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How to Choose the Best Red Dot Ready Pistol

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Today, it’s commonplace to see enthusiasts running reflex sights on their pistols. As technology has progressed, mini-reflex sights can now be more compact, efficient, and can project more than just the standard ‘dot’ reticle. Given the sheer number of benefits they provide, it’s no surprise that they make a popular addition to handguns. 

To accommodate this new standard, many firearms manufacturers have started producing ‘optic ready’ variants of their flagship pistols. While it’s great to have so many to choose from, this abundance of options doesn’t make it easy to pick out just one.  

If you’re getting started in your search for a new handgun, choosing an optic-ready model is a wise choice. Even if you don’t plan to run an optic immediately, having the option to do so without having to send your handgun off to be milled is a big plus. Like we said, there are a lot of options to choose from. Below, we’re looking at some of the best ones available:  

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Understanding Reflex Sights 

If you’re new to firearm ownership, you may not know what mini-reflex sights and pistol red dot sights are. At their core, they’re essentially small reflex sights designed for use on handguns, though they can be used on other platforms. Their smaller form factor and secure attachment make them resilient to harsh conditions and general wear and tear seen from everyday use. 

For pistols, there are two types of dot sights you can choose from: open emitter mini-reflex sights and pistol red dot sights. Both are solid reflex sight options, but they differ in a few ways, mainly in their construction. Like their name would suggest, open-emitter mini-reflex have an open emitter design and only one lens. Pistol red dot sights are enclosed and have two lenses instead of one. There’s A LOT to cover with both pistol-sized reflex sight options. Our article, Reflex Sights vs. Red Dots, breaks down both sights in a head-to-head comparison. 

Likewise, if you’re new to running optics on your firearms, our article on the five things to consider when buying a red dot has a lot of info that makes shopping for a red dot sight as easy as possible.  

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What Does “Optic Ready” Mean?  

The term “optic ready”, simply means that the slide of the pistol is already milled to accept a mini-reflex sight. Visually, you can tell if a pistol is optic ready by looking at the slide. You’ll be able to see the cover plate or exposed retainer screws on the top of the slide. 

Something to note, just because a pistol is optic ready, doesn’t mean that you can use just any optic on it. There are a lot of different optics available and most of them have their own proprietary mounting footprint. Look at GLOCK pistols, for instance; they use GLOCK’s MOS mounting footprint, so something like an RMR wouldn’t be directly compatible with it unless you had a compatible MOS plate. Other popular pistols like the SIG P320 come ready for optics with a Delta Point Pro footprint. In both cases, adapters or sometimes aftermarket slides, are necessary for running specific optics.  

With that said, there is a wide array of pistols available that come optic ready from the factory. Even if you don’t plan to run an optic immediately, they’re still a solid choice to go with since having an optic cut pistol from the factory means you won’t have to send your slide off to a gunsmith to have it milled.  

Top Optic Ready Pistols on the Market 


SIG Sauer Pistols 

SIG P320: SIG’s flagship pistol model, the P320, is one of the most popular pistols offered by SIG Sauer. One of the unique features the P320 boasts is its Fire Control Unit, or FCU. The FCU is the serialized part of the firearm. Whereas most manufacturers have the frame/grip as the serialized portion, the FCU can be easily swapped into different grip modules, allowing owners to completely customize their pistols, frames and all.  

As we mentioned before, the P320 comes from the factory with a slide cut for a Delta Point Pro mounting footprint. While you can run a Leupold Delta Point Pro, SIG’s own ROMEO optic line is compatible with the P320. If you wish to use any other optic models, adapter plates are available for the P320 

SIG P365: Another popular offering from SIG is the P365 pistol line. It’s an ultra-compact double-stack pistol, which is also capable of running optics. While the base model doesn’t have an optic cut, SIG does produce other configurations of the P365, P365XL, and the newer P365 XMacro that are optic ready. Each model has a Compact/Shield RMSc mounting footprint, making it compatible with SIG’s ROMEO 0 and ROMEO X sights, as well as other popular sights like the Holosun 507k mini-reflex sight. 

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Smith & Wesson Pistols 

M&P®9 M2.0: One of the most popular pistol models from Smith & Wesson is the M&P9 M2.0. Known for its durability and reliability, the M&P9 M2.0 is available in different sizes, finishes, and even comes optic ready from the factory. Each of the M&P9 M2.0 pistols are cut to accept a wide array of optics including those from Crimson Trace, Leupold, Trijicon, and Holosun, just to name a few.  

M&P Shield: The Shield is one of Smith & Wesson’s compact pistol offerings. The shield is available in a few different configurations. The standard M&P Shield is a compact single stack pistol, while the Shield Plus has a similar compact form factor, just with a double-stack magazine instead of a single-stack one. Both options can come optic cut from the factory, and they both have a Shield RMS/RMSc mounting compatibility.  

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Heckler and Koch Pistols 

HK VP9: Heckler and Koch pistols are renowned for their high quality, longevity, and durability in intense conditions. While they’re most known for firearms like the MP5 and HK416, their handguns share the same level of care during their production. One such pistol is the VP9. The HK VP9 is a double-stack, striker fire pistol that’s offered in a few different configurations, including the standard VP9, the VP9 Tactical, and the competition ready VP9L model.  

Each variant of the VP9 has optic ready configurations from the factory. The VP9’s optic cut is proprietary to the VP9, but HK sells a plethora of mounting plates for just about every optic footprint available. Keep in mind that, in most cases, the optic mounting plates are sold separately from the pistol itself. This does allow you to choose which plate you buy, allowing you to get the one that’s tailored to your optic of choice. If you plan to purchase an HK VP9, be sure to check and see if mounting plates are included in the package.  

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FN America Pistols 

FN 509: The flagship pistol from FN, the 509, is a double-stack 9mm pistol that comes in a variety of different options. Like the other pistols mentioned in this list, the 509 also has numerous configurations that are optic ready from the factory. Each optic ready model of the FN 509 comes standard with FN’s Low-Profile Optics-Mounting System™, and they additionally come with four different mounting plates. Each of the mounting plates allows the 509 and its variants to be compatible with most of the popular options available today.  

FNX-45: A step up in size from the smaller 509 platform, the FNX-45 is a larger hammer-fired pistol chambered in the venerable .45ACP. Currently, the only FNX-45 model that comes with an optic cut is the FNX-45 Tactical. Like the FN 509, the FNX-45 Tactical comes with a set of optic mounting plates, however it only ships standard with two plates, unlike the 509’s four plates. Still, it makes the pistol compatible with most of the popular pistol red dot sights on the market. 

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GLOCK Pistols 

GLOCK Full-Size Pistols: GLOCK needs no introduction. They are one of the most popular handgun manufacturers in the world, and they have a slew of high-quality pistols to choose from. Most of their popular handgun options come with optic ready capabilities, with some of the more popular options being the GLOCK 19, GLOCK 19X/45, and GLOCK 17 pistols. Each full-size optic ready pistol from GLOCK uses their proprietary MOS mounting system.  

MOS simply stands for “Modular Optic System”. Any GLOCK pistol that uses this mounting system requires MOS mounting plates to be compatible with different optics. Most commonly, GLOCK MOS pistols will come with an assortment of mounting plates, but if not, they are available directly from GLOCK as well.  

GLOCK Sub-Compact Pistols: GLOCK also has several sub-compact pistols available as well, like the popular GLOCK 43X and GLOCK 48. Being part of GLOCK’s slim line of pistols, the 43X and 48 have quickly become some of the most popular options from GLOCK for concealed carry. Their slimmer form factors limit the number of optic options though, much like the other compact options mentioned in this list. Still, MOS plates are available for popular compact mini-reflex sights like the Holosun 507K, Primary Arms Classic Series 21mm Micro Reflex Sight, and the Trijicon RMRcc. 

Factors to Consider Before Buying an Optic Ready Pistol 

Now that you have an idea of where to start in your search for an optic ready pistol, we highly encourage you to slow down and assess your personal needs before making any kind of firearm purchase. There are a few key things to take into consideration before deciding on a new pistol, those being your budget and optic compatibility.  

As we’re sure you know, pistols can vary wildly in price. If you’re shopping for a more affordable pistol option, you’re in luck, because most of the models mentioned above are commonly found under $700. That said, models like the HK VP9 and FN 509/FNX-45 Tactical are among the more expensive options available. Depending on the variation, each option typically ranges anywhere from $800 to $1,500, but keep in mind that when these models go on sale, they’re often priced below that mark.  

Fortunately, every model mentioned has a plethora of compatible optics, but if you’re looking for a direct fit, your choices are limited. Unless you opt for a custom cut slide, it’s likely that you’ll need to use a mounting plate to fit your optic. This isn’t bad, though. Many new optic-cut pistols have specialized mounting plates that have low profiles and don’t add too much extra height to your optic when mounted to the slide. Your optic will probably still have a lower 1/3 co-witness with your iron sights too.  

Also, mini-reflex sight installation is incredibly easy. Most optics have two mounting screws that go through the top face of the sight. These thread straight into the slide or that optic’s corresponding mounting plate. For enclosed pistol red dot sights, they often need the use of their own specialized mounting plate, since they are secured from the side instead of the top of the optic.  

Finally, it’s worth considering how effective your optic is going to be when paired with your pistol of choice. Optics vary widely in shape and size, and depending on what you use your pistol for, it may not be a good pairing. Ultimately, this is entirely subjective and up to your personal preference. If you plan on concealed carrying your pistol, you’ll want to find an optic that closely matches the profile of your handgun. Any protrusions on the side could make it uncomfortable to carry in certain positions. We recommend researching each optic to see how it will fit on your handgun to make sure it’s the right call for you.  

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Optic ready pistols are not going away anytime soon. They make it possible for enthusiasts to easily enhance their pistols with reflex sights without having to send them off to a gunsmith. Still, with so many manufacturers producing a ton of different options, it can be hard to find one that best fits your needs.  

Finding a good pistol will ultimately come down to what your needs dictate. Remember, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you. Reading articles like this can provide a solid start to your search. Our guide on what to consider with a pistol red dot sight, and our red dot buyers guide will round out your knowledge of what’s available to you.