Night sights are not the answer

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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.

  • Bobby Willis

    I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 25 years. Personally I think you should use anything allowed to give an edge in a violent encounter if it happens. I heard a comment once that it’s never been proven night sights will help in a low light encounter. My rebuttal, the ones it would have made a difference for probably aren’t around to tell anyone. I’m definitely not the guy to slap on the latest accessory on a gun. I leave them as basic as I can but to me night sights are a must have addition. I’ve shot in low light with and without night sights. All my carry guns have them but guns are a very personal item so use what works for you.

    • Scott Schoemann

      I remember sitting in a break room in a rural PD beating away on their computer when one of their patrolmen comes in and opens a package from that emergency supply place named after a gall bladder and started unloading loading his service piece and then started mounting an LED weapon light on it. i asked him “Why”? he simply replied “So I can see where I’m Shooting”. I responded ” Dont you mean so the perp knows where your vital areas are so they know where to aim to kill you”? The Chief of Police lost a mouth full of coffee through his nose, almost all 12 of of the officers that were present for a meeting were Laughing their asses off as the guy packed up the holster for his handgun with a light mounted the light and the mount, Common sense above all else will keep you alive

  • Charles Valenzuela

    Who writes this crap? Every negative that you stated for tritium sights apply to red dots, in spades! You know the target can SEE YOUR RED DOT in the dark, right? Your red dot needs batteries. You know that, right? You will need a holster that will accept that red dot, right? You need a pistol slide that will accept the red dot, you know that, right? You know that red dot has the same alignment and defect problems as the tritium sights, right? You don’t know jack. Stop writing about your pet appliances as though only YOUR gadgets are THE answer.

    • jack clark

      Don’t sugar coat it Charles, tell us how you really feel!

    • Joe

      Red Dots can be zeroed. And iron sights, including tritium, fiber optics, white dots, etc. can also be zeroed.

    • Scott Schoemann

      Only the cheapest red dots can be seen from the front. With that said, the name “Nite Site” is a major misnomer and should be called ‘Twilite Sight” as this is the only time it warrants use. When it gets too dark to Identify your target, a flashlight in an off hand hold using that forearm as a brace is the ONLY even semi-safe method to illuminate your target. A weapon mounted light just gives your target an even better illuminated target to take out as first off any light is a danger to them and second “you” are center of mass behind that target or better, cranial mass behind it. As for pistol slides that accept red dots, guess again, there are frame mounts that accept them, from dust shield to grip frame mounts, so perhaps YOU need to start researching mounting options and the availability of custom holsters an holster makers in the US. Being a know-it-all in a field of bonafide experts only brings you ridicule

  • David Price

    drop your gun in the dark. easier to find with night sights

    • Cole Johnson

      If you plan to drop your life saving device on the ground, even accidently. Perhaps a lanyard might be a good idea. I know a couple of Rangers that use them. Have a great day.

      • https://plus.google.com/106099533476260259636 Michael Vick

        Yep and we call them dummy cords!!

        • Wm

          Whatever works

          • R.L.

            Unless it’s past 50 yards ! 55 yards let the guy keep shooting at you right Wm ? Lol 😂

      • https://plus.google.com/106099533476260259636 Michael Vick

        I have several handguns with lanyards. All of my suppressor handguns are tied on!

  • Randy Donk

    I have had night sights for many years. I tried an RMR, I found it bulky unwieldy and generally a hindrance. my night sights do not need to be turned on, no batteries to run down, I can simply draw and fire day or night. I do what most responsible people who carry do, I TRAIN, and part of that training is at night and in low light situations. I confirmed my sight is dead on before I trusted it for carry. Good luck concealing your RMR equipped handgun, it must print like a magic marker. I will stick with my Trijicon Sights I have yet to find even one negative with them.

    • Scott Schoemann

      The big draw back to tritium sights is the 14 year lifespan. I have 4 handguns that the capsules need to be replaced on, that I havent done so due to their use having fallen out of grace to something Later and greater…

      • Randy Donk

        Trijicon will replace the capsules for a very minimal fee. you just send in the slide and you don’t even need to remove your sights and change zero. the turnaround is very reasonable, just cary a different handgun for a week or so. there is actually nothing later and greater, how many batteries keep working for 14 years? your batteries die, and you have nothing. night sights just dim, and you have lots of time to schedule a recharge, there is no battery, no swich to turn on Mine have never had an issue of any kind and they are on an officers model 1911 in 45 acp, if there were any weak points, the first few hundred rounds would have found them, the military ACOG uses tritium because they did not want battery issues either, or switches to turn on.

        • Scott Schoemann

          Calibers, grip angles, concealability and other developments all change over the span of a decade, not to mention trigger types, safetys and more. If the piece is just going to be relegated to the status of safe queen, why spend 20 bucks per tube to replace them, just to have them fade out without use? As for the ACOG, the tritium tube is just an adjunct to the daylight operation of the optics ability to collect sunlight like standard tru-glow shotgun beads. I picked up an ACOG that was slated for destruction as the military sights were initially not suited for tube replacement as the “war” was supposed to end before the tube faded. As with most military items of the like, Congressional ideology is destroy before recouping funds via the civilian market. For night use these “first gen” sights only needed a micro-sized cyalume stick like we use in fishing lures and a piece of duct tape to illuminate the reticle at night. But Its on a gun I dont use after dark, as I dont coon hunt.

          • Randy Donk

            basically there are 2 grip angles for semi auto handguns, the 1911, which is the most pointable and is used by Sig, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, etc, and there is the Glock angle, which is so steep you need to point a foot low. It was copied from George Luger. Safeties are a personal thing, some don’t like them, some do, most people pick what they like and there is never a need to change. the point to the whole article boils down to batteries or no batteries, an on/off switch, or no switch. the nice thing about your depleated Tritium sights, is they still work as sights, as opposed to red dot sights that when the battery craps out, you have no sights. if you no longer carry a particular fire arm and have relegated it to a safe, there is no reason to recharge the sights. I carry all of my night sight equipped handguns. and I know that if I need my weapon, the sights WILL be working in low light conditions with no operator action required. as I stated before, the military does not use batteries in their sights, too unreliable, the replacement for the ACOG is tritium powered and works in low light conditions without batteries. as for coon hunting I use a day/night scope on a rifle, it does take batteries, but then Raccoons do not shoot back

          • Scott Schoemann

            Lots to comment on there…
            The triji’s are fantastic for night hunting, but here it’s coons or totes and the Metro PETA types insist we are hunting pets.
            Pistol grip angles are far more numerous than you list. They go anywhere from 50 to 90 degrees. Not icluding revolvers.
            As for the article, I find it as nothing more than the typical armchair warrior’s attempt to fill bandwidth.

  • Joe

    I read a book on handgun training in which a comment was made that I heartily agreed with.Namely, almost every kind of sight they slap on a gun (black sights obviously not included) is a marketing strategy. And unless you want to go to the trouble and expense of changing them, your stuck with whatever the gun came with.

    • Scott Schoemann

      Its a marketing strategy to reach those who prefer a sight with greater visibility, for example those with cross dominant eyes. So you can call it what you wish, it doesnt make them any less valid

      • Joe

        They still don’t help you see the target. And it IS a marketing strategy to sell guns. It’s not a marketing strategy for people with cross dominant eyes. Not everyone has cross dominant eyes. I doubt if more than a tiny minority has them. But you just believe what you want.

        • Scott Schoemann

          Sorry f or your issues Joe but just five years of dealing with competition trap shooters has proven to me, personally that you dont know jack when it comes to cross dominant eyes. the figure is around 70%. Just watch how many people squint or outright close one eye when shooting. and no they dont help you see your target, they are strictly for rapid sight alignment, but that wont help you with that cranial-rectal inversion that you are suffering. now dont bother responding until you reach adulthood that will be what, 9 or 10 years?

          • Joe

            Sorry for you little boy, but YOU need to grow up! Now go back to bed. It’s nap time.

  • George S Young

    Truglo TFX Pro sights… big bright Tritium dots behind fiber optic light pipes in an armored by steel case. Doesn’t take batteries to die or go bad in the cold… works day or night. You don’t get out much or hunt do you?

  • Wayland Young

    This is one of the silliest articles I’ve ever read. As other commenters pointed out, most RDS have batteries and those WILL fail 100% at some point when you least expect the batteries to die or the electronics fail. Somehow you think your tritium is going to fall out? A slim possibility and you still have the posts to aim. Batteries fail. Tritium has a known (half)life so yes, you can expect to replace them but YOU know exactly when they get too dim for your preference. You can buy two or three sets of night sights for what a good RDS costs.

    • Wayland Young

      It makes you wonder if this is some trolling post just to generate traffic to their website.

      • Scott Schoemann

        I personally believe the site is just too cheap to get reputable writers

    • 2ThinkN_Do2

      Sig P938, my tritium front tube disappeared while shooting indoors . . . oh no it didn’t, it died! The firearm was only 1 month old when that happened, it was a brand new gun, the back sights were almost dead. Some night nights are way better than others. I personally like the Mepro or TFX Tru Glo models. Big Dot white paint are nice too.

    • Scott Schoemann

      I dont know what type of Red dots you are talking about but typical tritium sights average a bill to a bill and a half these days. thats about equal to decent red dots…

      • Wayland Young

        There are no *tough and reliable* red dots made for $100-150, even $200. Unless you mean Chinese stuff which I wouldn’t waste my time with.

  • RSLewis

    Are you kidding me with this article? So now I’m some putz that “only carries once in awhile” bc I have and like night sights? Your ignorance is laughable.

    • Wm

      You are acting like a putz…are you a putz?

      • RSLewis

        How about I putz all over your face? Idiot.

      • Scott Schoemann

        Why? You asking him to join the club????

  • Ding

    I’m seeing a lot of bruised egos in the comments here. All sights have pros and cons, night sights are great for giving you that sight picture when it’s so dark that you cannot get an outline for your sights. The thing is when it’s that dark, positive identification of your target cannot be achieved. We do not get to shoot at shadows and must have PID before we can lawfully shoot anyways (assuming you are an upstanding citizen). Now if you’re acquiring your sight picture through a PVS-14 in the poppy fields of Kandahar that’s a different story. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. Competency with YOUR setup is what matters most.

    • Scott Schoemann

      Night sights are for use at deep twilight, not at total darkness when the target can not be identified

  • tomrkba

    “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.”

    This statement is incorrect and shows the author’s failure to understand the basics of the topic. This is not the only case. The appearance of night sights changes upon a continuum depending upon light levels where the shooter is, at the target and behind the target. Night sights offer a clear sight picture in low light conditions or odd conditions. It is not as simple as asserted.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    Rather than a red dot, I’ll go for a green laser . . .

  • R.L.

    Learn to use the front sight post. You can shoot when clearly the holster by using your peripheral vision. You don’t have to even have the gun fully extended, practice just know the gun is an extension of your arm , then as you come up acquire the front sight first and if the shot needs to be fired it can be. If more time can be taken saddle the front sight with the rear and AIM SMALL, find that button or an ugly front tooth ! Always know your handguns potential, shoot it at 25 yards and 50 yards regularly. But know where it hits at 100 and even 150 yards with your favorite carry load, that may save your life one day.

    • Wm

      If you are shooting at someone at 50yrds or more,you had better have a damn good reason, since any good atty is going to put your button jail for doing it..

      • R.L.

        Lol,
        Anytime someone is killing innocent people they need to be stopped ! Your comment shows your ignorance ! We had a guy shot in a Mall that was shooting innocent people
        That was shot at close to 100 yards ! Shooting at distance, helps develop skill.
        Carrying a weapon comes with great responsibility and hours of practice each month to maintain an acceptable skill level. Those who just want to throw on a loaded gun to
        Feel good, may be more of a problem to others. Attorneys come and go no matter !

        • Scott Schoemann

          WM thinks he is a govt trainer and vietnam vet circa 1971, its best to block him after reporting his offensive comments, That fool has made contrary comments from both directions

  • https://imgur.com/a/vbslp Son of Machete

    I’ve got Novak/Trijicon night sights that came stock on one of my 1911s. I’m not wild about them, day or night, with my 52-year-old eyes, lol. I’m thinking about replacing them with the white dot version of same, or possibly the XS Big Dot.

    • douglas salley

      The XS Big Dots, fiber optic are called “night sights” they work in the dark. I’ve tried them in y house with all the lights out. But I did go with the TrueGlow TFX Pro for two of my five guns. (will put on my other guns as I can!). My eyes are 70 years old!!

  • stilweezy

    When I am home I have my pistol stand that I have trained with, but in a motel, etc. I am in nightstand mode. I would ask this author… How he acquires a firm firing grip with certainty, In pitch black darkness without the sights.
    In addition, While I have never had a shoot, I have trained a lot and my shoot house work reveals I rely on my training, muscle memory. (sights, what sights?) so train with sights you cannot see and rely on that if you want to… Good luck!

    • chris

      I am with you on that one Sir.

  • Wm

    I own many different handguns. They all have different grips and sights. Some are easier then others to shoot “really” eell, meaning tight groups. All of them can shoot (in a ransom rest) better than 99% of people can. I use them all, and I can hit effectively WITH ALL of them. I do not have fancy triggers,sights etc. I live in the “real” world,where the people I worked with often had to do the job with whatever was sourced on site and available. So much bull from so many arm chair types. You taken the weapon, and you do the job, and if you know what you are doing you adjust to the situation,the target and the firearm, and get it done. Period.

  • Wm

    Time to get real. Most of the training the average person takes is useless and not relevant. Do you really need to train like a spec ops operator? No. Do you really need to train like a SWAT team member? No. Get your head out of your butt and look around. All the training to speed load three mags while moving and clearing a malfunction at the same time is laughable. What the hell do you really think you are going to be involved in? For most people the shtf is a burglary, an assault, car jacking, caught in a robbery etc. None of which would require any of the aforementioned training. I am a “trainer” and have been for two decades. I worked for the govt here and abroad taking out the garbage on the street, not the desert!! You need to be proficient with firearms,how they operate,and competent in handling and shooting. You do not need to be an expert in the El Presidente, or BillDrill.in most of the situations mentioned other than a burglary you are at a distinct display advantage because you are usually taken by surprise,close in, with virtually no time to react effectively if the criminal knows what they are doing. Trying to out draw someone or play OK Corral, is foolish and generally does not work out well. If you really study what happens on the street,it is not anything like what most of today’s trainng will resolve. SITUATIONAL AWARENESS, ABILITY TO EGRESS OR ESCAPE, PROPER USE OF COVER,KNOWING WHEN TO ENGAGE OR NOT…learn these skills and will probably never need to “run n gun” regardless of what fantasy world you live in.

    • chris

      I am on the same channel with you Sir, I only practice point shooting for a close up encounter if it should happen., and I’ll be damned if I will ever be taking a long distance shot at anyone. only did that during my military time US Army 1966/1969. I carry an MP 2.0 9mm with 15 rnd mad + 1 17rnd mag just in case there should be multiple assailants. but other than that I feel pretty good with just point shooting for close up and personal.

    • Scott Schoemann

      WM You Sir, rank as an idiot. There is one fact everyone who carries must acknowledge. If you have to shoot, the other person or a cohort may shoot back. it is rare that an armed one on on conflict ever exists. perps are typically cowards, and attack the weak, those who carry rarely present themselves as weak. this is why the are rarely attacked by lone assailants.
      Wm, if you were in fact a real Trainer, you wouldnt be all mouth you dont even know the verbiage. Egress is a route not an action and typing in caps doesnt make you a genius, especially when you are just parroting someone else’s words. Now close your mouth before someone tells yo mamma!

  • Ron Parks

    I’ll stick with my Tritium Night Sights, thank you!

  • Boogaloo Jones

    Up here in the middle of Alaska, I find fiber optic sights work amazingly well with my CCW during the summer months when we have full daylight 24/7, but have to switch to tritium sights during the winter when it’s always dark and we have only a scant few hours of “working daylight” per day. Most people don’t have this problem, but I find that changing CCW sights to match environmental conditions – in my case, the seasonal change in available natural light – works the best. Others might consider which permanent sights work best for them depending on the time of day they most often carry and where they would most likely need to use their firearms.

  • thebeeishorrid

    What a ridiculous article.

  • Mikial

    Night sights, red dots, lasers, weapon lights, etc. are all tools. Learn to use all of them and don’t depend on any of them.