Red Dots and Astigmatism

Gabe Juarez writes on his experience with red dot sights and eye issues. This is something that we all may have to deal with and need to think about.

From Patreon Joseph: “Mr. Suarez do you have any suggestions for those of us with astigmatism? A red dot looks more like a ven diagram / starburst then a clean dot for me. Any alternatives that might be helpful?”
It isn’t commonly known but I have a number of eye hereditary conditions, one of which is astigmatism. In my early years teaching, I am sure you recall seeing me with glasses. I went to great lengths to find the best shooting glasses possible and set them up as daily wear prescription glasses. One day, the degradation was such that the eye doc suggested Tri-focals!
My response was very simple, “Hell No!” I found the best eye surgeon in AZ at the time (2005) and had Lasik done on both eyes. The only way to describe the results is “Life Changing”. I still have a slight bit of astigmatism but its minor compared to the past.
Many people have it and simply figure out ways around it. But it bears discussing now. And while 2005 is approximately five years before we designed the first Red Dot Slide, I was still using dots on all my rifles.
In a simplified description, astigmatism causes blurry vision. People with astigmatism will see the dot blurry, smeared, like a starburst or otherwise distorted. Often, these people think a dot has no use for them, but that is not the case.
In fact, the front sight on the pistol will be difficult to focus on for most of those people, and the dot, be it blurry, starburst, or what have you, will still be smaller in size that the front sight, allowing them to reap the benefits of the dot pistol regardless of their eyes. A standard width steel front sight is approximately 12 MOA. A dot will be anywhere from half to a quarter of that size, thus indexing it on the desired target, even if blurry or starbursted, will still provide greater potential for accuracy.
It is simply a matter of learning the visual dexterity, focal shifting and accepting of what you are seeing as sufficient for the shot to be taken.

Are there things that can be done to mitigate the astigmatism issues? Absolutely.
1). Get Your Eyes Fixed – Before you invest in that new custom pistol, or that motorcycle, get your eyes fixed. No, it is not cheap but then again, nothing good in life is. And if the first eye doc says you are not a candidate, go see another eye doc. He might be correct, but in my experience, doctor shopping should always be done as not all of them are of the same perspective on human optimization.
2). Choose The Right Dot – The wavelength of a green dot is more accessible to eyes with astigmatism. When we began working with the green Holosuns, I know it was easier and less fatiguing for my eyes, and many students reported the same thing. Some eyes will prefer a smaller dot – 2 MOA for example, while others will benefit from a larger 6 MOA dot. As well the glass clarity is a big factor. If you come to one of my Optics Pistol Classes I bring out a variety of optics and you will get a chance to try them out. You can even run the class with a loaner pistol if you wish.
3). Learn To Accept What You See – Remember that the front sight is about 12 MOA. Even the bigger 6 MOA dot from Trijicon is half that size. As long as you can center that dot on the desired target spot you wish to hit, you will benefit from having that dot on board. But it is a matter of training the eyes to see what they need to see and then training the mind to accept that it is sufficient for the problem at hand.

One comment on “Red Dots and Astigmatism

  1. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.