Best Training Drills with Red Dot Sights for Tactical Shooters

Chris G.

You’ve recently added a new red dot sight to your firearm.  Congratulations! This addition is a wise move, as it improves precision, speed, and overall visibility.

But to truly reap its advantages, you have to master using the optic along with your firearm. This does not happen instantly; it requires intense and constant training.

In this article, I’m going to share some of the best training drills with red dots that can sharpen your shooting skills. This practical knowledge will ensure your red dot sight is utilized to its maximum capability. It will become a component for a significant improvement of your shooting skills.

Does a red dot make you a better shooter? Yes! Are you ready to maximize your capabilities?

Understanding the Basics of Red Dot Sights

a close-up pistol with red dot optics

There’s a reason why “ready” and “get set” goes before “go.” Preparing your red dot sight and firearm for training drills is crucial for a safe and effective practice session.

1. Safety Check: Ensure your firearm is unloaded before beginning any preparation steps. Remove the magazine and check the chamber to verify that there is no ammunition present. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, and follow the basic rules of firearm safety.

2. Secure a Safe Environment: Make sure it is a safe environment with a proper backstop and sufficient space for movement during drills. Confirm that there are no unauthorized individuals in the vicinity.

3. Proper Gear: Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including eye and ear protection. Ensure that your gear, including holsters and magazine pouches, is in good condition and securely attached to your person.

4. Functional Check of Firearm: Perform a functional check of your firearm to ensure all components are in proper working order. Check the trigger, safety mechanisms, and other controls. Confirm that there are no visible defects or issues.

5. Mount and Verify Red Dot Sight: Mount the red dot sight securely on your firearm according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Confirm that it is properly aligned and torqued to the recommended specifications. Check for any signs of damage or loose components.

6. Battery Check: Ensure the battery is fresh and has sufficient power for the entire training session. Consider carrying spare batteries to address any unexpected power issues.

7. Zeroing Verification: Verify the zero of your red dot sight by aligning it with the point of impact on the target. If you’ve recently made adjustments, confirm that the adjustments are accurate. Zeroing is crucial for maintaining accuracy during training drills.

8. Load Dummy Rounds or Snap Caps: Insert dummy rounds or snap caps into your firearm for dry fire practice. This allows you to practice trigger control and manipulation without live ammunition. Dummy rounds also assist in simulating malfunctions for immediate action drills.

9. Set Up Targets: Arrange and set up your targets according to the specific drills you plan to practice. Ensure that your targets are positioned safely and provide an appropriate challenge for your skill level.

10. Plan Your Drills: Outline the specific drills you intend to practice during the session. Whether it’s draw and fire drills, target transitions, or malfunction clearance, having a plan helps maximize the effectiveness of your training time.

11. Range Commands and Communication: Establish clear range commands and communication protocols. Make sure that everyone involved in the training is on the same page regarding drill sequences and safety procedures.

12. Emergency Procedures: Familiarize yourself with the location of emergency equipment, such as first aid kits and fire extinguishers. Establish an emergency plan and communicate it to everyone involved in the training.

Training Drills Using Red Dots

a man’s arm holding a gun

It’s time to step up your game with some effective training drills that will optimize your use of your red dot sight. 

Improving Sight Picture

Sight picture refers to the alignment of the red dot reticle with the target as viewed through the optic’s lens. There are several ways to improve your sight picture. 

1. Consistent Head Position: Practice maintaining a consistent head position. If you’re using a long arm with a fixed or extendable stock, brace your head with the cheek weld every time you shoulder your firearm. This ensures that your eye is aligned with the red dot, promoting a clear sight picture.

2. Centering the Red Dot: Train to consistently center the red dot in the sight window. This involves refining your ability to bring the dot into the middle of the window for precise aiming.

3. Focus on Sight, Then Target: Train your eyes to focus first on the red dot and then transition to the target. Your initial focus should be the alignment and sight picture before engaging the threat.

4. Repeatable Sight Alignment: Develop a repeatable process for aligning the red dot. Consistency in your sight alignment technique enhances muscle memory, leading to a clearer sight picture over time.

5. Target Distance Variation: Set up targets at different distances and practice acquiring a clear sight picture at each range. This helps you adapt to various scenarios and distances.

6. Visualize the Sight Picture: Practice visualizing the sight picture before shouldering the firearm. Mentally picture the red dot on the target, and then confirm it through the sight when you bring the firearm up.

7. Critical Distance Training: Identify critical distances for your specific firearm and sight setup. Practice acquiring a clear sight picture quickly at these distances, as these are likely engagement ranges. Training at critical distances improves your ability to rapidly and accurately align the red dot within your sight window.

Improving Accuracy

Developing accuracy in using a red dot sight (RDS) involves perfecting the right technique, consistent practice, and in-depth understanding of your sight. Here are some tips that will help you hit your intended target every time you pull the trigger. 

1. Consistent Sight Alignment: Practice consistent sight alignment by ensuring the red dot is centered and aligned with the target. Bring the dot into the sight window consistently for each shot.

2. Stable Shooting Platform: Work on maintaining a stable shooting platform to minimize movement during aiming and firing. A stable stance contributes to more accurate shots. If your firearm has a fixed, folding, or extending stock, use it to brace your weapon against your shoulder.

3. Follow Through: Emphasize follow-through after each shot. Keep the sight picture steady even after firing to maintain your focus on the target. This also helps prevent flinching or jerking.

4. Smooth Trigger Control: Focus on smooth trigger control to prevent jerking or flinching. Practice a controlled and deliberate trigger squeeze for each shot.

5. Breath Control: Incorporate breath control techniques to stabilize your aim. Time your shots with your natural respiratory cadence. Take a breath before each shot and hold it to enhance precision.

6. Distance-Specific Training: Tailor your training to different shooting distances. Practice accuracy drills at various ranges to make sure your red dot sight is zeroed effectively, and you can consistently hit targets at different distances.

7. Precision Shooting Drills: This can include engaging smaller targets, shooting from challenging positions, and incorporating time constraints to simulate real-world scenarios.

8. Shot Group Analysis: Analyze your shot groups on targets. Identify any patterns or inconsistencies in your shots then adjust your technique or zeroing if needed. This analysis provides valuable feedback about your shots that you can use to improve your shooting skills.

9. Low-Light Shooting: Train in low-light conditions to simulate real-world scenarios. Low-light shooting drills enhance your adaptability and accuracy in challenging environments. Practice using the red dot sight effectively in varying lighting conditions. 

10. Record and Analyze Sessions: Record your training sessions to review your shooting technique and red dot sight usage. Analyze the footage to identify any issues affecting accuracy and make necessary adjustments. Pay attention to sight alignment, trigger control, and overall shooting mechanics.

11. Consistent Zeroing Checks: Regularly check and adjust the zero of your red dot sight. A consistent zero ensures that your shots land where you intend, contributing to overall accuracy. Perform zeroing checks whenever you change ammunition, firearm components, or after prolonged use to maintain optimal performance.

Improving Your Speed of Target Transition

In a situation where multiple threats could arise quickly, the ability to quickly shift your focus from one target to another is a crucial skill for anyone using a red dot sight. 

1 . Focus on Red Dot Acquisition: Train to quickly acquire the red dot on the target as you bring the firearm up. Practice a smooth and efficient motion to align the red dot with the intended point of impact.

2.  Peripheral Vision Awareness: Improve your peripheral vision awareness to quickly identify new targets in your surroundings. Peripheral awareness helps you transition smoothly without fixating on a single target for an extended period.

3. Practice Target Arrays: Set up target arrays with multiple targets at different distances. Engage each target quickly and accurately. You can vary the distances and positions to simulate realistic scenarios.

4. Timing Drills: Use a timer to measure your target transition speed. Set specific time goals and gradually work on reducing the time it takes to transition between targets while maintaining accuracy. Time-based drills create a sense of urgency and help improve efficiency.

5. Movement Drills: Incorporate movement into your target transition drills. Practice moving laterally, forward, and backward while engaging different targets. Movement adds complexity to the drill, simulating dynamic scenarios where you may need to transition quickly.

6. Use of Cover: Integrate the use of cover into your training. Practice transitioning between targets while moving in and out of cover. 

7. Varying Target Sizes: Work with targets of different sizes. Smaller targets may require more precise transitions, challenging your speed and accuracy. Practice transitioning between small and large targets to refine your skills.

8. Visualize Transitions: Visualize the transitions between targets before executing the drill. Mentally map out the sequence of targets and practice transitioning smoothly in your mind. Visualization can improve reaction times and decision-making.

9. Use Reactive Targets: Incorporate reactive targets that provide immediate feedback upon impact. This helps reinforce accurate shot placement and allows you to adjust in real time. Reactive targets can include steel plates, paper targets with visible hit zones, or electronic targets that register hits.

Advanced Techniques for Tactical Shooters Using Red Dot Sights

a man shooting in an outdoor firing range

As an operator skilled in tactical shooting, you can drastically improve your results by becoming proficient in some advanced techniques related to red dot sights. Gaining a thorough understanding of your gear can be a game-changer, especially when you find yourself in high-pressure scenarios.

Maintaining Focus and Accuracy Under Stress with Red Dot Sights

Maintaining focus and accuracy under stress is crucial for effective shooting in dynamic situations. Here are strategies to help you stay composed and perform well under stress, especially when using a red dot sight:

1. Controlled Breathing: Deep, rhythmic breaths help regulate your heart rate and keep you calm. This controlled breathing also aids in maintaining a stable shooting platform.

2. Visualization: Visualize successful outcomes and positive scenarios before engaging targets. Mental imagery can help reduce anxiety and enhance your ability to focus on the task at hand.

3. Repetition through Training: Engage in realistic and scenario-based training regularly. The more you expose yourself to simulated stressors in a controlled environment, the more accustomed you become to performing under pressure.

4. Mindfulness and Focus Techniques: Techniques such as meditation and visualization can enhance your ability to maintain focus, even in high-stress situations.

5. Progressive Stress Inoculation: Gradually expose yourself to increasing levels of stress during training. This progressive stress inoculation helps build resilience and adaptability, allowing you to better handle stress in real-world scenarios.

6. Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome: Concentrate on executing proper shooting techniques rather than fixating on the potential outcome. Focusing on the process helps prevent performance anxiety and allows you to stay in the moment.

7. Use Stress-Inducing Drills: Integrate stress-inducing drills into your training regimen. These drills may involve physical exertion, simulated distractions, or time constraints. The goal is to expose yourself to stressors and learn to manage them without compromising accuracy.

8. Familiarity with Your Equipment: Be thoroughly prepared and familiar with your equipment, including your red dot sight. The more familiar you are with your gear, the less likely you are to succumb to stress-induced errors.

9. Stay Adaptive: Train for adaptability. Stressful situations are often unpredictable, so practice adjusting your tactics and response strategies based on the evolving circumstances.

Holster and Draw Exercises

Incorporating drills that involve holstering and drawing your firearm into your training routine can greatly enhance your ability to swiftly, accurately, and confidently use your weapon. Such drills offer invaluable practice in extracting and aiming your firearm, a competency that can often tip the balance between victory and defeat in tense situations.

1. Dry Fire Draw Drills: Practice drawing from the holster without live ammunition. Ensure the firearm is unloaded and conduct these drills in a safe direction. Focus on a smooth and controlled draw, emphasizing proper grip and trigger finger discipline.

2. Holster Presentation: Stand in a proper shooting stance with an unloaded firearm holstered. Practice presenting the firearm from the holster to the ready position. Pay attention to maintaining muzzle discipline and a consistent draw motion.

3. Speed Drills: Work on increasing the speed of your draw while maintaining accuracy. Use a shot timer to measure your draw speed. Start with a slow and deliberate draw, gradually increasing speed as you become more comfortable.

4. One-Handed Draws: Train for scenarios where one hand may be occupied or injured. Practice drawing and presenting the firearm with your non-dominant hand. 

5. Draw from Concealment: If you carry concealed, practice drawing from your concealed holster or garment. Your garments, which may be in the way, adds a layer of complexity to the draw-and-presentation process.

6. Holstering Drills: Include holstering drills in your routine to practice reholstering safely. Slowly and deliberately return the firearm to the holster, ensuring your trigger finger remains indexed along the slide until the gun is fully holstered.

7. Movement and Draw: Integrate movement into your draw drills. Move laterally, forward, or backward while drawing from the holster. This simulates scenarios where you may need to engage targets while on the move.

8. Draw and Engage Multiple Targets: Set up multiple targets at varying distances. Practice drawing and engaging each target quickly and accurately. Focus on smooth transitions between targets while maintaining proper sight alignment.

9. Unorthodox Position: Experiment with drawing from unorthodox positions such as kneeling or prone. This helps develop muscle memory and adaptability for different shooting scenarios.

10. Draw and Immediate Action: Combine the draw with immediate action drills. Simulate malfunctions or jamming, and practice clearing them efficiently after the initial draw.

11. Draw and Communicate: Incorporate verbal commands during draw drills. Practice giving clear and concise commands while drawing and engaging targets. This enhances your ability to communicate effectively in dynamic situations.

Overcoming Challenges Related to Occlusion with a Red Dot Sight

Occlusion refers to any situation where the red dot in your sight is concealed or obstructed, usually by dirt, debris, or a drained battery. To ensure your tactical shooting is precise and efficient, you’ll need to find ways to tackle this issue.

1. Optimal Sight Placement: Mount the red dot sight in an optimal position on the firearm. Proper placement helps minimize the risk of occlusion by ensuring a clear line of sight and reducing interference with other components.

2. Co-Witnessing Iron Sights: Co-witnessing your red dot sight with iron sights allows for an alternative aiming method in case of occlusion. This involves aligning the red dot sight with the iron sights, providing a secondary aiming option if the red dot is partially obstructed.

3. Choose a Lower Mount: Lower mounts reduce the chances of obstruction, especially when transitioning between targets or engaging in dynamic shooting scenarios.

4. Use the Right Holster: This is especially important if you’re wearing a conceal carry holster. Make sure your holster does not get in the way of your red dot and vice versa.

5. Use Movement to Clear Obstructions: Incorporate lateral movement into your shooting drills. Moving to the side can quickly clear obstructions and provide a clearer view through the red dot sight. This is especially useful in scenarios where occlusion may occur.

8. Opt for a Larger Field of View: Choose a red dot sight with a larger field of view. A larger window allows for better visibility and reduces the likelihood of occlusion affecting your aiming point.

Conclusion

You’ve acquired your red dot sight and are prepared to improve your tactical shooting skills. Gaining proficiency with this optic won’t occur instantaneously. It demands regular training, honing in on sight picture, precision, speed, and target transition.

Don’t evade challenges and difficulties. Confront them with these specific drills. With perseverance and these training exercises, you’ll be enjoying your red dot sight’s capabilities before long. Enjoy your practice sessions!

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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