Our maximum leader and chief content creator often says that criminals are nocturnal animals. As such, any gun designed for usage in defense of self or home needs the ability to be aimed in the dark. During the daylight hours, said sights need to be crisp and easy to acquire as well. Triiicon HD Night Sights have long been the gold standard for no, low, and bright light sights for self defense handguns. Eager to see what all the fuss was about, I secured a set for my EDC M&P 9 . . .
Trijicon offers two types of irons for your handgun of choice. The first, Bright and Tough, features the tritium illumination that Trijicon is known for. They sport a slicked back shape for the rear sight, and offer no color options for the front sight. They also feature a squared off rear sight picture and a tighter alignment between the front blade and the rear notch. They’re great all around sights, and having used them on the FNS 9, I can attest to their effectiveness.
The HD Night Sights are an overall coarser set of sights focused on defensive handgunning first with absolute precision as a secondary consideration. Where the Night Sights closely match the stock sights in dimension, featuring a .131-inch wide front sight mated to a .141 inch wide rear notch, the HDs sport a .144 inch wide front and .169 inch wide rear notch.
The rear sight in the HDs is U-shaped as well versus a quared off notch. What this creates is a very fast acquisition of the sight picture that’s never really “perfect” in terms of precision. If you’re looking to score hits at 50 yards with a set of irons, these sights are going to hold you back. But if you’re looking to quickly acquire the front sight in a rapid presentation from a holster at self defense distances, this setup is preferred.
If you own a good sight pusher, installation of these sights is a five-minute job that results in little to no damage to your sights or your gun. I used a MGW tool and had everything swapped back and forth with ease. [ED: Trijicon recommends that you take your gun to a gunsmith for proper installation.]
Specific to the M&P, the rear sight backs the striker block, so you’ll need to find a way to depress that while getting the sight reinstalled. There’s a $4 special tool made by Talon Tactical that helps with that process. I only know about that tools because it is included with the kit from Apex, so if you’re considering upgrading the guts of your trigger mechanism, this is an excellent time to kill two birds with one stone.
“Wait, irons never fail!” you must be muttering. True. Unless they break off the gun, irons sights are pretty dependable. In my case though, the tritium in the front sight kicked the bucket approximately two weeks after I got the sights installed. Trijicon thinks that the vial may have broken during the installation process, and I wouldn’t have been surprised except that I was very gentle with my installation opting to use a sight pusher instead of a hammer and a brass punch.
I contacted Trijicon and they issued an RMA for the sight within one business day. What was frustrating about the process was that I had to pay for shipping to get it back and I was without a front sight for a few weeks. I may have my outrage and sensitivity dialed up a bit too high these days, but given that this effectively neutered my carry pistol for several weeks — and cost me money — I had a bad taste in my mouth.
This might very well just be the way they deal with clownshoe bloggers from Texas, and paying customers get different treatment. It’s safe to say that the first few months of ownership were less than rainbows and gumdrops.
In the Field
I have always had a problem tracking the front sight during presentation and through recoil for follow up shots. I don’t know if its a visual acuity issue or a concentration issue or some combination of both, but since the day I first picked up a pistol, I’ve always been slow at picking up the front sight. A lot of that changed when I switched out to the HD Night Sights. By virtue of the screaming yellow color, the front sight demands your attention during presentation. I can now more easily track it the whole way as I press the gun out with the rear sight coming into alignment somewhere along the way.
During recoil, the bright yellow color seems to be in the same league as my slide mounted red dot. You simply cannot lose the front sight during strings of rapid fire. To throw some objective data behind those subjective statements, I took these sights out shortly after I got them, and ran them through the first implementation of the Rehn Test. What I found was that I scored a bit better at the five yard line that I did with the stock sights, and ever so slightly worse at the ten yard line.
My interpretation of those results is that the coarse nature of these sights when compared with the stock sights ensures that speed trumps precision. Like I mentioned above, you’re never going to win any marksmanship bets with your buddies using these sights. Where they do shine is at self defense distances and less than stellar lighting conditions.
Some online reviews I’ve found indicate that the rear sight is sharp and pointy leading to carry discomfort. With the better part of six months of everyday carry under my belt, I can say with a great deal of confidence that I didn’t experience any of those problems. There’s definitely a “point” to the rear sight, but I never experienced any discomfort because of it. I found the edges to have been nicely rounded, smoothed, and free of any snaggy bits.
What I do love about the rear sight is the aggressive “shelf” that allows for boot, table, and belt racking of the slide. Though I don’t regularly find myself forced into one handed manipulations of the slide, I like options, and I’ve found that a rear sight like this gives me those options.
Specifications: Trijicon HD Night Sights
- Type: Front and Rear Sight Replacement
- Illuminated: Yes – Tritium Lamp
- Colors: Black Rear and Orange or Yellow Front
- Warranty: 12 years from date of manufacture on tritium lamps
- MSRP $185
- Real World: $140 on Amazon
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
For the money, I expect perfection out of a set of irons, and the workmanship on these is excellent. There are no visible burrs, scuffs, or machining marks. The paint is applied evenly and cleanly to the front sight and the lamps are firmly nestled inside rubber lined housings.
Function * * * * *
As long as you’re being realistic about your objectives, these are great sights for the use case at hand. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, precision iron sights. However, they’re very fast to acquire and my data seems to indicate are objectively better than the stock sights at self defense distances. The bright yellow front sight really stands out against any target and has helped me with my acquisition and tracking woes. At night, the three dots are very bright and with some practice, they become intuitive to work.
Reliability * *
The tritium ampule in the front sight failed almost immediately. Six months later, and they’ve run without a hiccup so I’m inclined to believe that I just got a lemon. That said, the warranty process was a little clunky and left a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall * * *
These are fantastic sights for the task at hand, and given my success in using them, they’ve become my default answer for anyone looking to upgrade the sights on their defensive pistol of choice. I was disappointed that the tritium vial in the front sight crapped out almost immediately, but after six months of usage without any further issues, I’m inclined to believe that all is well. Because of that hiccup, these aren’t perfect, and the fact that the warranty process left me without a working EDC pistol for several weeks means I’m dropping two stars.