Because the fundamentals of “front sight, trigger control, follow through” are so important, the best upgrade you can make to the average pistol is a good set of sights. I recently stumbled across a used Glock 17L. The previous owner had been good enough to install a Dawson Precision magwell, but it was still wearing the unremarkable Glock “U-dot” adjustable plastic sights. Since Dawson Precision is also known for their excellent sights, I decided to complete the ensemble.
But what kind of sights? I have several favorites:
- Target sights – Plain black Patridge sights. Often undercut or serrated – or both – to reduce reflected light. These sights are perfect for shooting on brightly-lit ranges, with plain white targets. Unfortunately, they can be easy to lose against a mottled background, or in low light. Less than optimal for self defense or hunting purposes, although they’ll do in a pinch.
- Three dot sights – The most commonly available sights for defensive pistols, often with Tritium or fiber optic inserts for added brightness in a variety of light conditions. Also reasonably good for target shooting. A good all-around choice. However, when going for maximum speed, the rear dots can easily draw focus away from the front dot, slowing you down slightly.
- Red ramp sights – A front sight containing a red plastic insert that is visible against a variety of backgrounds, draws the eye naturally when shooting quickly, yet still provides good accuracy if you take a second longer. Usually paired with a plain black rear sight. This is the type of sight my constant companion S&W J-frame wears, also popular on hunting revolvers. Unfortunately, not usually available for semi-autos.
- Fiber front/target rear – All the advantages of the classic red ramp, but using a red fiber optic dot instead of a simple reflective plastic insert. This setup is very popular with competition shooters, and in my opinion should be seriously considered for field and defensive use as well. Fast shooting is fast shooting, and the light-gathering ability of the fiber optic makes it acceptable for low-light use as well.
The G17L is a racegun, and while I probably won’t compete with it (I prefer my CZs) it’s only natural that it should wear racegun sights. A gun with good sights, a good trigger, and low recoil is also good for teaching novices. What’s easier to focus on than a glowing front sight, with no other distractions?
It wasn’t long before my selection appeared in the mailbox.
Black serrated adjustable rear sight with .125″ notch (017-012 $79.95). Simple and high contrast. I prefer adjustable sights to fixed sights when I’m installing them. Fixed sights can only be adjusted by sliding them back and forth with gentle taps with a punch or with a sight pusher. The former is imprecise, the latter expensive. Having shot some sights right off of guns (10mm and .45-70 will do that) I am a firm believer in sights that do not move in their mounts. An adjustable sight with a base that is bolted to a revolver’s frame, or essentially welded to the slide of a semi-auto with Loc-Tite and set screws seems more reliable to me than one that can be relatively easily slid in a dovetail. Some people feel that adjustable sights are too fragile, but I’ve found that any knock that could break a well-made adjustable sight is equally likely to knock a fixed sight out of alignment.
Glock 17L serrated fiber optic (019-133 $39). This is shorter front-to-back than the other Glock sights DP offers so that it doesn’t overhang the cutout featured on Glock longslides. It is .300″ tall, and .125″ wide. I prefer taller sights, since they serve as a more visible pointer, less likely to get lost against the bulk of the slide. The .125″ is rather wide, which can make for a slower sight picture than a narrow (.100″) speed blade that allows lots of light on either side. However, since the sight radius on the G17L is so long, the front sight appears smaller, and lets more light through than it would on a shorter Glock.
Dawson Precision sights come with excellent technical support in the form of free, high-quality instructional videos on YouTube. Take advantage.
It’s worth pointing out that Dawson front sights include a Glock front sight tool, as well as a red and green fiber optic in case the installed one breaks…or you just want to change the color. As another video demonstrates, this can be done with nothing more than a razor and a lighter. The rear sight comes with a punch for driving out the old sight, an adjustment screwdriver, and Allen wrench for the dovetail set screws.
You will only need to provide:
- Red Loc-Tite (271).
- A fine file.
- A padded vise.
- A small hammer.
With this type of sight, I use a “dot zero” rather than zeroing for a center hold or a 6 o’clock hold on the target. The sights are adjusted so that the bullet lands somewhere in the area covered by the red dot. In practice, it’s much like having a red dot optic, or a laser sight. Just point and click.
Ratings (out of five stars)
Visibility: * * * * *
The purpose of sights is to be seen, and this setup is what the world’s top shooters choose for maximum visibility and accuracy. But it also works for novices, and mid-level shooters like myself.
Quality: * * * * *
Perfect fit, knife-like edges, flawless serrations, and precise click adjustments.
Durability: * * * *
Steel, not plastic, and designed to be solidly affixed to the gun. The only potentially fragile part is the fiber optic, and replacements are included. Properly installed, they will last a lifetime.
Installation: * * * *
A small amount of hand fitting is necessary, however you won’t have any problems if you follow instructions.
Service: * * * * *
Between the included tools, fast turnaround, and free & informative videos, what more could you ask?
Value: * * * * *
Dawson sights are standard equipment on some of the world’s finest – and most expensive – defensive and competition pistols. But the sights themselves are not expensive. Apart from a good trigger job, this is the most bang for the buck you can get.
Overall: * * * * *
A great product. Maintaining a proper sight picture is one of the fundamentals of shooting, so good sights are essential. I recommend these sights for anyone wants an easy, immediate, and cost-effective upgrade to their handgun shooting experience.