Iron sights have long been the standard for handguns because optics have been too bulky. Well, not anymore. Smith & Wesson has seen the light, and it's a small red dot.
Handguns just got easier to shoot. After you apply the correct grip (most novice shooters grip a handgun completely wrong like Dirty Harry), accurate shooting boils down to sight alignment and trigger squeeze. You've still got to squeeze the trigger smoothly and let it surprise you when it breaks, but a red dot sight placed on a handgun allows one plane of focus rather than forcing the eye to choose one of three (front sight/rear sight/target) as with conventional iron sights. In the past, however, red dot sights were too tall and bulky for practical handgun carry and use, and therefore were reserved for target or hunting guns that must use special holsters. Well, with the recent surge in miniature red dot sights, at least one gun company has seen the light. More are sure to follow.
Smith and Wesson's M&P series handguns are giving high-capacity polymer handgun king Glock a run for its money. A semi-auto, polymer framed, striker-fired pistol that's simple and svelte, the M&P has become wildly popular with police, competitive shooters and defensive-minded civilians because it's easy to shoot, accurate and supremely reliable.
A major way to mitigate handgun recoil is to grip the gun with the strong hand as far up and in line with the axis of the bore as possible. This sends recoil straight back to the arm where it is dampened by the elbow, shoulder and body. Some guns are more conducive to this proper grip than others. Conversely, the lower the hand is on a pistol's grip in relation to the bore line (the line of recoil) the greater the propensity for the handgun to create a fulcrum that painfully snaps the gun up and back during recoil. The M&P ergonomically places the bore line low and the hand high, therefore mitigating perceived recoil to most shooters. Try it for yourself.
Like most M&P pistols, the Pro Series C.O.R.E. has three interchangeable grip panels to fit various hand sizes, an articulated trigger so it can't easily be pulled by something other than a finger, a light rail, ambidextrous slide release buttons, an easy-to-reach mag release button and two 17-round magazines (in 9mm). The Pro Series indicates that it has a longer sighting radius, target sights, and a tuned, 5-pound trigger (although my test gun actually measured 6.12 pounds).
What is most notable about the Pro Series C.O.R.E. is the cut-out on the top of the slide, just ahead of the rear sight. C.O.R.E stands for Competition Optics Ready Equipment; the cut-out accepts one of several mini red dot sights, including the Trijicon RMR, Leupold Delta Point, Jpoint, Doctor, C-More STS, Insight MRDS and Eotech MRDS.
I placed the EOTech on my test unit, and here's what I found: I can shoot the pistol faster and more accurately than with irons.
The EOTech MRDS (Mini Red Dot Sight) weighs mere ounces; has a click-adjustable 3.5 moa aiming dot with four levels of brightness; it's waterproof; has a battery life of one year; and most significantly, it only protrudes over the rear sight by .75 inch. Because it's positioned so far back on the slide, no special holster is needed. That's a big deal.
Mainly, the MRDS makes target acquisition faster because it allows the shooter to keep the head erect and both eyes open. Simply focus on the target and the glowing red dot is superimposed on it. Shots are more accurate because it's easier to put the dot on a small bullseye more precisely than with target-blocking iron sights, at least for me. It also allows you to more clearly see if you are shaking before the shot or yanking the trigger, so it's a great training tool.
While the M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E. and an attached sight is marketed as a competition gun, it fits in a holster and only makes the gun ¾ of an inch taller overall, so there's no reason why you can't carry it all day for personal defense, or just for plinking. Speaking of which, I'm going to shoot—now that I can hit something with a pistol.
S&W M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E--$769; EOTech MRDS--$499