In the first installment of this series on Glock modifications and upgrades, I discussed the grip work that I had done on my EDC Glock 19 Gen 4. Here, I’m going to explain my thoughts about aftermarket sights. (Anyone who read this particular post when it was first published will probably note that I’ve made some recent changes. Read on to see what my current pick is and why I chose them.)
Most Glocks come from the factory with plastic sights that are not as durable as metal replacements. Replacing the sights allows you to install a more robust option of your choosing. There are a lot of choices out there, especially for the Glock. I have been trying different sights on my Glocks for well over a year now (as evidenced by several previous posts on this blog), establishing what I do and don’t like and discovering what works and doesn’t work for my eyesight. This experimentation has literally ranged from plain black sights all the way to an RMR equipped slide. Let me detail a few things that I have discovered.
- I like sights that sit low and close to the top of the slide, as opposed to tall sights.
- I prefer a square notch as opposed to a U-Notch.
- I like a plain black rear sight.
- I’m not necessarily hung up on having night sights. (I carry a flashlight everywhere, even when I don’t have my gun.)
- I like a tighter fit of the front sight in the rear notch, rather than a wide rear notch. Again, just how my vision and brain interpret the sight picture.
After much experimentation, I keep coming back to the plain black Defoor sights from Ameriglo. Even with my presbyopia, I can still see them well enough to be accurate at distance. Up close, the sight picture is less critical. And while a prominent front sight makes shots up close easier, I find that the tritium and fiber optic fronts I tried to be distracting when shooting at distance. That’s just how my brain and vision works. I vacillate back and forth on the last point, but if I want, I can always install the Defoor tritium front. Having been to a few Defoor classes, I learn something each time about why his sights are the way they are. I suppose there are scenarios where night sights might be ideal, but simply carrying and using a flashlight, or even better, a weaponlight, would probably nullify those concerns. In short, I can make hits up close with almost any sights. At distance is where the plain black sights really shine. The Defoor sights are low profile, robust, simple, and effective. I don’t need or necessarily want anything else on my gun.
Returning to my bullet points listed above, you will note that all of them are based on personal preference rather than on some hard and fast rule. If I were to lay out a more generalized list of features to look for in aftermarket sights, it might include such things as durable steel construction, a design that facilitates being caught on a belt or holster for one handed malfunction clearing, and being highly visible under stress. Whatever sights you choose, I suggest that you zero your pistol much as you would a rifle and ensure that the sights on your gun will allow you to be accurate at distance. Depending on your vision and ability, this distance can literally range from 15 yards to 100 yards or more. My point is that you should KNOW what you are capable of with your pistol. If you find yourself at the scene of the next active shooter, can you make that shot across a football field distance? If an intruder in your home tries to take a loved one hostage, can you take the necessary shot at room distances? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then it’s time to hit the range!
In that regard, I want to discuss a point that is only tangentially related to sights, but that is nonetheless important and is something that I struggle with every time I train or go to the range. Recently, I read an article in BCM’s GUNFIGHTER Magazine 2017 by Larry Vickers in which he suggested some standards to aim for, pun intended. For Tier 1 military and SWAT, he suggested the ability to make head shots at 25 yards with a pistol. For civilians and patrol cops, he suggested 15 yards for head shots as a standard. For training purposes, the human head equates roughly to the black center of a B8 repair center. I can make the 15 yard standard all day long, but I struggle to achieve the 25 yard standard. Last time I tried it at the range, I shot an 82 on a B8 with a 10 shot group, so I still have some work to do. The point that I’m alluding to is that I do believe that your choice of pistol sights affects this capability. Reference my last experience in a Defoor class where I actually switched sights between Day 1 and Day 2! While Robert has had good luck with his Ameriglo I-Dot Pros, he has also experienced the same frustration I have when trying to make hits at distance when the front sight blade is too wide. One of the neat things about the Ameriglo Defoor Tactical Sights and one of the reasons that I pay attention to their dimensions when choosing other sights is that Defoor specified a front sight width that roughly subtends the width of the human head at 25 yards…
I also want to briefly address red dots on pistols, as I have a little experience with a few examples. Robert has already talked about his decision to abandon red dots on pistols for now. I don’t necessarily disagree with his conclusions, but I also have different eyesight. While I do own a red dot equipped pistol slide, I don’t commonly carry it. Partly this is due to a lack of consistent practice with it, and partly it is due to the fact that I’m not sure I need it yet as long as I keep my eyeglasses prescription up to date. I am marginally more accurate with the red dot gun, but I’m not nearly as fast. For me, I’m not yet ready to put the time into making it work for me. I can still do everything I need with iron sights with reasonable success, and iron sights are consistent with my minimalist ideal. Conversely, a close friend who is 30 years my senior chooses to carry a Sig P320C with an RMR on top. His eyes are older than mine, and his vision is quite different as well. He never needed glasses for distance vision, and suffers mainly from the effects of presbyopia. If a red dot equipped pistol is the sight system that works for you and your vision, and if you’re willing to put the time in, then go for it!
The red dot certainly does have some distinct advantages. The biggest is that it allows for target focused shooting, which is probably what you’ll do in a real use of force scenario anyway. Accuracy at distance is also easier to accomplish, for much the same reason. The red dot also functions well in most lighting conditions. In effect, it is the ultimate night sight. The sight itself serves as an excellent impromptu charging handle, and makes one handed malfunction clearance a breeze. On the flip side, the lens is subject to the effects of glare and fogging, as well as the possibility of breakage, the sight is dependent on batteries, it adds a degree of bulk and complexity to an otherwise simple system, and achieving speed with a red dot equipped pistol involves a definite learning curve. The backup irons mitigate some of these concerns, but are still just there as a backup. There are some definite parallels with red dots on carbines, but I don’t think it’s quite the same. Again, this is a sighting system that has to be zeroed at a specific distance and you need a thorough understanding of the trajectory of your carry ammo at distance. I suggest starting at 10 yards and then refining the zero at 25 if you can hold the gun still enough.
By this point, I feel like I’ve tried enough different options in terms of pistol sights to know what is good and what is gimmick. Of all the different sets of sights I’ve tried, the stand outs are the Ameriglo Defoor Tactical Sights and the Gun Company sights designed by Mike Lamb of Stoic Ventures. Both of these choices may seem a bit anachronistic, but both share the commonalities that I identified in my bullet point list above, and both of them represent an excellent upgrade for your Glock. They may indeed be old school, but they just plain work if you put the work in. There are certainly other good choices, I just have neither the time nor the money to try them all!
In the next installment in this series, I’m going to discuss a couple of aftermarket trigger options.