Night Sights or Fiber Optic Sight for Concealed Carry?

XS Standard Dot Tritium Night Sights vs. Hi-Viz Fiber Optic Sights for the Ruger LCR Revolver

Smith & Wesson Model 642

Smith & Wesson Model 642 has a fixed-ramp front sight and a trench rear sight.

Snub-nosed revolvers are known for up-close and personal social work. Some people may suggest that for this kind of work, a fixed-ramp front sight and trench rear sight is generally enough. Making matters worse, for those who own certain snubbies in either stainless or black finish, you quickly notice that the front ramp and rear trench are the same color. This may be sufficient if you only plan on point-shooting at targets from 3-yards and closer, or you’re at the range with ample time to obtain the proper sight alignment and sight picture, but this isn’t ideal for a fighting handgun. A fighting handgun is one you train with, one you are going to use when you’re likely under extreme duress, a handgun you’re going to depend on to save your life, or the life of another.

When engaging target(s) from 3-yards to 7-yards, the front sight is critical. If you intend on stopping a threat, shot placement is more critical than caliber. Handgun rounds do not cause the type of permanent tissue damage a rifle round causes and multiple shots are often necessary to stop an assailant. The use of the front sight in a close quarter encounter is necessary to place shots in an area where they are most likely going to stop a threat.

The ideal front sight can be easily and quickly acquired and contrasts the rear sight. For owners of snubbies with fixed front sights, improving the sight picture often involves painting the ramp sight with bright shades of nail polish or specifically designed sight paint. I’ve painted my share of front sights, but those sights were on revolvers which would unlikely serve as my concealed carry firearm. One of the criteria I have for a fighting revolver is an interchangeable front sight. Both of my fighting revolvers, the Ruger LCR38 and SP-101 satisfy this criteria.

As of late, Ruger started shipping their LCR revolvers with a white insert in the front ramp, a dramatic improvement over the black front post in a black rear notch. Ruger recognized the importance of having a contrasting front sight and Ruger has been known to be receptive to customer feedback and constantly improving their products based on this feedback. The improved front sight is decent for rapid sight acquisition, but there are better options.

Ruger LCR Fiber vs Tritium

Ruger LCR w/ Hi-Viz Overmolded Fiber Optic (Left) or XS Standard Dot Tritium (Right)

The two most popular options when chosing aftermarket sights are tritium night sights or fiber optic sights. I’ve purchased both the Hi-Viz Fiber Optic sight as well as the XS Standard Dot Tritium sight for my Ruger LCR, so we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons about both types of sights and review the specific sights from their respective manufacturers. Both sights were purchased from Amazon and I have no affiliation with either company, so I’ll be brutally honest about both products.

Starting off, we’ll discuss the Hi-Viz over-molded fiber optic sight (LCR2010). Hi-Viz sell these sights with a red or green fiber optic. I chose the green fiber optic which is brighter than the red version. The benefit of the fiber optic is that it is truly bright and eye-catching in daylight or in well-lit areas. The Hi-Viz green fiber optic is so bright and efficient at catching light that it appears to glow in daylight. Unfortunately, I found that under almost all other lighting conditions, the fiber optic is dim and the sight may as well be the factory black ramped sight. Overall, Hi-Viz makes a decent product and I was never worried about the fiber optic detaching under recoil, as we so often hear happening.

Ruger SP101 2.25", XS Big Dot Night Sight, Bobbed Hammer

Ruger SP101 2.25″, XS Big Dot Night Sight, Bobbed Hammer

The other popular option for aftermarket sights are tritium night sights. I’ve been happy with the Big Dot on my SP101 (pictured on the left). The XS Sights seem to have the most pronounced white ring around the tritium, which speeds up daylight acquisition of the front sight. The Big Dot that sits atop my SP101 is great for fast acquisition up to 15-yards, but at extended distances during a range session, a little more attention is required to make sure you have the proper sight alignment. The Big Dot also has a tendency to cover up the target in your sight picture at longer distances; something to get used to.

XS_LCR

Ruger LCR 38, XS Standard Dot Tritium night sight.

I purchased the XS Standard Dot Tritium sight (RP-0008N-4) for my Ruger LCR, as XS only offers the Standard Dot for the LCR. The Big Dot on a LCR would be covered up by the sides of the trench rear sight because of the shorter sight radius and smaller notch width. Tritium night sights are excellent for low-light or no-light conditions, which is why they’re called night sights in the first place. Unlike phosphorescent paints, Tritium doesn’t need to be exposed to sunlight to glow and depending on the age of the tritium in the sights when you purchase it, you should get around 10 years of use out of it. The disadvantage to Tritium night sights are that they don’t stand out in daylight conditions when compared to the fiber optics and this is where selecting night sight from a certain manufacturer comes into play. XS Sights, Novak and Meprolight all make night sights for the LCR. In low-to-no light situations, the differences between the three sights are negligible, but in the daylight, the differences are noticeable. After some research, I ended up going with XS Sights because the white ring around the Tritium stands out well in daylight and I really like my Big Dot.

Ruger LCR with:  Hi-Viz Fiber Optic front sight (left) and XS Standard Dot Tritium front sight (right)

Ruger LCR with: Hi-Viz Fiber Optic front sight (left) and XS Standard Dot Tritium front sight (right)

As illustrated above, the fiber optic sight is definitely the brighter of the two in daylight, but I feel that the white ring on the XS Standard Dot is quite adequate. In case you’re wondering, the natural light is coming in from the right side of the room and illuminating the fiber optic so well that it looks as if the fiber optic is running on batteries. (Note: the picture was shot with the XS Sight on the LCR. The image of the fiber optic sight was shot in the same lighting at the same time, in the same position and it was superimposed onto the LCR. Beating out roll pins was not on my to-do list today and it’s definitely good enough for a comparison of the two. The side view of the LCR with the Hi-Viz [three photos above] was just an older photo I used for the comparison.)

Conclusion

I really liked the Hi-Viz fiber optic when I had it on my LCR, but I was carrying my SP101 out at night because it had the XS Big Dot on it. Fiber optic sights are phenomenal in the daytime and I have pistols with fiber optic sights of different styles and from different manufacturers. Unfortunately, none of them work well in low light. I can easily trade-off the daytime advantage of the fiber optic for a night sight which is only mediocre in the daytime, but excellent in low light.

Depending on your situation, you probably have more than one concealed carry handgun. If I wanted to carry my LCR solely when I was outdoors during the daytime or use it as a range toy, the fiber optic sight would work well, but I wanted my LCR for my carry rotation. As a rule of thumb, I generally put night sights on anything I have in my carry rotation or anything that serves as a nightstand gun. I’m still waiting for Truglo to expand their TFO (tritium-fiber optic) line to revolvers, it would be the best of both worlds.

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