Tactical Tailor

Gunfighter Moment – Larry Vickers

Night Sights

I’ve shot pistols long enough that I feel a tritium front sight is mandatory on a self defense pistol. Frankly, it fits in the low light range, that plain black and fiber optic front sights won’t work in, and using a white light at times can be very hazardous to your health. What I mean is that using a white light for long enough to align your sights could get you shot.

Tritium on the rear is optional in my book, and up to personal taste. At handgun night fighting distances a tritium front will get the job done in addition to being fast to employ. My buddy Hackathorn was the first to turn me into to this and I like it. Try it the next time you get the chance.

Larry Vickers
Vickers Tactical Inc.
Host of TacTV

Larry Vickers of Vickers Tactical is a retired US Army 1st SFOD-Delta combat veteran with years of experience in the firearms industry as a combat marksmanship instructor and industry consultant. In recent years he has hosted tactical firearms related TV shows on the Sportsman Channel with the latest being TacTV of which Bravo Company is a presenting sponsor. Larry Vickers special operations background is one of the most unique in the industry today; he has been directly or indirectly involved in the some of the most significant special operations missions of the last quarter century. During Operation Just Cause he participated in Operation Acid Gambit – the rescue of Kurt Muse from Modelo Prison in Panama City, Panama. As a tactics and marksmanship instructor on active duty he helped train special operations personnel that later captured Saddam Hussein and eliminated his sons Uday and Qusay Hussein. In addition he was directly involved in the design and development of the HK416 for Tier One SOF use which was used by Naval Special Warfare personnel to kill Osama Bin Laden. Larry Vickers has developed various small arms accessories with the most notable being his signature sling manufactured by Blue Force Gear and Glock accessories made by Tangodown. In addition he has maintained strong relationships with premium companies within the tactical firearms industry such as BCM, Aimpoint, Black Hills Ammunition, Wilson Combat and Schmidt & Bender.

With over 300,000 subscribers, his Youtube channel features a new firearms video every Friday. 

Larry Vickers travels the country conducting combat marksmanship classes for law abiding civilians, law enforcement and military and works with Aztec Training Services to coordinate classes to best meet the needs of the students attending the class.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and each week they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

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24 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Larry Vickers”

  1. Daniel says:

    This is one of the more controversial ones. Frank Proctors view differs. I have used both on duty, and would be happy with fiber and WML. Once my light would go on the tritium would be washed out. From my 15 years as a police officer, I’d disagree that they mandatory.

    • Dan says:

      Seems you and a lot of the people below didn’t read his post correctly. He clearly states ‘self defence pistol’. It makes sense to have an ability to engage targets in a self defence situation without telegraphing your position with a WML.

      If you want to talk duty pistols, I would suggest the user requirement would obviously be different.

      • Mohican says:

        I want to see the best I can who I am shooting at, just to avoid irregular outcomes like shooting a friendly or a family member. Usually no light means no threat identification. Bad guys don’t worry about that and they will shoot in any direction without liability problems. They can shoot to any shape or movement, but I can’t.

      • Jon says:

        I think frank proctor’s comments about having to use a light to identify a threat (both from the ethical and legal standpoints) is spot on. I’ve run both tritium and FO sights on a gun and never thought much about the implications if I shot using night sights without fully identifying the target. While I like both, I run FO on my gun now for day and night capability (run a light at night). If I was to run NVGs, I would put either a MRD or Tritium sights on my gun instead of using white light.

        I think it’s to each their own but what proctor advocates (and the OP talked about) is the necessity for positive ID of a target. For night sights, John Lovell at Teluric group was talking about 2 dot set ups, which I’ve run for CCW and find exceptionally faster than 3 dot…but each person is different.

  2. Bloke_from_ohio says:

    You can black out the rear dots on night sights with a sharpie to make the sight picture simpler in daylight shooting. When it is super dark, the dots still glow through the ink. They will just be a bit dimmer than the front. This is actually a nice added bonus as it adds a bit of contrast between the front and rear without resorting to different colors.

    Try it. If you hate it, a little acetone will fix you right as rain.

    • 18Derp says:

      I have yet to go through a low light program where instructors who I trust way more than Vickers to know their stuff have said night sights are “mandatory”.

      The moment the white light comes on, the tritium is useless. Period.

      Night sights are only for staging a shot before the light comes on, an nice idea, but having been through low light indoors force-on-force… totally useless.

      • Jason says:

        Good comment, but I disagree. Lights are for positive ID of your targets; sights are for hitting your targets. Illuminated sights make that easier under all conditions, especially places and times of limited visibility.

        Just an opinion from a guy who regularly clears various structures in all sorts of lighting conditions.

        • Bill says:

          The WML allows for silhouetting the sights and obtaining a “normal” sight picture. I can’t speak to the .mil context, but in LE I HAVE to ID my target, so the WML or other white light is coming on regardless. It may be “hazardous to my health,” but it will only be on long enough to ID the target and break the shot; besides, that’s why I get the big bucks: 12.25/hr.

      • Dan says:

        Well where to begin here… generally a tritium sight is mounted on a post, suprisingly when the WML comes on you can still aim with the actual post… crazy I know right??

        I haven’t done any low light ‘programs’ so I may be unqualified to provide you advice that in opposed shooting where threat or PID has been been pre-established I’d want the option to shoot at you from darkness, you go right ahead and turn your WML on though, I’ll aim at it as its going to be right in front of your face.

        • 18Derp says:

          “I haven’t done any low light ‘programs’”

          I encourage you to do so. Esp a UTM or simunintions force-on-force. If you even see your sights I’ll be surprised, and if you come away with thme same impression of night sights I’d be shocked. But opinions…. you know?

  3. Legriff says:

    Rmr. ( mic drop)

    • SLG says:

      All of my MRDS sights wash out too much when I turn a light on, weapons mounted or handheld. Lasers work pretty well though.

      • Doc8404 says:

        All of your MRDS must not be Trijicon RMR’s then, specifically the adjustable RMR06. Tritium/fiber optic reflex sights that auto-adjust brightness off of environmental conditions all suffer from wash-out when used with a WML. Your target is brightly lit, yet the optic “thinks” its dark outside, so you end up with a dim/no dot. By having a manual brightness adjustment you just keep your dot “pretty bright” 24/7, so when your light comes on, you still have an aiming reference.

  4. Nate says:

    As part of your “pre-mission” or whatever we call getting ready for cop work checks, you need to dial your pistol RDS up enough that you can see it clearly when you activate your WML in common lighting conditions. If it is really bright, that is still okay for combat accuracy.

    Every night sight will turn black when you activate a WML. And if you are a modern cop and you aren’t running a 500 lumen WML on your blaster (or better), then you are wrong.

  5. Lowspeed says:

    Lots of passive aggressive dick measuring in this comment section.

    We get it, your opinion is fact and should be trusted because you regularly oper8

  6. Wayne says:

    I think what Mr. Vickers is trying relay is that in a low light situation where the target is a known threat the use of a white light might be a waste of time that you don’t have to spare, and you also make yourself a target at the same time.

  7. CHris K. says:

    Mother of God, the comments. Look, if you find a tritium frony sight worthwhile (I personally do) then use it. If not, then don’t use one. It’s your life, use what you trust.

  8. Baldwin says:

    If it is dark enough to actually see your night sights, then it is too dark to properly assess the threat and determining if any people are down range of the threat. You need a light and that negates the tritium. Remember, defensive gun uses always get the “justice” system involved. What you saw with the light will greatly enhance you articulating your justification and subsequently surviving the second trial by “fire” you will certainly undergo.

    • Thanks. I was waiting for this little cliche obfuscated by oversimplification and lack of depth of thought.

      Absolutism is the only thing absolute, and that absolution is to be absolutely wrong.

      • Baldwin says:

        I’m pretty “absolutely” sure I don’t want to shoot _______(insert name of loved one or friend) in the dark while I admire my latest set of night sights while in the process of investigating that noise that woke me up in the middle of the night.

  9. MidGasFan says:

    Great little article. Not sure why this is such a topic of contention. Night sights are pretty damn cheap nowadays and especially if you get something like the Hack(Ken Hackathorn) sights from Ameriglo. Why not run them?!

    I tried the fantastic Ameriglo Pro i-Dot sights several years ago as a less expensive alternative to Trijicon’s great HD Sights and have not looked back. Two tritium dots to stack(faster and easier with my astigmatism), a luminescent ring around the front tritium insert for day shooting and a mostly black rear sight. What’s not to like? They’re under $100 and even say Trijicon on the side…

    WML’s are great, but redundancy is even better. I run a chopped G31 w/ Ameriglo tritium sights, a JP red dot and Inforce APL. One, or even two might fail but all the at once? Possible, not probable.

    • Regular Guy says:

      I think this is an offshoot/resulting from one of the Gunfighter Moments a couple weeks ago. One of the regular guys (Ken, Frank, Larry, etc) posted about teaching a pistol class. During long range engagements, one of the students remarked how the big tritium sight obscured the target at the ranges they were engaging at (far). The instructor took a look and saw that it was so. The resultant Gunfighter Moment, if I recall, went on to suggest a night sight may be unnecessary and may impact accuracy at longer distances. I can only assume this particular article sprang from the resultant discussion which resembled this thread.

      The above conversation seems to focus on a common theme in tactical forums and in real life: which method or practice is objectively better than another. While some rules of engagement are verifiably true (I can objectively say that fewer holes in friendlies is better), it’s often not the case. I can think of any number of situations in which one configuration may be more appropriate than another. I guess some of these guys feel very strongly about what is mandatory equipment.

  10. Sonny says:

    Not sure why all the controversy.

    All he said is use the white light sparingly as it could get you shot.
    You may need to keep that white light on to align your fiber sight, so tritium is better.

    From LAV’s experience, US Special Forces use night vision mostly, and white light sparingly.

    The LAV/Hack technique is to pop the light on briefly, move, then use the night sights.

    My department (a Big one) doesn’t allow fiber front sights.

    Apparently, many here aren’t shy when using their weapon light, and love the fiber optic sight even more lol.