The Tape Trick: Red Dot Training for Beginners

— Travis PikeCADRE Dispatch

The tape trick is a red dot training technique designed to help shooters learn to use a red dot sight on a handgun to its maximum potential.

As a shooter, you’ve likely heard the phrase ‘front sight focus.’ You hear it over and over as it relates to iron sights. The key to precision shooting with iron sights is focusing on the front sight.

However, when an experienced shooter moves to red dots, they tend to focus on the red dot reticle, which is not optimal. With a red dot, you should have a target focus instead of focusing on the dot.

Humans naturally focus on a threat, which is one of the big benefits of a red dot sight. Target focus allows for observation of the threat throughout the encounter and allows for greater situational awareness. The problem is that learning to use a target focus can be difficult, and that’s where the tape trick comes into play.

tape and red dot
The tape trick helps develop your target focus.

It’s all about occluded shooting, which is a two-eyed open shooting style that rose to a slight prominence with the introduction of the Armson OEG. The OEG was an early red dot-like optic that lacked the lens you were looking through. It was just a red dot that stood against a black background. With two eyes opened, it looked as if the red dot floated onto the target.

What does this have to do with handgun red dots? It’s critical you understand the occluded shooting to understand how and why the tape trick works.

Red Dot Training with the Tape Trick

I don’t know who created the tape trick, but I would like to thank them personally and give them credit. The tape trick is how I learned to use a target-focused sight picture efficiently. It’s helped me become a faster shooter and push my red dot use to the next level. I think it’s a valuable tool for any red dot shooter to try out and add to their training regimen.

painters tape
Who knew painter’s tape could be this handy?

All you need is your red dot, handgun, and a little blue painter’s tape. Technically, you can use any opaque tape. Painter’s tape leaves less residue on your red dot and is easy to remove. Blue painter’s tape just works.

How It Works

Ensure your weapon is cleared and unloaded before you do anything. Now, tape a piece of tape over the front window of your optic. Looking through the optic, you’ll see some blue tape and a red dot. This is where the aforementioned occluded shooting style becomes prevalent. With your unloaded weapon, find something that can act as a target and allow you to point your gun in a safe direction.

tape drill on revolver
Dry fire is critical to the tape drill.

Start at the low ready and keep both eyes open. Bring the firearm upward and on target. Even with the lens taped over, you’ll see the red dot on your chosen ‘target.’

You have to focus on the target to see the dot. That’s the magic behind the tape trick. You have to use a target focus to use the dot. If you use a reticle focus, you’ll see the dark blue rear end of the painter’s tape.

Tape trick pOV
This is what you see If you use a reticle focus.

Making the Most of the Tape Trick

While we all like pulling a Bill Reilly and doing it live, how about we start with a little dry fire? Dry fire helps you hone your craft and save time and ammo when you finally go live.

I like to do just a few minutes of boring, dry fire. Ensure the gun is unloaded and always pointed in a safe direction. Just the classic aim, trigger press, reset, and repeat. I can only stand something this boring for about five minutes before I start losing focus.

You can work an entire dry fire routine, including reloads, draws, one-handed practice, and beyond. Just keep the lens covered with tape and reapply when necessary.

At first, the tape might feel distracting, but my best advice is to relax and keep working. You’ll find yourself naturally drifting into that target-focused mindset.

Eventually, you won’t see the tape and will lock into that target-focused mindset. Then you can take it to the live fire range. If you like to be the center of attention, go to a public range and watch your heads turn as you present a red dot with tape all over the lens.

taoe over red dot
A little blue painter’s tape can be your best friend.

Getting Faster on Target

Keep that same target-focused mindset and shoot. You’ll probably start to notice that you can shoot a little quicker than before. Oddly, you’ll find it easier to track the dot with a target focus instead of a reticle focus and you’ll pull the trigger as soon as the dot appears back on target.

tape on two red dots
It seems stupid, but it works.

A lot of shooters who focus on the reticle have to take a fraction of a second to readjust their eyes and find the dot after the slide cycles. With a target focus, your focus stays consistent, and as soon as the dot is back on target, you can fire again.

tape on gun
Aiming with this setup feels tough, but gets easier with practice.

Once you feel you have a solid grasp on target focus, you can throw the tape away.

While it seems like it may not matter, there are benefits to seeing through the lens, especially at longer ranges. If you ever feel out of practice, the tape is just a junk drawer away

Effective, Low-Cost Training

I love the simplicity of the tape trick and the fact that it’s a low-cost training method anyone can use. If you’re making the transition from irons to red dots, it’s a very effective way to minimize the amount of lead and time it takes to learn to run the dot.

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