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Archive | Tactics and Training

Night Sight Considerations

Night sights are an invaluable tool for anyone who has a handgun for self-defense. They allow the user to see his sights even in low light situations. Realistically, any set of night sights of good quality will allow you to see your sights in low light but there are some considerations that may help prevent you from having a set of sights that are working against you.

What Are They?

“Night sights” are sights that have small vials of a radioactive element called tritium embedded into the sights. These vials or elements glow without having to be “charged” with an external light source. Tritium has a half life of 12 years so the sights will loose half their brightness in 12 years. It is not unusual to get 15-16 years of usable brightness from a set of sights.

Can They Work Against You?

There are two fundamental elements to accuracy. The accurate shooter must be to be able to control the trigger and align the sights. Your choice of night sights has no bearing on your trigger control, but it does affect your sight picture. Sight alignment starts at the front sight. The shooter must be able to focus on the front sight while maintaining sight alignment. Anything that obscures, obstructs, or interferes with this front sight focus is working against you and the fundamentals of accurate shooting.

For several years now, most night sights have been made in 3 dot configuration. This means that the front sight has a single tritium vial and the rear sight has 2 tritium vials (a total of three) on either side of the notch. The problem with this configuration is that the “dots” are usually identical in size, intensity, and color.

The two dots on the rear sight are closest to the shooter so they appear larger and brighter. This runs counter to front sight focus. The front sight should be the easiest to see since it is the sight that we must focus on but a traditional 3 dot configuration makes the front sight harder to focus on.

Since the dots are the same color, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate the front from the rear sight. Some shooters claim that this can lead to situations where the sights are aligned improperly. The front sight can be aligned so that it is to the side of the rear sight and it can appear to be a good sight picture since all three dots will appear to be in a line. I am not sure how likely this is, but it is worth mentioning.

Solutions

Traditional 3 dot night sights work, but, as with many things in life, they can be improved upon. Thankfully, there are several night sight manufacturers with excellent alternatives and many of them cost about the same or even less than traditional 3 dot nights.

Solution #1 – Different Colors

One solution is to make the two rear elements a different color, like yellow. The yellow tritium elements also have the added benefit of being slightly dimmer than their green counterparts. This allows you to quickly and easily differentiate between the front and rear sights in low light. It also makes the front sight easier to focus on since it is brighter than the rear sight.

Ameriglo Classic Sights with green front and yellow rear.

Ameriglo has offered traditional 3 dot night sights with this option for years. Ameriglo also offers their Operator sights which do not have white outlines on the rear elements. The front element retains its white outline which promotes front sight focus during full lighting conditions.

Ameriglo Operator Sights do not have white outlines on the rear sight. These are also available with the green/yellow configuration.

Solution #2 – Single Rear Element

Another increasingly popular solution is a single rear tritium element. The element is located directly under the notch in the rear sight. Instead of lining up three elements horizontally, the shooter simply lines up 2 elements vertically.

Heinie Slant Pro Sights show the single rear dot configuration.

Heinie and Warren Tactical offer sights in this configuration. Warren Tactical takes this a step further by making the rear element smaller, yellow, and without a white outline. This greatly improves front sight focus in all light conditions.

Solution #3 – Front Element Only

The least expensive option is to have a tritium element in your front sight only. Do not confuse less expensive with less functional. Many very serious shooters actually prefer this set up because of how simple and uncluttered the sight picture is.  Some shooters find a rear element in nearly any form to be distracting.

The 10-8 Performance Sights typify the single front element configuration.

Warren Tactical, 10-8 Performance, and Ameriglo all offer sights in this configuration. Additionally, Heinie sells all the parts you need to piece together sights in this configuration. You can also find a replacement front sight that has a tritium element that will work with the factory rear sight of many handguns. Ameriglo and Trijicon offer tritium front sights for several makes and models.

Remember!

It is important to remember that night sights are not a replacement for low light training and they are definitely not a replacement for a flashlight/weaponlight and the skills to use them in conjunction with your handgun of choice. Night sights are certainly useful in some low light situations but not necessarily all low light situations. They will not allow you to ID a target. Get a light and get some training from a trainer that is experienced in low light training.

So next time you are shopping for night sights, choose a set that enhances your ability to focus on the front sight instead of working against it.

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New Surefire Z2-S

Strobing tactical lights have been en vogue lately and, now that Surefire is on board, it is safe to say it isn’t just a passing fad. Surefire has released the new Z2-S, their first tactical light with a strobe function. It is a single output LED light (160 lumens) with a strobe function that is accessible by triple tapping the tail cap switch. This light also features their excellent “Combat Grip” which allows the user to hold the light several different ways while also holding a handgun. I also find that the rubber rings of the Combat Grip help lock your light into your light pouch for an extra measure of retention.

I have the same issue with this light as I do with most strobing tactical lights. Why don’t they make the strobe light the primary mode? Triple tapping the switch sounds like it might be a tall order under stress, though it really isn’t a big deal since you will still have a 160 lumen wall of light even if you didn’t activate the strobe successfully.

I am certain that this light will be top notch like every other Surefire products.

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Rapid Transition Sights from Dueck Defense

Many of you will already be familiar with Barry Dueck. He is a former Marine, a nationally ranked IPSC Multi-Gun shooter, and president of the suppressor division of Surefire. Those are impressive credentials to say the least. Mr. Dueck also runs Dueck Defense and their initial product offering, Rapid Transition Sights, is very interesting.

The Rapid Transition Sights build on a technique that has its roots in Multi-Gun competition shooting. Multi-Gun rifle competitors can face targets at very close proximity, several hundred yards away, and everything in between. Many shooters mount a magnified optic in order to deal with the long distance shots but this can make quickly engaging the closer targets difficult.

Shooters started mounting crude iron sights that were offset to the optic. This allowed them to engage the close targets very quickly using the sights by canting the rifle slightly without changing their cheek or shoulder weld. The technique worked and proved itself in competition. It has even begun to find favor with military, police, and self defense minded shooters who may face an adversary at an unknown distance. It has caught on so well that now there are mounts that allow you to mount a red dot sight for use with the same technique.

The Rapid Transition Sights bare no resemblance to the “crude” iron sights that started the technique years ago. These are fully functional sights that can be mounted on an AR-15 with a free float rail at a 45 degree offset. They are machined from 7075 aluminum and hard anodized right here in the USA. With Mr. Dueck’s background at Surefire, I would suspect he knows a thing or two about machining, aluminum, and hard anodizing since no one does it better than Surefire. They are also ambidextrous and can be mounted for right or left handed shooters. These are certainly not inexpensive but they have all the hallmarks of well made gear.

You can pick them up from the good folks at SexyWeapon.com.

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Sharpie Mini – Handy on the Range

I always try to bring writing implements with me to the range. For me, they are a necessity for recording times, scores, drops, holds, and taking notes. This is especially true when you are in a training course. I spend hard earned dollars on training and want to get the most out of it. Surprisingly, at least to me, not everyone brings something to write with to the range.

 

 

Sharpie Mini shown with a familiar full size Sharpie for scale.

 

One of the handiest writing tools for the range that I have found is the Sharpie Mini. A pen or pencil might be better for writing things in your notebook but you can’t beat a Sharpie for marking hits on a target between strings, for scoring targets, marking magazines with your initials, and many other tasks. I have even used the end to start stubborn take down pins. The Sharpie Mini is a little more than half the size of a full size Sharpie so it tucks away easily into your admin pouch.

Remember to bring your Sharpie Mini next time you hit the range.

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Rite in the Rain Notebooks

Rite in the Rain is famous for their paper. While most paper turns into a mushy mess in the rain, Rite in the Rain paper remains intact and you can still write on it even when it is soaked (if you have the right writing utensil). This paper is amazing stuff.

I have been using Rite in the Rain’s pocket notebooks for years. I used one most recently to record distances, azimuths, and pace counts on an orienteering course. There was a threat of a rain all day and while little more than a sprinkle ever fell on us, the Right in the Rain notebook handled it easily. These notebooks are a must whenever I am outdoors. It seems that I am always finding a use for them. I often use them in carbine training classes to record information and take notes. The notebooks also have rulers and map scales printed on the plastic covers. The rulers often come in handy on the range.

If you need to write in the outdoors, there simply is no substitute for Rite in the Rain products.

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Orienteering

I did part of an orienteering course on Saturday and it was great fun. I have done them before but it seems I always forget how much I like doing it. Not only is it fun, but it has great training value. Unlike just going for a hike where you stay on trails, with orienteering, there is no trail. You simply have a map and compass. It is up to you to break brush until you find your flags.

The two courses that I have easy access to have some pretty steep terrain (for this part of the country) and heavy underbrush. You will find yourself exercising your brain and your body. It can be very challenging and rewarding to find your flags. It is definitely not just a typical walk in the woods.

If you are lucky enough to have an orienteering course near by, I strongly suggest that you take a buddy and spend an afternoon brushing up on your map and compass skills.

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CMMG Anti-Jamb Charging Handle for Dedicated .22s

CMMG has released a sneak preview of a new charging handle that they have created for AR-15s that have been converted to .22LR. These dedicated .22 AR-15s are increasing in popularity as the price of 5.56 ammo continues to climb.  This particular charging handle addresses some of the function issues that are unique to these .22LR chambered AR-15s.

See the preview on AR15.com.

Gun Shop Myths: Pump the Action!

There are so many gun myths that are repeated over and over again at gun store counters, deer camps, locker rooms, and range trips. These myths are repeated so many times that eventually people accept them as fact without applying even the smallest amount of critical thought.

Few firearms, if any, seem to be surrounded by more of these myths than the shotgun. A coworker, while discussing their home defense plans at work, started talking about the “shotty” that he keeps under the bed “just in case”. It always amazes me that people are willing to discuss such things so loudly at work. I wasn’t part of the conversation but it was plainly audible throughout the whole office. It wasn’t long before that oft repeated tidbit of shotgun wisdom reared its ugly head.

“You don’t even have to shoot it, the sound of the action being pumped will send robbers running!”

What a ridiculous statement! If your plan is to scare people off with noises, buy a stereo system not a shotgun. Better yet, install a whole house entertainment system so that you can surround your midnight visitor with the sounds of shotgun actions cycling in every room! Scaring evil doers away with a sound seems like a nice tidy plan, until it doesn’t work. Shotguns are not a magic talisman that, in the stressful moment when you hear someone crashing through your window, transform you into a Spartan.

The shotgun is a viable home defense weapon (though I believe there may be better choices). As with any other piece of equipment and skill, its effective use must be learned. It is only through training and repetition that someone can learn to effectively use the shotgun (or any other gun) with an appropriate level of efficiency and violence. This level of training cannot be reached by asking the gentleman at the gun counter how to work the shotgun when you purchase it. It cannot be reached by running a box of shells through it once in a while at the range.

The sound of a shotgun’s action being cycled may or may not deter someone intent on doing harm, but it would be foolish to count on that happening. Quick and violent action by a trained individual is a far better response. Seek professional training from a respected trainer and stop repeating the silly things you heard at the gun counter!

Go to Tactical Preschool at The Things Worth Believing In

I have been reading The Things Worth Believing In for some time now. Tom, the author, has a great series that he calls Tactical Preschool. It is an extremely informative series with easy to understand descriptions of tactical concepts and very useful images that really drive home the point.

Tactical Preschool 49 was just posted recently. You can view all of the Tactical Preschool posts HERE.

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