As a Glock owner, I purchase and install aftermarket sights on all of my pistols (since plastic sights are a design flaw). In almost every case I’ve gotten night sights as my replacements because, like many responsible gun carriers, I don’t want to be left with no sight picture should I be assailed in darkness. Rule #4 of the rules of gun safety, however, requires that we be sure of our target (and what’s near it and beyond it). This vital rule would seem to preclude the usefulness of night sights in a dark environment. Let me explain.
I recently purchased a new home and one evening while learning how to best clear my home from the bedroom, at night, in the dark, I realized that while my glowing tritium dots were somewhat effective, they became useless when I engaged my pistol’s light (which I would have to do in order to identify my potential target in the dark).
These images (below) show my night sights lined up in the darkness (left) and with my light activated (right):
Thankfully, the featureless sight silhouette is plenty effective against the illuminated environment. However, the “night sights” aspect of them was completely defeated and nonexistent. These facts got me trying to imagine how I’d ever use the glowing tritium of the night sights to line up an accurate shot on an intruder or assailant. I found this difficult, though I did manage to come up with one scenario: when I am in darkness and my target is in a well-lit area (allowing me to clearly identify him/her).
Above: Night sights while in relative darkness, aiming into a lit area.
Note, though, that glowing dots here are in no way necessary, since the nondescript silhouette works perfectly. In any event and short of this unlikely scenario, I find it difficult to imagine a use case for night sights. In fact, the only other reason I can fathom for having night sights on a firearm is so I can more easily find my bedside pistol in the darkness.
What I can imagine as being useful is a tritium + contrasting color front sight and normal non-tritium rear dots (or nothing at all). This sort of configuration allows for a potentially clearer indication of where one’s front sight is. This configuration also prevents confusing one of the glowing rear dots as the front sight (if the front sight is to the right or left of the rear sight).
Benefit or Negligence?
There are many sad stories of shootings involving mistaken identity by those who failed to adhere to Rule #4 and other gun-safety rules, where a parent shoots their own child who is sneaking back into the house at night. While it is possible these negligent shooters had night sights and were able to get a good sight picture from the glowing indicators, they did so at the expense of identifying their target…which is what usually happens in the darkness when night sights on a pistol are useful.
All of this begs the question: do night sights bring any benefit? One might even ask: are night sights merely an expensive invitation to negligence? What is your experience?
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