I don’t know about you, but as I age my biggest frustration is not being putting tight groups together on target with a pistol’s metal sights. I “was” damn good! Who knows about Top Shot as it wasn’t around when I was 30. But, I was good both with pistol and rifles. I wore glasses from my late teens on and now with contacts my distance vision has remained excellent and even improved. My optometrist recently improved my Competitive Trap averages by backing off my prescription, explaining that as we grow older the eye changes shape and our vision actually often improves. Fancy that!
But, Trap shooting is a distance game and I’m at the point in life where I need assistance for close up reading, working on the computer and seeing that damned front sight! I even have to have one strength readers for a book (about like the distance to the front sight of a pistol) and another strength for reading the computer screen (about the distance to the front sight of a rifle). I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. Yes, I’ve tried all the optional eye correction ideas like progressive tri-focal glasses. But, they never seem to have the magnification at the point of the lens where I need it, especially when shooting.
By all rights I should be shooting as well as or better than when I was younger. I’m more patient, more focused and I work out to keep in decent physical shape. It’s that damned vision thing and having learned to shoot by focusing on the front sight while leaving the target and the rear sight slightly out of focus! To top it all off I’m wrong eye dominant, so I’ve always closed one eye with a long gun and angled my wrist with a pistol to bring my dominant eye into use when sighting.
A little over a year ago I was at the range shooting with a friend who had put Crimson Trace grip sights on his Kimber pistols. He was flat out putting better groups together than I was at 20 yards. I had never fired a Kimber and I well remember when people thought Kimbers were low quality. Well, as friends do at the range, we tried each other’s pistols. He wanted to shoot my F&N 5.7 X 28 and my Sig 226 and also wanted me to see what fine pistols the new Kimbers were. I tried one of his Kimber 1911 variants in .45 and was getting about my usual performance. I said I was impressed with the pistol when he said, “Try it again using the laser sights and forgetting about the sights on the gun! I figure even without my glasses in the middle of the night I can see the red dot in center mass!” So I tried it again, not with my arms up in a proper target shooting stance, but with my arms bent, body turned and the pistol held close to the body in the typical tactical position.
Wow! The group I put together, without ever raising the pistol and simply watching the red dot, went from about 9” to 5”. Now that makes a guy stop and think! So, I tried his other Kimbers in different calibers and different barrel lengths – with and without the laser turned on and in both a proper target shooting stance and a tactical stance. With every one I was 40 to 60% (target stance) better with the laser than shooting as I always had. These were not even pistols I had practiced with and that made me really stop and think about myself and shooting.
So I tried an experiment, buying the cheapest Crimson Trace grip sights I could find that fit one of my pistols. The least expensive turned out to be for my Bersa Thunder 380 “pocket pistol”. I thought with a 3.5” barrel this should be a pretty good test to see the improvement in grouping. I barrel sighted the laser in at home and then fine-tuned it at the range using those reading glasses to really see the front sight. I did pretty well in grouping shoots with that short barrel pistol at 15 yards using the laser pointer. So, I dedicatedly practiced on several trips to the range through about 500 rounds at different distances and stances until using the laser as the sight of choice became second nature. At 15 yards I was consistently putting together 2.5” X 2.5” groups – Rapid Fire!
Well heck, if it could work that well with a short barreled pistol what would it do with a longer barrel hip carry pistol? You’ve guessed it; a set went on my Sig 226! By then I was pretty much comfortable using the laser to sight and once dialed in I was soon putting 3” groups together at 35 yards, the greatest distance at the indoor range I use in cold weather. I was convinced! Suddenly, I was shooting like I had when I was younger. I even tried them on a competition pistol where slow fire I could do a group at 1” at 35 yards. Sweet! I had stepped back 30 years!
I can hear you thinking, “They will never let him use those in a competition!”, and you’re right! But, my days of trying to be competitive at 300 yards with iron sights are over anyway. And, perhaps with all of us 50 plus “Boomers” out there we could start some pistol competitions for us geezers that allow laser sights. You just never know what will become popular, as we have both the time and money to play!
One point of caution, if you decide to shoot like a youngster again using laser sights, know that quality laser sights are not made for all firearms. I can certainly understand a business model where Crimson Trace would make them for the most popular “current” pistols and the millions of old warhorses like the 1911. Some newly made pistols from older designs are now including a lower add-on rail that can accept the cheapest version of the Crimson Trace, but it may mean updating to a newer pistol and a newer holster. I know there are other laser sights on the market, but I have not had much experience with them. I did try one of the “cheap versions” and tossed it out as it was very hard to adjust and wouldn’t retain its aim point.
I mentioned my experiences to the executives with Crimson Trace at the NRA Show last month in St. Louis, pointing out that they are missing a huge marketing opportunity by not focusing on the 50 plus gun owners who have both the time and the money for their expensive toys. They agreed they had not really thought about that market in detail. So, don’t be surprised to see a whole advertising discount campaign aimed at us geezers! It might even be a way to help honor the huge groups of us “old warriors” being pointed out some Memorial Day weekend.
I also ordered Crimson Trace grip sights for the .22 Ruger Mark II 4-H pistols this spring and have found them very useful in allowing the new shooter to watch the movement as they activate the trigger. Without the laser they may think they were on target, but with it they can watch the light move before the round is fired. Crimson Trace told me they would give a huge discount if ordering for a youth group program like 4-H Shooting Sports.
If they do advertise any special deals, try them! Laser sights won’t make you younger, but you might just be able to shoot a pistol like you were 30 again!