Night Sights – The Big Tritium Debate

Night sights or no night sights? That is the question.


Night sights, who doesn’t love them? They’ve become the standard for law enforcement and military use. They seem to be quite widely available on carry guns these days. Heck, good luck buying a SIG without some XRAY3 sights. That makes us ask, are they the best option? Do they have problems? If you don’t have night sights, should you go out and buy a set? Well, let’s talk about it.

Pros of Night Sights

The biggest advantage of night sights is pretty obvious. They glow in the dark in low-light scenarios. If you are in a dimly lit building, or in general, a dark environment, your sights are easy to see and stand out. If you can’t see your sights, it’s pretty tough to aim at your target.

In the middle of the day, night sights can still be handy. They provide a point of focus on the front sight that’s often also eye-catching during the day. Most modern night sights utilize some form of high visibility ring around the tritium vial that makes it a snap to find.

Cons of Night Sights

The downside of night sights is twofold. First, the sights tend to be expensive. Tritium ain’t cheap y’all. The other downside is that you can’t get a thin front sight with tritium-infused sights. That vial ensures the sight can only be oh so thin. Thin front sights help shooters engage out to longer ranges, especially on smaller targets.

Finally, eventually, that tritium dims and dies. If you plan to use one firearm for the rest of your life, then you might be disappointed to see your tritium die after ten years of use.

Are They Useless?

There is an argument that in the face of modern weapon-mounted and handheld lights that these sights are somewhat useless. If you have a threat in the dark, you still need the positive identification a light provides to identify the threat. In this situation, the presence of night sights won’t matter and will be washed out by the light.

This is true. However, I don’t think it automatically render these sights useless. The above assumes the situation is completely dark. In a dimly lit situation, I can still establish PID of a threat, and the glowing of my sights will make them easier to see and focus on. A situation in which the threat is an illuminated environment, and you are not, is also a possibility.

In this situation, you can easily see your threat but might not be able to see your sights. Here night sights might make a big difference. I rarely ever agree that there are absolutes in the self-defense world.

Shine On

If you like night sights, use them. You won’t get yourself kilt in the streetz regardless of what people say. Sights are sights. Ultimately I think a good red dot provides a better sighting system than any combination of iron sights.

That’s just my opinion, but they do work day and night with ease. Tritium sights can be a great addition to your gun, but you might settle on high visibility sights or blacked-out sights. Ultimately as long as you know how to use your sights, I’m betting you come out ahead.


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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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