Monday, September 8, 2014

Sights-What and Why? Gabe Suarez and Rob Pincus

       There was a time in our development when we thought that all pistols needed high visibility sights. "You must use the sights, always, and at all distances" we were told by the gun gurus of a prior age, and like faithful followers, we shipped our guns to the smith to have them suitably arranged. And yes, sights that were easier to see made those 1 1/2 second head shots at 3 yards very easy to make, and right inside the "credit card" too. "Bravo!", we thought, as we holstered our 45s into our pricey Milt Sparks rigs (just like the instructor had) and walked up to examine the group with a jaunty swagger.

But then...something changed. Some crazy guy thought to have students shoot each other with Airsoft BB guns. Shooters would replicate exactly the drills that formed the Modern Technique, and that Gusmoke's Matt Dillon tried to emulate in his show. Insane! Outlandish! Heresy! Yes, they called it all of those things...but the first time guys stepped up to do it, everything changed.

Gone were the Weaver Stances. Hell, those lasted one evolution as guys realized that standing and shooting it out, in an equal initiative fight, or a reactive fight, was a guarantee of getting shot. The need for movement made the need for a proper stationary position obsolete in this type of fight. And keeping two hands on the gun was a luxury few got a chance to enjoy.

I recall after our first session of this several years ago I asked, "What sort of sight picture did you see"? Silence was the reply. "Well, what did you see?". I got varying replies from "the bad guy running at me", to "nothing", to "meat and metal". What we didn't hear, and have not heard, is that anyone has used a proper sight picture inside of five yards.

I base my view of the pistol fight on what we see in force on force sessions, as that parallels most, what I have seen on the streets. What a competitive pistol champion may use is interesting from a technical perspective, but that is all as the two worlds of range shooting and gunfighting only bear a passing resemblance. And the world of force on force, paralleling the gunfight more closely than anything else, tells us that using traditional sighting methods for close range shooting on a moving adversary is simply not done. Guys point and shoot.

At recent classes I have been using Airsoft guns with no sights at all...just to be sure. You know what? It has not changed the hitting percentages at all. It has made guys somewhat faster since they are not slowing down to try and find the sights. Wow! Insane? Outlandish? Heresy? Maybe, but also the truth. 

So, why do we need sights?

We need sights for precision shooting at close range as might be seen in an adversary's exposed elbow, foot, or eye behind cover. Or as may be needed for a shot passed an innocent to hit a bad guy.

We also need sights for long range shooting as might be seen in an Active Shooter countermeasure. We have taken pistol shooters out to 220 yards at one point so it can be done.

Do you need high visibility sights for shots inside 7 yards? Nope. In fact, you could literally take the sights off the gun and be able to, statisticqally speaking, handle most CCW gunfights easily.

So if we need sights we need them for the things discussed above. Which sights will work best for this? Sharp, clearly discernible black sights, with a serrated front and flat rear face.

Do we need dots or bars on the sights to see them better at close range? In my opinion, no we don't.

Do we need Tritium? I admit that many of my pistols have tritium in the sights, but when I have bought sights for my new guns I have gotten plain black sights with no tritium.


Because here is the thought - if it is dark, but there is enough ambient light to see my adversary, I neither need "night sights" nor a flashlight. I just shoot as I do during the day. If he is close, he is a short time frame problem. I shoot him. If I can see some sights, cool. But I am not waiting to see them. If he is far away, I probably won't be able to see where he is in dark environments so nights sights are of no benefit.

The more I work with this, the more I am convinced that plain black non-illuminated sights are the best option for a CCW pistol.

-Gabe Suarez


      I am not in the camp that recommends night sights...

Nightsights are a big marketing thing.. like rails on guns... They have their place, but that place isn't justified by the overwhelming presence in the marketplace except for the fact that they sell well.

The conditions under which nightsights are actually very valuable are pretty contrived, for example:

Enough light to see/indentify the threat, but not enough light/contrast to line-up the sights and the need for precision dictates precise sight alignment. Perhaps you are in the dark and the threat is in a decently lit room, but wearing dark clothes and not within 10', for example.

I think (hope?) we are past the point where people are preaching a "need" for nightsights. I have noticed a trend of people recommending tritium in the front sight only, for example, if you really feel you need it.

Your point is well-made, but I think the assumption that nightsights are all that important is flawed based on empiracle data.

As much as some camps don't like to hear it, we continue to find that most people shooting at human size targets at plausible defensive distances (especially inside the home distances) are able to get combat accurate hits without the need for a clear sight picture...
Extend the gun into and parallel with your line of sight, touch & press.

Many people are under the misconception that they need to have a clear sight-alignment/sight-picture every time they pull the trigger. This dependence creates a lack of confidence in just the type of situations that you are describing.

There is a ton of empirical evidence that says you can get combat accurate hits while focusing on a typical threat at typical defensive ranges.... but the best experience is to go and try it yourself.

- Rob Pincus