Firearm evolution is a slow tedious matter at times with breakthroughs and improvements coming in bits and pieces influenced by a multitude of factors such as manufacturing techniques, metallurgy, cartridge improvements, technology, market forces and countless other factors as experienced in individual countries and cultures. The firearm development path covers centuries of time. One of the most basic concepts that has remained constant, or stagnant depending on point of view, are handgun sights. The earliest muzzle loading pistols feature sights that we can recognize today in the form of a front post and some sort of rear notch that it is aligned with. Modern open sights are more refined, but the basic form is the same – align front post within rear notch. This is now undergoing a change with the advent of installing red dot sights (RDS) in lieu of the traditional iron open sights for everyday personal defense weapons, law enforcement and military weapons. Competition handguns have sported enhanced sights, albeit red dots or magnified optics, for decades now; however a subtle movement is underway to incorporate red dots into everyday concealed carry or personal defense handguns. The previously applied red dots were big and ungainly affairs with complex, often times, custom mounts utilized for a “gaming” application and less than hardy for everyday carry. This is not the case with the current RDS offerings coming on line.
The ever rising groundswell of RDS on handguns is evident with multiple manufacturers offering options of mounting RDS to the frames of their semiautomatic handguns. Most of these examples are large and put one in mind of an offensive handgun more than an inside-the-waistband concealed carry weapon. Other offerings are custom in nature in terms of configuration and cost. An emerging leader driving the concept both in theory and application producing red dot sights for defensive handguns is the Technical Services Division (TSD) of One Source Tactical. Gabe Suarez is both the owner of One Source Tactical and Suarez International a worldwide training organization. Mr. Suarez is a controversial figure within certain circles for various reasons; some of which are his “out of the box” thinking when it comes to personal defense methods and tools that best serve this mindset. No matter preconceived opinions, one can be sure that any ideas presented by Mr. Suarez and then backed up with products are well thought out and proofed during numerous training cycles and personal application in the field under the most rigorous conditions. TSD’s Advanced Combat Glock slide is an excellent example of this.
While models such as Smith&Wesson M&P and Springfield XD are offered via TSD, the starting point for TSD’s development of the red dot handgun began with the Glock – and for good reason. Many consider Glock the standard which fighting pistols are held based on capacity, weight/firepower ratio, ruggedness, and reliability. Glock handguns enjoy a reputation second to none. After exploding on the scene in the early 1980s with the Glock 17, Glock pistols quickly evolved into the benchmark for personal defense handguns. One Source Tactical literature is quick to point out that they were not the first to conceive the red dot mounted handgun. As alluded to earlier, competition circles have been using red dot sights on their handguns for a decade. Those rigs however use very large optics and as such, they were unsuitable for daily carry. One of the first credible accounts of actual use of a “mini” red dot sight on a defensive pistol is Kelly McCann, who used a RDS on his well worn and traveled Glock 19 pistol.
TSD and Suarez International first began work on the Advanced Combat Glock concept when seeking an answer to questions posed by many of their students as to how best to enhance what was for many their primary method of defense – the handgun. The obvious answer was training and practice. Suarez International will never be confused with advocating gear as a substitute for skill ingrained by training and practice. However, Gabe felt gear enhancement could assist in the quest. Proficiency with a handgun is one of the most perishable weapon skills and is impacted as we get older due to changes in our vision causing difficulty seeing iron sights and the target at the same time, or difficulty transitioning focus between sights and target. The solution arrived at was the same as most had already opted for with their rifles: add a red dot sight to your AK or M4 and your shooting skill generally improves in terms of accuracy, speed, and proficiency engaging moving targets. While a little more challenging due to size restrictions, this is what Suarez’s TSD decided on as the best course of action with handguns. What TSD finally arrived at with trial and error in product development not only assisted their students but enhanced the basic ability of the personal defense handgun platform as a whole.
When looking for a viable red dot sight, TSD examined several available optics. They wanted something with a bright, clearly defined dot that was visible in the greatest variety of lighting conditions. Another consideration was reasonable battery life and waterproof enough to be submerged in a bucket of water. No dials, adjustments, or on-off switches were another must as the possibility of the unit becoming mis-adjusted or turned off during holster carry was totally unacceptable. An RDS with a minimal footprint to fit as many different types of slides as possible was another desired feature so as not to confine the concept to a Glock-only idea. TSD obtained various samples for testing; while all of them share similar characteristics, all were found lacking except for one: the Trijicon RMR. Reflective of the real world input through their training division sister company; TSD desired a viable back up sighting system with the Trijicon RMR, because as tough as the RMR is, anything man-made can fail. After experimenting with various systems from dot and bars cut into the RMR unit, TSD opted for the simplest, yet most sound solution. The iron sights were left exactly where they were and just made taller as represented by available suppressor sights to use over the Trijicon RMR unit.
Users of the TSD Advanced Combat Glock find that they no longer have to switch focus from target to sights and invariably eliminate the “front sight focus” so difficult for older shooters. They can now do as nature intends for them to do, focus on the threat. Moreover, because the indexing of a small red dot is far easier and sharper than the same task with three pieces of steel, they find they can take shots beyond what was considered possible with iron sights. Hitting steel at 100 yards on the first shot is very possible with the TSD modified RDS Glock, as well as running CQB drills at times that were considered impossible to achieve before – all simply because the concept uses the eyes in a more normal manner.
What sets apart the Suarez TSD effort with the RDS Advanced Combat Glock is the amount of product development, field trials, and cross over support it receives from its sister companies. For example, One Source Tactical already stocks real world carry applicable holsters along with literature and training for the Advanced Combat Glock. This is far different compared to other manufacturer’s more limited experimentation with the concept. TSD offers various packages to further cater to customer needs and budgets. One package includes a Lone Wolf Glock Slide milled to accept a Trijicon RMR of choice. The RMR is secured with two machine screws directly into the slide providing for RMR remaining solid through thousands of rounds and return to zero should you ever need to remove your sight. The kit includes all the slide parts (except barrel and recoil spring unit) and finished in a matte black moly finish. Another option is to send your Glock slide (any model) and TSD will cut a dovetail for the Trijicon RMR sight, or other red dot sight of your choice.
Range testing of the TSD Advanced Combat Glock took place at Echo Valley Training Center. Two main T&E priorities were the focus and to make sure that Glock reliability was not compromised and the Trijicon RMR as installed by TSD proved a worthy addition by increasing capability beyond what was expected from a normal iron sighted Glock. Of first concern was being able to find the Trijicon RMR dot just as quickly as what is expected with the traditional iron sight front post. Suarez’s TSD orientation of the suppressor style rear iron sights behind the RMR acts as both back-up sights and quickly orientates the shooter’s eye to RMR dot stationed above the front post. This uses existing skill sets of acquiring sights by placing the dot visually on top of the front sight requiring zero learning curve and matches same sight system most already have on their M4 or AK set up with co-witnessed sights (RDS between the irons). A little time on the range with the Suarez TSD modified Glock exploits that existing skill set to put the dot on target without any delay. Lastly, yet another advantage of the TSD decision to retain elevated irons around the RMR is that it provides instant verification of zero and if not there instant back up in the event the dot is out.
It was determined that the Trijicon RMR red dot sight assisted in engaging targets at close distances with the red dot easy to pick up rapidly. The RMR red dot sight offered the capability to engage multiple targets in rapid sequence compared to open sights, while at same time providing adequate accuracy out to at least hundred yards due to the red dot superimposing an aim point on the target while not totally obscuring the target due to the dot not being that large. As many “maturing” shooters can attest to, the single focus plane with the red dot is easier to shoot accurately than coordinating front and rear sights. The RMR sight withstood the recoil and heat generated by repeatedly long strings of fire. The RMR only weighs several ounces, which aids its ability to withstand the inertial forces experienced as the slide operates. The dual illumination model RMR was chosen so that there was reliance on batteries.
Range testing purposely included several types of holsters so as to determine if the TSD Advanced Combat Glock was worthy of being considered for daily concealed carry duties; not to mention reinforcing if the RMR dot was easily picked up as the Glock was extended at speed engaging either paper or steel targets. Standard belt, inside the waistband, and thigh holsters from Comp-Tac Victory Gear, BlackHawk, DeSantis, and Galco had no problems accommodating the RDS Glock. Other drills consisted of various scenarios engaging targets from behind cover or on the move. Magazine change drills were done for the dual purpose of getting a feel of manipulating the Glock with RDS installed and making sure the red dot was seamlessly picked up after the Glock was reloaded and back engaging targets. A standard 4th generation Glock 17 was used as a control to help better quantify if the RDS Advanced Combat Glock offered an advantage over standard iron sights. It was quickly determined that the RDS Glock has great potential in terms of accuracy, speed, and extending effective engagement distances. Perhaps counter-intuitively, CQB distances were more of a concern with how the TSD Advanced Combat Glock would perform. 5 yards and closer is the true realm of the defensive handgun for any practitioner of concealed carry.
As stated at the beginning of the article the use of the TSD RDS Glock as an everyday carry handgun is what sets it apart from other similar endeavors incorporating red dots on pistols. Point shooting with the TSD Glock is still very possible via using the RMR window as a ghost ring – albeit large ghost ring – if forced to react spontaneously to a threat. The RMR came into its own for precise fire at any range desired with placing the dot on the target and applying correct trigger control. Groups with the TSD Advanced Combat Glock were markedly smaller than the control G17 at all distances with the ability to hit steel man popper targets at 50 yards with amazing efficiency and even out to 100 yards with regularity. Speed drills involving plate racks and dueling trees were run with times more similar to a pistol caliber carbine than a handgun. The advantage offered by use of red dot sights in the competition environment is well known. The ability to place the RMR dot on the plate and not having to align front and rear irons proved much more adept at moving rapidly from plate to plate. Another subtle advantage of the Advanced Combat Glock concept is it allows for easy incorporation of a suppressor to the threaded Lone Wolf barrel if so inclined while maintaining the same sight picture.
Overall, it does indeed seem that the Advanced Combat Glock is a valid tool offering real world application and is beyond merely being considered a concept. Most practitioners of concealed carry employ handguns for 95% of their defensive needs with long arms such as shotguns and rifles not as readily accessible. The Suarez TSD Glock extends the effective range of the handgun beyond what most are capable with iron sights. As with most things involving weapons, especially ones that are pushing the envelope past “safe” norms such as the Advanced Combat Glock from One Source Tactical’s TSD shop, it will be individual bias and needs that determine if the Advanced Combat Glock is worthy of consideration.
SITES OF INTEREST
Suarez International USA, Inc.
One Source Tactical/Technical Services Division
1616 Iron Springs Road
Prescott, AZ 86305
6000 Highlands Pkwy
Smyrna, GA 30082
Lone Wolf Distributing
57 Shepard Road
PO Box 3549
Oldtown, ID 83822
Echo Valley Training Center
49385 Shafer Ave
Wixom, MI 48393
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N6 (March 2011)|