As readers will recall, I blogged about my first range session with the Glock 17 pistol a few weeks ago, and I found that several things on the gun needed improvement, like the trigger and the sights. I am not really much of a combat or self-defense shooter with pistols, in the sense that I don’t really train much for those kinds of scenarios and am more interested in long distance target shooting. Granted, that kind of training is definitely helpful and makes shooting closer targets like taking candy from a baby. But there is a lot more that goes into defensive shooting than just being fast and accurate (well maybe that is 80% of the battle), so don’t read too much into what I am writing here as advice in that area. I am just exploring what I think would work for me as a home defense gun and range toy, not a hard-core defensive or carry gun. In fact, a .357 revolver is still our family’s go-to pistol for home defense until I become convinced that I can trust the Glock 110%.
First about the trigger…
Since that last post, I did some modifications to the pistol’s trigger. I polished some parts pursuant to what is known as the $0.25 Glock trigger job, which you can find on youtube. I also replaced the connector with a 3.5lb. connector. The result? Well, the trigger is definitely “better”. It breaks a little bit crisper and some of the mushy-ness is gone. It is not a target trigger, and I doubt it ever can be. There is still some feel (which is also audible) of something rubbing plastic, either the trigger itself rubbing it’s housing in the frame, or the transfer bar along the the inside of the frame. I am guessing it may be possible to smooth this out or eliminate it, but at this point I’m satisfied with the Glock’s trigger. It was definitely fun to completely strip the pistol and learn about how every part functions.
Replacing the factory sights…
I also replaced the sights and replaced them with Trijicon HD night sights, opting for the set with the orange ring around the front sight. Putting these sights on made me realize how bad the factory sights really are. The Trijicon sights have tiny capsules of tritium inside that glow in the dark. I also really like how wide the rear sight is relative to the front sight, which makes it much easier to center the front sight, and the sights are also a bit taller than the factory sight. I replaced the sight myself using a sight pusher I purchased for the task.
Shooting with the new iron sights…
So right off the bat, at 50 feet I put five rounds right through the 2″ x-ring on the Bullseye targets I use, so happily I did not have to adjust the rear sight for windage. Did the trigger job tighten my groups as well? Hard to say, but definitely I felt like I was getting shots off a little bit easier with the lighter trigger.
On to the reflex sight…
The next phase was to install a red dot reflex sight. What is a reflex sight? It is sort of a heads-up-display, where basically a dot is projected by an l.e.d. onto a clear screen that the shooter looks through. It is not a laser sight, in that nothing is projected onto the target and only the shooter can see the dot on the screen. There are many products out there that are a variation on this approach, including traditional scopes (magnifying or not) where the shooter sees an illuminated dot instead of cross hairs.
This kind of sight is uncharted territory for me. My entire shooting career has been with iron sights of various styles, but never with a scope or red dot. But my eyesight has been ever-so-slightly declining, so I’ve been wanting to experiment with electronic red dots. Also because this handgun is destined for self-defense, I wanted to experiment with the latest trend in defensive handgun configuration. So after some research, I decided upon the Sightmark Sure Shot, which is a cheap entry level reflex sight. I figured I’d give an entry-level model a try and see how I feel about red-dots. Also, my wife can give it a try and see what she thinks. High end reflex sights like those from Trijicon run several hundred dollars, so I decided to test the concept first. In order to mount the sight, I used a hard plastic sight mount that is manufactured in Israel. The cool thing about the mount is that it leaves plenty of room above the iron sights so you can use them if needed.
The sight offers several sight pictures, I chose the picture that has big circle with a dot in the middle, with cross-hairs on the edges of the big circle. I shot with both eyes open. The target above shows that after guestimating the zero using the iron sights, the first shot was low. I made some adjustments to the reflex sight, and then proceeding to shoot-out the x-ring with the about 15 rounds, with a little drift to the right:
I found it to be a very different experience to use a reflex sight. First of all, it is different because with iron sights, to shoot with precision you focus on the front sight and the target is blurry. With reflex sight you just look at at the target. I found that with both eyes open I would sometimes get a double image, but I could still see the target and dot fine. I also find that sometimes my eyes would tend to focus on the dot, instead of the target, or jump back and forth. The best result was when I just totally relaxed my focus, looked at the target and just shot. Rapid-fire shooting was maybe a little faster as well, because I could see the dot falling back onto the target after recoil and could begin my trigger pull for the next shot a bit faster.
Longer range shooting was a little different. At 75 feet I found it a little harder to just look at the target, and kept finding my eyes focusing on the dot. At 50 yards I had mixed results. Sometimes I would hit the 8″ steel plate 4 out of 5 times, sometimes 1 or sometimes 3 out of 5. Perhaps I need to zero the sight a little better for better accuracy at longer range. When I have time I’ll shoot at a paper target at 50 yards and see if I can get a good zero. Also complicating matters is that I have not ascertained how accurate the gun itself really is at 50 yards. Don’t get me wrong, I could see hits in the berm just barely missing steel, so you are still getting minute-of-bad-guy at 50 yards, I just don’t know about head shots.
I would say that with a little more practice, I could see myself becoming a red-dot convert, especially on a home-defense gun. I definitely understand how these optics are the future, once the more durable models become more affordable. Especially as eyes age, reflex sights are an alternative to custom shooting glasses. More importantly, with a reflex sight your eyes are focused on the target, giving you better situational awareness, and better ability to pick a precise aiming spot on the target. Unlike a laser sight, nothing gives away your position and the reflex sight can work in all lighting situations (and will not disappear on a bad guy wearing red clothes).
An interesting question is whether I would introduce a new, first-time shooter to shooting with a red dot or shooting with iron sights. Certainly shooting with iron-sights is harder, and more “sporting.” But shooting with a red-dot is probably going to be easier for beginners, and a way to quickly build confidence and accuracy. There is also the “cool factor” that will draw interest in the sport. I have to say that at the end of the day, I would probably have a new shooter learn with a red dot. Especially for older shooters or anyone with “bad eyes”, a red dot is a great way to get into recreational shooting.