I have written before about my choice to carry a concealed weapon, so I do not need to belabor that issue. (You can read about that here, if you like) And while I firmly believe that decision is an extremely personal one that each law-abiding citizen should wrestle with and come to their own conclusion, I do believe one universal truth exists should one decide to carry a gun: ALWAYS make sure your carry pistol is sporting night sights…ALWAYS!
I have heard an often touted statistic that a vast majority (upwards of 70%) of self defense situations occur in low-light or no-light situations. This would make logical sense, as we’ve all been taught that criminals prefer to hide in the shadows. However, I try very hard to vet all statistics when writing, and I simply cannot find an official study that indicates this is true. Whether this statistic holds water or not, let me say this: by carrying a pistol, you are already preparing for a very low-percentage event to take place in your life. Would you not rather take one small step further in your preparation game and be prepared for that event to also occur at night?
I have run some trainings at night, and even in controlled environments with flood lights illuminating the range, I will still say that I was so glad to have night sights on my pistol…they really make a huge difference! I simply have a personal rule that I WILL NOT carry a pistol for self defense that is not equipped with night sights - it’s just not worth the risk to me.
So, let’s say you’re convinced and are ready to head to Amazon or your local gun shop to pick up a pair of sights for your carry pistol of choice. Surprise…there are 9,000 different options in the night sight game, and for every three people in the room, you’ll get five opinions on “the only ones any person who doesn’t want their whole family to die would ever carry”…it’s one of the biggest debates in the pistol world, second only to Glock vs. All-Things-Not-Glock. Some are designed to be super quick, some are designed for more precision, one dot, two dot, three dot. And of course, laser sights and holographic red dots are becoming increasingly popular. For the purposes of our discussion today, we will keep our options limited to sights without a battery…just your standard night sights.
I have personally spent a great deal of time behind two particular sets of night sights: The XS Big Dots and the Ameriglo Figure 8’s. I know that is only scratching the surface of the litany of options out there, but these are a couple of fairly popular choices. I carried the Big Dots on my S&W SHIELD for years, trained rigorously with them, and loved them. However, when I added a Glock 19 to my regular carry rotation, I knew I was going to replace the stock Glock sights (which nearly everyone agrees is the FIRST thing you should do when purchasing a Glock), and I wanted to try something different just to see first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of different sight systems. That is when I opted for the Figure 8’s, primarily to see if they would provide more precision at distance than I was experiencing with the Big Dots.
I continued to train with both sight systems until I felt fully comfortable with either, and then decided to run a head-to-head comparison to see if an overall winner would reveal itself. I ran a drill for speed, one for shooting on the move, and then slow, static shots at distance to see how each sight system fared, and if one was a better all-around choice. One thing I knew for sure: I was going to put the same sights on both carry pistols once I determined the better system for me. Should I ever require my pistol in a life or death situation, I want to be looking at a sight picture I am so insanely familiar with that it isn’t even a thought in my mind.
Now, enough chatter…which sights won? Here is the breakdown of the three tests, and which one was declared the winner.
Speed Draw - 8” Plate at 10 Yards: Draw from holster and fire two shots.
I ran three rounds with each pistol and took an average - the Big Dots came out ahead by 0.25 seconds. That’s obviously not an earth shattering speed difference, but it is technically faster. Moving on…
Shooting on the Move - 8” Plate at 10 Yards: Draw and fire while moving Left to Right.
For this one, I wasn’t firing a predetermined number of rounds - I simply wanted to shoot as many times as I could in between points A and B while keeping track of how many misses I had. The results weren’t even close - the Big Dots took this one by a mile!!! While trying to move and get back on target, that giant golf ball on the front of the pistol felt as if it were magnetically attached to the steel plate. The standard size front sight on the Figure 8’s, however, was a constant battle. I think I missed more shots than I hit over the course of all three rounds. Big Dots, FTW!
Precision at Distance - 8” Plate at 25 Yards: Stand still and fire 8 rounds as slowly as necessary
As expected, the smaller and more precise Figure 8’s took this drill without even trying. I only achieved two hits with the Big Dots, while only missing twice with the Figure 8’s. Nothing all that surprising about that.
If you want to see the whole thing unfold, I breakdown these trials and the conclusions they brought me to in the video below.
As is often the case when it comes to concealed carry choices, the answer is not always black and white. It’s a very personal decision about what you’re comfortable with, what you think will be the likely self-defense scenario you may face (which we’ve already established is actually unlikely), and which sights will perform best for your level of training and plan of action in the event of an attack. Here’s what I decided for me…
If an assailant is still 25 yards or more away from me, I still have a little time to take other measures. Even if he started at that distance and was charging full speed at me, by the time my pistol was drawn and ready to deploy, he is now much closer than that. If I am ever in fear for my life to the point where I am justified in drawing and using my weapon, that assailant must be real close to me. As for my plan of action, I plan to be moving as quickly as I can - “Get off the X” as they say. I realize these situations typically play out very quickly and there is little time for conscious thought, but that is why I train for shooting on the move. I hope and pray my muscle memory will kick in at that moment, and I will begin moving, draw, and fire while continuing to move.
Since my plan for an event of this nature (which, granted, cannot really be planned for) involves close quarters and movement, I am 100% sold on the Big Dots. If you’ve been using standard three dot sights forever, the “dot the i” sight picture takes a short time to get used to, but it is completely worth it. After my last day at the range with my wife, she spent a couple hours training with her pistol (currently equipped with 3-dot sights). Just out of curiosity I had her take aim with my SHIELD (with the Big Dots) just to see how she liked them. After 1.5 seconds of staring down that sight picture, she said “oh, that is WAY better…I want those!” If you decide to make the switch, it won’t take long before you love them and wonder how you ever shot something else.
Of course, this is what has worked for me and is purely my opinion. There are far too many guys on the internet proclaiming that their way is the ONLY way, and slap me if I ever come off as that guy! I do believe you should only carry a gun equipped with night sights - that’s a non-negotiable in my book. However, which ones you choose comes down to your preference, what you’re comfortable with, and most importantly - what you’re willing to put in the time training with. We can disagree on this one and still be friends. But, if you’re in the market for some night sights, I think the XS Big Dots are a terrific option!
If you do happen to be looking to purchase some, click the link below to grab them from Amazon. [Full disclosure, I get a small cut if purchased through that link]