How To Sight In A Pistol Red Dot Sight [Shooters Guide]

After you buy a new red dot sight, the first thing you need to do is zero your sight. But how do you zero a pistol red dot sight? If you have never done this before, we got you covered! In this post, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to get your pistol sighted in correctly.

What Is Sighting A Pistol?

picture of aiming a pistol with a red dot sight

Zeroing a pistol’s red dot sight is an important step for ensuring that your firearm is accurate and shooting where you are aiming.

To put things simply, sighting your pistol red dot is making adjustments to your optic so the point of impact aligns with your reticle from a desired distance.

When completed correctly, zeroing a SIG p365 red dot will greatly improve comfort and accuracy at various distances. At times you will need to make minor adjustments. And other times you will need to make significant adjustments.

Once you understand how to get your pistol’s red dot’s reticle zeroed, your accuracy and shooting performance will improve significantly!

How To Sight In A Red Dot On A Pistol

Most pistol red dot sights, like the Vortex Venom or Burris Fastfire, can be zeroed by following the steps shown below. Remember, not all optics are exactly the same. Therefore, the appropriate adjustments may not be exactly the same from optic to optic. Let’s get into it.

1) Prepare Your Iron Sights

Before making any red dot sight adjustments, you need to get your iron sights set up. Although we are going to Co-witness our red dot & iron sights, we’ll start by completely ignoring the red dot.

Find a comfortable shooting position and fire a few shots on target to ensure you can shoot a group.

2) Set Your Target

picture of a shooting target

Set your target at your preferred distance downrange. I personally use a zero distance of 7-10 yards because that’s the range in most self-defense situations.

For larger weapons like assault rifles, shooters choose to use a 36-yard zero distance or a 50-yard zero distance. It really depends on their specific use case!

3) Test Shot

Now that your red dot and target are set up, take your aim & fire your first group. Analyze your results before making any changes! Even if you know how to use red dot sight, you should still take test shots!

Also, be sure to read our post about how should you hold a handgun for maximum accuracy as well. You can do everything right, but if you don’t practice the fundamentals you will struggle to shoot accurately.

4) Windage and Elevation Adjustments

Now it is time to make the proper windage & elevation adjustments! To do this, we are going to use the windage adjustment & elevation adjustment turrets.


  • If you miss high or low – make elevation adjustments.
  • If you miss left or right – make windage adjustments.

There is no telling exactly how much you’ll have to adjust your red dot until after you have fired your first group. In a recent review of different Ruger mark iv sights, we had to shoot 3-4 groupings before the red dot was zeroed.

5) Final Confirmation Shot

Before completing the sighting process, I recommend firing one final shot to verify your adjustments were accurate. If you find your point of impact is still slightly off, make further adjustments as necessary to fix the issue. Even high-quality Hellcat Pistol Red Dots will need this final test shot!

Congrats! Your red dot sight is now zeroed and ready for use.

Laser Bore Sight

Many shooters will ask: can I zero my pistol red dot sight without firing a single shot?

Yes, you can! To do this I would recommend using a laser bore sight device. This tool will mount to your pistol and project a laser onto the target. Follow the same process as described above, but you don’t need to fire any shots! Just get your red dot reticle aligned with the laser bore sight dot.

Do Other Pistol Attachments Affect Your Zero?

No, adding attachments like a weapon light will not affect your pistol’s zero. However, adding a weapon light like the TLR7 vs TLR7A could change the weight and balance of the pistol. This might influence how the pistol recoils and returns to target after firing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What distance should you sight in a red dot on a pistol?

There is no perfect distance to zero a red dot. Most shooters choose to zero their red dot from 10 to 25 yards. However, you can pick your desired distance depending on how you plan to use your pistol. I recommend firing a few rounds after making adjustments to verify your sight is zeroed.

How do red dot sights work on a pistol?

Red dot sights are mounted on top of a pistol & project a red or green LED dot. This dot represents your point of impact & makes aiming significantly easier. Red dots also allow shooter to become more accurate with their pistol from longer distances.

How accurate are red dot sights on pistols?

Red dot sights are very accurate on pistols. By sighting in your red dot and iron sight you will be able to shoot accurately from close to medium range. Red dots also improve target acquisition speed compared to a traditional rear sight.

Can you sight in a red dot without shooting?

Yes, you can sight in a red dot sight without shooting a single round. By using a laser pointer or bore sighting device you can get your red dot zeroed without firing a round. However, I recommend you first a test group to verify you have sighted your red dot sight correctly.

Where do you sight in a red dot on a pistol?

Most shooters choose to zero their red dot sight on a shooting range. Unless you have your own personal farm or range, a public shooting range is the place to go. They will allow you to set your target at a specific distance & your windage and elevation adjustment as needed.

The Bottom Line

By now, you should have a firm understanding of how to zero your pistol red dot scope. Your red dot sight manufacturer may claim that the sight comes “pre-zeroed”, but I wouldn’t buy it! If you’re serious about shooting accurately on the range & in self-defense situations then you need to zero your pistol red dot and iron sights. Also, if you use magnifiers like the hm3x vs hm3xt, the zero process will be slightly different. Let us know if these tips helped!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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