3 Ways to Mount and Shoot a Pistol Red Dot

By Joe Kriz


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When you think of pistol red dots, you may believe their use is limited to pistols – after all, it’s in the name. But these small dot sights are capable of much more. Perhaps the most versatile of all firearm optics, pistol red dots can be mounted directly to handgun slides, mounted on risers atop rifles, or mounted on offsets as complements to fixed or variable magnification riflescopes.

Whether you’re looking for a flexible optic solution or a new use for that dot sight sitting in your drawer, explore three ways to mount and shoot a pistol red dot.

1. Direct Mount


The first, and most obvious, method involves mounting the red dot directly to the slide of your pistol. Depending on your handgun model and its mounting standard/footprint (e.g., RMR) or optic mounting system (e.g., Glock MOS), this may involve an adapter plate to fit your optic’s footprint. Over a dozen footprints are used across the industry, each with different screw and recoil lug socket patterns. If your pistol is not capable of accepting optics from the factory, most can be milled by a gunsmith for a specific footprint or system.

While direct mounting is most common on pistols, it can also be found on some long gun platforms, like optics-ready Mossberg 500, 590, and 940 model shotguns with integrated RMSc footprint receivers.


Direct mounting is the most streamlined and low-profile option for shooting with a pistol red dot. Popularized by competitive shooters for rapid target acquisition and precision, red dots can now be found atop pistols for concealed carry, home defense, duty use, and general plinking. Pistol optics can also help those who struggle to make out their iron sights to continue shooting.

Pros & Cons


  • Lowest profile option
  • Quicker than iron sights
  • Unlimited optic options


  • Generally limited to handguns
  • Lacking footprint standards
  • Adds additional weight

2. Riser Mount


In addition to being larger than their pistol optic counterparts, rifle red dots are often affixed to riser mounts. Commonly used on AR-style rifles, pistol caliber carbines (PCCs), and other platforms with Picatinny rail receivers, riser mounts elevate the optic for a taller sight picture needed when shooting off a buttstock. However, large window pistol red dots can also be used on these same weapon platforms with riser mounts.

Risers are available in various heights to accommodate different firearms, setups, and applications. A low riser mount may be needed for a shotgun, while a tall riser mount may be needed when shooting an AR15 with night vision goggles. Mounts also have different interfaces to fit various red dot footprints.


For long gun shooters wanting to minimize their firearm’s weight or footprint, pistol red dots are lighter and smaller than rifle dots and low power variable optics (LPVOs) while offering similar performance. Risers may be used to elevate a pistol dot on a non-handgun platform, cowitness with backup iron sights, or achieve a desired height sight picture. Pistol red dots on riser mounts are often used by competitive shooters and those with PCC/sub machinegun-type firearms.

Pros & Cons


  • Greater platform versatility
  • Adaptable sight picture height
  • Smaller and lighter package


  • Often smaller optic windows
  • Less durable than larger optics
  • Additional component costs

3. Offset Mount


While direct and riser mounting relate to pistol red dots as primary optics, offset mounting allows dot sights to serve as secondary options to fixed magnification prism scopes or variable magnification riflescopes. Offset mounted red dots offer “true” 1x magnification not provided by other optics for quick transitions between targets at long and close range without needing to adjust magnification.

Like risers, offset mounts utilize common red dot footprints. Offset mounts may be integrated into the side (offset) or top (piggyback) of riflescope mount rings, or as independent mounts that attach to standard Picatinny rails or around scope tubes depending on primary optic, platform, and shooter preference.


Often used to complement LPVOs, offset red dot mounting is popular in tactical, competition, and defensive scenarios. The ability to transition between targets at two distances without adjusting magnification or performing on-the-fly calculations can be a significant advantage in high-stress, dynamic situations. Pairing two optics together on one firearm also increases overall versatility of the platform.

Pros & Cons


  • “True” 1x magnification
  • Dual-ranging capability
  • Ambidextrous mounting


  • Increased firearm footprint
  • Difficult to zero/sight-in
  • Additional weight

Swampfox Optics


Whichever mounting method you choose, Swampfox has the pistol red dots and mounts to make it happen. Our RMR and RMSc footprint red dots are versatile atop pistols, rifles, shotguns, and PCCs, with riser mounts and both integrated and independent offset mounts for elevating and pairing with prisms and LPVOs. From the range to the field, the streets to your home, we have the optic solution optimized for you.

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