Deep and wide

there’s a fountain flowing…what are you looking at, don’t tell me you didn’t sing that song in Sunday school.

But that’s not the subject of today’s post – no, today we’re talking about sights.  Specifically, handgun sights.  Some companies put decent sights on their semi-automatic pistols.  The factory sights on S&W M&Ps, the Springfield XDM, and the FNH FNP and FNX pistols are generally decent. Even Taurus has pistols from the factory that come with Heinie or Novak sights. However, even the guns with better than fair factory sights can stand to have their sights upgraded; and some guns practically require it. Glock, for everything they do right with a pistol, probably has the most insultingly bad factory sights on the market. The front sight is huge and wide, the rear notch is narrow and shallow, and what that leads to is a sight that’s difficult to acquire at high speed, and difficult to use for shots past 15 yards or so on tight targets.

I blame revolvers for this – the defensive revolver’s gutter sight really is quite embarrassing as an aiming apparatus, and yet was the law enforcement standard for decades. When the world switched over to semi-auto pistols, did anyone say “hey, let’s widen up that rear notch a bit and let some more light around that front post”. No, but they did put two distracting white dots on the rear post! Factory sights on revolvers haven’t really improved. Another guilty party of the too-fat front sight coupled with a too narrow rear sight is Smith & Wesson’s entire line of adjustable sighted revolvers. While they’re excellent for target shooting, the factory sights aren’t really that great for high-speed sight acquisition, which is why this guy replaces them with a Bowen rear sight. My IDPA gun also wears a Bowen rear, which is deeper and wider (hence the title) than the standard S&W notch. I’ve even discussed revolver rear sights in the past, but haven’t spent time on what makes a sight good or not, in my opinion.

The secret is light.  Light shining around the front post is what allows you to get that stark contrast between front sight and rear sight; which is then what allows you to see the front sight with proper relation to the target.  At the right, my 686 is wearing a Cylinder and Slide Extreme Duty rear sight and the front sight is an SDM Gold Bead.  This arrangement gives me good contrast on the front and rear sights, plus as you can see allows a good amount of light to fall around the front sight.

Quality aftermarket sights are one of the things I recommend everyone buy for their firearms.  I’m just not a fan of most factory pistol sights, because even the best factory sights such as the ones on the M&P line of pistols can be improved by switching them to Warren Tactical sights.  Your sights are what allow you to hit the target quickly in a defensive situation – perhaps one of the most critical components of a defensive firearm are the sights, so why would you settle for less?  Like Brian Enos said – “Yes it’s the Indian and not the arrow, but who wants a crappy bow?”


  1. What’s your opinion on fiber sights on a defensive gun? I have a fiber Warren Tactical front sight on my Glock 26 and it’s great for finding it quickly but I’m not sure if the plain black wouldn’t be better for defensive role.

  2. Well said, Caleb!

    What is interesting is that the Russian Olympic guys were really experimenting with the notch shapes, depth, and width-ratios a long time ago.

  3. I bought a Ruger Redhawk (used) that had what I thought at the time was a very nice ‘target’ type sight, gold dot front and a white line and shallow v notch rear, which I thought would be great for hunting.

    I now hate the thing……..

    Too used to a sight picture like in your pic, big square notch and square front sight. This is a hunting gun and not a target gun, and for me the current sight just takes too long to acquire. Sure, for a longer shot it would be fine, but I carry the pistol for <50 yd shots in thick cover, the rifle is for longer shots in more open territory.
    Basically I need a combat type sight, not a target sight I guess.

  4. I myself are a fan of the trap sights on the Steyr M9-A1. Fastest and most accurate sights I’ve ever shot.

  5. Holy cow 10000000.

    I just got an CZ SP-01, after an easy DIY trigger job it’s seriously one of the best guns I’ve ever had… but the sight selection for them is just abysmal. I’ve spent days and sent numerous emails trying to find a decent sight option with some light around the front (butchered/improved the stock rear Mepro with a file and a Sharpie for the interim) and looks like I’ll be spending $$$ to get some custom ones made (the “Competition rear sight” has a .125″ rear notch, c’mon), but, it’ll be worth it, been shooting Warren/Sevigny’s on Glocks for a few years and there’s not a chance in hell I’m going back to before I knew better.
    It’s amazing to me all the talented and skilled shooters who’ve been using crappy sights for so long and don’t even know what they’re missing shooting their 30yr old Bomars…

Comments are closed.