Sights, Sights, Sights – Thoughts on defensive sights

A student called to ask what my thoughts were related to sights for a home defense pistol.  He asked what I thought about tritium night sights, fiber optic sights, and gold bead sights for his pistol.  He planned to equip the pistol with a rail mounted light, which can be a very useful tool (see post on weapon mounted lights).  Fiber optic and brass dot sights are designed for competition shooting, which is traditionally held in a bright environment, though occasionally, there are low light defensive pistol matches.

Standard 3-dot hortizontal tritium sight

Standard 3-dot hortizontal tritium sight

For a defensive pistol, it is hard to beat tritium sights.  Small, tritium inserts which glow in the dark, help an armed officer or law abiding citizen acquire their sights under reduced light and no light conditions.  Clearly there are situations where a person will not use their sights (instinctive shooting), but tritium sights give you an option that traditional sights do not.  Made by several manufacturers, the two brands of tritium sights that I prefer are the Heinie Straight Eight LEDGE sight and the XS 24/7 Express Sights.

Heinie Straight Eight

Heinie Straight Eight

Richard Heinie makes some of the best sights on the market.  They are high quality, precise sights and are worth the money.  Having carried various pistols over the years, I‘m familiar with the traditional Trijicon tritium 3-dot sight. This sight requires the shooter to line up the 3 tritium lamps horizontally with the front sight dot between the two rear dots.  These sights work fine and are very common. The Heinie Straight Eight is a vertical sight.  There are only two tritium lamps in this design.  The shooter “stacks” the two dots to line them up, giving the appearance of an “8”, hence the name “Straight Eight”.  Heinie builds excellent target sights; the Straight Eight night sights are high quality target sights that have tritium inserts added.  Additionally, sharp edges that are common to match sights are not present on Heinie defensive sights.  This allows the shooter to quickly load, reload, and clear stoppages without the added risk of injury to the support hand.

XS Express 24/7 Sight

XS Express 24/7 Sight

Similar to the Heinie Straight Eights, the XS Sights 24/7 Express Sights utilize a vertical sight alignment.  The Express Sights incorporate a “Big Dot” Tritium or “Standard Dot” Tritium front sight with a vertical tritium “post”.  This is one of the best “flash” sights on the market for day light engagements, and an excellent setup for low light environments.  The Express sight also offers a low profile, snag-free design that reduces the likelihood of injuring the support hand, while allowing the shooter to use the rear sight as a slide-racker during incapacitation drills/incidents. Personally, I prefer the “regular” dot to the “Big” dot, but that is simply my preference.

Tritium Fiber Optic - TFO

Tritium Fiber Optic – TFO

One additional sight that I wanted to mention is the Truglo TFO or Tritium Fiber Optic Sight.  Years ago when fiber optic sights first hit the market, I put a set on a Glock 22 that I used for IDPA.  I loved how quickly I could acquire those sights. They weren’t quite as accurate as I wanted, but they were fast for the 5-10 yard scenarios.  My daily carry pistol back then was a Glock 23.  I had factory Glock Trijicon tritium night sights on it which were fine in low light, but I wanted the same “glow” that I had at night, during the day.  I discovered the TFO sights and quickly bought a set and mounted them to my G23.  They took a bit of getting used to, but they turned out to be good all-day sights.  The only drawback was the length of the front sight.  The design of the sight put a fiber optic rod in front of a tritium lamp.  During normal light the fiber optic rod would glow from ambient light.  During low light conditions it would transmit the tritium glow.  The issue was that the front sight was nearly an inch long, which meant that the effective sight radius was reduced by nearly an inch. On a Glock 23 that’s almost a 20 percent reduction in sight radius, which equates to a less accurate pistol.  This is simply a tradeoff.  You are trading the ability to shoot a little more accurately in one lighting condition for the ability to acquire your sights faster (or simply acquire them at all) in all lighting conditions.  To that end, I like the TFO sights; they serve their purpose well.

In the end, the sight you choose should be one that works well for you. Most factory sights are simple and get the job done, but leave something to be desired.  When changing a sight, it is important to have it installed by a competent gunsmith or armorer, and to benchrest the pistol to ensure the sights are zeroed for you.  Finally, it is very easy to get caught up in the “equipment race” trying to find that perfect sight that will prevent you from ever missing.  Remember most shooters need practice, not new equipment.  It takes a lot of work to develop the ability to out-shoot a stock defensive pistol.  Invest in good quality equipment and then safely practice with your equipment to develop this life-saving skill.

What are you looking for in a training course?

Over the years we’ve run several different classes based on what we believe students will benefit most from regardless of their skill level. Since 2011 we’ve been very busy with our Iowa Permit to Carry classes, which affect how often we can run other classes. This year we cut back on permit to carry classes and offered more instructor courses and more shooting classes, the biggest increase was in private training lessons (one-on-one). As we’ve worked with different students we’ve learned more about what students are looking for. I want to know – what you are looking for in a training course? Do you want more information or more skill development? Do you want a 4 hour class, a 1 day class or a multi-day class? Are you interested in low light training, in force-on-force training, on edged-weapon defense, on ground fighting and weapon retention? Do you want defensive rifle, shotgun, and pistol courses or simply basic courses? Would you be interested in a course on competitive shooting? Please use the “comment” feature and let me know what you are looking for in a training course or courses and we will do our best to offer these courses.

Thanks for your continued support!

Benefits of competitive shooting

If you’ve spent time training with me, Nate, or Josh you have likely heard us refer to shooting IDPA and USPSA matches.  The focus of this post is help illustrate why we believe competitive shooting is useful as part of your defensive training regimen. Additionally I will point out some limitations of defensive-style matches with regards to training.

When developing defensive functionality, instructors often balance marksmanship, mechanics, and mindset in their students’ development.  This is a simple relationship, but often these simple concepts are over-taught, leading to distraction & confusion by students.  While participating in a match, you are not the student, nor the instructor, you are all competitors, trying to perform at your best. Learning that you are not competing against other participants, but competing against yourself if the first step to accepting that shooting matches are ultimately about improving your own skill sets. 

If a new participant can move past the “I’m not into competition” mindset and accept the skill development argument, we being with mechanics. The following mechanical skills are developed through defensive pistol (and 3-Gun) competitions: Accessing the pistol (draw), presentation, safe handling, loading, unloading, reloading, bi-lateral shooting (right or left hand), position changes, interactions with barricades, movement with gun in hand, and malfunction clearance [inevitably this happens to all of us – even Glock shooters from time to time 🙂 ]
Marksmanship is developed by learning to engage targets very quickly at common defensive distances (less than 7 yards), while also improving marksmanship skills at distances of 25-30 yards occasionally.  Additionally, matches frequently including engaging targets that move, turn, drop, appear, disappear, swing, retreat, or charge the competitor.  There are few other opportunities where a person can practice engaging moving targets.

The crux of defensive pistol matches is the scoring system, which is based on a combination of time, plus points incurred for poor marksmanship & penalties from failing to follow prescribed actions or for engaging non-threat targets.  Herein lies the basis for the true benefit of competition: time-induced-stress.  Clearing a true defensive shooting is likely to be a very stressful event for anyone.  In traditional marksmanship practice, while shooting bulls-eye targets or plinking pop-cans, there is not an urgency to get the shot off, simply a focus to get the hit, however if you race a friend to see who can knock a pop-can over first, marksmanship typically erodes quickly.  This time-induced-stress is at first tough to deal with.  It reduces our marksmanship and in some cases, erodes our manipulations too.  Add in a few non-threat targets which force the competitor to distinguish between threat targets and innocent by-standers and you have a training scenario that helps develop stronger marksmanship, mechanics, and mindset.

Now I refer back to the beginning of this article, where I referenced that defensive pistol matches can be a useful PART of your training regimen.  And that is important to remember.  First, matches are games.  You will not be attacked by a horde of cardboard targets.  You will not receive a 5 second penalty for engaging a non-threat (think prison), and you will not get a re-shoot if your equipment fails (think seriously injured/dead).  Additionally, some matches do not require the proper use of cover or other commonly accepted tactics – or realize that the best tactic for the challenge that confronts you in real life might be to flee, or draw your pistol and NOT shoot – that won’t work with a defensive competition where you need to be given a scenario where you must shoot in order to have a score.  In fact in 100% of defensive matches, when the buzzer goes off you it is understood that you will NEED to fire; whereas in real life, there’s no buzzer and no absolutes.  Likewise, as much as we try to level the playing field, many competitors use full-sized guns for matches coupled with holsters selected for competition over carry/concealment, but they choose to carry compact sized pistols for self-defense.  It can be difficult to compete when it turns into an equipment race.  That brings me once again to the point that if you use defensive matches as part of your personal, defensive training program, you are only competing with yourself, which should take the equipment race out of the equation; it becomes about performing well with the equipment you actually carry.

I could certainly continue to enumerate the downside to competitive defensive matches as a form of training, but my point is that they simply need to be PART of the training program. Which needs to include scenarios where you have to decide if you shoot or not, where you have to deal with a sea of non-threats and only 1 or 2 “bad guys”, and where you develop scenarios that are realistic for the environment that you operate in – your home, your work, your life.

On a final note, I will add this.  I’ve shot competitively for about 15 years.  During this time I’ve come to realize that some of the best people in our society participate in these matches.  Moms & dad, brothers & sisters, husbands & wives, sons & daughters, all sharing knowledge, while exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom to keep and bear arms.  They are making our country & our society stronger and building lasting friendships along the way.  You can learn more about defensive shooting at the following sites:

http://www.idpa.com/
http://www.uspsa.org/

Finally, here is a link to an excellent article by Phil Strader, Director of Competitions at the U.S. Shooting Academy™ in Oklahoma City, OK.

Defensive Pistol 1 – Saturday July 14

Defensive Pistol 1 – 9:00am-5:00pm – Saturday July 14 at the Boone County Sportsmens Club 

Our Defensive Pistol series courses are designed to help students develop their “gunfighting” skills; clearly not with the intent of being in a “gunfight”, but with the hope that if not able to avoid such a conflict, they prevail.  In truth, “gun-fighting” is based on solid fundamentals; regardless of age or gender, these skills are rooted in the basics of marksmanship coupled with basic principles of “fighting” – posture, breathing, relaxation, and communication.

This 1 day, range only class is for students who want/need to develop these strong fundamentals.  Initially focusing on the 7 elements of marksmanship – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, breathing, and following through – students will develop reliable, combat accuracy.  From there students will build solid, fundamental skills in the following areas:
  • Draws
  • Reloads
  • Malfunction clearance
  • Movement
  • Use of cover & concealment
  • Verbalization / Communication
The mission of CWR Firearms Training is to train our students to continually master the basics.  Defensive Pistol 1 provides responsible citizens with a excellent opportunity to further develop reliable defensive skills and continue on the path of mastering the basics.
Student should bring a reliable center-fire handgun with three magazines or speed loaders, 250 rounds of practice ammunition, strong-side holster, magazine pouch, concealment garment (coat, jacket, vest), cleaning equipment, and eye & ear protection.  The course is limited to 12 students. Cost of the course is $150 and pre-registration is required.
This course is not a basic/introductory marksmanship course; students should be comfortable shooting defensive caliber handguns and have the ability and experience to follow the NRA’s Three Rules for Safe Gun Handling – safety violations on the range will be grounds for immediate dismissal from the course.  Good examples of preparatory courses / experience are the NRA First Steps or Basic Pistol Shooting class, participation in an IDPA/USPSA/Steel Match, or Instructor Discretion.
To register or learn more about this course please call or email Darin – 515-231-3887 / darin@cwrfirearmstraining.com.

Defensive Pistol 1

 

Our Defensive Pistol series courses are designed to help students develop their “gunfighting” skills; clearly not with the intent of being in a “gunfight”, but with the hope that if not able to avoid such a conflict, they prevail.  In truth, “gun-fighting” is based on solid fundamentals; regardless of age or gender, these skills are rooted in the basics of marksmanship coupled with basic principles of “fighting” – posture, breathing, relaxation, and communication.

This 1 day, range only class is for students who want/need to develop these strong fundamentals.  Initially focusing on the 7 elements of marksmanship – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, breathing, and following through – students will develop reliable, combat accuracy.  From there students will build solid, fundamental skills in the following areas:
  • Draws
  • Reloads
  • Malfunction clearance
  • Movement
  • Use of cover & concealment
  • Verbalization / Communication
The mission of CWR Firearms Training is to train our students to continually master the basics.  Defensive Pistol 1 provides responsible citizens with a excellent opportunity to further develop reliable defensive skills and continue on the path of mastering the basics.
Student should bring a reliable center-fire handgun with three magazines or speed loaders, 250 rounds of practice ammunition, strong-side holster, magazine pouch, concealment garment (coat, jacket, vest), cleaning equipment, and eye & ear protection.  The course is limited to 12 students. Cost of the course is $150 and pre-registration is required.
This course is not a basic/introductory marksmanship course; students should be comfortable shooting defensive caliber handguns and have the ability and experience to follow the NRA’s Three Rules for Safe Gun Handling – safety violations on the range will be grounds for immediate dismissal from the course.  Good examples of preparatory courses / experience are the NRA First Steps or Basic Pistol Shooting class, participation in an IDPA/USPSA/Steel Match, or Instructor Discretion.
To learn more about this course please email Darin – darin@cwrfirearmstraining.com.

What was that noise…?!?!?!

A while ago a friend of mine sent me an email asking what type of firearm she should consider for home defense.  I was a bit surprised by this request because we had never had a conversation about firearms or self-defense, but I continued reading her email.  The night before an intoxicated male entered her house around 2am while she was home alone.  The windows and doors were open to let the house cool off, it had been a warm day, but was a very nice evening.  Her husband works odd hours and was at work.  She heard the screen door open and close, wondering if her husband had come home for some reason.  The person did not say anything to her and she became suspicious.  She turned off a few lights and peeked out of the bedroom, where she had been reading a book.  She saw a man standing outside the porch on the front steps.  She quickly ran to the living room, closed and locked the door and shut off the lights.  She wasn’t sure what else to do, so she called her husband at work.  When I spoke with her about her decision to call her husband, she said that she was very scared at this point and that was the only thing she could think to do.  Since her husband works very close to home, he jumped in a truck and drove home immediately.  The suspect had stolen a pillow off the couch and curled up in the bushes to fall asleep. Her husband and his co-worker confronted the man who wasn’t able to answer many questions; he wasn’t even sure of where he lived.  They said he smelled like alcohol, but he must have been on drugs too.  They told him to go home and let him go; he wandered off.

I asked why they did not call the police.  They said he was just a drunk college kid and they didn’t want him to get into trouble.  We discussed where he might have gone, if he entered someone else’s house and scared them, if he stepped into traffic and got hit by a car, if he fell into a body of water and drown, or he if ran into a less forgiving crowd and got beat up / seriously injured.  They said they hadn’t thought about those things.

We discussed why they felt a gun was the right idea.  Having been a firearms instructor for 15 years, I have my own reasons and thoughts on the subject, but I wanted to hear their ideas.  She said she was scared and thought a pistol would help her feel a little safer.  Her husband said it would allow her to protect herself.  I asked why she didn’t call the police when she realized this man had entered her house.  She said he was probably just a drunk college kid and she did not want him to get into trouble.  I drew the distinction and cautioned them on “labeling” problems.  First I pointed out that shooting him would put him in more jeopardy than calling the police, she agreed.  I pointed how he had gone from a “potentially violent intruder” to “just a drunk college kid” in the same brief discussion.  Our conversation illustrated the importance of simply taking the facts at hand and trying to NOT rationalize, irrational behavior.

I explained how dangerous it could be to either the subject or to you to try to rationalize their behavior / actions.  For instance, years ago another friend arrived home one morning after working an extra shift, arriving at his house around 4:30am, he saw a strange man, he’d never seen before, walk from his neighbor’s house to a van that was parked on the street with a large bag, enter the van, exit the van and walk to his front door, entering the porch.  My friend worked as a security guard and immediately thought the person was committing thefts, he ran to his front door, shouted at the individual who reached into the bag, my friend drew his pistol and challenged the subject.  The subjected screamed at my friend that he was delivering newspapers.  My friend forgot that his roommate had recently subscribed to the sunday paper.  His assumption that this was a burglary led to him drawing a gun on a paper delivery man!!  That’s a tough one to justify.  Needless to say, the paper man called the police and my buddy had to explain himself to the police and learn a tough lesson.  It would have been just as easy for my friend to call the police, report the license plate number of the van, and let the police handle the situation or at the very least, maintain distance, not rush in, and make verbal contact at a distance to avoid creating a situation where a physical assault could occur.

The point here is that while a firearm may “make someone feel safe“, its the ability to think rationally, and weld that firearm with wisdom and skill that actually makes someone “safe” (or at least safer than without it).  Please remember that a firearm is just a tool, having a gun doesn’t make a person into a gunfighter anymore than having a hammer makes someone a carpenter.  Training and practice are necessary.  Please don’t trick yourself into simply “owning” the gun, learn to shoot it well, and learn to defend yourself properly.

 

Individual Firearms Training Available

Learning to shoot involves various simulanteous actitives. Many new shooters (I was one of them many years ago) develop remedial deficiencies without proper guidance to help them early in the learning process. Our instructors have extensive experience guiding new shooters to help them develop solid, foundational skills from the start. If you are interested in personal firearms training, please call or email.

Thanks!
Darin