The depths of the “Shallow V”

There is one non-standard sighting system that has developed a solid following in the past few years that I just don’t understand… The “Express” sight.

Before I get started I know that I am going to get responses like…

You are biased against XS sights! I love mine!

And I have 2 replies…

  1. Yes, Yes I am!
  2. Great, I’m glad you found something that works!

Now to get started!

According to the manufacturer, the XS 24/7 Express sights are the finest sights made for fast sight acquisition in all light conditions. Day Light, Half-Light, or Low-Light, just “dot the I”. Fast, simple and effective. This is the ultimate self-defense sight system that provides sights you can see around the clock.

The main claim of the express sight (and actually all shallow v sights) is that they are fast.  I don’t exactly disagree with that, but I am not comfortable about how that speed is gained. Essentially, what the sights do is reduce the shooter’s ability to quickly adjust for elevation (and even windage), so instead of wasting time doing it, you just put the front sight on the target and fire the shot… See Fast!

At close ranges it actually works quite well and competition shooters do this with standard post and notch sights all the time.  Keep a hard front sight focus, place it on the target and press the trigger.  If you don’t need the rear sight, don’t use it, but why give up accuracy and get the Shallow V?

Hey wait, WTBGU!  What about when that guy knocks over the popper at 100yrds? Huh, what about that?

There are 4 things working for the XS sights on these shots…

  1. The pepper popper is 42″ tall. So even at 100 yds the pepper popper allows for a variation of 42 minutes of angle in its weakest direction.
  2. Given time to aim carefully, the design of the front sight gives multiple marks to use for elevation for long distances.  It is almost a mini ladder sight.
  3. James Yeager is a decent shot
  4. Editing software
No Fair WTBGU!, you said they aren’t good for elevation, but they could be used as a ladder sight.  What gives?

Our eyes are pretty good at lining things up and centering them, this is why a post and notch and peep sights work so well.  Given enough time and good light, you can get a fairly good windage alignment with the “dot the i” markings and all the complexity with the front sight can both give you a 3rd point to line up for windage and provide multiple elevation references.

But the worst thing about this design to me is that they seem to keep changing shapes.

In good light, your focus is taken to the large white dot.  For fast shots you “place the golf ball on the target and press the trigger” completely ignoring the rear sight.  For accurate shots you cover the target with the dot (limiting your view of it) and set the white dot in the bottom of the V or just touching the bar.

In poor light, the night sights allow you to “dot the i,” which means you need to float the dot somewhere above the bar, a skill that daytime shooting has not prepared you for.  For an accurate shot, you try harder to remember how far above the bar to float the dot.

With a white light or muzzle flash, the tritium disappears and you can clearly make out the silhouette of your sights… which sort of looks like a tombstone and doesn’t really give you much information.

I want my sights to work as often as possible…

In good light for fast shots my fiber optic front sight allows me to place the sight on the target and press the trigger just like the XS Sights.  In good light the crisp square edges of my notch and post sights create a good silhouette to align for both elevation and windage.

In poor light I am looking for a light…  Frankly I can’t think of a situation where I can see the glow of my tritium sights and have a good enough view of target to facilitate a shot. Tritium sights do make it easier to spot a particular gun in a dark safe and the tritium in my watch is awesome!

With the target illuminated I can again see a good silhouette and can make good, safe shots.

The requirements for safe, sighted self-defense shooting and competition are exactly the same! If shallow v sights were better they would be on competition guns… and they are not!

FWIW… Express sights work well for a lot of people and if you put in the time and understand their limitation they can be a useful option.

Written by Ron Larimer

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