Recently I set out to try different aiming methodologies if my RMR gets completely blocked such that I can’t see the iron sights or any dot. Note that I believe this sort of event is highly unlikely, but there is a chance this could happen. Using iron sights through the RMR is easy, or at least as easy as using iron sights. If the front of the RMR gets blocked, shooting both eyes open still allows excellent accuracy by way of the Bindon Aiming Concept. If the RMR collects up enough water to cause the dot to scatter, the brightest one is usually still OK, and the irons are always present.
So those other eventualities should be tried out in training just in case. But what if the optic is completely full of mud or debris such that you can’t see the dot and you can’t see through it? Note that I put the odds of this in the same camp as your front sight falling off. I have seen more than one instance of a front sight falling off of a gun, especially a Glock. Even a steel aftermarket front sight can fail. I find that screw holding the assembly in to be somewhat delicate, and I wish Glock had used a dovetail instead of their current mounting solution.
I played with three different methods of aiming, although two of them were very similar in how they present. I didn’t practice heavily with them, but I did try them at 7, 10, and 15 yards on a FBI Q Target. To add some level of consistency, I shot 6 rounds for each of those methods at each of those distances, and I did it for time, with the 7 yard string being 8 seconds, the 10 being 10 seconds, and the 15 being 12 seconds. These time/distance standards shouldn’t be considered easy or difficult, I only chose them to have some consistency. Also, the 50 round Virginia Tactical Qualification Course has strings of fire in it consistent with these, so it seemed an easy metric to judge by.
Once I figured out which method was likely to work best for me, I shot a 50 round VA course of fire (Appendix F in this manual) using said aiming method to see what my score would look like.
Spoiler alert: with a significantly reduced aiming ability, hits at distance are difficult. Almost any aiming methodology works well at short range. Almost all of them become more difficult as distance increases.
My first run through was just turning off the dot and using the iron sights. As you would expect, hits in this fashion were easy and repeatable, just like they would be with no optic on the gun. If your optic goes down and the iron sights are visible, use them. For individuals and agencies without the budget and logistics to support red dot pistols, irons still work.
The first optic occluded method I tried was using the outside corner of the RMR:
This can be accomplished by turning the gun 30-45 degrees inboard and pretending that the ear of the RMR is a big coarse iron sight. You can see my results in the pictures below. I will state that this method seemed the least sure for me. By rotating the gun I was holding the gun in a manner that I don’t typically use it, and now I had to align it on an angled axis, which made it difficult for me.
Next I tried using the “guillotine” method, where the dip of the RMR is placed on the neck of the target, and the corners substitute as shoulders. This seemed to work a bit better for me, as the gun was being held at a normal angle.
Lastly I used a variant of the “guillotine” where a painted white line on top of the RMR was visible to aid in aligning the gun.
That method seemed to be the best of all that I tried. On presentation I’d find the line and then roll the gun downward until the line disappeared but the dot on the edge of the frame was still visible. I’d use the front sight in conjunction with that line to try to keep the gun aligned toward the target during the roll down. This is the method I settled on to use for my qualification course.
If you’ll skip ahead to the photo, you can see that I scored a 67.6% on the qualification course using the guillotine/white line method. I will say that I could’ve done better, but I also could’ve done worse. Hits at 10 yards and in are doable with this compromised optic aiming method, but once you start to stretch the distance, it becomes much more problematic, especially if you want consistency and repeatability.
I should state for the record that I can’t remember ever shooting less than a 100% on this course of fire with either iron sights or a red dot. So that should give you an idea of the baseline I’m operating from.
So what does this mean? I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I do know that the odds of a RMR becoming completely blocked such that no dot or irons visible is rare. Anything made by humans can fail, to include the mechanism of the pistol itself. I have seen pistols become unusable on the firing line such that without armorer or gunsmith intervention, that gun wasn’t going to start working again. Despite that, I still carry a gun. Based on what I can accomplish with a RMR on my pistol, I’m still going to continue to carry with it. My current Trijicon RMR06 type 2 has approximately 10k rounds on it at this point on the original battery. I am scheduled to replace that battery next month, but I suspect I could let it go another year and 10k rounds.
If I were you and was carrying a red dot on my work/business gun, I’d paint that white line. A paint pen or model paint works well. Some blue painters tape masking off the area prior to painting helped me out a lot, as my free hand painting skills aren’t good. If you screw it up the first time, some paint thinner takes it right off again, so you can try it until you get it how you want it. It took me two tries to make my line straight and acceptable.
If you have a RMR or similar optic on your pistol, you owe it to yourself to try out some of these methods and see what works for you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at your ability to land hits up close. You should test and see where your accuracy falls off. A roll of blue painters tape and 100 rounds is probably enough to figure out what that world looks like. I don’t think you should spend an inordinate amount of time shooting with your RMR blocked, but I do think you should try it at least once or twice. I’d always rather be prepared for something that doesn’t happen, than not be prepared for something that might happen.