. This can be misleading for new shooters. If you just bought the Holosun 507K or 407K, you might think these red dot sights are sighted in already. However, you will always need to zero a new optic no matter what! Don’t buy the fake advertising.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need sights with a red dot?
Do you need iron sights with a red dot on a pistol?
Can I use iron sights through a red dot?
Is red dot sight better than iron sights?
The Bottom Line
By now you know that red dot sights do NOT 100% need iron sights. However, most shooters choose to absolute or lower 1/3 co-witness their red dot with the front sight post. This will ensure that you still have an effective aiming point in the event that your red dot sight malfunctions. For now, I recommend you keep your iron sight in place!