When it comes to advancements in carry pistols, one of the most recent jumps in technology has to be the addition of small red dots. Whether it’s the classic Trijicon RMR or any of the other options to plunge into this market, there are a ton of different variations when it comes to handgun optics. I get asked fairly often what the benefit of having one style or the other for concealed carry since there are so many manufacturers supporting this area of the market. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences when it comes to open vs closed emitter red dots for carrying.
Open Emitter Red Dots
Open emitter red dots are the most common option on the market. They will only have one lens to which the red dot is displayed from the emitter diode. They typically have open rear sections with a hood over the piece of glass to ensure there’s enough protection to avoid shattering. Some of the most popular pistol red dots on the market like the Trijicon RMR, Leupold DeltaPoint, and Vortex Venom are all considered open emitter red dots.
The biggest benefit to open emitter red dots is their overall size and weight. They offer a crisp clean red dot sight without adding much weight or size to your firearm. Open emitter red dots only have that one piece of glass so they can be relatively small while offering great visibility and quick sight acquisition for aging eyes or people who aren’t the best with iron sights. Some of the options on the market today are incredibly lightweight and offer great protection without adding a significant amount of bulk to the optic.
Trijicon RMR was the first real optic built for heavy-duty use small enough to fit on a pistol while still keeping that incredible reliability they are known for. Other variants came out later like the SRO as well as the DeltaPoint Pro from Leupold. Today, there are a number of different manufacturers who build excellent pistol optics which ultimately makes the market more competitive and a benefit to buyers.
As fantastic as the open emitter red dots are, they certainly do have a few flaws depending on what model you decide on. The biggest problem with them across the board is catching material in their lens or in front of the emitter impeding your sight picture. There are a number of things that can get into the hood of the optics lens and block your sight picture such as rain, snow, and lint.
I can’t tell you how many times in the winter I’ve shot a carbine with my handgun and optic in the holster. After an hour in the snow, the entire optic lens is covered in snow and you physically have to dig the optic out to see through the lens. I’ve also seen this happen a few times with lint from people who carry their gun all the time. Lint can collect on the glass to the point where you can’t see a full picture through the optic.
The other big issue with open emitter red dots is their lack of durability. The RMR is fantastic, but other optics aren’t as robust as that optic and are prone to breaking. I have broken a few different open sights in my day and even wrote up one when I was reviewing the Kahles red dot. It happens and sometimes things just break, but it’s important to keep in mind. It’s always good to have a metal shroud but not every optic has shrouds available. At the end of the day, it’s not a huge concern but you should be aware of the possibility of one breaking.
Closed Emitter Red Dots
Closed Emitter red dots are relatively new compared to the older style open emitters. Optics like the Aimpoint ACRO and Holosun 509T are great examples of closed emitter red dots. These are classified by having a box-shaped structure with two lenses and the emitter diode inside. They are typically very easy to spot compared to other topics and offer a number of benefits over open emitters.
Closed emitter red dots are well known for being some of the toughest red dots for their size. The Aimpoint ACRO is one of the most well know small red dots when it comes to size and reliability. With the slightly larger box structure, the rigidity and strength are way higher with the added support of more material. I have been extremely hard on some of these optics which is great for when you want a reliable carry optic. If you’re hard on your guns and want a bulletproof reliable red dot for carrying concealed, it’s hard to beat these closed emitter red dots.
With all this reliability comes two things though, bulk and extra weight. The weight isn’t bad when it comes to concealed carrying, but the bulk is a completely different story. Having a larger footprint hanging high on your gun and above the belt line can cause some issues with printing if you’re only wearing something like a thin T-shirt. Certain people are alright with that tradeoff and will carry a larger framed firearm with a closed emitter red dot but it’s an important factor to take into consideration. Certain closed emitter red dots will have other optics other than a simple dot which makes shooting accurately in quick succession really simple.
So what’s the right answer? It really boils down to what’s most important for you. I personally like open emitters because they offer a number of benefits when It comes to accuracy with a pistol without a ton of drawbacks. With regular maintenance, it’s easy to keep clean and the battery life just goes on for what seems forever. Certain people like closed emitter red dots and they work fantastic, but they are a tad big for me when it comes to carrying concealed so I typically shy away from them. If I had one handgun that was my “go-to” pistol, I would definitely consider using one for their reliability but I have multiple carry guns so I don’t feel the need to choose.
What kind of red dot is your favorite for carrying on a concealed firearm? Do you prefer open or closed emitter red dots? Let me know down in the comments below. if you have questions about carrying concealed or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.