Sights For Rusty Eyes

Guns | Handguns |
When Your Eyes Go Fuzzy And You Aren’t Ready For
Optics Atop Your Handgun,There Are Still Options In
(More Or Less) Conventional Sight Setups.

By Massad Ayoob

Ya know, for a lot of us, it really is the eyes that go first. Opthamologist friends tell me that somewhere around age 40, we really start noticing differences. In my case I didn’t have to wait that long. I was wearing eyeglasses somewhere around first grade, nearsighted in the right eye and farsighted in the left. That never changed. Today, as a certified, card-carrying geezer working on his newest prescription for corrective lenses, I’m still involved in dealing with it.

One option is the red-dot optic sight, now available in compact models like Trijicon’s RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex). Increasingly popular, it’s still a small wave in a big ocean, raising the height of the so-equipped pistol sufficiently to create concealment issues. I only personally know one cop wearing one on his service pistol in uniform, and in a given year, only a few of many hundreds of my students will arrive with a carry gun so equipped. So, let’s talk about conventional sights—colloquially known as “iron sights”—you may find helpful.

A big U-shaped notch in the rear sight—coupled, of course, with a proportionally large and visible front sight—is so fast its popularity isn’t limited to us Social Security age shooters. A whole lot of young and “prime of life” handgunners have adopted them, too. One example is the BattleSight from Wilson Combat. A few years ago I had those on a Wilson Combat CQB .45 auto at the IDPA Nationals, and loved ’em. The sights (and the pistol) shot better than I did. I have a set on my favorite carry Beretta, a Wilson-tuned M9A1 Compact. In both cases, the front sight was a big fiber optic, easy for old eyes to catch so long as there was some ambient light. The big U-notch is also a feature on Scott Warren Tactical sights: I have a set on one of my favorite carry Glocks, a G31 in .357 SIG. Those sights are precise enough they once gave me a 1.25-inch 5-shot group at 25 yards with Remington Bonded Golden Saber .357 SIG, yet come very quickly to the eye; the front sight is a big, high post with a Tritium insert for night shooting.

The ultimate U-notch was brilliantly conceived by ex-cop and gun writer, Gary Paul Johnston. Like most of us, he found a big “ghost ring” peep sight didn’t work as well on the back of a handgun at arm’s length as it did on the rear of a rifle closer to the eye…so he simply cut the “ghost ring” in half, creating a humongous U-notch. Coupled with a big front post, it proved to be remarkably accurate, and remarkably visible to those of us with less than perfect vision. It’s available today as the “Ghost” sight, complete with a Tritium night dot front sight from Novak.


Sight picture with Advantage Tactical sights consists of a bright plastic front
at the peak, and bright lines along the side to form most of the triangle.

Express Delivery

The ancient concept of the Express sight—a very shallow “V” rear and a big round front—goes back to the old African hunters and their super-powerful “Express rifles,” aka “Elephant Guns.” Something big enough to kill you and coming fast has to be aimed at and shot quickly, and not until the latter 20th Century did my friend Ashley Emerson popularize the same concept with the short sight-radius handgun. Whether yours is the original Ashley Express or the later XS, you’ll find this concept deadly fast in close. At a distance, the Big Dot sitting atop a centered line on the shallow rear “V” gives you a “lollipop” sight picture. I can’t guarantee 25-yard head shots with it, but that may just be me. James Yeager can be found on YouTube doing some awesome shooting with these sights mounted on his Glock 19.

Yeah, I know, trust a guy with an Arabic name to push the pyramid. But, I gotta tell ya, my very favorite “geezer sights” are the Advantage Tactical, which give you a pyramidal sight picture. A bright plastic front is the peak, and bright lines along the side form most of the triangle. Choice of colors is yours, there are several in the kit. It took me about 200 rounds to get the hang of it, but I discovered (A) using just the front triangle, in close was as fast as a red dot. (B) If there was time for a proper sight picture, it would keep every shot in the 10-ring of a B27 target at 25 yards; and (C) it worked great if I had vision problems. I had an infection in the dominant eye when I went for the Shodan test in Soke Jeff Hall’s martial art of shooting, Hojutsu, which is very similar to Chuck Taylor’s famously difficult Pistol Master test. On the first run, I realized I couldn’t see the regular sights on the Glock 17 I was using, so I switched to a stock G17 with Advantage Tactical sights I was testing. It got me through and earned me the coveted Black Belt. The big, bright, coarse rear and front were visible even when blurred. I’ve shot that Tactical Advantage-sighted gun a lot since, won some IDPA matches with it, and keep it handy in case my vision ever again becomes impaired. “Advantage Tactical” really does give you a tactical advantage, especially if your vision is blurred.


“Front sights to watch” include (above, from left) Heinie Straight Eight Tritium, Tritium front
from Scott Warren Tactical ensemble, standard Trijicon front post, Advantage Tactical front
sight and fiber optic from Dawson. Optional rear sights on full-size Glocks include (below, from left)
Heinie Straight Eight on a G17, Scott Warren Tactical U-notch on a G31, Trijicon on a G22, Advantage
Tactical on a G17 and the Dawson Adjustable on a G17RTF2.

Laser Blazers

Laser sights can be a godsend to visually disadvantaged shooters. A decade ago, John Strayer beat me on X-count and drove me down into second place at Andy Stanford’s famous Snubby Summit event. I was shooting a 2.5-inch Colt Python with a Reeves Jungkind action. John was shooting an out-of-the-box S&W Model 642 Airweight with Crimson Trace Lasergrips. John maintains he won only because when we had to shoot from the hip, his laser dot let him get a center-X hit ahead of me. (I maintain he was a better shot and flat outshot me. We still argue about that.) I’ll tell you one thing though: Both John and I have Crimson Trace Lasergrips on the J-Frame Smith & Wesson snubbies.

Lasers and red-dot optics aside, though, it’s absolutely true that careful selection of more or less “conventional” iron sights can keep you shooting straight under pressure when your eyesight is less than “20/20 uncorrected.”

Advantage Tactical Sights

WrenTech Industries LLC
7 Avenida Vista Grande, B-7, Santa Fe, NM 87508
(310) 316-6413

Crimson Trace Corporation

9780 SW Freeman Dr., Wilsonville, OR 97070
(800) 442-2406

Heinie Specialty Products

301 Oak Street, Quincy, IL 62301
(217) 228-9500

Novak Sights

1206 30th Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101
(304) 485-9295

Warren Tactical

200 South Front Street, Montezuma, IA 50171
(641) 623-4000

Wilson Combat

2234 CR 719, Berryville, AR 72616
(800) 955-4856

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