Are night sights a good thing?

When I got my carry permit, I felt very strongly about having night sights on all my carry pistols, but I have backed away from that position.

Recently I asked a couple on Facebook to gauge the readers feeling towards them and got some interesting results.

First I asked…

Without a photo, each response I received was very positive towards night sights and everyone stated that they actually liked more over time and with training.

Then, with a photo that shows what I consider an ideal scenario for night sights (low enough light to make them visible and target slightly backlit), no one suggested they would take the shot (even when one person correctly identified the target and another confirmed that is what their sights looked like.)

For me, that define my greatest low light issue with Night Sights… but not the only one.

1st night sights allow you to place accurate shots on targets that you can’t accurately identify. In a training class you’re told where the threat is and known.  In a offensive situation, you may know where the other “good guys” are therefore anyone else is a “bad guy,” but you still can’t see if they are a threat.

Jeff Cooper’s Rule of Gun Safety #4: Always’s be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

… You can’t do that if you are relying on night sights.

2nd If you are using your sights properly during training you are relying on the hard outlines of the sight.  It is much easier to properly align the straight lines along the top and sides of the notch than it is to align 3 round balls.  To then switch to using a 3 dot sighting system in a high stress situation is an extra complication that you don’t need.

3rd Most (not all) 3 dot sights have a white ring around the lamp that adds clutter to the sight picture when there is ample light.  As I have mentioned previously I have trended towards simplicity with my sights.

By adding a weapon mounted light like the Crimson Trace Light Guard, the Surefire x300 or Streamlight TL-Rs or carrying a handheld light you can illuminate and verify the target AND enable you to see the hard edges of you iron sights, greatly reducing the opportunity of misidentifying a threat.

This does not mean night sights are completely without merit.  In the absence of a light, the circumstances of an attack may allow you to accurately identify the threat and the lighting conditions may be such that the night sights allow for better aiming (although my 1st choice would always be either a white light or laser).  However, my favorite use of night sights though is for easy location in the gun safe. In the dark, the constant glow makes it easy to find the gun quickly and then you can switch to a more preferred system.

While I clearly prefer other (less expensive) sights and that you put the savings towards a white light, if I were to purchase tritium sights I would look for a few specific features…

  1. A quality brand known for bright lamps
  2. A rear sight that does not have the white rings around the lamps
  3. A front sight that had a very pronounced white ring to draw your eye when there is available light, or no ring at all. (Either is preferable to a narrow ring)

Do you have night sights on your concealed carry or home defense guns? If so, have you ever experienced any of these issues or do you carry a light as well?

Written by Ron Larimer

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