Loading... Please wait...

Choosing Sights

The first part of the slght selection process is to determine your needs in terms of your use and vision requirements.  Are you using the pistol for competition, recreation, CCW, LE duty use?  Each usage profile has a different set of needs which should be examined.  

 

Front Sight Profile:

It is pretty rare these days to find a sight profile other than a semi-ramp, in which the face of the blade is slightly angled away from the shooter.  Gone are the days of undercut target sights (think of a hook), full ramps (older design S&W revolvers), and even the straight post with the vertical sighting surface.  The semi ramp profile offers the best compromise for a reduced snag profile and presenting a good sight picture.

The front face of the sight is either plain/smooth or serrated.  Our 10-8 front sights feature a serrated face, which provides an even sighting surface in all lighting conditions, as the serrations break up glare.  A serrated face sight is unable to have a paint outlined tritium insert, as the paint then bleeds into the serrations during the installation.  A smooth faced sight is used on outlined tritium sights for this reason.  A disadvantage of the plain front is that it can provide some glare in certain lighting conditions due to its smooth surface.

 

Plain Black:

This is the traditional sight setup, and provides a clean sight picture for target and competition shooting on known target backgrounds. The lack of any type of additional index for picking up the front sight makes these sights a problem on mixed or unknown backgrounds.  A set of all black pistol sights is therefore a poor choice for many applications where the target type is not predetermined.

 

Tritium:

Tritium is considered fairly standard equipment and offers the ability to align the sights in low/no light, and the insert provides some visual contrast to help quickly align the sights in daylight. Tritium has a maximum service life of about 10 years, so you will need to replace the sights after they start to dim. While the tritium does allow you to align the sights in total darkness, LE and CCW users are still required to identify their threat with white light. As such, the tritium inserts are typically washed out by the white light and sights generally appear more or less black.

 

Gold/Brass Bead:

Popularized by the legendary revolver shooter, Ed McGivern, the gold (and brass) bead sight has been with us for a long time. The bead catches light nicely in the daylight, and as long as there is some ambient light, it still provides enough contrast to pick out the front sight. In low light, it still needs to be used in conjunction with a white light.

 

Fiber Optic:

No sight is as visible in the daylight, and older eyes will benefit from the super high visibility. The brighter the sun is, the better this sight works. It will not wash out in extremely bright conditions, and excels at this end of the lighting spectrum. Fiber optics are my personal favorite in the sighting systems, as a red dot really jumps out at you, no matter how busy the target area may be. In low light, this sight becomes black sooner than the brass bead sight. It of course needs to be used in conjunction with white light, but otherwise provides no other unique issues in low light over the other designs.  Some have expressed reservation of the fiber coming out and leaving the sight useless.  While it no longer has the bright contrasting dot, keep in mind that most designs will still leave behind a big blade (albeit with a hole in the middle) to use for traditional sighting methods.  Our fiber optic front sights also feature a shielded tunnel to protect the extra thick .060" rod from impact on all sides.

 

Front Sight Widths:

The most common front sight width is .125″, and is what shooters see on most factory pistols.  This is a good all purpose sight width, and provides an adequate blend of speed and accuracy.  The thinner the front sight blade, the less of the target it will cover at distance, with the reverse being true for the thicker blades.  Many factory night sight systems use .135″ or even .140″ wide front blades in order to accommodate paint outlined tritium inserts or some other high visibility setup.  We do not recommend anything wider than .125″, as our experience has found that such a wide blade covers an unacceptable amount of the target at 15 yards and out.  The .115″ width is on the rise, as it covers less of the target at distance without being so narrow as to create excessive light gaps with the rear sight.  The narrower widths, such as the .100″, are extremely fast and cover little of the target, but some shooters find the larger light bars visible in the rear sight notch to either degrade their accuracy or slow them down at distance.

 

Rear Sights:

The most common type of rear sight is the two dot rear, which is a factory option with either tritium or white painted dots.  In the execution of proper marksmanship fundamentals, the rear sight and target should be in soft focus while the front sight is in sharp focus.  This is mostly because the front sight is the midpoint between the three focal planes and our eye is only capable of focusing on one.  The concept of the two dot rear is that you basically line up the front and rear dots and you are all set.  The problem with this is that the front dot, especially if it is white paint, tends to get dirty first during extended firing.  It is not uncommon for the front sight to end up subdued and the rear dots to still be very bright, contributing to a bit of visual confusion when lining up the sights at speed. Another common problem as 3 dot sight systems age and wear is that each of the three dots ends up being a different color and/or brightness.  This makes it quite a chore for your eye to sort out, especially at speed.

Single dot rear sights mitigate the various issues with 2 dots to some degree, and are less visually confusing.  Bars and boxes tend to increase the visual distraction at the rear sight, and do not provide as precise and repeatable of a visual index as a single dot.

A plain black rear sight is the simplest solution for visual speed, as the lack of distractions at the rear sight drive the visual attention to the front sight.  All 10-8 rear sights are offered in plain black only for this reason.

Notch width is the next factor to consider, and wider notch widths are increasingly common and popular.  The traditional pairing of a .125″ wide front and .125″ rear notch is giving way to a .140″ notch as shooters realize that a little more light in the sight picture does not detract from accuracy while it adds some bit of speed.  Wider notches, such as a .156″, allow even larger light bars on either side of a front sight, but some shooters may experience a degradation in accuracy or slower sight alignment at speed on hard/distant targets.  However, for shooters with some vision problems brought on typically by middle age, these wider notches are quite helpful.

 

Sight Height Calculations:

There is very simple calculation to determine exactly what sight height corrections are required to get your pistol to shoot to the desired point of impact.

[(Impact change on target, in inches) x (Sight Radius, in inches)] / (Distance to Target, in inches) = Sight Height Correction Needed

If you hate math and that formula just made you glaze over or have flashbacks to school, don't worry. After having measured a bunch of pistols and done the math, most common service size pistols like the Glock 17/19/34, M&P full size, 1911 Government, etc. share a very similar sight correction. As a simple rule of thumb, .007" in sight height equates to approximately 1" of impact adjustment at 25 yards. Some other simple things to remember:

  • Decreasing the rear sight height = lowering point of impact on target
  • Increasing the rear sight height = raising point of impact on target
  • Increasing the front sight height = lowering the point of impact on target
  • Decreasing the front sight height = raising the point of impact on target

Armed with this information, you can make some calculations and get your pistol set up exactly how you like. Remember that the bullseye style 6 o'clock hold, where you aim at some arbitrary spot below where you want your holes to appear, is a leftover from bullseye competition and has no place in tactical applications. If your sights shoot too high, change them. You should ideally have your sights set up to produce a point of impact (POI) that matches your point of aim. I prefer to set up my pistols at 25 yards, with the bullet impacts (POI) no more than about 1" high. I like to see the bullet impacts just above the plane of sighting, and never want the POI lower than POA.

 

What to choose????

With all these choices available, what is one to choose?  The pairing of a .125″ wide front and .140″ rear is one of the most popular setups, and provides an excellent balance of speed and precision.  This would be the across the board recommendation for 90% of shooters until they learn to develop their own particular preferences. The next most popular pairing is the .115" wide front and .140" rear, and is our recommendation for experienced shooters who like a narrower front sight which covers less of the target area. 

Older shooters with middle aged presbyopia may find relief with a bright fiber optic front sight in .125″ width and a .156″ notch rear.  If more light is needed, a thinner front sight like a .115″ or even a .100" could be used.  

Lastly, it is not unusual for shooters to want to mix and match front and rear sights from different manufacturers.  Before you try this, gather the necessary information on the heights/widths from the respective manufacturers (pro tip: don’t ask one manufacturer what another manufacturer’s sight specs are, it is not a reasonable request) to see if they are even compatible.

**If you have questions about particular 10-8 sights, please visit our Sights page and check the specific page(s) for your pistol model.



Our Newsletter