Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Making Sense of Pistol Sights

by Jim Majoros, President
Viktor’s Legacy Custom Gunsmithing LLC

Having the right sights on your handgun is important, and there are many different options from which to choose: combat sights, fiber-optic, tritium and white dot. Let’s explore the available options and what they can help you achieve.

Combat type sights are basic and straight forward. They are all black, have a wide front blade, wide rear notch, and are non-adjustable, providing quick acquisition of your front blade. They are not designed to help you shoot in small tight groupings. Rather, they allow you to get on your target quickly, bury the front sight in the rear notch and press the trigger- making them the right type of sight for the job.

White dot sights are similar to combat sights, with a white dot on the front sight and two dots on the rear sight. They come standard on most factory guns. White dot sights promote good visibility at the range. They can be fixed or adjustable. Bury the front blade in the rear notch on your target, line up the dots horizontally and press the trigger.

Fiber optic sights
provide a popular upgrade. Both front and rear sights have fiber optic tubes that gather ambient light and enhance the visibility of the sights. They work well in lower light and are phenomenal in brightly lit conditions. The sights glow like little light bulbs, so they are hard to miss! Standard fiber optic sights come with a red front and two green rear dots. Don’t let anyone tell you that is the only way you can get them- and don’t be concerned with the position of the colors, because they can easily be changed! All green, green front and red rear, all red…it can be done. Depending on the manufacturer, you can get them with fixed or adjustable rear. The front blades and rear notch come in differing widths (front sights from .090 to .150 wide, and rear sights from .125 to .160 wide) but the standard width rear notch is usually .150 with the front blade at .125. This results in a narrow lateral displacement, forcing you to be more precise with sight alignment/sight picture- think smaller groupings! You can tailor your front sight width and rear sight notch to achieve the perfect setup for you.

Tritium sights are like fiber optic sights, except they have tritium vials installed. Tritium is the same material that is in the dial of a watch to make the numbers glow in the dark. These sights work best in no-light conditions, and they work like white dot sights in daylight conditions. The vials last for about 10 years. A good number of manufacturers offer tritium sights- however, there are just a few companies that are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to handle and install the vials for those manufacturers. For that reason you may notice a name other than the manufacturer’s on the sights.

There are also different styles of sights:
“Carry” style sights are slanted so that they won’t get hooked on clothing or holsters.
“Charger” style sights are square and blocky. They enable you to “charge” your weapon against your shoe, pants, table top or any other surface- useful if you have to shoot to slide lock, reload, and continue defending yourself if you are fallen or injured.

Adjustable rear sights allow you to tailor your point of impact to your style of shooting. It’s likely that once they are adjusted, you’re going to leave them that way.
Fixed rear sights will shoot where you look, if installed correctly. Why not consider using ones that are properly installed by a competent gunsmith? They One Texas company has a “Perfect Impact Guarantee.” If you buy their sight set for your gun, the sights will be at the correct elevation for the distance you are shooting. Lateral sight adjustment is up to your installer.

Your sights need to be changed if you can’t see them properly. Some sights are very difficult to remove and install, and require special tooling for this. If you insist on changing your own sights PLEASE go to the manufacturer’s website for instruction. I’ve seen videos on YouTube of guys using air chisels to drift sights out of their guns, all the while swearing that is the only correct way to do it. I can assure you, the results of their techniques may not be satisfactory. There is a very good reason why I have an expensive collection of sight removal and installation tools at my shop! When in doubt, consult a good gunsmith.

Good Luck, good shooting, and be safe!!

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