Update (04/28/2017): I am starting to change my thinking a little on XS Big Dots, and shift away from them in favor of a different sight setup. Click here to read more about that. Always remember that XS Big Dots are still a good option for a fighting pistol – much better than the standard three-dot sights that come stock on most guns.
Here is a quick little gear lesson for you all today: Let’s talk about iron sights for you pistol. There are a lot of sights out there, and they range from good to bad to downright ugly. I’m going to try and give you some tips on selecting good sights for your carry gun.
The first thing I want to say about the iron sights on your pistol is that they should be made of iron (or steel). This might sound silly, but bear with me. Some pistols (specifically Glock pistols, which are my weapon of choice) come with plastic sights from the factory. These cheap, plastic sights just don’t have the durability you need for real-world use of your gun.
We do a lot of one-handed shooting in our classes. The reason for this is simple: it is extremely likely that you may have to shoot one-handed during a gunfight. When you come out and participate in some tactical training, you will find that things are not as simple as just holding the gun in one hand and pulling the trigger. What do you do if you have to reload one-handed? Clear a malfunction with one hand only? How are you going to rack the slide of your pistol when you only have one hand available?
The method we teach for this is to hook the rear sight on your belt to catch the slide while you push forward on the frame. On guns with plastic sights, I have actually seen students rip the rear sight right out of the gun! So the takeaway here is that for real-world defensive firearm use, you need your iron sights to be made out of iron, not plastic.
Contrary to what a lot “experts” want to tell you, if you’re going to be shooting at somebody you want to see your sights. Now don’t get me wrong; there are absolutely times where you may not have a perfectly clear sight picture. If somebody is within striking distance, for example, then you will likely be able to hit them by “point shooting”. Beyond just a few feet, however, you need to actually see your sights.
Remember this: you are responsible for each and every round you send downrange. If you miss your intended target and hit a bystander, then you are responsible for that.
In normal lighting conditions, fiber optic sights work really well, as do larger front sights with white coloring. Those types of sights are easy to see. In low-light conditions, tritium night sights are really beneficial for increasing the visibility of your front sight.
It should be pretty obvious that speed is of the essence in a life-or-death struggle. When you need to shoot, then you need to shoot right now. You will have to find that front sight quickly to put accurate rounds on target in a timely manner.
The industry-standard 3-dot sights that come on most pistols are not very good for speed. It’s easy to lose the front sight in that narrow rear notch, and the fact that both the front and rear sights feature the same color and size dot can make it confusing to quickly differentiate between the front and rear sights. This same problem comes up with 3-dot style tritium night sights.
What you really want for maximum speed is a big, highly visible front sight combined with a distinct rear sight that features either a shallow groove or a really wide notch.
The Sights that ATA Loves
In my book, if you are interested in durable, highly-visibile, and insanely-fast iron sights for your pistol, then you want XS Big Dot sights. XS Big Dots feature a really shallow V-shaped rear sight with a huge, impossible-to-miss white front sight. The front sight is also a tritium night sight that provides you with extra visibility in low-light situations.
The front sight on a pair of XS Big Dots is huge, and extremely visible. Finding that front sight and lining it up in the shallow rear notch is extremely intuitive and fast. XS sights are also made of steel, so you don’t have to worry about breaking them during one-handed use.
Some people claim that XS sights are too big to be accurate. Nonsense. Check out this old video from James Yeager, where he shoots targets at 100y with an XS Big Dot-equipped Glock 19:
XS Big Dots are a gunfighter’s sights, plain and simple. Am I saying that they are the only adequate sight out there? No, there are other designs that will work just fine. But none of them do nearly as good as the Big Dots for our purposes, which are fast-paced, mobile, chaotic self-defense situations. If you own guns as weapons for self defense, then do yourself a favor and get a set of XS Big Dots.