HPD becomes first Department in the USA to authorize Red Dot training sessions for each and every officer

Tom Kennedy

Requests for HPD’s latest innovation – police academy curriculum for red dot training – are pouring in from police departments all over the nation.

The eight-hour red dot training course offered at the academy thus far has 20 graduates. But Sgt. Rob Sandoval, one of the two developers of the pioneering concept, believes it’s only a matter of time for red dot training to be in such high demand that it will become a part of cadet training.

Sandoval, a longtime trainer at the academy’s gun range, has become known as a strong red dot advocate. He and fellow trainer, Officer Bobby Walsh, developed the course. The sergeant explained the reasoning behind the change, its advantages and disadvantages in an interview with the Badge & Gun.

“Red dot started in the competition world,” he explained. “It buried off into the military and SWAT and Narcotics entry teams. “Never has a red dot policy been developed for an entire department – until now with HPD.

“One of the main advantages is you can keep both eyes open and maintain constant threat evaluation. In the old days you’re doing an eye sprint. You close one eye to focus on different focal plains. We are now offering a different way of training and shooting from the old days.

“This represents a giant leap in a new direction. The people who have closed one eye to use their dominate eye to shoot know they are going the way of the past. Granted, it’s harder for older people to learn to use the red dot – at the beginning of their training session.

“I now believe red dots become an advantage for older officers to use. It’s actually easier to see after a bit of re-training.”

Sandoval got more specific.

Advantages:  With the red dot you are able to keep both eyes on your threat – constantly. Lighting conditions are a factor but they are covered more than adequately in the training sessions. You have a constant bearing and focus on your threat with a red dot.

Disadvantages: The disadvantages, “if there is one,” according to Sandoval, is re-learning weapon presentation to your threat and being able to pick up and see the red dot as you’re doing that. “This is partially because your sight sits higher on your slide than your sights for the most part,” he pointed out.

“With some re-training and learning the presentation, shooting and picking up the sights become much easier,” Sandoval said. The cost factor could be a disadvantage. There are a wide range of prices and durability issues; officers will have to decide for themselves which red dot sight they prefer.

Sandoval said weather conditions could be a factor but they are covered in the training sessions. Humidity could fog up the lens or rain could affect sighting. “There are techniques to overcome those things in case they do happen,” he said. “If you have the AC on in your car the sight might tend to fog up when you first get out – just like your glasses do. A raindrop will impede where the red dot will not be on the lens. Really, these are the only two weather-related disadvantages.”

He said members of the HPD Command Staff readily saw the difference a red dot sight makes and this realization led to getting full approval to develop a curriculum and start teaching to course, which was formally approved by the Department last May. The first class graduated in August. “We’re gearing up for more in the new training calendar beginning in September,” Sandoval explained.

There might be another “disadvantage” related to costs of the change. You must have a weapon that is “MOS ready.” That means “modular optic system.” An officer must take his/her sidearm to a gunsmith or milling company to be milled to the specific red dot purchased for the gun. Thus, there is both the cost of the sight and the milling. Then, of course, there is the cost of a new holster.

“Let me stress one more aspect,” Sandoval said. “Trigger control is still the most important issue. Any of those errors with a regular pistol will affect a red dot trainee. You will still have those issues, those errors. The red dot will not correct any shooting errors such as trigger jerk or slapping the trigger – anticipating the recoil. If  you still have any of those errors, they will still be the same.”


Sandoval said he was in the process of putting together a list of reputable gunsmithing businesses in the Houston area but pointed out that officers should be able to find one of their own. There are  not currently approved by the Department and the red dot conversion process for HPD might not need an approve list of milling companies, he said.

Sandoval hopes the Department’s red dot policy – which is optional for each officer – will soon be expanded to each academy class. This means each cadet will include the red dot sights in the purchase of his/her first sidearm. A savings will occur, he said, since the Department purchases holsters for cadets.

The training sergeant likened HPD’s pioneering red dot course to landing on the Moon. The USA was the first country to land on the Moon and HPD is the first Department to teach red dot courses on the conversion process.

“We were the first ones to do this,” he said. “The first Department in the United States. A few special units have had red dots. But we are the first ones to enable the entire Department. The chiefs all love it and have amazing words to describe the advantages.

“Over 50 departments have contact us wanting our lesson plan and general information such as Power Points on how to implement the red dot.”