Are night sights really necessary?

Several years ago I attended an armorer course taught by a police officer who told me about an interesting story. He said he was called to an unsecured door in a warehouse on a graveyard shift. All the lights were off in the building. This officer decided to search the building without keeping his flashlight on the whole time, or if I remember correctly, he may have used the light only sporadically (e.g. shine the light, turn it off, then move).

Anyway, the officer and his back-up just about finished clearing the building entirely when they finally found the suspect. The burglar told the officer that he would have never seen the officer while he was moving in the dark except he (the burglar) could see the bright glow coming from the officer’s pistol-mounted night sights. The burglar was above the officers in rafters and watched the officers the entire time. Had the guy wanted to kill a cop or two, he could have done it. Thankfully, he didn’t.

I use this segue to introduce two key points for the option of night sights.

First, if you have night sights, the bad guys may be able to see you. Now, under most circumstances and in ambient light, people can see people anyway. But, having night sights increases the chances of someone seeing you sights and possibly knowing you have a gun. The factor to consider here is risk analysis. Is having night sights worth the risk of being compromised, or does having night sights increase your tactical ability? This cost/benefit analysis, so to speak, is even of greater importance when considering this next point.

In the world of justifiable self-defense and smart tactics, you need to be able to see who you’re shooting at. If you have enough ambient light to see a viable threat—to actually see a weapon, for instance—which you’d need to justifiably shoot someone, then you’ll more than likely have enough ambient light to see your sights, right? Therefore, who needs glowing night sights?

If you do decide night sights are worth it, I’d recommend you make sure to get tritium sights. The kind of sights where you have to shine a flashlight onto the sights before they’ll glow are totally worthless, in my opinion. Sure, you don’t have to shine a light on them, per se, but they need light to activate. Having a front sight hidden in a holster until it’s time to draw would make the glowing futile and, well, impotent really. On a related note, I’ve personally witnessed the glowing part of the front sight literally fall off dozens of Ameriglo sights. I wouldn’t buy a Ameriglo sight ever.

Now, having weapon mounted lights? Oh yeah, I’m all about that. You need to see your target, so light it up (er, I mean, light him or her up) and when you use a light, is there really a need to have night sights? I think not. Sure, I think night sights are convenient. That’s why I own a couple night sights.  But I don’t necessarily believe that they’re essential.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.

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