Night sights are not the answer

Night Sights are not the Answer

Walk into a gun shop, talk to most police officers on the street, or just talk to the dude who carries (once and a while). I bet they will tell you that you need to get those night sights!

If you don’t you’ll get killed in the streets, bro!

But do you need ’em? Maybe. Maybe not. Before you spend the money, work through some considerations.

Pros and Cons of Tritium Night Sights

Night sights: Let’s take a look

See what we did there?

While they have a place and many seasoned professionals use them, night sights are not the answer: at least not the only answer (emphasis intentionally added). As with most any weapon accessory-arguably-upgrade, there are both advantages and drawbacks to using them.

Night sights from Dawson Precision

Night sights from Dawson Precision. These are adjustable.

Night Sights - Tritium Glow in the Dark

Tritium Handgun Glow-in-the-Dark Night Sights [these are from TruGlo]

Note: we’re talking about tritium and phosphorous in the context of handgun weapon sights here – yes, it’s a radioactive form of hydrogen. Now, we’re not talking about the form or amount required for tritium-deuterium fusion reaction. There’s your pistol sight science nerd lesson for the day.

I am sure there are many other positives and negatives someone else can come up with. These are the ones I came up with off the top of my head — remember as you parse through these that the goal is to make a considered decision about where best to allocate resources.


Possible Positives

Remember these positives are all both relative and contextual — listing them here as a potential benefit doesn’t mean your performance will be improved thereby, nor that they’re a guaranteed benefit.

If it’s completely dark in your room or out in the streets you might see those three dots glow.

Some of the manufacturers have figured out how to reduce the size of the front sight width.

Some front sights with tritium inserts have a highly visible coating to help find them under stress.

Iron sights are proven, definitely reliable,  and rugged.

Because of the slow radioactive half-life, they’ll last for a decade or so, maybe a little longer.

Potential Negatives

Like the positives, these negatives are all both relative and contextual — listing them here as a potential consideration doesn’t mean you will suffer them, nor that they’re likely. 

If you are able to see the dots glow in the dark, it’s dark, meaning you most likely won’t be able to see what those sights are actually pointed at.

The tritium insert (like any hardware) can fall out due to a manufacturing defect or abuse.

The inserts are not especially precise as far as an aiming device.

The glowing dots can be improperly aligned; usually this results in the front sight being outside of the rear notch.

The need to allow for spacing of the tritium insert typically results in a front sight that is so wide that it makes distance shooting more difficult (i.e. reduced accuracy).

Because of the radioactive half-life, you’ll probably have to replace them in a decade or so, maybe a little longer.


Alternatives to Tritium Night Sights

First and foremost, I am a big fan of the RDS (Red Dot Sight) equipped pistol. I carry one every day for work, on duty, and concealed while off duty. These sights are rugged and reliable. They work great in a low light environment and even a no light environment. They can be effectively zeroed and are very accurate both up close and at distance. The RDS is my first choice, though not everyone is comfortable with it (or financially capable of equipping one).

RDS Night Sights

Red Dot Sight on a pistol.

The next type of sights that I recommend for your consideration is the fiber optic. There are many manufacturers out there so you have a lot of choices. My personal choice is from Dawson Precision but there are many reputable manufacturers out there — TruGlo with their TFO and Trijicon with its Hi Viz are just two examples. They (and others like them) offer a wide variety of options when it comes to sight height and width.

Dawson Precision for their part has a sight height calculator that will help you achieve your desired zero (there may be other brands that offer similar features). When using white light with the fiber optic sight, the rod will collect the light and you will see it glow almost like a Trijicon RMR – a useful attribute.

Fiber optic night sights

Fiber optic night sights and weapon light in combination.

Lastly, if you already have a decent set of sight but need just a little more visibility, do yourself a favor and check out some “high viz” sight paint. This type of marking tool comes in many colors, including some that glow in the dark.

Night sights option - high viz paint, like this style from Birchwood Casey

These “touch-up sight pens” are some that have worked well in the past. A silver sharpie is another easy option, especially if you’re already using silver pens to mark your mags.


This is definitely a great budget-minded solution.

High viz sight paint - night sights.

High viz paint – a close up look at what it will produce.

Best of all regarding the last two options, they are far more less costly. This gives you more rounds to shoot or more money to use for formal training.

With very few exceptions, money and time are better spent on good training than upgrades and accessories.

So, final thoughts: don’t just buy Tritium Insert night sights because someone told you too. Buy them (or not) because you understand the positives and negatives and them all. Be an informed buyer – do your research. If you’re able to make it happen, do some low-light/no-light shooting with a couple of different weapons using different sighting systems – some places will rent handguns, or maybe you’re lucky enough to have some friends/co-workers who will go with you or loan you some options worth looking at.


Reminder from the beancounters: If you’re looking to make a change (or upgrade) your firearm, we have several varieties of pistol sights available at GunMag Warehouse.

Tactical training in Nevada - Daniel Bales of Crucible Training

Daniel has been in law enforcement for nearly 15 years. During his career he has worked for a large Sheriff’s department in Nevada on such assignment as detention, courts, court transport, patrol, and S.W.A.T. He is currently a full-time rangemaster. Daniel has numerous firearms, tactics and instructor certifications, to include: handgun, shotgun, carbine, less lethal, force on force, low light, certified armorer, basic and advanced S.W.A.T. schools. He has instructed many students for LMS Defense and is one of the founder-owners of Crucible Training.