The need for speed: Red dot vs ghost ring sights on a shotgun.

Are red dot sights the future of fighting shotguns? Are they faster then ghost rings? You might be surprised.

Our custom 870 defensive shotgun is ready for the range.

Quite a few respected trainers have been suggesting the use of small red dot sights on tactical and defensive shotguns.  In theory, the single focal plane of a red dot sight should make for rapid target engagement.  Additionally, rifle shooters who are already using red dot sights will have a familiar sight picture.  We headed to the range to compare a red dot sight against ghost ring sights.

Our custom 870 defensive shotgun is ready for the range.
Our custom 870 defensive shotgun as configured for the test.

Our test shotgun is a Remington 870 Police.  It is equipped with an 18″ barrel, Vang Comp Systems Ghost ring sights, Speedfeed reduced length of pull stock, and an Aimpoint Micro H1 2MOA red dot sight.  The sights and accessories were ordered from Brownells.

A detailed article, covering how we built the shotgun can he found here.

We selected a series of 6-drills that would represent typical shotgun usage to compare sighting systems.  IPSC cardboard targets were placed at 7-yards for the 5 shot-shell drills (#1-5), and 50-yards for the slug drill (#6).  All shots were kept in the “A” zone. All drills, except #5, a combat reload drill, started with the shotgun on safe.  Each drill was fired five times with each sight and the results are listed below.  The Aimpoint Micro was removed and then the drills were re-shot using just the ghost ring sights.  The drills and results are found in the table below.

Drill Red dot (seconds) Ghost ring (seconds)
#1 High Ready, chamber one, fire one 1.63 1.07
#2 High ready, fire one 0.99 0.76
#3 Low ready, fire one 0.68 0.60
#4 Low ready, fire two 1.05 0.93
#5 On target, dry fire one, combat load one, fire one 3.93 3.66
#6 Low ready, fire one slug at 50 yards 1.48 1.40

As evident in the results, the Vang Comp Systems ghost ring sights were faster then the Aimpoint Micro H1 in every drill.

So if they aren’t faster, what would be the advantage of a red dot sight?  Red dots are easier for most shooters to operate from the weak shoulder, provide a single focal plane which should aid shooters who are less experienced with shotguns, provides red dot rifle and carbine shooters the same sight picture across platforms, and provide a refined aiming point for longer range slug shots.

Disadvantages? Red dots, especially quality ones, have a higher associated cost then ghost ring sights; require a rail section for mounting, use batteries which can fail, and require intensity adjustment.

Conclusion: We were a little shocked that the red dot was slower in every test.  While the times were minor, in many cases less then .10 second, there was still a difference.  The refined aiming point of a red dot sight does seem to offer more precise shot placement at longer distances, and depending on the application, might serve as a better system.  We will continue to evaluate red dot sights on shotguns and report back in the future.

To accessorize your shotgun, please visit Brownells.  Brownells has been a strong supporter of this site and our sister site, TheGunsmithingBlog.  To learn how to install Vang Comp Systems ghost ring sights, click here.