In a previous articles, we took a look at some of the best Glock 19 and 43 night sights, from Trijicon, TRUGLO, Amerigo, and XS Sight Systems, to name a few. This in-depth dive was aimed at providing a clear sight picture of what your options are in terms of brands, styles, and configurations. But what about the “why”?
Why do you need to spring $60-$120+ on a set of iron sights when your Glock 19 already came with sights? And if you have a Gen3 or later, the standard Picatinny rail hangs a laser, tactical light, or combo of the two, right? If you’ve got a light/laser, iron night sights are obsolete, aren’t they?
No so fast, Slick.
Night Sight PROS
Tactical light systems have come a long way in the last decade or so, when the industry shifted away from incandescent and xenon lights to the vastly superior light emitting diodes (LED).
First it was emergency vehicle lights in about 2006, then the move shifted to headlights, residential lighting, and, you guessed it, tactical lights. They are brilliant and cheap—a good LED tactical light is around the same price as a set of night sights.
Lasers have followed a similar evolutionary curve, from bulky devices which were barely visible in the daylight and had sketchy mounting without a secure Picatinny mount, to modern polymer-encased devices which weigh almost nothing, offer both red and green dots, and are easily visible in daylight.
What is the point, then, in sinking money into a set of iron night sights for a Glock 19? Iron sights are never a bad idea for any firearm; optics were not a standard item until very recently.
Even hunting rifles were regularly used with iron sights until recently, and were obviously highly capable of dispatching game out at several hundred yards. There were no battle rifles with optics aside from the squad sniper until the second Iraq war and Afghanistan.
So if iron sights work fine at long distances, there is no reason to believe that they won’t be completely effective at the short distances of pistols.
Iron sights, particularly fixed iron sights, are about as durable as anything on a firearm can be. Once set into their dovetail joint, they are totally fixed and utterly immovable. Constructed of steel, they will withstand years of hard use, holster wear, drops, dings, and whatever life has in store for it.
Lasers have also come a long way, but they are still much more sensitive to shock than a sturdy set of steel fixed sights. Additionally, they require batteries. Batteries have a shelf life and they leak, and leaking batteries corrode. This is not to slam lasers, because they have a well-earned reputation and valid purpose.
They are a great addition and supplementary sighting system to a pistol that offers unparalleled speed, especially in low light conditions. Put the dot center mass, squeeze trigger, survive encounter.
Lights and lasers are really good items to have, but remember that anything you add to a pistol introduces a new learning curve. This translates to something else that can screw up at the most inconvenient time, especially if you don’t train with the equipment regularly.
New butterfly switches or buttons distract from the most basic fundamentals of acquiring the target.
Night sights are no different than day sights in their function, so everything carries over. There are no buttons, no switches, nothing at all to memorize. They add no mass or weight and they are always on with nothing to replace, nothing to charge.
Night Sight CONS
Night sights are great in low-light conditions to accurately engage a target, but they offer no benefit in no-light situations. Of course, they are not advertised to provide illumination; that isn’t their purpose.
But it is awfully nice to have. You can engage a target with daytime sights in pitch black darkness if you have a weapon light mounted. It won’t be quite as accurate as using night sights but it can certainly be done.
Usually the center of the light beam is essentially a de facto aiming point, which is pretty accurate within ten feet.
Fixed sights cannot compete with a laser in response time. Press the button and the laser dot is instant.
Assuming you took it out and zeroed it appropriately, practiced with it to ensure it is reliable and maintains zero, it will go on target absolutely intuitively and the bullet goes where the dot is—which is why so many pocket pistols are offered now with factory lasers.
These are especially useful on the micro-pistols that have almost useless sights milled or cast as part of the slide.
Here is the bottom line up front: tritium is not permanent. The general consensus is about a 10-12 year lifecycle for the tritium lamps, and then you have daytime sights. The sights are still totally functional in daylight, but that is about it.
So if you plan to keep your Glock for your lifetime and opt for night sights, you will replace them.
The tertiary part of this ‘con’ is that they dim over time, so they will become gradually less effective every year you own them. It is not overnight and will take several years, but it will happen.
The manufacturer has almost no factor in this equation because this is just the nature of tritium itself, which might be the very best argument to opt for budget-minded sights like the TRUGLO brand since they will be replaced no matter which manufacturer you choose.
Far from totally conclusive, this is a snapshot on the most significant pros and cons of choosing night sights. Quite frankly, the pro of having sights which work in all lighting conditions always outweighs the cons.
For a $60 set of TRUGLO night sights that will work for about a decade, you will almost certainly spend that much on keeping fresh CR123A batteries in your weapon light in the same timeframe, and about the same in laser batteries.
The inexpensive TRUGLO sights equate to $5 per year in replacement cost, or about 1/3 the price of a single box of range ammo. That is awfully cheap insurance to keep around when your batteries are inexplicably dead in your laser when you actually need it.