Low light, red sights, and Tom Givens’ Glock 35

 

 

 

 

 

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$40 for these sights…versus up to $160 for some versions of today’s popular night sights.  That’s a lot of ammo.

If you’re a regular reader of my musings here, you already know that I am a Tom Givens believer. There is a simple reason for this…Tom’s material works.  His lectures are relevant to the Regular Guy Civilian; folks just like me (and probably you).  His live fire courses tell you everything you need to know, that is, what you are MOST likely to encounter on the street.  There is no secret squirrel night vision component, nor fast-rope shoot house class.  I’ve read all of the books Tom has produced over the past 35 years, and most of the articles he has written.  His material all has a common core of relevance, yet the work has evolved to adapt to the continuously fluid nature of the criminal  (and now terrorist) threat that regular citizens will indubitably encounter, at some point in their daily lives.

At the 2016 Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference, Tom gave a classroom lecture covering low light tips and techniques.  One of the big points he made in the talk was for students to take the money that they would spend on night sights, and instead use that money on ammunition for practice (this idea of emphasizing true economy, is pervasive throughout Tom’s philosophy…in summation, “Spend your resources on the things you are most likely to encounter or need”).  Some smart mouth in the back is going to say, “But what about the zombie holocaust, national terrorist invasion, etc?”  The scenarios won’t change…just the participants!  If the world falls apart, people will still need to be on guard from the four chief types of interpersonal, “parking lot violence,” (AKA, “Street Crime”) like robbery, rape, road rage and respect (meaning you looked at someone wrong and now they will attempt to harm or kill you in retaliation so that they don’t lose face in front of their peer group).  And, as always, raiders coming into your home uninvited will always be raiders, regardless of their undead status or their mode of dress.  Thus, your civilian mission won’t change in the face of any global disaster!

Tom carries a Glock 35 with metal sights on it, and the front sight is painted with bright red/orange paint.  He does this for severals reasons, but the chief reason being that in the 60 plus defensive shootings his students have been involved in, the lighting (or lack of lighting) was a factor in the outcome in exactly ZERO cases.  Also, bright orange (or whatever color you prefer) sights are simply easier to see, and as we age, the contrasting color only helps more.  Tom attributes the false urgency for night sights on defensive guns to the often misquoted crime statistics that are summarized as, “MOST violent crimes occur at night.”  The statistics ACTUALLY show that violent crimes most often occur during the hours of darkness, which is 6 PM to 6 AM.  Just because it is 2 AM, it isn’t necessarily dark!  Tom said, “There have been times where I have seen my sights clearer at 3 AM outside of a well-lit gas station than I have at 3 PM on an overcast day.”

To visually illustrate and demonstrate  Tom’s point, I took a facsimile of Tom’s carry piece, a Glock 34 (I don’t own a 35), with metal Sevigny type sights on it, with the front sight painted red, and I took (just the slide) to various locations I frequent regularly, where there is less than optimal lighting, to evaluate if I could see my sights clearly enough to deliver gunfire precisely, at common defensive-gun-use distances.  The following pictorial demonstrates the effectiveness of painted, metal sights in less-than-ideal, yet commonly encountered lighting conditions.

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This is about as bad a view as I could get with the sights.  The thing is, even with tritium vials, when you aim in on a BRIGHT target, with dark behind you, the sights get washed out, and just look like a black bump on the slide, whether they have tritium or not.  Something to think about.

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “Low light, red sights, and Tom Givens’ Glock 35

  1. Interesting… I’ve recently installed yet another set of night sights on my G19, Ameriglo I Dot Pros, and I am discovering exactly what you described with the orange dot surrounding the tritium vial in the front post. Nice pictorial with different lighting conditions.

  2. Night sights are completely over rated and I don’t understand the love of the gun press for them.

    If it is dark enough to need them, it is too dark and it distant to identify your target without a white light.

    In addition, Gabe Suarez tells a tale of once finding an opponent on a dark, force on force house clearing exercise by the glow of his tritium sights.

    Glad Tom Givens agrees!

  3. I’ve painted my sights with nail polish for a couple years now. If my pistol came with night sights I’ll scrape off whatever covers the tritium. If I lose my glasses in a fight I can still put orange on his chest and press.
    Applying a coat of white first helps your color choice brighter.

  4. Interestingly enough, I was about sold on the idea that night sights are not really all that important until I ran through a similar exercise myself a few weeks back. I identified several “low light” areas, the type typically associated with such incidents; none were totally dark and I tried to work the lighting from several angles. I used several different firearms each with a different sight setup. One was black on black sights from a 442. The second a front sight post painted white (not red or orange). The third was equipped with a fiber front and blacked out rear. The fourth was equipped with standard factory Glock sights and the final was the one gun I have with night sights.

    I did find several scenarios where none of the sights were very useful but there were a few where the night sights were definitely visible and would have been an advantage. One that I specifically remember was in a low light area and facing into an even lower light area, think streetlight out above you and a threat in a darkened alcove which seems to me to be a plausible scenario. I could see well enough to ID the threat but couldn’t see the sights. I don’t think a few extra boxes of training ammo would help me more than a glowing front sight. 🙂 Interestingly, on recent business trips to New Orleans and NYC I spotted several locations in my travels that fit this scenario and lighting conditions. Fortunately none held any threats.

    I respect your experience and Tom’s far greater knowledge on this. I have never been in a gunfight. I have never had a student, much less one who had been in a gunfight…but I think I’ll spend the extra $60 on a front night sight, just in case.

    1. I get what you’re saying, but I think we might be talking past each other. Let me explain further…

      When you shoot in low light, you should shoot, just like you do in the daylight. After all, the big problem with low light shooting isn’t seeing the target, it’s identifying the target. If you have your gun out, let’s assume it’s because there is someone that needs to be shot. If that’s the case, bring your gun to eye level, press your shots, get your hits.

      IF YOU SHOOT in low light, JUST LIKE you do in normal lighting, YOU WILL KNOW if your sights are aligned or not, just because of the repetition involved in practice. Some people call this, “kinesthetic alignment,” and others call it, “index shooting.” If you practice enough (READ: spend more money on ammo, and less on gear) then you too, will be able to do this. Hope that helps. Sorry for the delayed response. I liked your comment when you made it, but I got sidetracked and didn’t reply immediately.

      1. Ok, gotcha.

        I think some people also refer to this as point shooting but when you go there I think it ignites some fairly dogmatic responses.

        From that perspective sights, any sights, are really only a training tool. Once you reach that point of proficiency there’s not even any reason to paint the back of the sight red or to have any sights on a gun at all. If I remember correctly, many of the gunfighters from back in the day filed off their sights to prevent the possibility of snags. My father in law had an old Iver Johnson that was like that. He called it his “Bonnie and Clyde” gun but would not share the reason he called it that. He’d just give you a mischievous grin.

        I don’t doubt that people can train to that level of proficiency. Some of us would definitely take longer to reach that level than others and there are probably some that might never be able to reach it. I guarantee it would cost more than $60-80 in ammo for me to get there. Until I do, I’ll spend it on the sights especially since I’m replacing the plastic factory sights from Glock with metal sights anyway. That’s my choice and I am not saying it’s the right one for everyone.

        I will also freely admit, I need to spend more time and money on training. Most of us should. Not just on firearms training but also, hand to hand, and probably most importantly on better first aid skills.

        Thanks for this blog. I may not always agree with everything but it always gets me thinking and that’s probably more important.

  5. The only real utility I’ve ever found for tritium sights is if I awake in the dark in an unfamiliar environment (and I stay in maybe 40 hotel rooms a year, so that’s fairly often), I can turn my head and see the sights glowing on the night stand right beside me. So, as a pistol location device, really, not so much as actual sights enhancement.

    1. Indeed! They are useful for location. Andy Langlois, the leather smith, made me a set of base plates for pistols that can be hot glued to a magazine, and provide a good reference, as well. Pretty cheap fix.

      I’m sure you put it together, but I’m the techno Luddite that couldn’t figure out my LOSD instructor course download yesterday! I will see you here in Nashville, in August, at the Nashville Armory. I’ll be bringing my girlfriend and her law firm (MMRSLAW.COM) who are all former prosecutors and now, Criminal Defense Attorney. I’ve read the second edition of your book several times now, and I’m eager to learn more. “Talking Legal Shop,” with my S.O. has been a great thing. The law of self defense is such a vast topic!

      1. Yes, indeed, I’d made the connection. I trust we worked everything out on the technology end. Look forward to seeing you and misses at Nashville Armory, they’re great folks there.

  6. I agree with the author and Mr. Givens. I do not see the benefit of “night sights” on a defensive pistol, since I left the service. If you can not see your “painted front sight”, how can you tell if a threat is actually a danger? This is why I carry and practice with a flashlight. I am not bashing them, but when I have a student ask me about them I do a few drills to point it out. I relate this to the fad in bowhunting, when bow hunters was putting “little lights” to see the sights for deer, I asked “how do you know the placement, if you only see the silhouette?” I paint mine with few coats of base white, then add either red or pink.

    1. Thanks for reading and your note. I have slightly amended my position on night sights, since I wrote this piece. I’ve found a facet of use that night sights excel at over non-tritium sights…and that’s locating the gun, in the dark, on the nightstand.

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