The trend nowadays is to use a mini red dot sight on your handgun and even on your concealed carry pistol. But some disagree with this tactical trend. For many years, shooters have used red dots on rifles for long-range shots and even sometimes on shotguns, but now folks are using mini red dots on handguns for short-distance shots. Some purist shooters say that red dots on concealed carry guns and taking the time to find the dot and put it on target without focusing on the front sight are not appropriate nor efficient for self-defense and the usual up-close personal protection situations… and that much more training is required for red dots. Others wholeheartedly disagree and encourage using red dots for short-distance deadly force encounters and for concealed carry. Some claim that with practice, red dots are quicker to get on target, are clearly visible in almost all lighting conditions, and enhance precision and accuracy. So, for some, placing a bright red dot quickly on their target gives them an immediate speed and accuracy advantage. But, practice with them is very important before you decide to carry and use them.
Is a Front Sight Not Necessary When Using a Red Dot Sight?
Some say that when you use a red dot reflex sight that you do NOT need a front iron sight since you place the dot directly on the target. If the red dot is on the target, the gun is on the target. Others say that you still have to line your eyes up so that the dot is in the middle of the sight so you can be on target. As we have learned over many years, with iron sights, you have to get your front and rear sights aligned and then focus on the front sight. Our human eyes can only focus on one thing at a time, so realistically the focus should be on the front iron sight. And iron sights do make a very good backup for when red dot sights are out of commission.
Should You Focus on the Front Sight or the Target?
What about the long-emphasized training mantra of focusing hard on the front iron sight, putting the front sight on the target, and concentrating on the front sight NOT the target? Some say that using only a red dot sight for “bad-breath distances” and for typical very close self-defense encounters (about 3 yards to 7 yards or so) is just asking for trouble. Some just point shoot at close distances, and some do not even use their sights because of the immediacy of a quick deadly-force encounter. And what if the red dot’s battery goes out in a self-defense situation? Without any question, advance preparation, planning, training, and practice with the red dot sight are keys to success.
Bottom line answer about focusing on the front sight or target: It depends on the individual and personal preference. In this author’s opinion, proficiency with both iron sights AND iron sights with a red dot sight are needed. Red dots, like any technology, can and do fail. I believe that there is twice as much training and practice required with a red dot sight. You need to train and practice with your red dot sight and with your backup iron sights.
Two Different Sets of Proficiencies
I can attest that everyone ages, and as we get older, it becomes more difficult to focus on the front sight post. So, a red dot solves the focusing problem, since the red dot always appears in focus no matter how far away you are focusing your old eyes on the threat or target. However, when using a red dot, you do not have to focus on keeping your front sight aligned with your rear sight, and that makes sighting in on your target faster and easier, once the red dot is mastered. For long-range shooting and very precise shooting situations, the red dot has proven to be effective. Recognize that this means mastering two different sets of proficiencies. So, if you use iron sights you focus on the front sight. And if you use a combination of iron sights with a red dot, you use the red dot and focus on placing the dot on the target. And then use your iron sights as a backup. It is important that there is co-witnessing of the iron sights with the optical red dot sight. The front iron sight must be tall enough, suppressor height, to allow it to be seen through the red dot sight window so that it can serve as a backup sight.
Availability of Red Dots
There are several mini red dot sight options for your handgun now. Some combined with a handgun as a package and some red dots that you can buy separately and have your gun’s slide milled for a custom fit.
Whether or not your red dot sight is pre-mounted on your gun or if you mount it, you still have to zero it. Recognize that if the red dot is slightly off, then your whole aim will be off as well.
Recently, manufacturers have made red dot sights more compact, lightweight, durable, and a little less expensive with more options than just a few months ago. FMK (an acronym for “For My Kountry”) Firearms in California offers a red dot sight on a compact 9mm for a moderate price. FMK was nice enough to send their FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro Compact 9mm with the Burris Fastfire 3 red dot sight to me for my testing and evaluation, so I could provide you some information to help you decide if this 9mm with a red dot sight is for you for concealed carry or your purpose.
Co-Witness Iron Sights with Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot Sight
For your safety in case your red dot sight does not function or if there is a drained battery, co-witness, or align your iron sights with your red dot sights. For a proper co-witness sight picture, the red dot should rest on the top tip of the front sight on iron sights, as in the above image. When your irons and your optics are sighted in, they should be aligned or co-witnessed with each other when you aim your shot. This is actually double verification of the target. See my article about basic considerations on this website: “Handgun Mini Red Dot Sights: Basic Considerations & Opinions,” posted March 7, 2017.
Some optic manufacturers have their red dot sights pre-mounted on concealed carry guns, including Burris, Vortex, Aimpoint, Trijicon, Leupold, Sig Sauer Romeos, EoTech, and JPoint, to name a few.
On this website, I have previously reviewed the Springfield Armory XD(M) OSP 9mm pistol with the attached Vortex Venom Mini Red Dot Sights and its 3 MOA, the Smith-Wesson M&P Ported 9L 9mm with the Shield SMS Mini Red Dot Sight and its 4 MOA, and the Sig Sauer P226 RX Elite SAO 9mm with the Romeo1 Reflex Mini Red Dot Sight and its 3 MOA. Thanks to FMK for loaning me their 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro 9mm with its Burris Fastfire 3 Mini Red Dot Sight and its 3 MOA for testing and evaluation. First, I want to give you the specifications and features for the FMK 9mm Elite Pro compact and its red dot optic.
Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot Sight Features:
|Red Dot Reticle/Size/Color||3 MOA Reticle; Bright & Crisp; Red; 8 MOA Option|
|Exterior Housing Material/Finish||Aluminum; Hardcoat Anodized|
|Sight Window/Diameter||21mm x 15mm; .82 x .59 inches|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||1.9" x 1.0" x 1.0"|
|Elevation Adjustment Range||115 MOA|
|Windage Adjustment Range||86 MOA|
|Set Value for One Scale||1 MOA|
|Battery||One CR1632, 3V Lithium Coin|
|Battery Life||Up to 5 Years; Low Battery Warning Indicator|
|Battery Housing||Top of Sight Easy Access|
|Indicator||Low Battery Warning|
|Activation||Push-Button: Automatic; High; Medium; Low; Off|
|Brightness||Automatic Brightness Sensor plus 3 Manual Settings|
|Brightness Control||Manual Push-Button and Automatic Adjustment|
|Time-Out||Automatic Time-Out After 8 Hours|
|Mounting||Picatinny/Weaver-Style Mount Included|
|Warranty||"Forever Warranty" (No Repair or Replacement Charge); Automatically Transferred to Future Owners|
|Night Vision Compatibility||No|
|Estimated Optic Only Price Range||$200 - $249|
The Burris Fastfire 3 has a standard three MOA red-dot reticle, which is a good-sized dot that helps the shooter balance fast target acquisition with precision shots. However, for my aging eyes I would prefer a larger dot, and there is an optional 8 MOA larger dot from Burris, since it makes target acquisition quicker for handguns for short-range self-defense. The smaller 3 MOA dot is popular for rifles and those wanting pinpoint accuracy at longer distances. Of course, most believe that high precision accuracy is not needed for close-up self-defense encounters. But opinions vary and this is a personal decision for you. Some like a 4 to 6 MOA-size dot on a pistol.
The clear lens is molded glass (not acrylic which might scratch easier), and the external housing material is made of aluminum, which is lightweight and very strong. The lithium battery has an up to 5 years approximate useful life with average use. But regularly check your battery. I change all my batteries every year when I change age on my birthday, so I can remember to do it. This Fastfire has 4 manual power settings. The Power Button is located on the left side of the sight. There are 4 brightness settings that can be used to adjust the brightness of the red dot each time the button is pushed. The automatic sensor adjustment for brightness is very convenient.
The 4 Brightness Settings for the Fastfire 3 are:
- Automatic Adjustment when the light sensor automatically senses the surrounding light conditions and adjusts the brightness, so that it is not overpowering in low light, yet visible in bright daylight.
- Highest brightness setting.
- Medium brightness setting.
- Lowest brightness setting.
Some optics do not have an easy access battery compartment, but this Fastfire 3 has an easy battery access from the top. You do not have to remove the optic to change the battery.
Practice to Quickly Find the Dot
Keep in mind that with red dot sights for handguns the shooter does NOT focus on the front sight nor do the usual sight alignment. Rather, you find and focus on the dot, which can be elusive. So, practice is important. I was anxious to discover if I could quickly “find the dot” and accurately shoot the FMX 9mm with the Burris red dot sight. And to see if the iron sights are properly co-witnessed with it. Would I be able to smoothly transition to target/threat-focused shooting, “finding the dot,” and keeping it steady with minimal movement, rather than primarily using my front sight focus and sight alignment with my iron sights? Would I use this FMK pistol and red dot sight as a concealed carry handgun? Would I recommend it for any purpose, like home defense?
Co-Witnessing is Important
One important concept which I wanted to evaluate was co-witnessing. Co-witnessing means that you can still see and use your iron sights with a taller front sight along with or instead of a red dot sight. The iron sight should be placed at the appropriate added height so you can see both the red dot and iron sights. The back-up iron sight (BUIS) would be helpful support for the red dot in case of its failure, battery drain, or other non-function. Thankfully, this FMK and Burris system has a taller front sight for co-witnessing.
In addition to the Specifications and Features for the Burris Fastfire 3 red dot given above, I want to next give you the FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro pistol Specifications and Features in a summary chart. Then I’ll list my 10 specific criteria, compare each criterion to the gun’s characteristics and features, and lastly show my range live-fire test results with the mini red dot sight to help you analyze and compare your handguns and optic to make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences.
As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with yours, for your very personal selection process.
FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro 9mm Specifications
|Barrel Length / Finish||4"; Stainless Steel; Match Grade|
|Sights/Optic||Burris Fastfire 3 Reflex Red Dot; Suppressor-Height Front for Co-Witness; 3 MOA; U-Shape Rear; Elite Sights are compatible with most Glock 3rd party sights|
|Frame/Finish/Material||Gray Textured Polymer; Titanium (Black Polymer is Standard)|
|Slide||Black Nitride; Carbon Steel; Ported Top; External Extractor; Front & Rear Serrations|
|Trigger||Elite Assembly; Striker- Single Action; Fast-Action Trigger|
|Trigger Press & Reset||4.80 lb as tested; Crisp; Short Reset|
|Magazines/Capacity||2 Steel Mags; 14 rounds; Witness Holes|
|Safeties||No External Manual Safety; Trigger Safety; Firing Pin Block; No Mag Disconnect Safety|
|Grips||Comfortable Grips; Shock-Absorbing, Recoil-Reducing Backstrap with Rubber Hump|
|Other||Limited Lifetime Warranty for Original Purchaser|
|MSRP- Approximate||$526 (with Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot Sight)|
FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro Features
- Loaded Chamber Indicator
- Picatinny Rail for Accessories
- Drop Free Mags
- Top of Slide has Relief Cut to Reduce Weight
- Slightly Beveled Mag Well for Faster Reloads
- Interchangeable Glock-Compatible Sights
- Undercut Trigger Guard for Higher and Comfortable Grip
- Rounded Edges for Concealed Carry
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the FMK Elite Pro. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, ambi mag release, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
In deciding, you make your own tradeoffs according to your personal goals, priorities, preferences, needs, and use, but take a total system perspective and recognize that there are several overall features, characteristics, and pros and cons to include and then consider them.
Range Test: FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro with Burris Fastfire 3 Red Dot
Thanks to FMK for providing this pistol and sight and to Sig Sauer for providing some ammo for my testing and evaluation. I shot their high-quality 9mm ammo:
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 grain FMJ (200 rounds, rated MV=1185 fps & ME=359 ftlbs
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance 124 grain JHP (40 rounds, rated MV=1165 fps & ME=443 ftlbs.
I only fired about 240 rounds total to evaluate this gun (usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days) to decide if I want to carry the gun and/or use it for personal protection or not. The ammo worked very well and I did not have any malfunctions or stoppages. The FMK Elite Pro and this ammo work great together. It felt very good in my medium-sized hands, was very comfortable, and the grips with their rubber hump on the mainspring housing really did help with felt recoil and comfort.
This FMK Elite Pro 9mm pistol and Burris red dot sight really impressed me as a accurate and reliable (with the limited 240 rounds fired by me) concealed carry, home defense, and personal protection package. I may want to consider it as a concealed carry gun with a sturdy belt and solid holster, after I practice much more with it.
After initially cleaning the gun and practicing with the red dot with 50 rounds, I decided to shoot it at one of my usual test distances of 7 yards with the red dot zeroed for 7 yards. Now remember I am not an expert shot by any measure. After a few practice shots with this red dot and 14+1 rounds fired slow fire with this Elite Pro and the Sig Elite Ball FMJ at 7 yards, I was pleased that all hit in a nice 2.50″ or so group for this old codger. I took my time getting use to the red dot. These target hits were great for me for close-up self-defense encounters, especially given my unfamiliarity with this Burris Fastfire 3 red dot sight. Finding the dot was challenging, but I finally learned to do it after practicing. I recognize that I do need more practice. Remember, do not get frustrated when shooting with a red dot sight because it does take practice to adjust to locating that dot and transitioning from your usual front sight focus and sight alignment. BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, proficiency, and purpose. Just try a reflex mini red dot sight on a handgun. You will be surprised at its benefits. Below are my hits for my 15 rounds at only 7 yards with the FMX Elite Pro and the Burris red dot sight and the Sig ammo.
Range Test Results for the FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro 9mm for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9
The Accuracy of the Elite Pro with its 4.0″ barrel, short and soft trigger and short reset, and the Burris red dot sight was very good for personal protection distances of 5, 7, and 10 yards. But the first time I used the Burris optic to shoot the 4.5-inch circle, my hits were spread all over it, as you can see from the above 4.5-inch circle target at 7 yards. You must practice with red dot sights. The 3 MOA dot size was acceptable for finding the dot, but because of my old eyes I wanted a larger red dot, about a 4 or 5 reticle size. My groups at each of the up-close distances of 5, 7, and 10 yards were very acceptable and (mostly) within 2.25-2.75 inches using the red dot. Interestingly, without using the red dot, my groups were better and I felt more comfortable with the iron sights and focusing on the front sight and not the target, like with the red dot. With more practice with the red dot sights, I probably will get better. At first, given my limited time with red dots, I found I had to take more time than I wanted to “find the dot.” As I shot more, my learning curve improved and I could find the dot quicker. I really enjoyed shooting the gun with the red dot, especially since my old eyes are having trouble at longer distances. I want to fire more than only 240 rounds with this gun before I even think about carrying it or using it for home defense. The 4.80# trigger press I experienced was crisp and smooth. It definitely met my personal preference press range and criterion and helped my accuracy. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, when I shot the gun.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The Trigger Press averaged about 4.80 pounds with 10 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was certainly acceptable and within my criterion limit for my press range for my personal protection guns and my single action guns. There was some grit in the press. Given the only 240 rounds I fired with it, this press was fine. It will probably improve over time after more break-in and getting 500 rounds or more through it. Desired trigger press is very much personal preference. I like the smooth trigger press and short reset.
3. Trigger – Score: 9
The Trigger had a very identifiable click and the short reset point was easy to feel. I liked the crisp quality feel of the short takeup and positive trigger reset. I experienced no stacking in the press weight and the trigger had just a very little grit. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize both the tacticle and audible reset point. This Gen 2 Elite trigger is improved and is a nice trigger.
4. Barrel Length: Score: 10
The 4.00-inch length Barrel with the suppressor-height tall front sight, total weight, and beavertail were nice and helped me control muzzle flip and felt recoil. The stainless steel barrel was high quality and it should be very durable and corrosion resistant. This length barrel contributes to good balance, handled and pointed well, was acceptable to me for carry consideration, and I had no feeding problems. In my opinion, this gun would do very well for home defense, concealed carry, and fun recreational shooting. But, practice finding the dot before carrying it concealed or for personal protection.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The front and rear iron sights worked great and so did the red dot sight. The front iron sight was tall and suppressor height for co-witnessing. Co-witnessing with the Burris red dot was no problem whatsoever. The red dot was bright, distinguishable, and worked well with the iron sights. See the Burris Fastfire 3 Specifications and Features above. My only complaint is that the 3 MOA red dot size was too small for me and my aging eyes and my very close personal protection distances. It worked fine, but I wanted a little larger dot. The durable aluminum housing was hardcoated and very sturdy but lightweight. I also liked the automatic brightness sensor and the three manual brightness settings. The Forever Lifetime Warranty was a very big plus for this optic. I really liked using the red dot sight and this fine value-priced gun, so I would use it for home defense and recreational, fun shooting. After more practice, I will consider using it for concealed carry.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The about 27 ounce loaded weight of the FMK Elite Pro and Burris red dot was not a problem, for the 3 days I carried it. But, I do need to carry the gun for a longer period before making my final carry decision. The weight is very acceptable for range use and home defense handling. You must make your own tradeoffs, especially among the added weight and stability for better muzzle flip and felt recoil control and accuracy assistance. I definitely would use this gun-red dot package for home defense.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
I enjoyed shooting the Elite Pro with the Burris red dot sight. It felt great in my hands and the shock-absorbing rubber backstrap with the hump really did help with felt recoil. The 9mm Elite Pro gun was comfortable in my hand and I easily handled the recoil and mild muzzle flip. I really prefer the 9mm caliber for my main concealed carry and personal protection gun. I enjoy practicing with the 9mm caliber, since it is not snappy, the recoil does not bother me so much, and 9mm ammo is less expensive than some other carry rounds. The FMK compact digested the ammo well without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
There were two steel mags included, both 14-rounders with witness holes. I like their high capacity and they were very sturdy and well made. It would be nice to have a third mag included. I believe for almost ALL uses a shooter should have at least 3 mags minimum on hand and included, to save up front expense for buying another and for proper defense. I understand that the added cost of the red dot and the goal of keeping costs down are factors. I had no feeding problems at all with the Sig Sauer ammo and the mags ejected freely and worked well.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
The Ergonomics of the Elite Pro were excellent. It felt great in my hands and the grip texturing was just right when I fired the 240 rounds. The addded rubber hump on the mainspring housing did help absorb shock and reduced muzzle flip. The beavertail helped me grip the gun high on the backstrap and it felt secure and comfortable in my medium-sized hands. I was able to easily reach all the controls without changing my grip. The slightly beveled mag well was a plus and helped some with mag changes. But, it did need to be more beveled for a quicker mag change. The smooth, contured edges and grip texture helped me with a solid grip. It fit my hand very well.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
It was easy to field strip the Elite Pro. It was identical to taking down a Glock handgun. As always, I disassembled, lubed, cleaned, and re-assembled the pistol before I shot it. I did not have to use any tools. The gun does not come with a third magazine or holster. The two included Mags do drop freely. I tried my holster for my Glock 19 and it was not a custom fit. A manufacturer told me the sizes of the trigger guards are different. And the FMK slide has an area that protrudes on the FMK, but does not on the Glock. The red dot sight is positioned to the rear of the slide enough that finding a holster to fit should not be a problem. The red dot sight had no distortion with the lens and the red dot stood ot, but again because of my colorblindness a green color dot would be best for me. However, I do realize there are limited green dot optics and that the green dot may get lost in foliage during the day. The Burris does have an automatic brightness sensor and 3 manual settings. It has an auto off after 8 hours, but wish it would have an auto off after 5 or 6 minutes of inactivity. The FMK-Burris system is moderately priced, given the optic alone is at least $200. The FMK does have a lockable hard case and owner’s manuals for the gun and optic, with included extras, like a cable lock, CLP gun oil, small screwdriver, Allen wrench, extra optical plate and screws, and extra front and rear sights. There is a limited Lifetime Warranty.
Total Points = 93 out of 100 Possible.
Conclusions for FMK 9C1 Gen 2 Elite Pro 9mm with Burris Fastfire 3 red dot
I RECOMMEND this FMK Elite Pro 9mm pistol with the Burris Fastfire 3 red dot sight as a consideration for your home defense and/or fun recreational range gun. You even might want to consider it as your concealed carry gun after you gain familiarity with it and practice a lot finding the red dot. I honestly do like its accuracy, reliability, manageable felt recoil, its high beavertail grip, slightly beveled mag well, and its quality build and functioning. It is moderately priced for a compact 9mm pistol with a red dot optic. The gun’s ergonomics, accuracy, smooth trigger press, couple nicely with the Burris Fastfire 3’s quality lens, housing, battery, and warranty features.
Adding and using a red dot sight to your present concealed carry or home defense gun or buying a gun with a red dot already mounted involve many variables, options, factors, and prices. I believe red dot sights for handguns are a worthwhile technology that many folks should consider as a viable option, but with backup iron sights. You have to set your objective, consider the options that will give you the best result and meet your objective. Remember, some believe that red dot sights for the concealed carry purpose is not appropriate, since most self-defense encounters occur at close distances. And many shooters are already trained to focus on the front sight, rather than find and place the dot on the target. This is a very personal decision, so carefully consider the pros and cons for yourself.
A red dot sighting system should not substitute or replace the necessity for developing your handgun fundamentals and practicing to be effective with your iron sights, sight alignment, and sight picture . A red dot sight alone will not make you a great shooter. Also, you do have to take the time to be able to quickly find the dot and press the trigger for effective hits and this takes practice. I hope this has helped you and saved you some time my friends.
Decide on your criteria and objective, how you will primarily use the gun, what features are important to you, which ones you are willing to pay for, then try a gun and a red dot sight. Then critically evaluate the gun and red dot for yourself per your criteria, purpose, and skills with standard drills, with various ammo types.
Continued Success and Be Safe Friends!
Placentia, CA 92870
Sig Sauer Elite Performance Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Photos by Author and Manufacturer.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2019 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written ermission. or copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.