A Look at 1911 Sights

Surefire X300, 10-8 sights for 1911 pistols

This pistol is well equipped with a Surefire X300, 10-8 sights, Wilson Combat grips and low flash ammunition.

 

Luminous iron sights are an excellent option, but they are not without drawbacks. For example, during daytime or bright light shooting, tritium sights often reflect sunlight. The same is true of nickel plated sights, but the tritium insert is not as reflective as nickel.

Depending upon how deeply the shock mounted insert is buried in the sight, sunlight may play on the tritium sight. Tritium sights also will work loose. Usually the front sight is the one to take flight. I have only had this happen once, and it was at the 10,000 round mark, but it does happen.

White dot sights on 1911 pistol

An example of white dot sights on a 1911 pistol.

I replaced the sights of this particular pistol with Wilson Combat night sights and continued to bang out 10,000 additional rounds without any further problem. It is a relatively simple matter to replace the tritium insert; this is simply something to be aware of.

I once strongly preferred black sight over white three dot sights. With the coming of age and a loss in visual acuity, I now find the white dot sights work well for me. With unaided vision, blurred sights are a real problem.

Fiber optic sights or white dot sights help a great deal. I can recommend the Novak sights with the fiber optic option, but in the past I have suffered the loss of the fiber optic component with relatively light use of sights of other makes. The Novak is quite robust. Perhaps they did not introduce their version until it was perfected. An elegant option I find useful is the Novak Gold Beadfront sight. All who used this sight appreciated the gold bead. It shows up in most dim conditions and offers an excellent visual aiming point.

There is more to the equation than how the sights look and how well you are able to quickly pick up the sights. Some are too sharp for efficient holster use. The sights need to be snag-free when carried in tight-fitting concealment holsters.

Novak pistol sight

The Novak rear sight will not grab tender skin. That is efficiency by design.

The original Novak Lo Mount is the king of concealment but Wilson Combat sights also do a good job. The sights that absolutely must be avoided are the add on adjustable sights that hang over the rear of the slide.

These are contraindicated for service use and are not my favorites for target use. A proper target sight should be low riding, properly set into a machined dovetail, and rugged enough for duty use. The inexpensive add-ons are not very robust and when they protrude from the rear of the slide you are asking for them to be knocked off on a door jamb. They are good examples of a false economy.

Adjustable sights were once questionable on personal defense handguns. The Colt Gold Cup, as an example, is fastened by a single hollow roll pin. This is no recipe for hard use. Even adding a more satisfactory solid pin is not always enough to properly secure the sight. On the other hand I have a custom mounted Bomar rear sight done by the Action Works of Chino Valley, Arizona.

This is a secure mount with a vault-tough sight. The factory adjustable sight used by Les Baer is similar. Both are dirt tough adjustable sights well worth their price. Bomar unfortunately is out of business, but the Baer sight is at least the equal of the Bomar. Much the same applies to the modern Kimber adjustable sights. The unit mounted on my personal Eclipse has never given the slightest trouble.

Dovetails on Novak sights

These are Novak sights but all Novak sights are not created equal. Note the difference in the dovetails.

An aftermarket sight I have used with good results comes from Caspian. This compact tactical sight offers good adjustment but is low profile and has survived hard use. I think that it is safe to say that modern adjustable sights are available that give every advantage in zeroing the pistol while they are mechanically rugged.

Not all adjustable sights are, not by any means. A combination of a less rugged sight and mounting the sight in the conventional dovetail, resulting in the sight riding over the rear of the slide,is a combination doomed to failure.

It is easy enough to adjust the sight left to right, but I find a distressing number of modern pistols fire low at 16 to 25 yards. Filing the front sight or fitting a taller front sight isneeded.

Firing high is addressed by fitting a taller front sight. Ifyour pistol fires to the point of aim as issued, treasure it.


This Article is an Excerpt from Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to the 1911

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2 thoughts on “A Look at 1911 Sights

  1. SmithKoWitz

    Interesting observation you’ve experienced with Kimbers. I have just the opposite remark; it seems that the Trijicon sights on my Springfield are useless, because they are dimmer and seem smaller than the Meprolight night sights. I prefer the Meprolights sights. I also have a S&W w/VTAC night sights, which seem useless in shooting range lighting, but again, they seem small.

  2. gunslinger454

    I’ve never been all that impressed with the Meprolight Night Sights used on Kimbers. During the day they provide an excellent sight picture, but at night the rear sight overpowers the front sight on every Kimber I’ve had the opportunity to handle in low light. Meprolight needs to follow the lead of other night sight manufacturers and make the front sight tritium insert larger & brighter than those used in the rear sight!

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