Handgun Sighting Systems, and Magic Swords.

So Dad just got back from the 2010 SHOT Show in Vegas.  I’m sorting through about a cubic yard of literature, dealer catalogs, and assorted schwag, and should have some interesting reviews shortly.

In the meantime, I’d like to talk about handgun sights.

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen quite a few new, non-traditional handgun sights designs come down the pike.  Most recently, we have the Tactical Aiming Solutions pistol sights, which appear to be a funny-looking ghost ring with a fiber-optic front post and a very short sight radius.  There have been others – pistol ghost rings, ‘express-style’ sights with a shallow rear V-notch and a bead front, Advantage Tactical’s pyramid sight, and many others.

Iron sights for a handgun (really, for all weapon systems) require some balance between acquisition speed, precision, and durability.  The problem I have seen with most of the non-traditional sight systems, is that they swing too far in the direction of speed, giving up any pretense at precision.  They make it easy to get hits on close, wide-open targets, while making it more difficult to get consistent hits on smaller targets at longer ranges.

This is, IMO, wrongheaded.  A competent pistol shooter can get fast hits on close, wide-open targets by using one or more of the common point-shooting techniques (body index, meat on metal, etc.), and transition to a more traditional front sight focus as circumstances require.  If the sighting system on your weapon cannot support making precise hits at longer ranges, you’ve just sacrificed an important capability.

All in all, the whole non-traditional handgun sights market reeks of “Magic Sword-ism.”  I’ve long been of the opinion that the Patridge-style iron sight system for handguns is the pinnacle of its intended function – no real improvement is possible without a major categorical change (see: RDO, laser designator, etc.)

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11 thoughts on “Handgun Sighting Systems, and Magic Swords.

  1. I agree with Tam, with one caveat: as one gets older, so the sight picture offered by ‘traditional’ approaches can become less useful. I know that with my eyes, in my 50’s, I’ve lost the crispness of vision needed to take advantage of them at longer ranges. That’s not to say I’ve turned into a lousy shot: but I find it convenient to have something more attention-grabbing if my life’s at stake. For folks like me, a brighter, less precise, but more visually attention-grabbing sight system has much to recommend it.

    Nevertheless, you’re absolutely right: for precision, there’s nothing yet developed that’s as good as the Patridge iron sight system. Oh, for younger eyes . . .

  2. “If the sighting system on your weapon cannot support making precise hits at longer ranges”

    For sport, agree. For defensive purposes, not so much. As noted by several smart folks, a seriously high % of inter-personal conflicts are at conversational ranges. Though I train for longer shots, something like the AO Big Dot works very well for my aging eyes. Check back with us when you hit 50 yo. 😀

  3. As noted by several smart folks, a seriously high % of inter-personal conflicts are at conversational ranges.

    My eyes haven’t crapped out yet, so I can’t really comment on the visual acuity issue one way or another, but I was an XS fan and switched back, for the same reason they mention above: At the ranges XS systems are touted at, I’m probably going to be shooting from retention or a pretty coarse visual index. At ranges where I’d actually be lining up the sights, the Big Dots are too coarse to do me much good.

    My tune may change again as my eyes get creakier, however…

  4. I second the truthosity of this post. Getting hits on wide open close-in targets is easy if you’re using any sighting system, be it point shooting or traditional notch and post sights. The XS/Triangle/Etc systems really do suffer when you need to make a shot on a partially occluded target at 10+ yards. Even the fiber optic on my 625 is “big” at 10+.

  5. Pingback: Speaking of the sights « Gun Nuts Media

  6. I did not need to wait until 50 for my eyes to start becoming Presbyterian, or presbiopic, or probiotic, or whatever far-sightedness is now called.

    I put a ghost ring sight on my Ruger Mark II because I haven’t been able to focus on the front sight, even at arms length, without glasses, for over 5 years. Now I can use the fuzzy front sight and the fuzzy ghost ring better than the fuzzy square in a square. Works for me.

    Still cant shoot extremely itty bitty groups at 25 yards consistently with this pistol, but then I couldn’t do that when my eyes were working better, either.

  7. At 52 now I had a pare of shooting glasses made where the bi-focal cuts are in the upper part of the lenses, so if I tilt my chin down the front sight is now in focus – without them I can’t see shit, but this works with the rifle now too.

  8. Pingback: Kick Him, Honey » Blog Archive » XS sights

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