There are a lot of night sight options out on the market now, and two of the largest categories are standard tritium sights and tritium fiber optic sights. Standard tritium sights will glow brighter in low-light and are more durable but lack a high-contrast color in bright light. Tritium fiber optic sights don't glow as well as standard tritium sets, but the fiber optic rods illuminate great in bright-light settings. XS' tritium night sights are a hybrid set that uses bright tritium, high-contrast color dots for bright-light visibility, and photoluminescent technology to aid in making the front sight brighter in conjunction with tritium.
Before diving into the details about how our tritium sights compete with standard and tritium fiber optic sights, we will review the pros and cons of each set.
Standard Tritium Sights
Standard tritium sights typically have a simple, durable design that focuses on making the tritium lamp glow in the dark as much as possible. The brighter glow intensity is achieved by keeping one end of the lamps face as close as possible to the sight face. Most manufacturers now offer this set up with a colored ring around the lamp to help with bright light visibility.
- Tritium glows brightly in low light. Though tritium is not very bright; having a clear view of one face of the lamp will offer the brightest option.
- Offers many options which include having variable heights, colored dots, colored tritium, front blade width options, and installation methods (Set Screw, Sight Pusher, File To Fit).
- Tritium iron sights are durable. The lamp is installed to meet government regulations to withstand drops, cleaning chemical exposure, and thousands of rounds over the sights 10+ year service life.
- Sights are like shoes; many brands and styles fit people better, but the bounty of choices can make finding the right option a challenge.
- Most manufacturers claim to have the brightest tritium sights in hopes of swinging your purchasing decision based on glow intensity. The truth is, tritium is not that bright, and the available range of brightness between the tritium lamps is relatively close between all manufacturers. Tritium is measured by the activity level of the gas, not the brightness of the lamp because it is so dim. (Tip: Sometimes brighter doesn't equal better performance, see our hybrid section below for more details)
Tritium Fiber Optic Sights
Tritium fiber optic sights help solve standard tritium sight's most significant dilemma, seeing your sights well in bright light. The fiber optic rod funnels ambient light it from the rods side walls to the pipes ends. Most manufacturers place a tritium lamp behind the fiber rod, in a fully enclosed steel housing. Depending on the set, the fiber optic rod will either be enclosed or exposed. The enclosed versions are much more durable but don't glow as well because the protective sleeve refracts some light and reduces the amount of light that reaches the fiber rod. The exposed rod versions absorb the most ambient light, which illuminates the rod the best. Though, the exposure can pose a problem as fiber optic rods are not very durable and tend to break from the pistols reciprocating slide mass, and holster wear over time. The exposed rod sections will also become a lint and gun powder residue trap. Be careful when cleaning this type of sight, compressed air, CLP, and a Q-tip will be the safest way to clean the section. Acetone based cleaners (Gun Scrubber/Break Cleaner) can bleach the rods.
- Bright light visibility is excellent. Fiber rods in sunlight look like Christmas tree bulbs.
- This is a new, innovative way of making tritium iron sights.
- They still have tritium, making them a good option for a defensive handgun.
- Even cloud cover can significantly reduce brightness. Once in a low light setting and the rods will not illuminate well. The light produced from the tritium vial has to pass through the fiber rod, which reduces the light’s intensity by the time it reaches the face of the sight body.
- The front sight blade width and its design construction forces the overall width of the blade to be reasonably large. These models measure in the 0.150" to 0.180" range, but do not have a large dot surface area.
- Our Big Dot is 0.188" and our F8 front sight is 0.160", but the dots surface area uses most of this width.
What makes our mouse trap different?
Our sights fall within the standard category, but we use Ember photoluminescent Glow Dots to absorb ambient light and offer a high-contrast colored front in bright light. We like to think of our sights as a hybrid. Our patent-pending Ember technology is not a fiber optic rod. Our goal is to build highly-visible sights in bright light and low light. We feel that fiber optics miss the mark in low light and offer another layer of complexity to the design of the sight (Murphy's Law). To achieve our sights' brightness goal, we must disclose that we intend to make the front sight brighter than the rear sight. We recommend reading our blog on what makes a good set of defensive night sights to review XS's methodology vs. the competitions.
We designed our glow dots to provide a high-contrast color in bright light settings without needing any ambient light features. We chose specific colors because of their ranking in the visible color spectrum of light. The absorption of ambient light from the tritium vial and surroundings is to aid in illuminating the front sight in low-light in conjunction with the tritium.
Remember, there is no magic bullet! There are many good night sight manufacturers who are tried and proven. We at XS believe in four simple standards for night sights.
- Simple sight pictures
- Focus on the front sight
- Make the front sight brighter than the rear
- Make durable sights that will hold up to heat, drops, and Acetone cleaning solutions
Gunfights don't happen in complete darkness or perfect lighting conditions. They happen somewhere in between this broad spectrum. Your night sights need to be visible at all times so you can be ready for the threat.
About the Author:
XS Sights is known for making the fastest sights in any light. For more than 20 years, the XS team has created some of the most innovative sights on the market today for pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Whether used for personal defense or hunting, these sights are designed and built to be the absolute best for their specific purpose. American Made. Texas Proud. 2A Strong.