Despite my aggressive position on concealed carry and the appropriate handguns for that use, I've never really been a night sights user. My particular life style doesn't see me in low light situations very often, and my vision is such that I can't use the typical three-dot sights very quickly at all. I also find the typical thin white line around the tritium vial decidedly difficult to use in daylight, making standard night sights a poor choice for me 95% of the time. My standard carry guns are Glocks with factory sights--bright white outline rear and white dot fronts and I always carry a tactical flashlight which I can use in a way to light my sights. Still, this is all something of an excuse. If I ever need the glowing vials, I'll probably need 'em badly.
To that end, earlier this year I decided to experiment with one option that I understand is somewhat popular, a front night sight and standard rear sight. I rebuilt an older Glock 23 and had refinished the slide so I was replacing sights anyway. I installed an Ameriglo front sight with a Trijicon tritium vial and a Glock OEM white outline rear sight, which is my preference. (I just showed pix of this pistol on the message board recently, I'll put a photo of it below this paragraph). Over the course of shooting it I've come to some conclusions that I want to share here. I should add that my club has an indoor range where I can turn the lights down on rheostats from full bright to complete darkness--fully black. That was essential in evaluating this sight combo!
When shooting in sufficient light the sight picture is decidedly inferior to standard Glock sights because as I've always thought, the front night sight with its tiny white circle around a vial that doesn't show brightly in light is just plain inferior compared to the solid white dot of the standard sights. Nevertheless I can keep my shots in a head- or heart-size circle at reasonable distances at a pretty good clip. I have not timed myself with standard sights versus these sights--perhaps I should as I have two identical guns, one with each type of sight set-up--but I'm satisfied that while the front night sight is in fact slightly slower it is not horrible in good light. And a reality check? My own practice or lack of practice makes more difference than the speed difference possible between the two front sights when shot in bright light.
While this discussion is about equipment, equipment never overshadows personal ability.
As lights dim the sight picture gets more jumbled. If there is light behind you the night sight does not glow sufficiently to help so you are using essentially the "daylight" sight picture. I presume this is well known to you long-time night sight shooters. As you find yourself with darkness behind you the night sight suddenly jumps out at you. Now then, as the experts have been saying, you can't use your gun in total darkness with any sights because you need target identification. Duh--we're not that stupid, any of us. But I find with only a little light on the target and none on my pistol (again, I can do this with rheostat lighting on my indoor range), I can hit surprisingly well with only the front night sight. I do see some silhouetting of the rear sight, which helps tremendously--this is without a white light.
With a white light I can easily see the rear sight and I can hit as well. The downside is that I am not well-practiced in flashlight technique--no excuse--and I can shoot faster and more accurately without one in my hand. I have discovered a new method called the Woos Method that is promising but I have not practiced it yet. I do have a gun light but this older model Glock is not rail-equipped.
Aside from being able to see the rear sight, I also attribute being able to hit to the fact that I've been shooting a long time and muscle memory has allowed me to bring the gun to the proper position so that what I mainly need is to find the front sight...and the rest of the gun will "assume the position." If you do enough "combat type" shooting and learn to make good hits you can do this one or two-handed and you really just need to find the front sight. I'm absolutely not saying I can do this without finding the front sight, by point shooting. I can't. I can point shoot from this screen to your face and a few feet further but that's it. But if I can bring the front sight to bear I can hit at reasonable distances pretty fast. As the distance grows I want more time to align the sights visually. My thinking is that as distance grows in a gunfight, and it is dark enough that night sights are all I have, retreat is going to be a better option--retreat to cover, or just get out of Dodge.
In conclusion then, I think the front night sight only has some real merit. I would like to find a sight that has a more usable daytime picture, and I think I am going to look into an XS Systems front--standard or Big Dot is yet to be determined. The standard may not have enough white for daytime, and while the Big Dot has enough white for daytime the dot may be too big for the Glock rear sight. I'm not going to use an XS Express rear sight, nor am I really interested in the increasingly popular half circle "Old Man" rear sights that are being gunsmith-made by grinding aperture sights down into huge U-shape rears to match the Big Dot front. But that's a story for another time. I'll probably shoot this older G23 as-is for a while longer, as I've only been shooting it for 2-3 months as I write this. (30 Nov 09)
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