“If it wasn’t a good idea, the manufacturer would not have put it there.” That was the response I received from an acquaintance when I ranted about stupid things that gunmakers put on their pistols. To be fair, I would never attempt to question a firearms manufacturer with 100 years experience when it comes to safe chamber pressures, the correct use of rifling, or how to harden and temper steel.

Nonetheless, there is a difference between making something that works and using said object in the field. Throughout history, there have been myriads of products that looked good on the engineer’s table, but were miserable failures in the real-world. John Denver died because the engineers of the new airplane he was flying put the auxiliary fuel tank switch in a place where it was very difficult for the pilot to reach.

3 Dot Sights are Stupid

3 Dot Sights are dumb, but gunmakers keep putting them on defensive handguns.

3 Dot Pistol Sights are Stupid


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We put a front sight on the gun to give us an index point for the muzzle of the firearm. We put a rear sight on the gun to further aid us in indexing the bore of the pistol or rifle with the target. That is basic firearms science and it goes back hundreds of years. The wheels come off the wagon when we forget the basic premise behind the sight.

Of the two sights on a pistol, the front sight is the most important because it is sitting over the muzzle. The front sight indicates muzzle direction, not the rear sight which sits behind the chamber. I spoke at length about this during my piece entitled Accur8™ Sights: Everything You Need to Know. I specifically discussed the science of sight and how the human eye can only focus at one distance (on one object) at a time.

By installing 3 dot pistol sights on a handgun, gunmakers put twice as much paint, fiber optic material, or Tritium in the rear as they do the front. This forces the shooter, with natural difficulty, to ignore the light-reflecting or producing rear sight to try and find the front sight. On any gun this is bad idea, on a defensive pistol it is a stupid idea.

3 Dot Sights Will Not Make You Shoot Better. Neither will Fancy Rear Sights.

As a small arms and tactics instructor for more than 20 years, I can tell you that shooters who religiously attempt to align the three dots will invariably shoot low on the target. My solution for decades has been to take a black marker and blot out the dots in the rear sight. Problem solved.

While I am venting about pistol sights, allow me to opine about slanted or “snag-free” rear sights. Sloped or slanted rear sights and fighting guns are like paint stripes or flames on your car, they look cool but do nothing to enhance performance. Actually, “snag-free”/slanted rear sights are a detriment to performance on a fighting pistol.

If you are serious about saving your life with a handgun, you need to train to employ the pistol with only one hand. This includes more than shooting the gun, it includes clearing the most simple of stoppages or performing a reload single handed. The best part of the pistol to use to rack the reciprocating slide on your belt, boot heel, door frame, whatever, is the hard edge of steel rear sights. “Snag-free” or slanted rear sights make this task nearly impossible. In conclusion, sloped rear sights look cool and are stupid at the same time.

Extended / Oversized Controls are Stupid.

The blame for this stupidity lies squarely at the feet of competition, race gun shooters. In an effort to shave fractions of seconds from their “time”, race gun drivers will install aftermarket, extended or oversized controls on their pistols.

First it was the M1911A1 in its various configurations that received expected thumb-safeties, extra-large magazine release buttons, and, of course, extended slide stops so big you could land a UH-1 Huey on them. I will admit that in my young and formative years, such things attracted me. Afterall, the supercool, lightning-fast competition shooters used them. They must be good, right?

About thirty years ago I started actually carrying a gun and I discovered that, as cool as they seemed, oversized controls are the devil on a carry gun. Particularly in regard to the manual thumb safety on an M1911A1, both extra large and ambi safeties had the tendency to disengage themselves during normal, everyday movement. I remember a seasoned instructor telling me, “Watch that safety, it’s going to come off on its own.”

You Do Not Need a Racecar. You Need a Handgun.

Oversized and extended magazine release buttons are a fantastic way to drop your loaded magazine on the ground accidentally. If you have a pistol with a magazine disconnector, now you are holding an expensive bludgeon. At least when your magazine falls out you realize it. What happens more often, particularly with polymer framed guns, is that the mag will pop loose just a bit but remain in the gun. Now you either get no shots, or you get one shot and then a click.

As for the extended slide locks, these items are more of a general nuisance. They make holster-fit a nightmare and drag on the inside of most duty and concealed carry rigs. These landing platform abominations interject themselves into your two-handed grip as well. If you are concerned about your slide locking back on an empty magazine, the oversized slide lock will not be your friend.

Reality is a different kind of competition. You don’t need a racecar. You need a handgun.

Double Stupid

Here is a double whammy; slanted “snag-free” sight and oversized thumb safety.

Ports, Cuts, and Holes in Pistol Slides are Stupid.

I’m not sure if I should blame race gun drivers or Instagram for the psychotic phenomena of carving ports, cuts and various kinds of holes in handgun slides. In the interest of full disclosure, about a year or two before GLOCK started making their MOS (optic ready) line of pistols, I purchased a custom GLOCK slide that was machined to accept an RMR red dot. The slide has custom cuts in it. I used it for red dot shooting, but not as a carry gun for reasons I will state here.

Recently I came across an article written by a person in an online gun magazine. Said person opined that while slide cuts and ports might be a fad, they don’t have a detriment on the gun. The writer claimed that the cuts allowing dirt, dust, and debris to enter the inner workings of the pistols was a non-issue. The M9 Beretta was, with its open slide, used to buttress the argument.

While a Marine Corps infantryman, I carried the M9 Beretta continuously, all day/everyday, in the desert overseas. Despite the gun being protected by the holster, myself and the other pistol carriers needed to clean the dust and sand grit out of our guns everyday.

Any person who has been carrying a gun on a daily basis, I would venture a guess that at one point you were amazed at the amount of dirt, dust, and debris that found its way inside of your gun just from carrying it. Not rolling around on the ground, but just carrying it like a normal gun owner. Don’t believe me? Go pull the trigger group out of your carry gun and tell me what you find in there.

Instagram Likes are More Important Than Your Life?

Aside from opening up the gun to even more function inhibiting grit, dust, debris, etc, holes, ports, and funky cuts in the slide alter the total slide mass. The gunmakers factored in the slide mass when they designed the recoil spring. When you screw with that, you end up playing games buying different springs. Why? Are your Instagram likes so important that you are willing to degrade the reliability of the gun? Because it became so fashionable to have pistols with slide holes, some makers started offering them from the factory like that. A factory gun should have the correct recoil spring weight, but that does not negate the crud build up in a daily carry gun that is full of holes.

Speaking of holes, why in the hell are there 12, 15, 17 holes drilled in the back of your pistol magazines? “So I know how many rounds are in it.” someone just said. When did you lose the ability to count to 17? You cannot see the hole when the magazine is inside of the gun so they serve no tactical purpose, nor should they. Round count holes in magazines serve two purposes; they allow dust and debris to get into the magazine body and the assuage our psychotic American need to see the rounds. Do you carry a spare magazine on your body? I dare you to disassemble it and look inside. Round count holes in magazines are stupid.

Less holes in handguns might mean less holes in your body. Don’t be stupid for Instagram likes.

Stupid Holes Everywhere

Which is more pointless; Holes in slides or holes in magazines?

It’s Your Fault. Gun Owners are being Stupid.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Damn, this guy is really down on the firearms industry.” Nope, not at all. The reason why gunmakers continue to put stupid and pointless things on firearms that should be defensive pistols is because of you, the gun buying public. Yes, I am using the general “you” not the specific “you”. If none of this applies to you personally, untwist your panties.

Rather than spend time and money getting professional training with their defensive pistols, most Americans put their focus on trying to buy their way around it. They purchase firearms with widgets and gadgets on them so they can “shoot better”. It is the job of gunmakers to sell guns. The consumer demands stupid crap, the manufacturers will continue to provide it.

People should take the time to educate themselves and actually think, so that they understand the science of sights and realize why 3 dot sights are stupid. If people took their guns to training they would quickly realize that oversized controls are not a good idea. If people carried their guns everyday, it would soon become obvious to them how much dirt and debris gets into any gun, even more so one drilled full of holes like Swiss cheese.

At the end of the day, it’s your money. If you want to buy guns with add-on crap that you think makes you “shoot better”, have at it. At least apply a bit of analytical thought to the process. The more training and experience you have, the better able you will be in determining what is an intelligent feature and what is just stupid.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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