Almost every new handgun comes with some form of white painted three-dot sights. And I think they’re terrible. So terrible that I want everyone to join in my anti-three dot campaign so together we can force all the handgun makers to quit putting them on their pistols.
I’ve spoken in passing of my disdain for plain white 3-dot sights in just about every handgun review I’ve written, but have refrained from going into much depth. A few people have asked me to elaborate, so in honor of that request I’m going to let you, the readers, guide this conversation with another
make-believe 100% authentic Q&A session.
Q: You think we should get rid of all three-dot pistol sights? Even night sights?
A: No, I should clarify. I don’t have a problem with all 3-dot pistol sight configurations — just the miserable little non-illuminated white-on-black 3-dot sights that come stock with almost every new handgun.
Q: So what’s actually wrong with three-dot sights and what’s the alternative?
A: The main issue that I have with white three-dot sights is a lack of contrast. All three dots are the same color, and they’re usually about the same size, too. There’s too much competing for my attention.
This isn’t good for quick sight acquisition or sight tracking during rapid fire. I want some visual aid to help my eyes distinguish that front sight from the rear. Ideally, that means a front sight with some kind of bright, contrasting color to help it stand out.
Q: The front sight is the one in the middle, dummy.
A: Thanks for the tip. When I’m pulling the trigger five times per second on a rapid fire string, my eyes need as much help as they can get to see what’s going on. Following the front sight because “it’s in the middle” is a whole lot easier when it doesn’t look identical to the rear sights. In fact, plain black sights would even be preferable to the dots. If they all look the same, they’re more of a distraction than anything.
“When I am shooting, I want to see sights and not a geometry problem.”
– Wiley Clapp
Personally, I prefer a two-dot setup with a bright fluorescent front sight and a small dot in the middle of the rear sight notch. There are a couple of companies that make this style, like the Pro i-dot from Ameriglo. The front sight is a tritium insert with a bright orange ring around it that really stands out in almost any lighting condition.
But really, I’m not all that picky about sights. Three dot sights are just fine as long as there is contrast and something that will stand out in low light. Something like the Trijicon HD Night Sights are excellent, but even a fiber optic front sight with a plain black rear is a huge improvement over the white three-dot style.
Q: Well I like the white three-dot sights that came with my gun. It’s just a personal preference. This is America and you can’t tell me what to do!
A: Sure, you can have whatever sights you want, but I have to ask; are you sure you really like those white three-dot sights? What have you compared them to?
The thing that really chaps my caboose about white three-dot sights is that their prevalence as the industry standard has led so many gun owners to accept them without question.
I think a lot of people claim they “like” three-dot sights because they’re such an obvious upgrade over the old-school tiny post and notch sights. Or maybe they haven’t even shot an old gun and every pistol they’ve used has had three-dot sights so they don’t have any frame of reference.
If you practice regularly, track your performance with different sight setups and then tell me that you shoot better with white three dot sights than any other style, then I’ll believe you.
Q: Three-dot sights are a cost-saving measure. Gun manufacturers use them because not everyone can agree on a better option that wouldn’t increase the cost to make the gun. What do you expect?
A: There are a couple of viable options that I’ve seen manufacturers try as an improvement over white three-dots.
First is fiber optic rods on the front sight. They aren’t as cheap as the white painted sight, but would add far less to the production cost than tritium night sights. Springfield Armory has done this with some of their XDm and XDs pistols, and I’ve also seen it on some inexpensive .22LR pistols.
The other way to go is to follow Glock’s lead and use the absolute cheapest excuse for sights they can come up with as the standard factory option. That lowers the manufacturer’s cost and the savings is passed to the customer who pays less for the pistol so they can afford to upgrade the sights on their own.
Q: I don’t like cheap factory sights either, but I can’t afford a fancy pair of night sights to upgrade my pistol.
A: I’ve been there. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheap ways to improve your factory sights. Fluorescent model paint on the front sight works well, especially if you start with a coat of white primer. I’ve also heard good things about reflective tape like 3M Scotchlite. A black sharpie can help tone down the bright white paint on the rear sights, or use a paint marker if you want to black them out entirely. I’ve modified several pistols like this, including the mil-surp CZ-83 pistol I wrote about a few months back.
Thanks for joining me for another reader Q&A. I hope you all found it as productive as I did. Feel free to keep those questions coming and I’ll keep
making up my own answering them!