Gun guru Rob Pincus loves him some “notch and blade” handgun sights. He’s also enamored with the “claw” rear site for a one-handed rack. My EDC GLOCK 19 is so equipped. That said, there’s a lot to be said for the XS Big Dot site. You put the dot on the bad guy and pull the trigger. Then again, I know folks who swear that Heinie Straight Eights are quicker back on target than any other system. Time to call Leghorn for a scientific experiment. (Mr. Pincus rightly recommends testing all EDC sights against moving targets.) Meanwhile, what sights do you carry and what ones don’t you carry (that you’ve tested) and why?

60 Responses to Question of the Day: What Sight System Do You Use on Your Self-Defense Handgun?

  1. I’ve used the law to aftermarket sights on all my handguns, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if the site isn’t specifically made for the gun by the manufacturer I’ve run into issues getting the front sight just a square to the slide in other words it with can’t left or right especially with glock. I’ve used XS big dot True Blood Trijicon and hiney, still have run into the same issue. But I will have to say that I’ve noticed more in the newer gen 3 and Gen 4 Glocks vs my older gen 2 with the sites not lining up correctly. Anybody else have this issue??

    • Yea, pretty much. I look down the slide of whatever semi-auto I’m holding and stuff it out there. Seems to cluster the shots into a ball a bit larger than my fist at 10 to 15 yards without using the sights.

      • I think the latest and greatest in terms of sights are probably more important if one is focused only on target shooting. When it comes to shooting to save your life I suspect your ability to point naturally via muscle memory, like you said, is probably more important. If anything the sights might work as a point of reference in that situation.

    • In the house with my service grade guns- mark one eyeball as you and DG. My j frame snubbie? Shove it so far up his asz that the grips need lube and start firing.

      • Yessir, the J-frame snub is first and foremost a contact defensive handgun. And I don’t mean that it’s a club.

        • My j frame is an airweight with an aluminum frame. Seriously, I wonder how much damage it would suffer if I had to pistol whip somebody needing pistol whipping?

  2. I use hack sights on my Glock 30. For those that don’t know, hack sights are a serrated plain black rear (no dots) and a tritium front with a bright orange circle around the tritium for day use. They are the quickest sights I’ve used.

  3. XS Express Big Dot — very quick acquisition for old eyes, and a tritium insert for low light. The big dot makes it easier to remember to focus on the front sight rather than the target.
    I also mounted an XS Big Dot AR-15 front sight on my (home defense) KT SU-16C. I had to change out the rear sight for a Tech Sights adjustable to make the the Big Dot work on the SU-16C. Sight on the top of the dot for distance, cover with the dot for close-up.

  4. Sigh.

    If you want to know how your EDC weapon will work in a shooting situation, try IDPA. I run a Kimber with a white dot front sight for EDC. Practice has made me proficient with my EDC. It doesn’t matter how good or tricked out your sights are, if you don’t practice, they are next to useless.

    I have a RIA with GI sites that I shoot almost as well as the Kimber. Again, I have practiced a lot with the firearm.

  5. I just switched Sunday from the standard FNH FNX sights to Trijicon HD night sights. (Yellow front sight).

    So far I like them – the contrast between the yellow front blade and the dark rear in daylight really makes the front sight pop at you.

    • I also have Trijicon HDs with yellow front on three different carry guns. Why? Many reasons, including that they are easy to acquire quickly when you don’t need a perfect sight picture. The black rear is like the target sights from Dawson Precision on my IDPA guns so the transition between guns is easy. If needed they have the right amount of light between the post and notch to do reasonably accurate shots. The tritium makes it easier to pick up the sight in low light when I am not using a flashlight. The rear sights have reasonable angles for racking the slide one handed on a belt or other object. The SIG version of the HDs is better for the one handed racking than the XD version but both work well enough. One more reason, they are pretty tough. You can catch them on things or bump them and they hold up. My height is just right that I seem way too often catch the gun in my IWB holster on a counter top or table.

      What I don’t use but have tried. Three white dots, there is too much going on for me and they suck in low light. I also don’t use fiber front, black rear on carry guns even though that is my IDPA setup. I like them in daylight but not so much in low light.

  6. Side of the slide, gangsta kill shot-style, because that’s how I roll.

    Really, just whatever factory installed sights came with the sidearm. I focus more on fundamentals, as opposed to accessories and upgrades.

  7. Mr. Pincus is on the right track and my opinion comes from being a Firearms instructor/SWAT Instructor/SWAT operator/SWAT asst. team leader/Sniper for over 25 years. In all my years I have seen hundreds of new sighting systems come and go. As far as “iron sights” go it doesn’t get better than front blade and rear notch. That being said some of those are better than others. All of my pistols have Tru Glo TFO sights which is about as good as it gets. Fiber Optics for daytime and Tritium (making the fiber optics glow) by night. These are also in use by a lot of my former Navy Seal buddies.

    • Tri glows are really neat. I even put a set on my old 20 gauge for bird hunting and I started hitting the chukar and quail by about 50% more.

  8. Lots of sights are good, but my eyes (near vision) are now bad. I can’t see sights on the pistol, so a laser for handguns and red dot or holo for rifles. It’s a bitch, but my eyes were superman for near 60 years, so I can’t complain.

  9. Got the Ameriglow IDot Pro night sights for my Glock 19 after my stock plastic Glock sights broke. I was very accurate with the stock “ball in bucket” sights but nothing like that came in tritium. I liked the idea of the straight eights, although I had never heard that term until now. XS big dot was an option as well. I just knew I didn’t want to go with three dot systems.
    The bad news is that right after installing my new sights, my wife had to send her Nano to the shop and I loaned her my Glock until her gun came back. Her gun came back weeks ago and now I am permanently in possession of a well broken in Beretta Nano…with three dot sights.

  10. Heinie Straight Eights were my favorite iron sights for the Glock. The simple dot over dot sight picture was clean and accurate. I now run a Trijicon RM 07 with back-up suppressor night sights on my defensive pistols. I wish I could get suppressor height Heinies for the Glock.

  11. In the majority of armed self defense situations the distance is usually less than 10 feet (every try to mug someone from 10 feet away? yea kinda hard so you have to get up close and personal). Look at all the NRA self defense stories and they are all at close distance.

    With that said, sights are not that important at such close distances. The FBI and police reports show the majority report not even aiming but point shooting. While sights are good when needed, I taught my troops point shooting when we had extra ammo. After I retired from the service I continued to teach firearms to military and civies point shooting.

    I remember taking a class from Chris Costa when he was still with Magpul and he shot a 10″ plate at a distance of 75 feet with a pistol that had no sights at all.

    Just saying, don’t freak out if you lose your sights.

    😉

  12. I use a homebrew prototype of an unreleased variant of the Goshen Enterprises Hexsite:

    http://www.goshen-hexsite.com/index2.php

    The Hexsite is an “iron sight” that is used “target focus” instead of “front sight focus”, while retaining good accuracy. Speed on target and especially between multiple targets is just incredible – look somewhere, gun seems to “auto-track” behind wherever you look, decide to fire (or not). You can see exactly what your target is doing before you shoot – did he just pull out a cellphone or a small gun? Night usage is surprisingly awesome despite (or actually because of) the lack of glowing stuff.

    There no glass, glowing stuff, wires or batteries. It uses an aperture rear sight with an odd hex shape to it, and a fairly conventional post front. The real Hexsites fit in conventional holsters. Part of the recipe is “dead black, no glinting” which is achieved (in the real ones) with high-tech polymer coatings over steel cores or bases. Lacking that, my homebrew “Goshdarn Hacksite” semi-clones (I’m now up to the mk5) use tubes to create shadow over the sight cores and get a dead black effect that way, requiring very custom holsters I do myself.

    It has all the advantages of a red dot without any of the disadvantages. Far and away the best sights I’ve ever used, and the most radically different.

  13. Whatever stock sights are on the gun. It’s a pistol. All that new fangled fancy stuff is for rifles and distance shots. Your going to be shooting very close to yourself and probably not even using the sights at all. It’ll probably be one handed, not in any kind of “stance”, and you won’t have time to breathe and squeeze the trigger, taking well aimed shots at 25 yards. If you’ve trained the right way your just gonna whip it out with one hand and pull the trigger putting multiple rounds into the threat. If you’ve trained to slowly point your gun and squeeze the trigger range safety style your going to be dead. That goes for two legged and four legged predators alike.

    • This.

      Which is why I prefer revolvers (YMMV) as they point naturally for me (S&W K and L frames) and have less of a chance of issues at close range, plus I can shoot them one handed and weak hand one handed fairly well. Those who think a defensive shooting is going to be 2 handed, aimed, proper stance, lining up sights on a target, taking out multiple threats with a bucket of bullets are only fooling themselves. Maybe inside, sitting at the top of your stairs, yada yada, but in that case you should have a long gun if you’re holding down the fort. That being said, use whatever sights you like, keep the $ flowing into the economy.

  14. EDC has tritium night sights in some form. A couple of guns have TFO and I like them but they rarely get carried. I’m not a big fan of lasers although my NAA Black Widow has the Laserlyte Venom on it because it’s kinda cool. My FNP-45 Tactical has a RMR on it and I wouldn’t carry it due to size.

  15. I use three:
    .
    Front sight
    Front sight
    Front sight
    .
    and my eyeballs as my #1 backup.
    .
    If my eyes are not working properly, then I use my ears.
    .
    If “sound-shots” are ineffective, then mostly the only thing left is my nose. Most criminals smell pretty strong.
    .
    If necessary, I then use my feet if they are still working.
    .

  16. Trijicon HDs and Speedsights on the Glocks, all with orange front sights. The stock sight on my Walther PPS I’ve painted orange, too. It’s worked well for me so far!

  17. I’ve gone to Trijicon night sights on all my guns, with the exception of Sigs. The original equipment night sights on the Sigs are quality enough for me to not have to replace them. All other guns get 3-dot Trijicon night sights if they are for mixed use, and small defensive only guns get Trijicon HD night sights.
    The bright yellow (or orange) large front sight dots on the HD’s are a definite bonus for defensive use only pistols. But I don’t like that much big bright color on “general use” guns, so I stick with the regular 3-dot night sights as they have the less conspicuous thin white circle around the tritium inserts. I love Trijicon’s quality and effectiveness, and I like having only a couple different sights on my handguns. I think it is a big help to have the same sights across different brands & types of pistols. It gets me on sight picture quicker & it is comforting imo.

  18. Your sights are the last thing in a list of things needed for an accurate shot.
    Assuming you have sights at all on your gun, they all work the same as long as they are zeroed. Some are easier to acquire and some are more precise but the difference is minute when compared to all other factors involved in hitting a bull’s eye.
    Above sights in importance are trigger and familiarity with said trigger.
    Put your favorite sights on a gun you have never shot before then put notch and post sights on your most used gun and see which one you are more accurate with.

    “God I love that sight picture! I just wish it was still there when the bullet left the barrel.”

  19. Ruger .38 LCR standard XS dot, it’s EDC pocket carry, point & shoot. Less concerned about sight picture, then achieving rapid reload from 5 Star Spreed Loader

    Have a number of “Duded” up revolvers with upgraded front sights, vintage grips, handsome holsters, gun belts but since don’t want some cop “losing” it on the way to evidence room just cause really likes the rig, never carry for SD, strictly range work.

  20. I like to run XS Big Dots.

    But, I thought they were just called “sights.” I was unaware a “system” was involve.

  21. I carry a Steyr M9A1 with the trapezoid sights. Love ’em. I’ve carried carious handguns with Big Dots, Ameriglos with the two dot system and my absolute preference is the trapezoid sights.

  22. I just recently swapped out my front sight (on my full size CZ) for a trijicon. Doesn’t help at the range, certainly will help in the dark. Especially since the gun is a good pointer; if the front sight is on the bad guy, then the rear sights (which I won’t be able to see in the dark) are probably within 1 MOBG.

    PS the article says “site” every time that I noticed, except the first one.

  23. Instinctive shooting method or also referred to as point shooting. Though it took me years of practice and more practice.

  24. I run the I.C.E rear sight with a hackathorn ameriglo front sight on a glock 17 gen 4. I prefer the flat black rear, the front has an orange square with a green tritium insert. The orange square is great for flash sight and is I want to drive nails I put the tritium for in the center and rest it on the bottom of the rear sight trench. I also think it’s paramount to have a weapon mounted flashlight or edc pocket flashlight, personally I have both

  25. I swapped out the black sights on my Kimber because I couldn’t see them, switching to three dot Meprolights. My Kahr has the factory standard ball and post sights.

    • You need to rotate the pistol 90 degrees clockwise (counter-clockwise if you’re left handed) until the grips are vertical. You’ll notice two appendages, one at the front of the barrel/slide and one at the back. The one at the back usually has a notch in the middle and the one at the front should align in the notch with the target behind.

  26. None.

    I just knock the plastic sights off my Glocks, point them at the target, and by indexing the slide I hit tea saucer size groups at 10 yards. Good enough.

    Unless you iz preparing to take down some compounds overseas and what not.

    😛

  27. First question on tritium or red dot sights: in low-light conditions, do you want to be staring at something that glows back at you that obscures what you’re looking at and going to shoot out past the light source?

    The proper answer is actually a form of dead black iron sights that work in low light conditions AND work while doing target-focus instead of front-sight-focus – the Goshen Hexsite:

    http://www.goshen-hexsite.com/index2.php

    This is, by far, the fastest sight system I’ve ever tried. It’s also the most moral – by doing target-focus you can see if the guy you’re thinking about shooting pulled a small gun or a cellphone, a knife or a wallet…a feature that might have helped a guy name of Amadeu Diallo.

    It fits in conventional holsters – the front post is of typical size, the rear aperture isn’t very big.

    It also fits all of the criteria that Rob Pincus lays out. I’d like to see Rob give the Hexsite an evaluation and about an hour’s dry-fire practice and a quarter hour of speed drills…that’s all it takes to understand what Tim Sheehan has here.

  28. After watching the video it sounds like the two dot vertical alignment sights might be winners. You still get the same sight picture that he says works best; you can align the front sight in the notch during the day, but you get a very clear picture in low light.

  29. My EDC is a black Ruger GP100 Wiley Clapp with Novak gold dot up front and black rear. I like them more than any other site I’ve come across yet.

  30. I use what came on the gun. In my case it’s the Steyr trapezoidal sights. It seems to me there are two separate factors in sight systems. There is the physical shape of the sights and the pattern/design of the markings. The Heinie and 3 dot are both the notch and blade style Pincus prefers, but with different markings. The Steyr sights are similar in a way, in that they have a central mass that sits between two other masses with a gap that lets light in around the central bit. The thing I like about the Steyr is that if my alignment is off to one side or another, I can usually see the bottom of the central triangle sticking out, whereas on a notch and blade/3-dot type if i’m off to one side and the post has disappeared behind the rear sight, then it takes me longer to figure out which side it’s on and correct it.

    The Big dot type are still a variant, but it’s a big enough departure I think it’s reasonable to classify them differently. The notch has been changed into a gradual V and the front sights extends beyond the top of the rear piece instead of aligning with it.

    I’m curious to try a Heinie, and I understand the complaints against the Big Dot sights being geared for speed instead of accuracy, but I imagine the most likely situation in which I will need a gun, I’ll be close enough that i’ll have little worry of missing an attacker. But then I suppose i’m picturing a situation where the sights aren’t much of a factor at all.

    I wonder, has anyone done a study to determine if there is a range of distances at which the sights aren’t needed too much to get decent, near center-mass hits, and the issue is more of using the sights to get on target quickly instead of precise alignment. In other words is there a range at which even an imprecise alignment of sights will reasonably ensure good torso hits on a human sized target, and therefore sacrificing precision for speed is beneficial (such as in the claims against the Big Dot sights).

    Is this something that’s been settled?

  31. For my EDC (G27), I have the XS Big Dot. For my HD (FNP-45T), I’ve got an RMR red dot.

    After taking a 2-day point / instinctive shooting course…. I don’t need no steekin’ sights. 🙂

  32. I like Heine Straight 8s. Also fond of any black rear sight (serrations are nice, u-shaped notch also nice) with a tritium/FO/brass bead, but with the exception of Glock I usually just leave the stock sights on them and color out the rear with a sharpie. As long as the rear notch is wide enough (and/or front sight narrow enough) I can work with it.

  33. My eyesight is poor, I wear trifocals, have trouble focusing close, and am left eye dominant and right handed. I still have three more ideas to test, one of which is a red dot. However, so far, what works best for getting three shots off in less than two. Seconds are two fluorescent dots I painted on the rear of the slide to coincide with the center of the barrel. They are 1/4″ in diameter. I look straight at the target, hold the gun in front of my nose (instead one one eye or the other), place the target halfway between the two images of the dot, and fire away. It’s precise enough at 7 yards or less, is fast and keeps both eyes open.

    I practice five ways:
    1&3 One-handed left and right, with the gun tilted inwards about 30 degrees.
    3&4 Two-handed, both left and right, with the gun straight up and down.
    5. And right hand on trigger, lefinvestment banker in asia barronst hand in front of trigger guard with thumbs opposing each other, the gun held in front of left eye, and left eye focused on the front sight. Because the rear sight is a blur when looking through the top part of my trifocals, I ground it down flat to keep it from obscuring the front sight when aiming in this way.

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