By Robert Campbell
The original 1911 sights were embryonic military style sights.They were more than bumps on the slide, but not much more, and they were not ideal for accurate fire. The 1911A1 featured improved sights but until the days of the National Match pistol there was little to choose from.
Custom pistols miths fabricated high-visibility sights of various types and while these were an improvement in some ways, few were practical. Many were so tall and awkward they would not allow the pistol to be holstered in a conventional scabbard.
Among the first practical improvements on the 1911 sights were the old King’s Hardballer sights. There sight sets featured a taller rear sight and a post front sight. Even today, these sights are by no means outdated. They are good choices for combat shooting.
These sights are very similar to the sights fitted to the Colt Series 80 and the Springfield Mil Spec. I have always thought that Colt missed the boat when they did not add an improved set of sights to the Series 70, but they did update them on the Series 80. These early combat sights are relatively inexpensive and offer abetter sight picture than the GI sights.
However, I have conducted comparison testing between these sights and GI sights and overall the advantage of the improved or mil spec sights is slight. Tests do not lie, and while I perceived the improvement as greater than the tests showed, a thorough all-around program comparing the Springfield GI pistol, a Colt1918, and the Colt Series 80 and Springfield Mil Spec showed little practical improvement when the types were fired by novice shooters.
It is relatively easy to upgrade to some types of 1911 sights while others will require the services of a machinist/gunsmith.While we can upgrade, the superior course is to purchase a handgun with credible sights in the first place. The sights should be chosen for quality, practical accuracy, non-snag construction, and durability.
This is a tall order but one that modern sights fill well. Among the first practical high-visibility sights were the Novak Lo Mount. These sights feature a pyramid-like rear sight that offers an excellent sight picture.
The sight will not catch on clothing during the draw and offers a virtually snag-free contour. The front sight is a bold post that may be from .200″ to .249″ high, depending on the application.
Reducing the vertical profile of a pistol sight is important because the sights rub on all manner of things including the holster and clothing. There are a number of considerations including short range fire, medium range fire, long range fire and snag-free presentation. Testing something as subjective as handgun sights is difficult. It is easy to note that the Novak sights are superior to Mil Spec sights, but to compare the Novak to Kimber sights is more difficult.
This is where subjective opinion arises. The rear sight should have a bold profile that is easily picked up quickly. The pyramid style sights now available offer a good sight picture and do not trap shadows. When all is said and done, the Novak and Kimber style combat sights are at the top of the heap and offer excellent all-around utility.
There are choices in the types as well. Plain black, white three dot and tritium night inserts are the most common types. Novak also offers a gold bead front sight. The gold bead front sight is among the very best choices. This bead gives an excellent all-around sight picture, can be seen in the dark with a minimum of ambivalent light and is immune to oil and solvent.
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About the Author: Robert K. Campbell has a background of over twenty years in law enforcement as a trainer, weapons tester, and a street cop and is one of the most prolific writers today on the subject of fighting weapons. He has been published in most of the better publications dealing with fighting firearms and edged weapons including American Rifleman and Guns & Ammo. He is also a contributing writer for Gunblast.com, the online magazine. His books, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection & Home Defense and Gun Digest® Shooter's Guide to the 1911, are available at GunDigestStore.com.
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